First MTB Action!

This past week saw us jump into mountain bike races for our first time in two seasons! We had sold Kristal's mtb last spring, with the intention of getting a new one, however she wasn't able to, so had been without one until recently when her Unovelo RDG1966 carbon hardtail 29er arrived. We both have Unovelo mtb's now (look for a feature in an upcoming blog), and they are amazing--light, stiff, fast--everything we were looking for. When combined with the American Classic MTB Race wheels, both our bike tip the scales at ~20lbs! I've been riding long enough to remember when road bikes didn't weigh much less than that! Winter Park Hillclimb

This is always the first race of the Winter Park series and is a great gauge of early season fitness, since it is 5 miles, with 2000' of climbing up a fire road so there is little variability due to trail conditions. We've done it 6 or 7 times in the past, and it's always tough.

Carl's Race:

I wasn't feeling great warming up, with my legs feeling kind of dead. I had been traveling the previous week, so did a lot of miles this week, and I just figured I had overdone it a bit and would end up suffering. I had a bottle of Fluid Performance while warming up and started feeling a little better. When the race started, I was in 8th wheel heading up the long start straight and thinking that I felt really comfortable. Within the next mile, I was able to move up into 3rd as guys who had gone out too hard faded. Soon, I looked back and there was no one in sight! I ended up holding 3rd, with over a minute gap to 4th, and pr'd by over 4 minutes! It was great to be on the podium, but the pr felt really good.

Kristal's Race:

Kristal lined up in a strong mixed field with all the Expert and Pro Women. It broke up pretty quickly with everyone at their own varying max pace. She eventually rolled across in 4th, at pretty much her expected time. She is well positioned now for a good result overall in the series!

CU Boulder Short Track

We haven't done the short track series in a while because the previous venue was really BMX-ey, with a lot of jumps, etc. that actually caused some injuries and wasn't attractive to us. However, they have now moved to Valmont Bike Park, so knowing it is great max hr training for cx, we jumped in. These are 25 minute races, so it is all out from the word 'go', and really tough!

Carl having fun on the Corkscrew!

Carl's Race:

Lines for registration were really long, so although I thought I had allowed plenty of time, I didn't end up with a very good warmup and knew I was in for pain! I lined up in the second row and settled into about 10th place after the start. The course climbed the major hill twice, descending 'The Corkscrew', a high banked, twisty drop the first time, then climbing back up and coming down a straight singletrack with a few rollers and table tops. It was mostly singletrack, with limited opportunities to pass, so you had to be ready to really gun it when you had the chance. I passed and was passed a few times during the 6 lap race, fading a bit in the last 2 laps as lack of high end fitness caught up with me. I think I finished just inside the top 20 and am satisfied with that, since it's still early!

Kristal's Race:

Hot, hard, painful but oh, so fun! I had a great start and felt pretty good the whole race. I was battling with 2 other girls for most of the race so that really made me push the whole time (no rest!). I contested passes and push to pass where i could. I believe I finished 6th and was pretty happy about that. I continue to love my Unovelo MTB and I'm excited to be on a MTB again!

Early start to the season

The first weekend of May saw all four members of RapidRacing, including our latest addition, Bard Higgins, start their 2013 road racing season. Rob kicked off first, with an 11th place finish in the CafeVelo Time Trial on Saturday.

Sunday brought the local classic Koppenberg Circuit Race, with 1/3 of the course on dirt, including the short, steep climb known as the Koppenberg. Bard entered the SM5 category and managed to fight his way to 15th place at the end. Carl was in the 45+/4's, riding comfortably to a 9th place result, while Kristal topped out the weekend's results with 8th place in the SW3's.

Carl in the hunt

Carl on the climb

Kristal sitting in

 

We were all perfectly happy with those results, given where we are in the year. Next up, at least a couple of us will be racing another Colorado classic in the Morgul-Bismarck road race May 19th.

Here's Bard's report from his first ever road race!:

The Koppenberg loop only got thrown into our lunch rides a few weeks back.  I'd heard a lot about it, but never ventured over there.  After a couple different days taking laps out there, and realizing this was coming up on the calendar, it seemed like a great place to jump into road racing!

Looking at my times on the course, and comparing that to the 2012 results, I figured a top 20 finish was a reasonable goal.  My anticipation made for an unnecessarily stressful week. I rode the course with Boups the Tuesday prior. He provided some helpful course intel, but Colorado's spring time weather only made it more stressful, with our third April snowstorm in as many weeks dumping several inches on the course on Wednesday. Thankfully the freak weather pulled a 180, and by Friday afternoon, when we took one last spin on the loop, things were almost 100% dry.

I arrived about 6:45a on Sunday to grab my numbers and try to figure out how to warm up for something like this. I managed to keep my nerves in check pretty well, until about 7:50, when I rolled up to the start. Our group was second in the wave, and not really knowing how this game is played, I just followed the rest of the guys with the blue numbers on their jersey. That seemed to work, and I ended up in the second row on the start. The race started at 8:06a, and before I knew it we were off the pavement, onto the dirt, dust flying and the big hill coming up quickly.

I found myself at the back of the lead group as we approached the hill for the first time. There was a group of four who attacked at the top, so by the time I crested we were now the first chase. We traded spots for a bit on the dirt. Once we hit the pavement, our group of six or seven managed to put together a bit of a paceline. The lead group was only a few seconds ahead, and I thought if we could keep this effort together, we could catch up before the first lap was over.

I was wrong. When I pulled into the lead of the pace line, no one else came around. I did most of the pulling on the pavement, and was spent when we made the first turn onto the Marshall climb. The rest of the group came around, and it took all I had to hang on to the last wheel. I crossed the line in 10th place on lap 1. There was one more rider behind me, then the next group over 10 seconds back. I hung with that chase until the final approach to the hill. I’d definitely over cooked myself on the first lap, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish anywhere near race pace if I didn’t recover a bit. I got dropped on the hill, and latched on to the next group that came by.

Kopp BH

I worked with that group for the rest of the day. Coming up the Marshall climb for the third and final time, I was in 16th place, last wheel in a group of four. We crested the hill, and no one moved. I figured I had nothing to lose, and went for it. On the final descent, I opened up a decent gap, but as I moved into the final straight, I realized I’d made the move too early. Two riders with much stronger finishing sprints than I could muster picked me off in the last 100 yards, leaving me in 15th place.

All in all I was very happy with the day. Riding in a big group proved easy, even on the sandy, rocky, washboarded roads. It was simply a question of fitness. If I’d been in just a bit better shape, I think I could have hung onto that first chase, and competed for a top 10 spot.

Thanks to everyone who towed me around the course at lunch during the weeks leading up to the race…I couldn’t have survived race #1 without their help!

 

In other news, new 2013 bikes are starting to arrive, so we'll be posting detailed reviews of those in the coming weeks!

Men's 45-49 Final

Carl's Report: My race was scheduled to start at 12:30, roughly 45 minutes after Kristal's race should end. Although Kristal had asked me to leave the pit during the last lap of her race to warm up, I had told her that if she was in the lead I'd stay in there the whole race. There was no way I was not going to be in there while she was still racing! When she was on the second lap and extending her lead, I turned to our friend Paul and said "my warmup is going to suck".

After she passed pit 2 on her final lap, I headed over to the finish line to greet her and celebrate. Soon enough, the UCI chaperone arrived and you read about that part in her posting. Shortly after that, I headed into the warmup tent to try to get in at least 30 minutes on the trainer. Lisa was in there already, getting my bike set, and when I couldn't find an available trainer, she tracked one down for me. I got on the trainer and started to spin to open up my legs. By this time, Kristal had headed off to anti-doping, and I soon realized she had taken my numbers with her. I called her cell phone to try to solve this problem, and meanwhile realized my helmet was still in the ProBike Express tent. After a plan was set to try to get my numbers back to me, I put in an additional 5 minutes on the trainer (bringing my total to 15 minutes, instead of the hour I usually try to do) and headed to the tent to get my helmet.

Upon arriving there, I discovered that Kristal's race wheels had not been moved to my A bike, but instead it was still hanging from a rack as a bare frame, while Kristal's bike was leaned against the rack, complete with wheels, covered with frozen mud. I had 10 minutes until race time. Right then, Susan and Dierdre asked if I needed any help, and I asked them to move the wheels over to my bike and meet me at staging. Meanwhile, I grabbed my helmet and hustled to the volunteer tent, hoping to get my numbers. They hadn't arrived yet, so I hung outside, hoping to see someone heading over with them. Eventually, a volunteer showed up with what I recognized as our number and pins bag. I now had 5 minutes until start and they were making the first call to staging.

