Season Wrap Up: Carl

This past season was a bit of a mixed bag for me. After having relatively good results last year, and a solid summer racing MTB, I thought I would be able to smoothly take the proverbial next step in ‘cross. I don’t know if that resulted in me being complacent, or if I just underestimated how focused everyone would be on the local scene with Nationals here this year, but I spent the first half of the season getting my teeth kicked in. It was only in the late season races that I finally felt like I was starting to be competitive.

Photo: Mountain Moon. CX Classic, Boulder Res.

Photo: Mountain Moon. CX Classic, Boulder Res.

The season started auspiciously by missing my callup at the opening TT (which bookended my season neatly with missing my callup again for the B race at Nationals). I didn’t realize it at the time, but that seemed to metaphorically set the tone for much of my early season—not being dialed on the details, then pushing too hard, and not riding technically sound.

Photo: Dejan Smaic. CX of the North, Loveland.

Photo: Dejan Smaic. CX of the North, Loveland.

Oddly enough, that streak only seemed to be broken when I got a concussion in early November and had to sit out a couple of weeks. Following that unplanned break, I finally was able to rediscover my technical skills, and despite not being able to really train while recovering, my fitness didn’t seem to suffer too much. As a result, I was able to finish the season on an upswing, and our late season weather also helped by making the courses much more fun than they otherwise might have been.

Photo: Dejan Smaic. Feedback Cup, Golden.

Photo: Dejan Smaic. Feedback Cup, Golden.

Nationals seemed to roughly mirror my season, as I had a good, fun ride in the B race, but did only okay in the actual Championship event. That week, however, more than made up for any disappointment by being an all time best celebration of Cyclocross. It was so much fun getting to hang out day after day with family and friends and watch exciting racing at all levels. Vicariously enjoying the success of so many from our local community was really a high point of the season for me.

Photo: Mountain Moon. Frisco.

Photo: Mountain Moon. Frisco.

In closing, I’d like to thank my family for always being encouraging about racing, even when my results don’t deserve it. Having Kristal and the kids out there cheering and racing is the best. I’d also like to thank Rob, Errin, and Bard for joining RapidRacing and being great role models in the cycling community. I know this season had its challenges, but you were patient and supportive through it all. Thanks also to our sponsors, Unovelo, American Classic, Fluid Nutrition, Foxtrot Wheel & Edge, and FRS for joining us on this journey! Lastly, I appreciate everyone in the community and anyone that has found us out here on the interwebs for reading and following our adventures.

Season Wrap Up: Bard

I wasn't quite sure what to expect as I entered my first full CX season. I dabbled in a handful of races in 2012, and was hooked, so I knew I wanted to race a fuller schedule this year and I definitely wanted better results. I focused on fitness all spring and summer, and felt like I was in a good place as the opening weekend approached in September.  In my head, I figured that since I'd race a bit last year and trained all summer, that I would automatically just be a better racer.

Interlocken

Interlocken

The season opening Kick-IT TT was a rude awakening. While I was definitely more fit than last fall, I wasn't anywhere near "race fit". And with all that focus on fitness, I'd neglected working much on my bike handling skills. I finished near the bottom of the pack in the TT. Not only was I slow, but the trickier parts of the course taught me some valuable lessons about what I needed to work on.

The next day was the first race of the season, Cross of the North #1. I tried to put my struggles in the TT behind me, but after a decent start, the rest of the day was a battle just to finish. I had a mechanical early on the first lap, and ended up off the back.  I was able to pick off a handful of spots before getting pulled with one lap to go. While it wasn't the start I'd hoped for, it was a very educational weekend.

I started focusing on handling/technical skills that next week.  That seemed to pay off a bit at my next race a couple weeks later at Valmont.  I raced confidently and aggressively, and managed to pull myself up to a mid-pack finish in a big field. That would begin a trend that I carried for the rest of the season.  I was happy with where my fitness was; when I could really open it up on climbs and straights, I could pick off riders most of the time. But when the course got technical, my weaknesses really cost me time and positions.

Sprinting across the line

Sprinting across the line

A few highlights:

Cross of the North #3: My first mud-fest. While previewing the course, conditions were fairly dry, and the course was nice and tacky.  About an hour before my start, the rain began to fall. I knew I was in for a sloppy ride, but had no idea how nasty it would get. The course turned to total grease, and I ended up off the bike way too much, probably running close to half the race.  I was pulled after three laps, along with 75% of the field. Looking back, it was a blast. But at the time...

Cyclo-X Xilinx: This was the course where I raced for the first time ever last year, and it really seems to suit my style. This was the most complete ride I had all season. I started a few rows back in a big field, but I was able to pass and improve my position on every lap, finishing just outside the top 20.

Castle Cross (State Championship): My first bitterly cold, snow filled winter race. It is amazing how you can completely ignore how much your hands and feet hurt when chasing down the guy 50 feet in front of you.

Racing in the sand at the Res

Racing in the sand at the Res

A few takeaways from the year:

1) Balance my training: Rather than just focus on fitness and strength, work in a lot more bike handling and CX skills practice this summer.

2) Race fitness: I don't know any way to do this other than race, so I'm planning on tackling several road races this spring/summer.