I ran into the warmup tent, hoping to see someone I knew. Harold and Greg were just heading over to take their place in staging and were kind enough to hold off and pin me up. I headed to staging, still without a bike. They started to call riders up, and shortly before my number came, my bike arrived. Other than having very little warmup, I was now ready to race!

I lined up behind 3 other Colorado riders, flying on adrenaline. At the gun, I shot off the line and had my best start of the year! I launched past other riders and got up as far as 20th place. Soon, the lack of warmup started to catch up to me in the form of fatigue and dead legs. With my bike weighed down by clinging, freezing mud, I headed into the pit on lap 2, hoping I had a pit bike in there and someone to hand it to me! Sure enough, I saw our friends Bob and Bill waving me in and executed the change. Unfortunately, my rear wheel was crooked in my pit bike, so I only had one gear that wouldn't skip. With my bike loading up with mud, and only one gear, I tried to pit a half lap later, but there was no one there--my bike wasn't ready yet. I rode to the end of the lane, then stopped to put a foot down, as the rules mandate.

For the remainder of the race, I pitted once per lap, each time trading off a bike that probably weighed 40-50lbs for one that was maybe only 20-30lbs. Bob and Bill were desperately pulling fistfuls of mud off of my bikes, but it was a losing battle. As fatigue set in further, I got a little clumsy and had a number of crashes that cost me more spots. Eventually, I finished in 37th place, pulled with one lap to go. Not a great result, but realistically, my race was just icing on the cake after Kristal's victory! I was happy enough with how I rode, and happy now to end the season on a good note.

I am very motivated for next year, especially with Nationals in Boulder, since I know the fields will be large and everyone will bring their A game. It will be a great challenge, and an opportunity to have a truly satisfying ride.

 

World's!

Friday morning was the big day, and it dawned COLD! No tornado warnings to contend with, but when we got to the venue at 7:30 to preride, the temp was barely in the double digits. The mud had frozen about 3-4" deeps which gave it a 'breakable crust' consistency. More concerning, however, was the fact that when we went through any standing water, it froze almost instantly on our bikes and especially our rims. After two laps of preview, we had almost no braking power, because the brake tracks were completely glazed over with muddy ice. Carl had to thaw the wheels for a while in the heated ProBike Express tent, then chip and scrape the ice off with the ice scraper from our van. Nonetheless, on the preride Kristal was riding really well and looked calm and confident. That would be an accurate precursor of what was to come. Kristal's Report: Following my terrible ride at Nationals I was determined to embrace whatever conditions I was given and have a great ride. Whatever the outcome, so be it, but at least I would have given it my all. I really felt good on my preride. I was riding the ruts well and putting down speed where I could. I was ready to go. My warmup went perfectly and I was called up to the front row (#4 starting position!).

The whistle went off and I had the hole shot! We hit the mud and one girl got past me. No panic, but I needed to get back in front. Within a few corners I managed to regain the lead and kept extending from there. The course was changing as the race went on. Not much mud collecting on my bike the first 2 laps but by the 3rd lap my gears were skipping and the mud was freezing on there. I told myself to not think about it and just keep riding. At the same time this was happening I had Melissa Barker on my tail about 15 seconds behind. The funny thing with 'cross is that when you are being chased, 15 secs. feels like they are right on your heels! If you are the chaser, it might as well be 2 minutes, the distance seems forever! Being the one that was being chased, I didn't want to mess up and give her a chance to close the gap, which I know she can do. Smooth and steady…that's what I needed. My friend, Kristin Weber, was running many sections of the course next to me talking, cheering me on. "Nice and smooth, stay calm, lay the power down when you can" All the stuff I needed to maintain my focus. Each time by the pit I was getting time splits from Carl and Lisa Hudson. All over the course I was being cheered on.

I continued riding calmly even as the course was mudding up. On the last time by the pit Carl called out "30 sec". I gave him a smile, knowing that this was MINE! World Champion!! Incredible! I crossed the finish line and was immediately surrounded by Carl, friends, photographers and interviewers. Oh, and this is a first, my own doping control chaperone!

Unfortunately, Carl's race time was right after mine. He completely sacrificed his warmup to celebrate with me in the finish area. We are so thankful and grateful to all our friends who helped us out…Bob and Susan Prieto, Dierdre and Clark Garvey, Bill Teasdale, Lisa Hudson and the Feedback Sports crew, Paul McCarthy, Wes (of ProBike Express, who runs a topshelf bike transport service, check him out), Harold Stephenson, Greg Gorrell, and I'm sure I'm forgetting people, please know, we appreciate all of you! So Carl finally gets started on his warmup as I'm being transported off to doping control at a hotel about 5 miles from the venue. As we are driving I realize that I have Carl's numbers in my bag! CRAP!

It's 12:00 and Carl races at 12:30. The driver offers to drop me off and take Carl's numbers back to them. With a lot of trust I hope that Carl is getting his numbers I head up to pee in a cup. This is a new experience for me. Of course I've heard the stories of pros getting tested and all that but didn't really know what was involved. The first thing I realize was that I was completely unprepared. I didn't have my race license or my ID, I needed both. Thank goodness for smartphones! Then the actual process started. I had to pick a cup from the pile, take it out of the plastic and head to the bathroom with the nurse. Yes, they really do stand within viewing distance as you "provide". I also had to lift my base layer to prove I had nothing under it. After that, I put the lid on and carried it out to the main room. Then open the kit and pour the samples into the bottles (A and B), put the bottles into bags and seal the kit. The racer has to do everything so they can't claim the person in the room tainted the specimen.

So my lesson from this experience. If you are contention for a podium spot pack a bag with, 1. all the supplements/meds you've taken for the last 10 days, 2. DON'T pack your husband's race numbers. 3. Pack your ID and race license. 4. Bring a snack/drink 5. Don't expect to be able to watch your husband's race.

The whole week was really great. Cheering on friends, winning and then watching the Elite Worlds with incredible crowds. Walking into the venue for the Elite World's was like walking into a football game…lines of people everywhere! Carl and I were so excited to be part of that experience.

So now that the season has wrapped up here are my 2 goals for next year. 1. NEVER again will I let course conditions dictate my mental condition. I will give it my all and if it isn't the result I was hoping for I will know that I did everything to try for that spot. 2. I will do my very best next season to honor the rainbow stripes. I won't be able to wear the jersey locally for races or at nationals (I age up a cat. next season) BUT it's still in my mind. I have to ride like a champion.

Thank you all for your support this season. Our sponsors are wonderful (Fluid Recovery, American Classic Wheels, Blue Competition Cycles and FRS), our friends and family are the best around and the Colorado CX community is family.

Carl's Report:

This is my report on Kristal's race, and the next update will cover mine. As mentioned above, in our preview laps, Kristal was already riding better than me, calm, confident, and focused. Things were a little more scattered than usual in the lead up to her race, with me working to clean/repair her race bike from our preride. Our friend Paul ended up pinning her up for the race, and I met her in the warmup tent to take her to staging. At the start line, she definitely had the 'eye of the tiger', while girls on either side were joking about how cold it was and the fact that they were from the south.

After watching her strong start, I headed to the pits, only to find I had forgotten my pit pack with tools and water. Fortunately, Lisa was there to go get it for me, so I could stay put in case Kristal had any mechanical issues. For the first two laps, her bike stayed completely clean, but then on the 3rd lap she pitted on 'pit 2'. Given the freezing temps, the pressure washers were down, so Paul and I started desperately chipping away at the ice on her bike with an ice scraper and multi tool. Paul was being really careful at first, until I told him we're getting new bikes next season (ours are 3 years old), and then he went to town on it! Lisa kept an eye on Kristal so we would know when to finish. Finally, she was on the turn leading into pit 1 when we popped the bike into the pit lane and screamed that it was ready for her. She executed a flawless exchange and headed back out.

We cleaned up her pit bike just in case, but as she passed the pits for the final time with over half minute lead and a smile, I told her to win it on her A bike. She continued to ride clean and solid and finished with 'clean wheels', nearly a minute ahead of 2nd place. Although I knew she had it in her, it was pretty overwhelming to see it happen! I still get chills thinking about the podium ceremony, and watching Kristal get the rainbow jersey of World Champion.

Here's a link to the race report on Cyclocross Magazine, with a post race interview with Kristal:

http://www.cxmagazine.com/cx-female-master-3539-cyclocross-masters-world-championships-2013

For those keeping track or curious, the technical specs for her winning bike are:

frame/fork: Blue Norcross (2010 model)

wheels: American Classic Carbon 38

tires: Dugast Rhino 32 rear, Small Bird 33c front (for better flotation on the ruts)

Gruppo: Shimano DuraAce 7901

Brakes: TRP Euro-X Magnesium with Yellow Swissstop pads

Cranks: FSA K-Force Light

Pedals: Time Atac Carbon

Shoes: Gaerne G Emma

Misc: Wickwerks 46/36 Chainrings, K-Edge Chain Catcher

 

Qualified!

It seems the cross gods love giving me chances to redeem myself. I've been bummed about my start in Madison, and when it came time to draw my number out of a bag for qualifying here in Louisville, I drew #80. By my calculations, that would put me 4th row in the 2nd heat, so it was up to me to show that I've learned my lesson on starting slow. Today was my Qualifying Heat to get into Friday's finals for Master's Worlds. Backing up, though, the day started long before the planned 9am race time. At 4:30am, we heard sirens going off and received a call from the front desk telling us there were tornadoes in the area and that we should move ourselves and our bedding into the bathtub! We ended up staying in the bed, but awake in case we needed to dive under it on a moment's notice.

After that thrilling start to the day, we got to the venue just before 7:30am in the pitch dark. It was still raining hard and there was standing water everywhere. I proceeded to set up my trainer in the warmup tent and started opening the legs with many of the other Colorado guys. At 8:15 (with the first Heat going off at 8:30), word finally came down that we were on a 2hr delay so they could do some rerouting and water abatement on the course. So, we all packed back to our cars, where I tried to relax for an hour under a blanket, listening to music and watching the rain fall. Of course, I already had about 40 minutes in on the trainer, so was damp with sweat and now starting to get hungry!

Finally, it was time to head back in to the tent and warm up again. Back on the trainer, spinning easy, trying to get the legs to wake up again, some hard opener efforts, but still the legs felt a little dead. I put it out of my mind and focused on the business at hand. A few guys DNS's, so our field had some attrition even before the whistle. I lined up behind my friend Doug Hudson and told him to go like he has rockets. Sure enough, he did! The guys on either side of him squeezed in to get his wheel and I was forced to defend my position, finally pushing them both out with my elbows. That didn't make for the fastest start, but I was happy I rode aggressively and fought for spots instead of giving in.

The course was thick, power-sucking mud, and for the first half lap, I had my weight too far forward and was getting bogged down. I passed Pit 1 in 20th place and knew I'd better get on it because only 24 guys would qualify. I slid back on the bike and started digging, riding hard and with confidence, passing every time I got the chance. Being only a 2 lap race, I ran out of real estate at the end in 12th place, but very satisfied with that. I think that should put me on the 5th row for Friday's finals and I can prove again that I can start well.

Thanks for reading!

Louisville 2013

We're here in Louisville, locked and loaded, ready for the World Championships. It was raining off and on most the day here, and conditions are warm and muddy. Local weather forecasters are predicting a 'major storm event' for Wednesday, including heavy rains (up to an inch!), high winds, and possible tornadoes. Should be perfect conditions for Carl's qualifying heats that morning! There are three heats to narrow the field down to 80 riders for Friday's final. Kristal's field is below the maximum, so heats won't be held for her finals on Friday. She drew her starting position this afternoon (blind draw out of a bag) and got #4, so she'll be front row! This will be critical, as conditions for Friday call for temp around 29 degrees, meaning frozen ruts. It will be key for Kristal to be towards the front to avoid the inevitable chaos.

Check back on Wednesday and we'll update on the results of Carl's heats, also follow rapid_racing on Twitter for more frequent updates!

Experience

There's a saying that experience is 'what you get when you don't get what you want', and that sums up our trip to Madison!  Conditions were really tough on course Friday, with rain overnight creating lots of mud, puddles, and exposed sections of ice for the morning's race. In the afternoon, after hundreds of riders had competed, it was deeper, thicker mud, with the ice hidden much better. In short, after a warm, dry season in Colorado, it was sloppy and slippery! Carl's Report:

I hope I've learned my lesson now. For the second year in a row, I was too passive at the start, soft pedaling, and even scrubbing my brakes as the group bunched, instead of asserting myself and pushing through gaps to move up. For the second year in a row, I got caught behind crashes just after leaving the start straight. I know better than this, I know that the middle of the pack is the worst place to be since you'll be right on top of the inevitable chaos, with no time to react. I lost spots there and it took some time to get my balance back. Looking at lap times, there were only about 20 guys with slower first laps than me, and I passed a bunch of riders late in that lap, so I was probably somewhere back in the 50's.

Overall, I rode a decent race, I had done 3 preview laps, the first of which was a mess, but then I lowered my tire pressure and started feeling the flow. During the race, I was able to do a good job of staying on the mud and puddles to avoid the ice. I was taken down by other riders twice, but never went down on my own. I was fast on the runups, and able to ride the hill all but the first lap (when traffic made it impossible). In the end, I was 26th, missing my goal of top 20, and know that I let that slip away in the first 2 minutes of the race.

This next two weeks will be filled with lots of intensity leading up to World's in Louisville. In order to even get into the Finals, I have to qualify through a 3 lap Heat race, so there won't be room for errors or a slow start!

Kristal's Report:

Humiliating, discouraging, disappointing…sums up my race.

I only got one preview lap in before the race and it was tough. I should have been out earlier to get at least another under my belt to feel comfortable in the conditions. So when I lined up I was tense. Not a good way to go into icy/muddy conditions. This was truly the slipperiest conditions I've ever ridden in but no excuse. When you go to a race at this level and have high expectations you have to take what's dealt to you.

On the bright side (there's always one, right?)…my conditioning felt great. Legs/lungs were good.

Anyway, I'm working through all those feelings listed above and focusing on Master's Worlds in 2 weeks. Sorry for the bummer update but the next race WILL be better.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Day 1 Action

Our first day of racing in Madison saw constantly changing conditions on course. There was plenty of mud, but also permafrost ice underneath. This made for interesting racing as the muddy sections would often have better traction, since the 'clean' sections were actually ice! Kristal's race was directly after Carl's, so that made for logistical challenges as well. We share wheels and tires, so Kristal was going to use the front wheel off of Carl's pit bike. That meant we both hoped he wouldn't use it (so it would be clean), and that directly after Carl's finish he had to head to the pits and bring his bike back to the can for Kristal to make the wheel change. After that, she had about 10 minutes to get to staging for her callup. That also meant that Carl missed the start of her race. Whew! It was stressful! Carl's Report:

My race didn't go quite as I had hoped. When I got called up, there was 1 spot left on the front row, but the fencing pinched in almost immediately, so it looked like that would be a sketchy spot. My instinct was to line up behind our friend Harold, but instead I saw the rider that was favored for our race and took the spot behind him. That turned out to be a tactical error, as he was a really slow starter (although he went on to win), while Harold got the hole shot! Lesson learned-trust your instincts! I was about 30th off of the pavement, and making my way through traffic whenever possible. The course was mud & ice, with snow on the edges, which made for some sketchy passing. Many riders were clearly not comfortable in the conditions, riding tense and unclipping a lot, which invariably led to them crashing! One guy laid his bike down right in front of me, sending me over the bars, and another time I went down in a turn and must have slid 20' on my back on the ice! It was really fun conditions, but in the end I was 11th overall. I was really shooting for the podium, so a little disappointed. On the other hand, this gives me additional motivation for tomorrow's race, which is the important one.

An additional note about the conditions-the mud here is not the thick sticky kind we have in Colorado, but instead a really fine grit, so when we took our skinsuits off after the race, our skin was covered in mud! It was crazy! We actually took our skinsuits to a carwash and pressure sprayed them along with our bikes. That, plus a rinsing in the sink at the laundromat, plus a trip through the commercial washing machine, and our kits are ready for tomorrow!

Kristal's Report:

This was my first shot at a Women's Singlespeed race. I've only ever done 4 SS races total and all with the guys, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I had a decent start but it was immediately clear to me that I didn't have the leg speed I needed to really hang with the front girls. The first big hill I found myself slipping back into 9th. But I kept my head in the game and tried to ride smoothly. I did have a couple of mishaps, one I remember and the second I can't! But I believe both were when I was descending. I managed to get myself up into 8th place and really had a fun time. Now I just need to figure out how to race my SS faster!

So now my focus turns to tomorrow's championship race. Good night for now.

Madison--the calm before the storm

We're in Madison now, arrived just before noon.  We got in 5 laps on the course this afternoon, which is almost identical to last year's, and a mix of mud and snow. Tomorrow is our first races.  Carl is in the 40+ B race at 1:00, he has the 9th callup, so will be the first rider in the second row.  Kristal races immediately after him in the Women's Singlespeed Championship race at 2:00.  She is the 5th callup, although she is ranked second, because three of the top 10 riders from last year are in the field, so they get the first three spots.  We're both psyched and ready to go--watch our Twitter or Facebook feeds for details as soon as we're able to post, or we'll have race reports up later Wednesday or Thursday.