3) Focused racing: Too often I get to the starting grid thinking only about my result.  I spend the first couple laps in the red trying to keep up with the front, then blow up and have to battle just to survive. About halfway through the season I started picking two or three specific skills to focus on each race. As soon as I did that, those things started improving, and my results trended up.

4) Race more! Entering the season my goal was to race 10 times. I ended up starting 14 races, and that wasn't nearly enough. Even when the results weren't great, I always finished the day having learned something, and I usually had a blast doing it.

Playing at Valmont

Playing at Valmont

Thanks to everyone on the team for their help and support this year!  It wouldn't have been successful without you. I'm already eyeing the road calendar to pick my training spots, and looking forward to more CX in the fall.

Season Wrap Up: Rob

2013 was a bit of a rebuilding year for me. After injury and illness wrecked my fitness at the end of the 2012 season, I never seemed to get back into solid form. In addition to my marginal fitness, this year was a bit too hectic off the bike to expect anything more than mediocre results.

Cross of the North

Cross of the North

Inconsistent would be a good word to describe my results in cross this year. It seemed like I was dealing with a different bike issue every week, from brakes to tires to components. Symbolic of the entire season, I came down with a pesky cold around the middle of December, which slowed me down at the state cx championships, and I considered racing nationals until a snow storm blew in the week before and rendered the course a bit too treacherous for my liking.

Boulder Res

Boulder Res

I raced 15 times in 2013, a lighter schedule than usual, including two duathlons, a hill climb, a time trial, and 10 cross races. I actually feel like I’m in better overall shape right now than at any point last year. I will be running the masters cross country championships in Boulder on February 15th, which might be stretch for how little running I’ve done, but we’ll see.

Flatirons Crossing

Flatirons Crossing

For 2014, I will be racing more multisport and likely some hill climbs and time trials. I have designed a decent indoor cycling room in my basement, so the weekly snow storms haven’t really hurt my fitness too much. I’m definitely more optimistic about the possibility of better results in 2014.

Feedback Cup

Feedback Cup

Final Circuits

The end of the season finally brought us some weather in the form of cold temps and SNOW! This gave us some fun conditions for the ‘warm up’ Altitude Adjustment race put on the week before Nats by our friend and long time ‘cross promoter, Brook Watts. Brook is one of the good guys in the sport and with his long history of putting on races, including Cross Vegas, we knew he would have a good course. Since we were both racing Wednesday at Nats, we only raced on Saturday, but we found cold conditions and a course that was covered with snow over grass. The route included a lot of short sections up and down a side hill that was still slippery enough in the morning to require running instead of riding. It also had lots of tight turns, sand, and barriers, as well as a really fun vibe since Nats were right around the corner, and lots of racers were in from other states.

Altitude Adjustment: A beautiful snowy day…perfect for CX! Photo: Bo Bickerstaff

Bard did the first race of the day, ‘snow plowing’ the course for the other categories. He got the hole shot and held on for a fantastic 5th place finish. A great way to cap off his first season on the team!

The course for Nationals was an epic construction at Valmont Bike Park. It had a little of everything—a long climb, short, steep climbs and descents, multiple off cambers, barriers, and two sets of stairs. The snowstorm had brought 7-8” of snow to Valmont, with warming temperatures throughout the week, so the races on Wed and Thurs featured frozen sections in the morning that thawed to mud by afternoon. Unfortunately, it had largely dried out to a super fast track by Sunday’s Elite races, not that the wins weren’t well deserved, but it would have been fun to watch their skills in muddier conditions!

We had a tent in the Athlete Zone all week, handing out Fluid as well as homemade cookies from Carl’s Mom. It was really fun, because especially on Sunday a lot of traffic was casual spectators unfamiliar with Cyclocross. Carl was able to spend a fair amount of time explaining the sport and our equipment and hopefully created some converts (and sold products!).

Carl’s Reports

Heading up the 5280 stairs at CX Nats. Photo: Mountain Moon

It’s funny, I always seem to struggle with motivation for cold races. I think it’s because of the added hassle in getting on all the clothing and warming up before the race, but afterward I’m invariably gushing about how much fun it was! The Altitude Adjustment race was definitely no exception! I started third row and got a great jump off the line. Unfortunately, my gears were initially frozen up, so I was stuck spinning a high cadence and lost a few spots before we left the pavement, putting me somewhere around 20th. From there, I consistently moved up, feeling really good and riding aggressively. I advanced to about 8th place before making the tactical error of tossing my fogged up glasses to Kristal for the last lap. Without the eye protection it was hard to see in the falling snow and I lost 4 spots in the last lap, which was also my slowest by 30 seconds. Nonetheless, I was happy to roll in 12th place and feel like I’m on track for a good week!

Mud! Photo: Mountain Moon

Mud! Photo: Mountain Moon

Wednesday brought muddy conditions for my noon start in the ‘B race’ at Nats. Through my own mistake of arriving at the back of the grid for staging, I missed my callup and ended up having to take a spot in the 4th row instead of 2nd as I should have. This left me a little buried at the start, especially as the course bottlenecked and the leaders were able to get away. I knew the conditions favored me, though, and set about making lots of passes. It was amazing how many people I heard cheering every lap, considering this was a weekday and that made me keep charging forward. My aggressive riding also led to my crashing four times, which I think may be a single race record for me! In the end, I finished 12th and was very psyched with that!