First race of 2013 and ready for Madison!

Today we had a smallish race at Valmont Bike Park that served two purposes, first of all, it was a tuneup race for the many locals who are heading to Madison for Cross Nationals this week. Secondly, it was an opportunity to see how the course rode and held up in snow as a test run for Nationals being held there in January, 2014. We're looking forward to having Nationals be a local race! Since the fields were expected to be small today, they wisely condensed it down to just 4 races labeled A-D. The A race would be the Men's Open (Cats 1 & 2), B race would be Men's 3's and Women's Cat 1 & 2. This meant that for the first time Kristal and I would actually race each other! The course was different than any previous ones at Valmont, fairly twisty and covered with snow that in many places would melt to mud during our race. It featured a climb up "The Corkscrew", which is usually a high banked turn descent and was a real grunt to ascend on each lap. It also took us up the infamous "5280 Stairs" that feature 24 steps.

Carl's Report:

Staging was a mess, since they didn't bother with any callups. It harkened back to about 4 years ago, when everyone would just mill around near the start area and line up 15-20 minutes before start time. Not realizing this was happening, Kristal and I both ended up with pretty poor start positions. I was off in the weeds and snow to the side of the group, in about 6th row, while Kristal was another row or two back, but at least on the course. Despite being only slightly motivated this morning for the race, at the start I was ready to roll. A bunch of juniors had lined up at the front so they charged at the whistle. I tore off through grass, snow, and bushes in hot pursuit. I was probably somewhere in the 20's when we got onto the main course. I was confident, though, and kept passing at every opportunity. I had a few crashes, but nothing serious and was able to get up and get going again with minimal losses. In the end, I out sprinted a junior for 6th place (with 4 more juniors ahead of me--the future is bright in Colorado!), and was totally psyched with that result. It's a confidence builder at the perfect time as we leave for Madison on Monday.

Kristal's Report:

My motivation this morning was a bit low but after getting in a few laps on course I was excited. It was fun to have a snowy course! As Carl mentioned I was pretty far back in the field but looked at it as practice for moving forward in a large group. When the whistle blew I started looking for gaps and moved up fairly quickly. This last weeks snow riding paid off today and I felt smooth and confident in the corners. I had a good race with a collegiate racer from Durango and we sprinted to the line, she got me but it was a fun sprint. I'm super eager for the upcoming week, I'm even looking forward to the drive to provide a little down time for both Carl and myself!

Madison Schedule and Plan:

Monday morning we'll be loading up the van and heading out to Madison. Carl's Mom is watching the kids again this year for us (thanks Elaine!). Carl does the 'B' race (non championship) Wednesday afternoon, and immediately after that Kristal race the Women's Singlespeed Championship race. Based on results to date, I am predicted 10th in the B race, and Kristal is 3rd in the SS.  We'll both be riding hard to beat those!

Our Master's races are on Friday, with Carl's 45-49 going off at 9:30 and Kristal's 35-39 at 3pm. Carl is predicted 36th, and Kristal 2nd. Again, we'll both be driving to better those!  Weather forecast calls for high 30's and sunny on Wed, same temps but rain on Thurs, then mid 30's and snow on Friday, so it looks like true cross weather for the end of the week! Check back for updates and pictures as the week goes on, and we'll try to be active on Facebook and Twitter as well. Wish us luck!

Thanks for reading.

COCX State Championships!

Wow, so here we are, already to the end of the 'cross season in Colorado!  There's actually one more race on Jan 5 as a tune up for Nationals, but it's likely to be a fairly small affair. This past weekend's races were held at The Ranch in Loveland, which is a fairgrounds and events center just off of I-25 about 30 miles north of us. A race was held here last year and we really enjoyed it. The weather promised cold & dry, and it certainly was! The course featured a long, paved start leading onto the dirt for about 50yds before a 180 degree turn. We knew this would be the first pinch point. After that, it continued to alternate long, high speed straightaways with short, twisty sections. It had one set of barriers and a loose, steep runup. Carl's Report:

I raced the 45+ Open on Saturday afternoon, and the SM3's Sunday morning. We had a course-side team parking spot, so as soon as we arrived, I was able to see the the track was being broken down into fine, powder-like dust in most the corners. Given those loose conditions, I decided that once again the Rhino mud tires would be the best choice. I headed out on warmup laps and liked the course a lot. I've done a lot of core strength work that has increased my power considerably so long fast sections are no longer a weakness for me, so the moderate, balanced course felt like it would go well.

I was really focused and motivated, fully intending to finish towards the top of the field. I got a great start (which too often hasn't been the case this year), heading onto the course inside the top 10 and feeling really strong. Unfortunately, heading into a twisty, maze-like section, the rider in front of me clipped his arm on the fencing, sending him flying sideways through the air, then slamming to the ground. I ran over his bike and came off. As I tried to grab my bike, it was tangled in his, so we stood there, trying to sort it out as about 15 riders flew past. I finally was able to jump back on and started to chasing.

I still felt really strong, cornering well and digging hard out of every turn. I was catching riders and getting cheers from friends all over the course, inspiring me to keep charging. With two to go, I had caught back up to some of my fast friends, Harold, Greg, Cary, and Doug. I was able to get past them on the pavement, even getting a cheer from Harold as I went by since they had all seen my crash on lap 1. I did my best from there to ride away from them and get up to more riders, but didn't end up catching any more places. In the end, I was 15th on the day. Subtracting out the 30 seconds the crash cost, I would have been top 10, so I feel good about the ride and the resulting confidence will pay off in January!

Sunday's race was almost the exact opposite! I was racing with the SM3's, in which most the fast riders are Juniors. Right from the start, I could tell they ride really aggressively, but don't have great handling skills. They were rubbing wheels, crashing, blowing turns, and chopping lines like crazy, but they're so young and strong that they just sprint out of every turn and get right back up to speed! In the 'old guys' categories, we work hard to ride clean and carry as much speed as we can, because we can't afford the energy of sprinting over and over. Plus, my legs were pretty dead from the previous day's effort.

I battled hard for 3 laps of the 6 lap race, but then drifted back a few spots as I faded in the second half. In the end, I finished 15th again, which is a strange coincidence with such different races! I was a little disappointed about that, since I know I should be top 10 in the field, but I console myself with the fact that it was largely because Saturday was such a huge effort.

Kristal's Report

Saturday I prerode the course for a couple laps trying to get a general feel for the course and dial in some of the cornering. I was feeling pretty good so was looking forward to the race.

For the rest of the day I worked the pit for Carl's race and cheered Nick on in his. Nick was so excited to be back on his bike. He had a great race and you could tell he was super motivated and focused.

My race was at 12:30 on Sunday but we got there pretty early since Carl was racing. This was actually good so I could continue to ride some laps on the course. The field was so great! We had almost 40 women including pros.

I knew the first race was to the first 180-turn, so I really buried myself to stay in the front. On a side note, Nicole Duke (former pro-downhiller, state champion and eventual winner of the race) took the first corner so fast, for a second I lost concentration. I didn't realize you could lay a CX bike over that far! Anyway, coming up to the first turn I was sitting 4th position behind Nicole, Meredith Miller (another pro) and Karen Hogan (just a REALLY fast chic!). I stayed in contact for a couple laps with Karen but eventually she gaped me. Coming up fast behind me were 2 other riders, Judy Freeman (a pro mountain biker) and Rebecca Gross (another pro rider), so I knew there was NO letting up. Fortunately I felt good both mentally and physically and fought hard to maintain my spot. I finished just seconds ahead of Judy for 4th. I was psyched!

Hard to believe the season is almost over. Carl and I are both looking forward to Nationals and Worlds. So now it's time to refocus on training and get ready!

The Penultimate weeked of the COCX season...or c-c-c-cold!

This weekend brought the final two races of the regular Colorado CX season. It also brought cold weather, with Saturday's temps in the 20's to 30's with calm, sunny skies. First up was the final of the Boulder Racing series, held at the Boulder Reservoir. This series is really well run and definitely caters to the racer, with their own chip timing system that allows near real-time updates on place, even during races! I know this isn't revolutionary, but it does set them apart on the decidedly low tech cross scene where hand completed, carbon triplicate forms are still used for registration! The course they set for this race made extensive use of the sand section along the shore, allowing us to practice these seldom used skills. Sunday's race was the second race put on by Green Mountain Sports at the Lookout Mtn course in Golden and is already being referred to as Tundra CX. An arctic front had moved in overnight, bringing a dusting of snow and temps in the teens to low 20's, add in the wind chill and we were single digits most of the day. The course was similar to the RLW course done earlier this year, just run backwards, bumpy, twisty, and not a lot of open passing lanes, so it required strategic riding.