Photo: Pedal Dancer

Photo: Pedal Dancer

Finally, I lined up at 9am on Friday for my 45-49 Championship race. Cold temps overnight had frozen Thursday’s muddy ruts, creating what’s turning out to be a common condition for this race! Combine that with high winds that actually blew me sideways down an off camber in warm ups and I knew it would be a ‘hard man’s’ race. I didn’t miss my callup this time, nabbing the last slot on the 5th row. I got a decent start, but heading up the hill for the first time could tell I didn’t have great legs. I guess running around the day before and not drinking enough water wasn’t a great strategy! But, I resolved not to accept that fate and to drive as best I could. In these conditions, handling can often trump fitness! I rode clean and smooth, passing a lot of riders, once again driven on by cheers from family and friends all over the course. At the finish, I was 36th, ten spots better than predicted, which was my main goal.

More stairs! Photo: Mountain Moon


Kristal’s Reports:

Altitude Adjustment

I was up in the afternoon. I had a great start and was sitting in 5th on the first lap. The snow had started to clear a bit on the course making the off camber areas rideable again. I was able to move up steadily and finished 2nd to local pro and former Olympian Georgia Gould!

Photo: Bo Bickerstaff

Nationals, Wednesday: Singlespeed

I lined up in the Women’s Singlespeed race in the afternoon. It was a small group of women, 15, but the competition at the front was tough! I had a great start, even momentarily had the holeshot! I never quite know what to expect when racing in this category, so I was pleased with my 6th place…an improvement over last year’s and maybe with a little more work on the SS, I can get a podium in Austin next year.

Photo: Bo Bickerstaff

Thursday: Master’s 40-44

This was my main event. The field was full of local fun, fast women as well as the visitors from other states. The conditions were a bit drier but there was still plenty of mud to be found! I had another great start but soon found the field swamping me (something to work on for next season!) and drifted back a bit. I was steadily moving up when I had a crash and twisted my handlebars. Fortunately I wasn’t very far from the pit, so I rode my bike in and was greeted by my top notch pit crew (Carl and John Mansell). Once back on the course I was sitting in 6th but could see the other girls not too far ahead. I fought back and snagged 4th! Whew, made the podium!

Podium! Photo: Mountain Moon

Sunday: Elite Women

By Sunday the course was pretty much dry. There were a few spots of mud but nothing that was going to affect the race. The Elite women’s field had 111 women— the largest Elite women’s field in US CX History! I had 3 goals for this race: 1. Finish on the lead lap, 2: Finish ahead of my starting position (47th), 3: have fun and enjoy this incredible day.

Photo: Mountain Moon

Photo: Mountain Moon

Happy to report, I met all 3! I had a good start and began moving up. Everywhere on the course I was cheered on by friends, really this was the case all week. Every time into the long staircase I had to smile, the noise was deafening! I made it as high 28th-ish but faded around lap 3. I finished 36th on the day and was super pleased.

Great crowds. Photo: Bo Bickerstaff

Great crowds. Photo: Bo Bickerstaff

On a personal side note: Carl and Kristal’s kids, Cate and Nick, both raced on Friday. The junior course was a shortened version of the main course but still very challenging for these kids. They had to deal with the 5280 run-up and some slick conditions. Nick did awesome and held on for 10th, even having to sprint at the end! Cate’s pre-J event was held on a separate course but at the same venue. Since not much action had been seen on this part, there was still plenty of snow. She did 2 laps and kept charging even after a few spills.

This was a truly special week of racing.  Having a National event held in our hometown on a top-notch course, with so much excitement…it still makes us smile.

Thanks for reading. Next up we’ll recap the season.

 

CO State Championships!

This past weekend brought the final races of 2013, with the State Championships on a great dedicated course in Castlerock. Kudos to John Haley for a truly top notch event--he even arranged the weather such that the course had a good mix of frozen, muddy, and tacky conditions! The start straight was a brief section of pavement before a 90 deg right, 90 deg left, then down a steep, frozen hill, so the hole shot would definitely be critical!

 

Bard kicked off the weekend with an early start on Saturday. It was freezing cold, and the 10 minute delay on the start line didn’t help with anyone’s warmup! He got bogged down a bit at the aforementioned start and had to spend the rest of his race picking off other riders. He ended up in 28th overall, but felt it could have been a lot better with a clean start.

Carl having a blast! ©Dejan Smaic

By the time Carl and Rob went off in the afternoon, things had warmed up and started to melt. Even between their preview laps at 11:30a and their race start at 1:40, the course had softened up considerably.

 

Rob turning in a solid ride. ©Dejan Smaic

Carl’s Report:

I love this course, and definitely felt like the conditions favored me, so despite my 4th row callup in a huge field, I was psyched to race! I got pinched a bit at the first turn and lost some spots, dropping somewhere into the mid 30’s, but when we came to the descent, I jumped out of the line and bombed past 5-6 guys. By pit 1, I had climbed into the mid 20’s with some aggressive riding. It felt like I had people cheering almost everywhere on the course and that kept me on that gas, consistently moving up every lap and riding my best of the season. In fact, my last 3 lap times were exactly the same—I’ve never done that before! In the end, I rolled in 17th, satisfied with that result.

Without many cross cup points, Rob started towards the back of the field and had to deal with traffic the entire time.  He ended up with a solid showing in 60th on the day, in conditions that didn’t really play to his strengths.

 

Day 2 of the races kicked off with Errin in the SW3 race. Having just catted up, she didn’t have any points for call ups, which definitely put her on the ‘back foot’ on this start critical course. Despite that, she rode solidly, moving up every lap, to finish smack dab mid pack, 14th out of 28 riders—a great result!

Errin on a great day!
 

After a brief preview period, mid day, the stage was set for the Elite races, with Kristal lining up in a stacked field for the Women’s Open. Plenty of local pros were there, along with all the usual fast women we see every weekend. Kristal hadn’t been feeling well all morning, but lined up hoping it was just nerves and would pass once the race started. Unfortunately, that was not to be as she continued to feel worse as the race went on, finally dropping out on lap 3 when she couldn’t continue. That was a disappointing conclusion to her main season, but will just stoke the fires further for January’s races!

Kristal giving it a go. ©Dejan Smaic

Next up are the Altitude Adjustment races the first weekend of January, then it’s straight on to Nationals in Boulder! We wish everyone a Happy Holidays!  Thanks for reading.

Last 5 Races!

Been a little slack on updates lately—things have been a little nuts approaching the holidays! We’re coming down to the business end of the season now, and many of the remaining weekends have only a single race. Makes it a little tough to maintain the high end fitness, but does give a bit more time for maintenance!

 

Cyclo X Westminster

Errin getting a little muddy. ©www.sportifimages.com

This course is largely grass, with a long staircase that is broken up into two sections and just a little bit of ‘native’ grass and dirt. A snowstorm in the days beforehand didn’t pan out as deep as we had hoped, and the course had only a couple inches on it come race day. Carl was still on the shelf with his concussion, so it was left to our Women’s squad to carry the flag for us this day! Since this race was part of the main series, and the only event this weekend, the fields were large, as expected.

Kristal went first in the SW Open, with all the usual (fast) suspects. She got a great jump at the start, but then got caught by the field’s surge, leaving the pavement in about 9th. But, with her improving form, she was able to steadily move forward throughout the race. She rode solid and aggressive the entire time, eventually finishing 4th on the day, just 3 seconds off the podium.

Errin went next, with her debut ride in the SW3 category! Ordinarily, this would have been a total power course with all the grass, but the wet snow reduced her advantage there and made it a lot more technique dependent (along with needing the ability to run lots of stairs!). That, combined with upgrading, made Errin’s 11th place result a great performance!

 

Turkey CX

Kristal and I love this race. It has a really relaxed, throw back vibe, and provides a great way to get in some morning intensity before spending most the rest of the day eating! They run just three races—Men’s and Women’s A, B, & C, with Juniors all combined together with the C fields. It is held at Bear Creek Lake State Park in Lakewood, with a primarily singletrack course through woods, stables, and a sandpit, and has two large climbs—one paved, the other rocky dirt. This was also Carl’s first race back, so he was psyched!

Carl’s Report:

Last year’s Turkey CX was my first ever podium, so despite two weeks off from racing, I was hoping for a good result. I lined up front row in a fairly strong field of 43 guys for the Men’s B race. I got a good start, heading into the singletrack in 4th place. After spending half a lap recovering from the start, I was in 5th place and began moving forward. The race was really fun, since I was in a group of about 6 guys racing for 3rd place (1st and 2nd were gone). I was generally at the front, but any bobble resulted in my getting passed and then having to dig deep to regain my spot. Finally, I was able to put in a big effort on the last lap to get some space and rolled in safely on the final podium step!

Kristal decided that since this race held no series points, it would be a great opportunity to race her singlespeed in advance of Nationals. She entered the Women’s A race with a dozen women. She was clearly outgeared on the start climb and left the pavement in about 5th place. By the time she got back to the pits, however, she had ridden into 2nd place. She would maintain that position for the rest of the race, finishing about 30 seconds behind local pro Rebecca Gross, and about 3 minutes ahead of 3rd. It was a great result, especially on a SSCX!

 

Green Mountain Sports CX

This race was held at the same churchside venue as the Zero Gravel race earlier this season. It had twisty, loose turns with some short steep climbs. It also had a manmade ‘rhythm’ section comprised of 2 sets of 2 steep bumps set really close together. It was hard to carry any speed through that section!

This was also one of our few races this year with 100% team participation--given busy schedules, etc., it’s always fun when we can get all 5 of us to a race together!

Errin led us out, with a solid ride to 9th place in the SW3’s. Not bad—only her second race in the 3’s and already into the top 10!

Carl and Rob went next in the SM 45+ race. It had nearly 50 riders and, being the only race of the weekend, everyone was motivated. Carl got an okay start and made his way forward until the last 2 laps when the time off caught up to him and he slid back a bit, losing 2-3 spots to end up in 24th place. Rob adopted the opposite strategy, starting towards the back, but steadily picking guys off to roll in 36th.