Carl's Report:

On my initial recon ride of Saturday's course, I didn't love it, but as I continued to do warmup laps and dial tire pressure, I started liking it more. Plus, this was a chance to run our Dugast Pipistrello file tread, which we rarely get to use! I got a second row callup, but had a horrible start, rolling into the course in about 25th place and knowing I had my work cut out for me. I've always ridden fairly well in sand, however, and this day was no exception. I found myself riding sections that nearly everyone else ran and the resulting cheers pushed me along. I was passing riders in small groups and managed to get up to the back of the top 10. Going into the last lap, I was driving hard to catch 8th place when I overcooked a turn and fell hard on frozen sand (which is really hard and abrasive!). All of a sudden 8th place was gone, and 10th was right on my wheel! I panicked a little and started messing up turns that had been no problem all race, allowing him to stay with me. Finally, I got a gap on the final pavement and was able to avoid a sprint finish. It was a good lesson in staying focused and calm during a race, and well timed with the most important races now coming into view.

Sunday morning I expected to see 4" of snow on the ground when I got up, but it was dry and bitter cold at our house. A couple miles from the venue, we finally saw a trace of snow on the ground, but that was about it. Since the cold would prevent melting, we knew it would be a loose course. During warmup I was having trouble staying warm. I liked the course and felt it flowed well, but my fingers and toes were really cold. For the start, I lined up with multiple baselayers on, and wore tights over my skinsuit. Even so, I was never warm during the race! I got an okay start, but rode really tentatively on the turns, overbraking and then having to waste energy getting back up to speed. All of this was causing me to drift backward in the field. Finally, with 2 laps to go, I forced myself to stay off the brakes and started to make progress. I was able to climb into 6th place overall, but left feeling a little hollow since I didn't think I rode that well.

Kristal's Report:

Saturday's course at the Res was really fun. I loved all the sand and was excited to race! I had a decent start and raced pretty well but too many bobbles cost me some spots. However, I did finish 3rd in the Boulder Racing series which I was happy about.

Sunday's race in Golden was so cold (as Carl mentioned above!) I was the most bundled up I have ever been during a race. But I was still very excited to race. I had a great start and rode in the lead group the entire race. I wasn't as aggressive as I should have been and saved my passing attempt until too late. Aggressiveness...that's my goal for this coming weekend.

The finally weekend of local cross is upon us. The State Championships will be 2 great days of racing! Plus, Nick finally has his cast off and is VERY excited to get back on his bike!

 

Louisville and Castle CX

Our most recent weekend brought us the infamous 'Bowl of Death' at the Louisville Rec Center. This venue is used each year, and features a stadium-like bowl, the sides of which had two long run ups, as well as a high speed, off camber turn, and a long, fast, twisty descent. Sunday was held at Rhyolite Park in Castlerock. This is the same venue that was used twice last year, but a slightly modified, and now permanent course that is awesome! Carl's Report:

I never seem to have good races at the BOD, although I always enjoy the course. It has just historically played to power riders, which I am not. I lined up Sat morning hoping to change that. I got a decent start and settled in feeling comfortable and on the second lap I started moving up. I was into the top 10 and gaining on two riders in front of me when I dropped into a dusty line and crashed hard on a turn (sounds like a couple weeks ago, huh?).  It took me a little bit to get my bike unstuck and going again, by which time 4-5 riders had passed me. I dug deep to try to get back into it, but was only able to climb to 13th by the end. The course had 100' of climbing per lap, and we did 7 laps, and I was completely wrecked and barely lucid after the race. So, if nothing else, it was a great training day!

Castle CX had a different schedule, so I raced with the 35+ Open field instead.  It had been a couple weeks since I jumped in with them, so I was interested to see how it would go.  I hung in well at the start, which was a long paved climb, and dropped into the course just behind mid pack. This course was also twisty and dusty (it's been a really dry season) and my tire pressure was a little too high, so I was skidding a bit on turns, which was costing me energy getting back up to speed. I ended up in 18th, feeling pretty bad about the result until I looked at my lap times and saw that I would have been somewhere in the top 7 in my 'usual' category, and had done an additional lap. So, I guess I'm still on track!  Two more weekends to go in the Colorado season--sure has passed quickly!

Kristal's Report

Saturday was not a good day for me. I started my warm up as usual and felt pretty good. Then about 30 min before my start I got a terrible headache and didn't feel well. I took some aleve and hoped that would help. I had a good start and a pretty good first couple of laps and then I started to feel even worse. Full body fatigue and nauseous. I continued on but stopped with my full effort. I finished 7th and well behind the girls I'm typically competitive with. I was feeling pretty bummed and generally ill. The whole family came home and took naps!

Sunday I still wasn't feeling great but wanted to race since it was a Gold Level points race and I really like the Castle Rock course. I did my first preview laps nice and slow trying to ease my body into the day. My warm up continued as normal and I actually felt better when I was riding. I was cautiously optimistic that I would continue to feel better as the race went on. I had a terrible start and found myself at the back of the field. Lots of room to move up! Fortunately I did start to feel better and eventually moved up into 2nd! A great ending to a not so good start.

The best part of my day was riding with Cate in her Pre-J race. Even big bro Nick followed along!

 

Parker and Bandimere

We're nearing the end of the Colorado season here with only 3 weeks until the State Championship race. Kristal is still leading the Cross Cup points series, and also has RapidRacing in 3rd place in the team competition, which is pretty impressive for a team of one!  We're in 9th place in the Men's 45+ Open, which is also interesting since Rob and I only did a handful of races in that category, spending the early season in 35+ Open and 45+/4's. Rob and Nick are both still on the Injured Reserve list, but Carl and Kristal's results have been steadily improving in recent weeks and it feels like the form is coming around just in time. Saturday was Big Ring CX at the Equestrian Park in Parker. This venue was new last year, featuring 3 separate twisty sections and a sandy riverbed. This year they added a steep runup on a north facing slope with ice underneath. It got progressively more slick throughout the day as the dirt fell away and if you want some entertainment check out the video on 303cycling.com or the various clips on U-Tube! There was true chaos with people stalling out halfway up and sliding back down the hill, often multiple times! Carl ran up it okay in the morning, and Kristal rode it most the time in her race.

Sunday was a new race called Quarter Mile CX at Bandimere Dragstrip in Morrison. This course had a steep, paved descent and subsequent climb back up to the finish line, along with a steep, 44-step staircase and lots of very loose turns in gravel and dust. So, it had something for everyone to struggle with! In total, it had over 250' of climbing per lap, which is a lot for a cx race! Judging by comments since, this course was controversial, with a lot of people opining against the loose turns, long stairs, high speed descents, etc.  For our part, one of the attractions of cx is the challenge of overcoming whatever the course throws at you. Some of the European courses have features that are downright scary!

Carl's report:

I've been surfing a wave of improving results, feeling good, but also dealing with the added pressure that comes with being at the front of the race. Having mostly raced the 35+ in the past, I would ride anonymously in the back half of the field, but okay about that because it's one of the fastest categories. Now I feel like I should be a factor in every race and it's much different having to fight hard for every place. Guess I know now how Kristal feels at every race! I'm having fun and feeling really motivated, plus I feel like it's good prep for States and Nats.

On Saturday, I saw some guys try to ride the runup in warmups and all failed, most of them sliding/falling back down the hill and decided it was too high risk to do in the race. Much better to go with the safe bet of hitting it fast and running. I got a decent start on a gravel road, playing it safe to avoid any crashes. I was about 6th wheel coming through the finish straight, but immediately lost a handful of places on a loose turn. I dug hard to try to get them back and soon got back to my friend Greg, with whom I've been racing closely lately. He and I rode together the rest of the race and I finally got a gap on the last lap, although we weren't able to catch the 2 riders ahead of us.  I ended up in 9th place, perfectly happy with a top 10 finish.

The next day it was a challenge to even locate the course during warmups. They were still setting up and wind was breaking and blowing the course tape everywhere. I wasn't psyched about the course at first, it was really loose and sketchy in places, but as I rode more I started to feel better. I got a poor start due to fishtailing on some loose gravel, and was in about 12th wheel heading into the long stair climb. I eventually started to move up late in the first lap and picked off some riders, catching up (again) to Greg. He was riding the twisty sections better than me, but with less time to train during the week was struggling on the climbs. I knew I didn't want to have to sprint up that final climb, so I put in a dig late in the final lap to get away and was able to roll across the line in 6th place.

Kristal's report:

On Saturday we had a strong field with Local Pro Nicole Duke showing up and the always fast other local women. I had a great start, got the hole shot! First time this season so I was pretty psyched. My starts have not been great so I was very happy about this. I was in 2nd for a good chunk of the race, then Rebecca caught up to me. She and I rode together for most of the race with Karen Hogan chasing us. Karen gets better as the race goes on so I knew I had to keep charging. Going into the last lap she caught us. The 3 of us rode together until I bobbled on the steep run/ride up (see above). I finished in 4th, a bit disappointed but looking at the positives, as it was a good race.

Sunday's course I was not into as I prerode. I crashed in warmups and came back to the car needing Carl to help me calm down. I was tense and over thinking everything. To add to the challenge, Meredith Miller, a national level pro roadie/crosser was racing just having recovered from a major injury. Carl talked me through the stuff that was making me tense (thanks coach!) and I got a few clean laps in so I was ready. Again I had a good start and found myself chasing Rebecca (AGAIN!). The stairs were challenging, by the top I thought I would explode, the cornering was intense (loose dirt/gravel) and the finish straight was up hill. whew! Not a moment to rest mentally or physically. I finished in 3rd on the day and chalked it up to a good training day.

Thanksgiving

We have much to be thankful for this year. Firstly, we all have good health and we get fantastic support from all of our family and friends!  Cate and Nick are very patient and good natured about getting dragged to races every weekend, especially Nick, since his broken arm prevents him from even being able to ride, much less race now.  We'd also like to thank our great sponsors, Fluid, FRS, American Classic wheels, Vredestein tires, and Blue Competition Cycles. Also our teammate Rob Gilbert, who has been a great addition, putting up great results and representing the team in very positive way. Yesterday morning we headed out to Turkey CX, a new race that was put on in a very grassroots manner at Bear Creek Lake Park in Lakewood. In order to shorten the schedule, they just ran Men's and Women's A, B, and C categories, roughly working out to Open, Cat 3 and Cat 4 with no age group distinctions. We were curious as to what turnout would be like since this was about 30 minutes from Boulder and on a holiday. Turns out it was a great alternative to Turkey Trot 5k's however, as Carl's Men's B race had about 35 starters. The course was a mixture of wide dirt path/road and narrow, twisty, rocky singletrack with a pair of barriers and later a large log just before a big climb. It was a really fun event, with kind of a throwback vibe to 5 years ago when 'cross was more about just tearing around a dirt course with your friends.  Not that we don't appreciate the high quality courses and larger fields these days, but sometimes it's nice to indulge in nostalgia.

Carl's Report:

This was an interesting race since I wasn't lining up with any of my regular 35+ or 45+ Open field. I only knew 2 riders and rarely race them so didn't know what to expect. There were even a number of juniors in the field. I ended up on the second row at the start, determined to ride aggressively and try to move up on the long wide start before we got into the singletrack and I ended up comfortably in 4th wheel. I could see two juniors at the front, pulling away as we made our way through the backside trees. I was able to ride the big climb on the first lap and moved into 3rd as we headed back towards the start/finish. Unfortunately, I endo'd in the sand pit that I had ridden every lap in warmup. Guess I hadn't tried it at race speed and the small jump heading in took me down. Two riders got past me, and I tore off to get those spots back. I managed to pass one fairly quickly, then got by the other running up the big climb.

At that point, I dug in, trying to get my way back to the two leaders. Often, junior racers will start really fast, but lack the endurance and crack on the last lap. It was not to be this day, however, probably in part because we only raced for 34 minutes. I rolled across the line in what I thought was 3rd place, only to find out that one of them had flatted, so I actually got 2nd. Not the way I would prefer to beat someone, but I guess that's racing and I'll take it!

As a side note, I'd like to thank my 'secret weapon' Peak Sports in Boulder. Doctors Jenny and Andy Harmon keep my body loose and tuned up. Each year, I start seeing them in early November to fix the wear and tear from racing each weekend and each year my results start to improve at that point.  I don't think that's a coincidence--I would strongly recommend them to anyone on the front range!

Kristal's Report:

Not surprisingly my field was small, only about 10 riders, but I had some great competition with Rebecca Gross and Kate Powlison showing up. I got a good start and Rebecca and I got a gap on the field. I knew Rebecca knew the trails we were riding so I didn't hesitate to follow her line through the single track. We rode together the whole time, which is a huge boost in confidence for me as I am rarely in contact with Rebecca during an entire race! I put in a few attacks but either an ill-timed crash would happen or she would get back around me. Of course post race there was a lot of "shoulda, woulda, coulda" happening in my head but in reality I felt like I raced really well and had a great time. It was the perfect start to our day!

Boulder #4 and Alpha CX contrasts!

This weekend brought us the 4th race in the Boulder Racing series, set for 'South Valmont Bike Park'. This was the same venue used previously this season, but running the course almost backward from the previous iterations resulted in an entirely different course.  It was curvy and flowing, with short, steep sections requiring explosive power, rather than the long grinding hill of the traditional version. Mixed in with a little mud, this course may have been our favorite ever at this world class venue that will host the National Championships next season. Sunday was Alpha CX, a mainstay of the past few years on the calendar, held on a course that is almost all lush grass (well, except for the two sandpits and some short sidewalk sections!). This is always a power, rather than technical, course so doesn't play to our strengths as riders. But, in the spirit of training our weaknesses, it's probably perfectly timed in the season to give us a late boost!

There's only 4 more weekends of Colorado racing after this, then the calendar is blank until mid January when we head out to Madison, WI for Nationals, then Louisville, KY for Worlds.  We're really excited!

On a down note, Rob injured himself during warmups for yesterday's Alpha race. It's a shame because that course was perfect for him. Our thoughts are with him during rehab, and we're hoping he makes a triumphant return before the States race!

Carl's report:

The racing schedule has changed due to the shorter days now, so I have shifted categories to race with the 45+ Open field at 8:15am. That gives us more time in between races so cool down, warm up, and kid handoff goes much more smoothly! I also should be more competitive in that field than the 35+ Open, so am looking forward to figuring more in races.

The Boulder course was fun and tricky in spots. As the first race of the day, I was able to get 4 preview laps in on the course to try to get it dialed. I got a decent start, and was just inside the top 20 on the first lap. I was digging hard and had soon climbed up to 12th place. A couple of mistakes (dropped chain and a missed turn) lost me spots, but I was able to gain them back. With two laps to go, I had 11th & 10th place in my sights and was gaining fast. Unfortunately, I blew a turn and crashed heavily, losing 2 spots before I got going again. This time I wasn't able to regain them and finished in 14th. Nonetheless, I was psyched with the result, knowing that I had made some mistakes and still gotten a decent result. Better focus and concentration would have put me solidly inside the top 10!

At Alpha CX I again got plenty of preview laps, although they weren't really necessary since the course wasn't too tricky--just heavy. I didn't get a great start, probably somewhere outside the top 20 going into the singletrack and chicanes. I made some aggressive passes on turns and soon found myself pulling the chase group as the lead group of 9 riders headed off. I was soon able to leave the chase and start to bridge solo. I was gaining on the leaders and eventually caught another rider who had come off the front group. We worked together for a couple laps, but weren't able to make any more progress. Each time he pulled, we would slow down, but I didn't have the power to just ride away from him. Finally, on the last lap, I was lining up to pass him when I blew a slippery turn. That gave him enough room to claim 9th place and I had to settle for 10th on the day. I was still really happy with that, since it's not at all my type of course, so I feel like it is a good indication of my form coming around.  My confidence is high now and I definitely feel like I 'belong' at the front of the race.

Kristal's Report:

Saturday's VBP course was definitely a favorite of mine. I loved the flow, short punchy climbs and we even hit both stair runups. I had a poor start but started moving up. I found myself in a group of 3 girls fighting it out for 3rd place. Ultimately I was able to pull ahead and hold on to that 3rd place spot despite going to the finishing straight with 2 of the best sprinters in the field--I was nervous! But I got a gap on them the last time past the pits, which I knew was the last best chance to pass.

Sunday's course as mentioned above, did not play to my strengths. However, I really wanted a good result since I'm in first place in the local points competition and want to hang on to that. The most technical section of the course was a short downhill into a sandpit. The trick was to "let it roll", get your weight back and trust that you weren't going to endo into the sand! I think this was my favorite part of the course. I had a great start and again found myself fighting out for 3rd until a poorly timed slide out in a corner going into the barriers. Ultimately I finished in 4th but still pretty happy with my result.