Warm and dry just a few weeks ago! ©bobickerstaff.com

Bard’s Report:
Couldn't have asked for a better day to race, especially for the end of November.  60 degrees and sunny, and a good way to start working off Thanksgiving dinner!  This ended up being the smallest field I've ever raced in (21 at the start); combine that with the 10-wide grid, and I had my best call up since early in the season.  I had a good start, moving off the pavement and onto the dirt in fifth or sixth place.  I felt great, holding my spot for about the first half of the lap. Unfortunately I made one mistake in the first technical section, a series of 180 degree turns on some loose terrain, and I went down.  The guy behind me got tangled up in my wreck, and I lost several spots, probably losing 8 or 9 places while I got sorted out.  

I was able to battle back for a few of those places by the end of the second lap, but the lead group was no longer in sight.  I ended up fighting back and forth with same guy for three laps, and finally dropped him late on the last lap to finish 12th.  Not bad, but a little disappointing given how good my legs felt.  If I hadn't gone down on the first lap, I'm confident I could have grabbed my first top 10.

Finally, Kristal hit out, with a smallish field. She was struggling with motivation this day and a little off the pace, finishing in 5th place overall.

oops. Frozen rut got Kristal on the first lap! ©www.sportifimages.com

Cyclo X Boulder Res

Finally, some weather! The same arctic air mass that is covering most the country moved into Colorado on Tuesday, bringing occasional snow and single digit high temps. Race day dawned with temps below zero and about 6” of snow on the ground. We were psyched to get a chance to test our clothing systems in case of harsh conditions at Nats, and also to ride on something other than loose dirt! The course was super fun, with twists and turns and extended sand sections that would have been challenging, but instead were frozen. Riding at speed required confidence drifting turns and the benefit of power on the straightaways was neutralized by ice. Kristal and Carl’s races were back to back, so that allowed them to ride some preview laps together, but then left Carl finishing his warmup in the pits on a trainer during Kristal’s race.

Kristal got a decent start, in about 7th place out of the field of 18. The conditions made passing difficult, with few wide sections, so she slowly fought her way through the field until she climbed to 4th place, hunting for the front. The eventual winner had wisely gotten the hole shot and the benefit of having a clean course with no traffic was impossible to overcome. In the end Kristal was able to gain another spot for 3rd and also took 3rd overall in the series.

Carl hit out next, starting 4th row. He got a slow start, heading off the pavement back in the mid 20’s. Over the course of the race he was able to consistently improve his lap times and move up, finally finishing 17th on the day, grinning ear to ear at how much fun it was!

Carl clearly having some fun in the snow! ©bobickerstaff.com

RLW CX

This was a small race, at Bear Creek Lake State Park again. Since the weather was predicted to be similar to the previous day and States are next weekend, plus the fact that it is about 30 miles from Boulder, many riders passed it up. That’s a shame, because it was a lot of fun! The course was snowy, slick, flowy, and had 4 separate times off the bike, including a LONG runup.

Carl went first, getting a bit of a slow start up the slick pavement, but making up for it by taking a high line around a backup entering the singletrack, gaining back 5-6 places. He rode really solid, trying to take advantage of the limited passing opportunities, including the unusual sight of him sprinting past guys on the long runup two separate times! In the end, he rolled across the line in 9th place.

Carl and Kristal's son, Nick, cheering mom on while she's being chased by a very tenacious Lisa Hudson! ©bobickerstaff.com

Kristal went off in the afternoon, by which time it had warmed enough that snow was melting in the direct sun sections. This caused icing up of cleats and pedals, despite liberal application of de-icer and spray lube. Kristal’s field was disappointingly small, but contained Lisa Hudson, fresh off her 2nd place finish in the Vuelta a Cotopaxi mtb stage race. Lisa is a great friend and a fast, tenacious rider so it was great to have her there. She and Kristal immediately separated from the rest of the field at the start and rode a great pitched battle for the entire 45 minutes, with Kristal prevailing for the win at the end.

Next weekend is the State Championships, held on one of our favorite courses in Castlerock, with Carl racing 45+ on Saturday and SM3 on Sunday, and Kristal racing the SW Open Sunday. After that, we have a 3 week break before the Altitude Adjustment races that precede Nationals in early January. We’re coming down to the sharp end of the season and our form seems to be on track!

Grass, Crashes, and Victories!

The first weekend of November brought us continuing great weather along with a pair of classic Colorado cx courses in Interlocken and a return visit to Xilinx. We also had a fun addition to our routine as the Clouse family from Park City, UT stayed with us over the weekend. Ed, along with 12yr old Katie and 14yr old Evan drive over for the big race weekends in Colorado because our racing scene is more robust than Utah’s. They’re a great family and our kids love them, so it was fun to have them there.

Kristal in mud. This was rideable in the early races but became a run later. And provided much amusement as there were many crashes in this area.

Interlocken CX

As we mentioned last week, the Interlocken course is always a compact course, run in a bowl like park in nearby Broomfield. Since it is nearly all grass, with only brief sections on cement sidewalks and sand volleyball pits, this race favors the rider that can put out steady power. The course this year was a little more twisty than in the past, with some good off camber and a mud bog, so did have some additional technical features and virtually no recovery.

Carl showing that running is faster than riding in this case!