Next up is a race on Thanksgiving and races both Saturday and Sunday. Sunday's race is at a local dragster speedway, that'll be interesting! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and thanks for reading!

~RapidRacing

 

Sienna Lake and Urban Cross!

First of all, we'd like to congratulate Rob Gilbert for his upgrade to Cat 3!  That is no small accomplishment in Colorado, but his results this year definitely merit it! This weekend brought us Sienna Lake, a course that debuted last year and it only about 3 miles from our house. It is primarily grass, with some sidewalks and steep entry/exits from a ditch. It's a really fun course and we were looking forward to it. It turned out that a cold front blew in that day, and the precipitation started falling on and off during Rob and Carl's races in the morning. Closer to noon, when Kristal raced, it had started to lightly snow, and by the afternoon it was a full on blizzard! All of this made for fun conditions, as the course changed every single lap.

Sunday was a new race on a course in the warehouse district of north Denver. It was a full on urban setting, with mostly pavement and dirt, but a short section on the back side contained just about every obstacle one might encounter on a 'cross course, all in about a quarter mile. It started with a section of wood chips, then proceeded to some tall whoop-de-doos, then on to a rock garden, 2 steep down and up combos, then a 30' sand pit, and finally a set of 3 barriers. It was a really fun course with a great vibe, and we hope turnout will be larger next year.

On more of a down note, Nick broke his arm last week, so RapidRacing's Junior/Developmental squad is sidelined for 4-5 weeks until the cast comes off.  He is hoping to make a triumphant return at the State Championships!

Carl's Report:

I was excited for Saturday's race. I enjoyed this course last year, but rolled a tubular (meaning the tire came off the rim), so I was looking for some redemption this year. It was cold during my warmup and as the rain/snow started, I switched from the file tread Pipistrello tires I had planned to use to our Rhino mud tires. Since we registered that day, my callup was towards the back, but I got a decent start and was able to dismount and pass a number of riders on foot when the inevitable backup occurred at the fist ditch entry. Unfortunately, after that I just seemed to go backward all race. I rallied a bit mid race, but then overcooked a turn and crashed on wet, slick grass, losing a few more spots. In the end, this was definitely a day that I just didn't 'have it' and I left fairly disappointed.

Sunday morning, I raced the 8am 45+ Open race, so instead of getting the family up that early, I just headed down to the race alone. The streets were still icy, so the official decided to delay us an hour to let the ice melt some more. I found a few friends and set about preriding with them to learn the course and also to try to help them find the best lines. The conditions were definitely making a lot of riders nervous, but I was on a mission--stung by the previous day and knowing the field would likely be small, I was here to win.  When we finally lined up, there were only 7 riders in my field. The start straight was a sheet of ice, with only one line that was melted out. Unfortunately, another rider had gotten there early and staked out that spot. At the whistle, he tore off down the road, and I set about trying to get my rear wheel to hook up and chase him down. He had about 100yd gap by the time we hit the course itself, and I was in 4th. I quickly passed 2 riders, and was about 30' behind him going into the barriers on the backside. I watched as he bunny-hopped all three. 'Uh oh', I thought--I hadn't attempted that in warmup, so felt I shouldn't try it in the race. I hopped the first barrier (it was half height), but ran the other two and by that time the 30' gap had grown to about 100'. I knew that was trouble and I'd have to really make up time on the rest of the course.  Since they ran 4 categories concurrently to make up for the hour delay, I started passing riders on the second lap, adding to the challenge. It was like racing on a bike path 'on your left', 'on your right', 'rider back'. We ended up doing 7 laps, and he won by about 100yds. So, I did gain on the rest of the course each lap, but couldn't overcome the advantage he got at the barriers.  Nonetheless, I was psyched to finish 2nd and it was a real confidence builder!

Kristal's Report:

Sienna Lake was a win for me last season so I had big hopes going into the day. I was excited about the "crossy" weather we were having. I had a good start but was still about 7th wheel. I wanted to be toward the front going into the ditch so I put in a bit of an effort to move up. Going into the ditch I was 4th wheel and got stopped on the "out" portion by another rider sliding out. Exactly what I was trying to avoid. Oh well. I settled into a group of 3 or 4 other girls and slowly moved up. Eventually I was in 3rd but just didn't have it to close down any gap. My effort was fine but I rode more timidly than I should have so I was a little disappointed. Funny thing is the top 3 riders were the same as last year just a different order. Congrats to Karen and Kristin on great rides!

Sunday I didn't know what to expect. An urban CX race was something that hadn't been done before but I have to say it was a blast! My race was the last of the day and as expected it was a small field. My friend Lisa and I established a solid gap right from the gun. About 1/2 way thru the 1st lap we came to a flyover that hadn't been used all day. Surprise! Nothing like unexpected course changes! Towards the end of the first lap I got a bit of a gap on her but knew she wouldn't let up. I could feel her chasing me down, probably with her trademark smile! It was fun to get the win and participate in a cool new event. The podium was even cool. Spray painted 1,2,3 on corrugated aluminum siding, right outside the bar that was used for registration and the fans were super fun. Thanks to Dierdre for putting on a well run event.

COCX Classic, Boulder Cup, and RLW CX races!

Sorry for the gap between updates, things have been rather busy but we'll try to be more reliable for the rest of the season. October 27 & 28 brought two UCI C2 races to our area: the Colorado CX Classic and the Boulder Cup. These races are always big time and the focus of many local's season. Saturday's race was at the Boulder Res and was the best course we've ever done there (out of at least 20+ races at that venue)! As with last year, a little snow fell in the days before the race, promising we'd have some mud.  Boulder Cup was at Valmont Bike Park, which will be hosting CX Nationals in 2014 and was also the best course we've done there out of 5 (the park was just opened last season).

In addition to great racing, we also donated money to the Women's Elite prize purse at both events. Prize purse inequity has been a hot topic the past few years. It is a tough topic since the Women's fields are always much smaller than Men's, so economically it's a challenge to pay out the same amount.  On the other hand, the women are working just as hard, and we'd like to see those fields grow.  Towards that goal, for both days we donated $20/rider to the prize purse, hoping that would drive more participation.  We ended up giving $560 for Sat, and $530 for Sunday (we also paid the 7% cut that goes to the UCI). This gave us many positive mentions the week before as well as on race day, as well as a tent position right at the finish line Sunday!

Finally, this past Sunday, we did the RLW CX race in Golden. This was a low key race, lightly attended because it wasn't close to Boulder, nor was it part of the Cross Cup series.

Carl's Report:

I raced the 45+ on Sat, and got a 4th row callup. Since this weekend went well last year, I was determined to repeat. When the whistle blew, a gap opened on my left and I fired through it, ending up about 6th wheel off of the pavement. Unfortunately, I got caught up in a crash at the second turn, and lots of riders got past, dropping me into about 30th place. After that, I was able to ride a clean, determined race, catching and passing a number of guys I've never beaten, finally finishing in 18th place.  I was really happy with my ride.

Sunday I raced the faster 35+ race. I was a little tired from the previous day's effort, and didn't get a full warmup, but still felt confident.  I paid for the short warmup at the start, as I was missing the high end and drifted back on the opening climb. After that, I start to come around, though and set about reeling guys in. Tons of cheers from friends all over the course drove me through the field to finally finished in 45th (out of 60+ riders). I was fine with that since I felt I raced well technically and stayed aggressive.

Last Sunday, I did the 35+ at the RLW CX race. The field was small at about 25 riders, and many of the fast guys were missing, so I smelled opportunity. I drove from my second row start, and was around 7th wheel heading into the singletrack. I was charging and moving up when I overcooked a turn about 4 minutes into the race and crashed hard. A number of guys got passed as I grabbed my bike and remounted.  It was soon apparent that my shifting had been affected in the crash, so I pitted just over a lap later. By that point, I was near the back of the field. My pit bike worked flawlessly though, and I was able to start moving forward again.  I ended up in 14th, which would normally be a great result for me in 35+, but left feeling disappointed with a sense of wasted opportunity.

Kristal's Report:

Colorado CX Classic and Boulder Cup proved to be a fantastic weekend. I raced in the Elite Women's field and was very excited. Since I'm playing the no UCI points game, the best I was shooting for was 11th place (points were awarded up to 10th). I knew that it was a fast field so I didn't feel this would really be a problem. Saturday's race was super fun, as Carl mentioned, the best course at the Res we've raced. I had a great start and was moving up. I felt comfortable and strong throughout the race. Going into lap 4 (out of 5) I was in 12th and with several girls. I dropped my chain 2x on lap 4 and had a little slo-mo tip over at the end of the sand section causing me to drop into 17th. I would have loved to have finished in that 12th spot, of course, but was so excited about my race, that I was not disappointed.