This was also the first race day following the ‘short’ schedule, so Kristal raced at 9:05a with Carl and Rob lining up immediately after her. That meant that much of Carl’s warmup consisted of riding the trainer in the pits. Nick was a huge help, holding Kristal’s bike so that Carl could just jump off to catch if an exchange was needed. Kristal didn’t end up visiting at all, but Carl was able to help our good friend (and eventual race winner) with a bike change mid race. Kristal’s race went well overall and she continued to feel improved form, finishing 6th. Katie ended up 9th in the SW Open.

Rob playing on his favorite course!

Carl and Rob lined up next in the 45+ Open. As always, the field was strong. Carl finally felt like he is on track with a solid ride to finish 26th while Rob showed his grass skills finishing just 17 seconds behind him in 28th. Both of them were moving forward solidly and may have gained additional spots, but the race was inexplicably cut a lap short.

Bard demonstrating proper sprinting technique...on the drops! And it made a difference, he won this sprint by .07 seconds!

Bard continued his upward trajectory, riding solidly on the challenging course and outsprinting another rider for 32nd place in a field of nearly 60 riders!

Finishing up the day’s results, Evan won the SM3 race by over half a minute. Overall, a great day and lots of smiles heading home!

 

Blue Sky Cup

As opposed to the earlier race at Xilinx that took place primarily in the ‘front yard’, the Blue Sky race makes more use of the more solid ground of the north side of the campus. The start was up a good paved grind across a parking lot, then jumped onto dirt singletrack, narrowing down to 3-4 riders wide. After that, it wound downhill, then back up before coming to 2 sets of half barriers (at least for the morning races), tempting riders to bunnyhop—more on that later (foreshadowing!)—before heading through trees, up some steps, and back to the finish.

Errin kicked things off with a really solid ride for 4th place in a field of over 30 riders!

Evan went off next, coming 2nd in the SM3 by 0.4 seconds in a great race. Carl followed:

Carl’s Report

I lined up with increased confidence after the previous day’s ride. I got a decent start and survived the chaos when we hit the singletrack, staying upright and resisting lots of banging, including one big guy riding about 20 feet leaning on top of me—helps to be short and stocky! I was riding somewhere in the top 20 on the 2nd lap when I noticed my left shifter was loose. I was able to stay off of it until I could get to the pits where Kristal made a fully pro exchange onto my pit bike. I immediately noticed the rear tire was at about 15psi—could have sworn I had checked that—but, no problem, just rode carefully for a half lap and Kristal had my A bike ready again for me so I made another quick exchange. Those issues had dropped me a bit in the field, but I was feeling great and making up lots of ground. Unfortunately, that led to me riding too fast through the second set of barriers and clipping my rear wheel on the second one while bunny hopping. That impact threw me over the bars and straight onto my head. Dazed, I jumped up and remounted, only to find my chain was off. It took me about a minute to sort that out and then noticed that in the crash I must have kicked my rear brake caliper so the wheel was jammed. I shouldered my bike and started running (about ¾ of a mile) to the pits.  The leaders passed me just before I got there, so I changed bikes and rode the short remaining distance to the finish line.

When I got back to the van, it was pretty apparent the crash had left me with a concussion, as I was pretty foggy still, nauseous, and light was bothering me. I took it as easy as possible the rest of the day, other than working the pits for Kristal.

Finally, it was time for the main event, with the Women’s Open lining up with 20 riders and all the heavy hitters. Judy Freeman jumped out of the hole shot for an early lead with Katie Clouse glued to her wheel. Kristal had trouble clipping in, so was buried further back in the field. Katie would manage to stay on Judy’s wheel for 3 laps, before drifting slightly but holding on to 2nd place. Kristal, on the other hand, was able to climb up a number of places before the legs started to give out from the previous day’s efforts and finished in 9th place.

Louisville cx aka ‘Bowl of Death’

Women's Open getting through the bog on the first laps.

This venue is one with which much of the community has a love/hate relationship. It centers around a large, grassy bowl up which the course generally runs twice. Add to this the high winds on this particular day and it was a total power course, described as ‘brutal’ that dished out serious beatdowns! Carl was still suffering concussion symptoms, so was sitting out this weekend, but still out cheering and working the pits.

Errin taming the 'BOD' and getting the win!

Kristal went off first, just as the wind started to kick up. She got a good start, in 3rd place up the first runup, but then disaster struck. About a quarter way through the first lap, another rider went through the tape, and the broken section wound its way into Kristal’s drivetrain. She struggled to clear it as her field rode away, and then the SW35+ field that started 2 minutes back also passed her. She eventually had to take the rear wheel completely out to clear it. All this time, Carl was in the pits wondering where the heck she went! After that setback, she did great—riding back through the entire SW 35+ field and back into the SW Open, eventually finishing in 12th place. So, yet another example of great ride, poor result!

Errin, on the other hand, wasn’t messing around with tape in her race. She went to the front early and showed her strength, riding away from the field of 37 to win by over 40 seconds! With that result, Errin gets her upgrade to the SW3 field and is on her way up the charts!

Kids helping the Adaptive class through the sand. Very cool!

Urban CX

Kristal gave the Singlespeed a whirl in the morning.