The course at Valmont on Sunday did not disappoint. By the afternoon the course had dried out a bit but was still boggy in many areas. I had a terrible start causing me to fall into LAST! So I started chasing and moving up. I found myself racing against my favorite girls, Kristin, Melissa and Lisa. it was a fun day and I finished in 14th. Again, super happy with how I felt. Overall it was a great weekend.

Last Sunday I raced the Men's 3 category. The women's race was at the very end of the day and I didn't want to hang out all day waiting to race. After a day off on Saturday I was anxious to get out there again. I had a great start and tried to race aggressively not giving into the guys! The course had many loose corners so it was a balance between staying on the gas and carefully getting through the turns. In the end, I beat a few guys and again felt happy about the effort.

Nick also raced the "Pre-J" category the weekend of the Colorado CX Classic and Boulder Cup. He had really great races finishing in the top 5 of all kids 4-8 yrs old. Unfortunately he is sidelined for most of the season now due to a monkey bar accident that ended in a broken arm. He's hoping to be back for states!

Thanks for reading!

Interlocken and BSV Cup

Rob’s Report: I’m still wiped from a busy a weekend on the cross circuit, including two races and volunteering with course set-up at the Blue Sky Cup race.  I finally notched a win in 45+,4 on Saturday at Interlocken, a course that uniquely suits riders with good fitness but marginal cross skills.  Featuring long straight grass sections, a rarity in Colorado, I really tried to take advantage of this course.

Sunday was a different story.  This was my first back-to-back racing weekend in years, and my legs were not having it.  The Xilinx course always demands a good mix of cross skills and power, which I had none of on Sunday.  I did manage a 4th in 45+,4, which puts me close to an upgrade, so there goes my hard earned call-up for the season.

The week before in Fort Collins at the Smart Wool Cup USGP race, the course conditions seemed favorable for me during course preview lap, but then came the rain.  A pile up in the first turn alerted me to the fact that the mud had turned to grease and I would have to demonstrate some good bike handling just to avoid crashing.  This was not to be on the first lap, as I went down on a slick hairpin turn, and things didn’t get much better from there.

After two laps of slipping and sliding all over the place, I decided I would try a bike change.  My wife had agreed to work the pit for me, although I had never told her what to do in case I needed to switch bikes.  I yelled at her to lower the tire pressure on my pit bike, knowing that it must have sounded like gibberish, but she somehow understood and managed to execute the exchange like a pro.  I settled in a bit after that and rode a little better, but not much faster, for the remainder of a tough but fun day of cross.

This weekend brings more high-level racing with the Colorado Cross Cup and Boulder Cup, and the weather forecast for snow on Wednesday night and Thursday should add another variable into the always unpredictable cross equation.  Hopefully my legs will able to handle the two race weekend a little better, but either way, it promises to be an exciting couple of days of cyclocross.

Kristal’s Report: “Sweet and Sour”…

Or more appropriately “Sour and Sweet”. Saturday’s race at Interlocken is always a tough power course but beyond that I just had nothing. I hadn’t been feeling well all day but pushed it to the back of my mind not wanting to give myself an excuse. As the race went on it was very clear to me that the best thing I could do was maintain my position and just finish. I was very happy to have pushed through the yucky feeling I had, but pretty bummed about the result. I even woke up at 2:30 am (that magic hour when everything seems like a much bigger deal than it is) and was agonizing over the race and season in general. Fortunately, I had to get up at 4:30 so that didn’t leave me too much time to worry!

Sunday was a busy day. We arrived at the venue in the dark and I worked registration from 6-11. Eventually it was time to suit up for racing. The course was dusty, loose and twisty with some good power sections. I didn’t have a great start but started moving up through the field. The final lap came down to me and Melissa Barker. I tried to get a gap in the technical sections, knowing that she is a strong sprinter, but we came to the final pavement together. She outsprinted me to nab 2nd, but after Saturday’s race I was very happy with my finish and race overall.

Looking forward to this weekend!

Carl’s Report:

From a racing standpoint, my report is pretty lame (pun intended) this week. I tweaked my hip on Friday, and when I rode at lunch to try to loosen it up, it went from hurting a little bit occasionally to hurting most the time. So, knowing that next weekend is important races and not wanting it to turn into a lingering injury, I decided to skip this weekend’s races.

However, that did allow me to fully enjoy spectating, including cheering Rob on in his victory Saturday. It was a great ride, and what he didn’t mention is that he beat 2nd place by over a minute! Yep, guess he’ll be a Cat 3 pretty soon!

Sunday was the BSV Cup, which we always help put on, so that meant that we were out there at 6am helping to finalize the course. We also had a tent there, handing out samples of Fluid Performance, which was quite popular. Another of our great sponsors, FRS, came out as well, and handed out countless bottle of their drinks. Overall a successful day, although it burned a little not getting to race.

This weekend are the UCI races, Colorado CX Classic and Boulder Cup. These are big time races, with many of the national riders coming in for them. Prize purse inequity between Men and Women is always a hot topic, so we decided to do something about it for these races. We are giving $20/rider in the Women’s Elite Race to the prize purse. Our good friend, Paul McCarthy of CrossPropz fame has also generously donated $500 to the Boulder Cup purse. We are proud that two of the smallest cx teams in the state are taking a leadership role towards trying to solve the problem, rather than just complaining. We hope that others will follow suit and help out—either through donations or finding additional sponsors.

 

Smartwool Cup

Smartwool Cup This is the third year that the United States Grand Prix (USGP) series has held October races in Ft. Collins, CO, an hour north of us. Fortunately, that’s Carl’s hometown and his Mom still lives there, so this is a favorite venue for us! The races are held in a large, sloping field in open space south of town, which results in a course that feels like it’s constantly either climbing or descending, with very little flat. Since it offers UCI points, the fields are large and fast and it gives us a great checkpoint as to where we are for the season.

Carl’s report:

Saturday

What a difference a week makes! Last week’s performances left me really demoralized, and this is a tough race to look to for redemption. Friday evening and Saturday morning called for rain, and I was hopeful since otherwise the course would be really dry, bumpy, and dusty. We got some rain overnight, and in our preride early Saturday morning, conditions were tacky and fun, and the course flowed really well.

Since the 35+ is a premier event, it was held in the afternoon as the lead in to the Elite races. About 11am, the wind kicked up and it got really cold with heavy rain during the 45+ event. I felt a bit nervous about the conditions and whether I had enough warm clothes. Once I started my warmup, those disappeared as I felt really focused and confident. I took my place in the 8th row ready to rip.

Conditions on the course were really slick and muddy, and the key was to not follow the obvious line, but corner on the grass instead to get better traction. Numerous times I was able to rip past guys that had slid out in the turns. My Rhino tires were hooking up perfectly, allowing me to make up quite a few places throughout the race. In the end, I rolled in 62nd place, with fully regained confidence.

Sunday

Sunday dawned clear and sunny, the course was slightly changed, but it was clear it would be fast and furious. During warmup, my legs were definitely tired from yesterday’s effort, but I tried to just put it out of my mind instead of inventing excuses. Once again I lined up way back. My start was not great, and most the field was ahead going onto the course. But the Typhoons were the perfect tire on the day and allowed me to rail the corners, gaining spots steadily through the race.

I’d slide back a bit on the climbing sections, but more than make up for it on the descents. In the end, I rolled in 60th place, again feeling really good about my ride.

I feel like I dug really deep in both races, and my legs are sore today, so I’m sure I’ll get a fitness payback for this effort in the coming weeks.

Kristal

Last year during this weekend I rode in the Men’s Singlespeed event since I didn’t want to buy the extra license needed to race the Elite race. This year, I had the license BUT I had so much fun in the SS race last year I decided to do it again. Both days I had a front row callup…fairly wasted on me in this race but it did provide some great exposure for our sponsors and team! The guys were all very nice and encouraging, although there was definitely a little smack talk going on with my friends in the field!

Saturday was “hero” dirt, that made for incredible cornering. I had this for just over 2 laps and then the rain started to fall and make things slippery. I had a few guys around me so really tried to keep the pressure on. I managed to “chick” a few guys and race hard. Good day!

Sunday the course had dried out a bit and was FAST! I think that was the theme for all the races that day. I’m really amazed at how fast these guys can go with ONE gear. Truly impressive. I had another great day and was happy in general with my finish.

Overall it was a great weekend of training for me. But my favorite part of the weekend was hanging out with our friends in our racing community. Both days I had amazing support all over the course. Thank you to everyone for your voice and encouragement! You gave me wings.