Carl was bummed to miss this race. We did it last year and it is really cool—held in north Denver in an industrial area with a unique course and laid back vibe. It reminds us of races ‘back in the day’, when cx was a lot less serious. Topping it off was the fact that our good friend, Dave Towle ‘the voice of American cycling’ was announcing and it was just a great event.

Kristal opted to double-up and do the Singlespeed race in the morning along with the women's race later. She was riding strong, when she flatted so wasn't able to finish. L

The sandpit!

The Women's A race was really small but none-the-less it was a fun time on a cool course. On the first lap Kristal's change dropped and got stuck (it was turning out to be a weekend of mechanicals!) Fortunately she was right near the pits and her ever faithful pitcrew ie: Carl and Cate, handled the bike swap perfectly. Kristal went on to win the Women’s A race, even riding the entire sand pit on her last two laps, just to show that she could.

To really get a sense of the course click on the links below for pictures and videos.

The pavé was built specifically for the race! A fun, deceptively challenging feature.

Putting all the mechanicals and injuries behind us, we are looking forward to this weekend. Carl is still recovering but the rest of the team will be taking on the Grand Staircase in Westiminster.

Thanks for reading!

Xilinx, Zombies, Schoolyard, and Feedback…oh my!

Xilinx, Zombies, Schoolyard, and Feedback…oh my!

Sorry we missed a week in updating, things got a little busy! But, we’re back now, and this update will be all the richer for covering 4 races. Hope you enjoy it and thanks for reading!

Xilinx CX

Errin at Feedback Cup. Photo: Mountain Moon

The final weekend in October saw us visiting Xilinx, a frequent host on the local cx scene. This venue tends towards less technical power courses, with lots of bumpy ‘native grass’ sections, but has plenty of parking and a variety of terrain so makes for great races overall. This particular day had multiple sections of damp earth that were completely power sucking. Carl felt like he lost about 5mph every time he rode into those…unfortunately the rest of the field didn’t seem to have that same dynamic!

Kristal’s field went off early, with a sizeable group for the Women’s Open. She rode a solid race, with plenty of back and forth in the group and eventually rolled in 9th place. Carl’s field was large as well at >50 riders! As mentioned, he struggled in the power sections, losing lots of places in the final 2 laps to come over the line in 38th place.

Errin’s field was good sized too, with an encouraging 30 women lining up! After lots of life and work stress and with stitches still in her knee, she rode a conservative and solid race to finish in 10th place.

Bard, on the other hand, had a great race:

I finally got to take advantage of my second year racing and ride a course I was familiar with this weekend.  Xilinx is where I had my first race ever last season, and the course was basically unchanged.  While previewing, the two areas I found really difficult last year were much easier this time.  Hopefully that means I've learned a thing or two since I started racing cross!

Big field in my category, and I ended up starting in the fifth row.  I was feeling very good after my warm up, and I moved up into the top 25 or so by the time we left the asphalt.  I had one minor mechanical, dropping my chain on a bad shift on the second lap.  I lost five or six spots while getting back on the bike, but I got them all back before the fourth lap.

Each lap was faster than the one before, which is the first time I've ever pulled that off.  This was by far the best I've felt for an entire race.  It was the first time where not only did I feel confident enough to try and chase down and pass riders every lap, but I was strong enough to actually pull it off.  I finished well into the top half of the field, and ahead of a few riders who I'm usually way behind.

Zombie CX

Kristal at Zombie CX. Photo: Mountain Moon

Sunday’s race was Zombiecross, held at the Equestrian Park in Parker. This course always offers lots of twisty turns, some sand and short, steep climbs and descents. Carl and Kristal were both feeling a little blown from their efforts of the previous day. Kristal was able to shake it off well, while Carl just had deep fatigue that wouldn’t go away. Rob also joined us this day in the 45+ Open field.

Kristal excelled on the technical course, riding solidly and making steady progress after a bit of a slow start to nail down 5th place.

Carl and Rob faced a stacked field. Carl started well and battled, but never got his legs opened up and drifted slowly back throughout the race to come in 24th place. Rob rode to a solid 33rd position, especially considering this is not at all his type of course and the challenges he faced!

 Rob’s Report:

The Zombie Cross event two weeks ago in Parker did provide some Halloween frights for me when a course stake impaled my front wheel, wedging itself between the spokes and fork, resulting in a wrestling match with the stake, which I finally won by removing the front wheel at the price of a major setback early in the race. The race now a time trial off the back, I was able to avoid being lapped, which I will consider a moral victory if nothing else. Mechanical issues continued, with a pre-race brake malfunction that rendered my A bike unsafe for travel on a cross course.

 Schoolyard CX

The first weekend in November brought us the duo of the Schoolyard CX race as well as Feedback Cup. Schoolyard was put on by Nick’s Boulder Junior Cycling team, plus Carl needed to attend some meetings in the afternoon, so the Boni’s skipped racing and volunteered instead. It was actually a lot of fun, and far more relaxing not having to worry about race prep throughout the day! The race was held at the Boulder Res, with lots of long straightaways and plenty of sand.

Bard did race and had a great one:

I was excited to return to the Boulder Res, where I had my best result of the season back at the CO CX Classic.  Today's course was similar to that, but with a lot more beach in play.  Ordinarily I'm clueless on the sand, but something clicked today, and I was able to stay on the bike and ride the entire beach and pit every time but once.

I managed another good start, improving from the fourth row to somewhere near the top 10.  I made a couple mistakes in the first grassy/twisty sections, and lost a few spots, but gained them back in the power sections.  That was pretty much how the whole race went, trading spots with the same group of guys depending on the terrain.
I snuck into the top 20 for the first time this season, finishing in 18th, very happy with my effort and the result!

 Feedback Cup

Carl at Feedback Cup. Photo: Dejan Smaic

Sunday’s Feedback Cup race saw our whole team participate! It was fun having everyone there. The course was the traditional one at the juvenile center in Golden with dirt singletrack limiting passing options and lots of loose, twisty turns. This was the first race on the ‘short’ schedule so Carl and Rob led us out at 10am. Their field was large and strong, with 45 riders and all the top guns.

 Carl’s Report:

The search for my legs continues. As you may remember, at the last race at this venue, I was struggling with the loose turns. This time I was comfortable on those, but just couldn’t put out any power—fatigue from a stressful week? Dehydration? No idea, but need to figure it out. I feel like I still haven’t found my form this year. I’m 10-15 spots back from where I was last season. In Sept and Oct, everyone just said ‘well, it’s still early’, but we’re halfway through the season now, so if I don’t come around soon it’ll be too late. It’s a struggle sticking with our training methods that have always worked in the past, resisting the urge to chuck it and try something completely different and untested. I’m trying not to push the panic button or just give up and pull the plug. Tired of finishing races frustrated with my performance! Thanks for listening to my rant.

 Rob’s Report:

Rob at Feedback Cup. Photo: Mountain Moon

Last weekend brought the return to a well worn course in Golden, basically a short track MTB style course; not my favorite, but a good skills session. The weather was great again, at least from my standpoint, and I was finally able to ride my A bike the entire race without incident. After the relentless turns on Sunday in Golden, I am looking forward to the Interlocken course this Saturday, which has some relatively long straight sections that are a better match for my skill set.

 Errin rolled out next in another large SW4 field—looks like future growth in Colorado women’s cycling is safe! She rode to a solid 11th place.

Bard’s Report:

Bard charging hard at Feedback Cup. Photo: Mountain Moon

I arrived at the course Sunday tired from yesterday, and fighting off a head cold, so I wasn't expecting great things.  This definitely wasn't my kind of course...very twisty, and not a lot of extended pedaling/power sections.  Too much on-and-off the gas for me!  Throw in the lack of call ups, which landed me near the back of the biggest field I've raced in so far this season, and things weren't starting well.

I manage to improve my position on the start, and after a lap, my legs woke up.  I steadily picked off riders, improving to mid-pack.  I made one big mistake on the third lap, washing out my front wheel on a tight turn.  The bike took the worst of the fall, and it took me about a minute (and 10 - 12 places) to get the handlebars pointing reasonably straight and get back pedaling.

I spent about half a lap getting some confidence back, and the last lap picking off three or four more places to finish in 41st.  Given how I felt before the race, it wasn't a terrible result, but if I could've kept it upright in that one turn, I think a top 30 finish was definitely possible.

Finally Kristal lined up for the SW Open. All the top ladies were there, so we knew it would be a good gunfight. It was a fun race to watch, with lead changes and solid, skilled riding. Kristal rode well to come across the line in 8th place.

 This coming weekend will see 2 classic power courses—Saturday is the lush grass of Interlocken, one of Rob’s favorite courses, to quote him “for reasons I have never understood”. Sunday will be a Gold level Cross Cup race at Xilinx with the Blue Sky Cup race, which is sure to bring everyone out! 

CX of the North #2 & #3

This weekend’s race brought us to the Ranch complex in Loveland, site of last year’s State Championship. This is a great venue, since it has plenty of parking, good roads for warmup/cooldown, and decent terrain. It also marked the first races to be heavily affected by weather this season! It was definitely a tale of two days, as Friday brought snow and rain, so the predominantly clay course was wet and greasy in the morning, but dried up for fast racing in the afternoon. Sunday morning’s course was even faster before the skies opened around 1pm creating epic conditions for the afternoon! We’ll start off with Rob catching up from the past two weekends:

Rob’s Report:

My last two races were on courses that required the ability to push through long sections of sand and tight turns on loose dirt, in the case of the Colorado Cross Classic, and a track at Cross of the North that required good off-road skills and slippery mud riding skills, none of which I have.

Photo: ©Dejan Smaic

In the Colorado Cross Classic at the Boulder Reservoir, I started in the back and that’s where I stayed. The bumpy, twisting layout made it difficult to move up through the field, but I finished without incident in the form of a crash or mechanical, and I avoided getting lapped.

Photo: ©Dejan Smaic

Last Sunday’s Cross of the North was a different story. I was clumsy on the off-camber rolling dirt stuff, and had trouble gaining momentum on the bumpy straight sections. At two laps things were going merely bad, but when the rain started my poor bike handling turned to pathetic. A minor face-plant in the mud and a dropped chain later, I was glad when they put me out of my misery by declaring me done a lap early.

The upside of those races is that I feel my legs are good if I can get on a course that is compatible with my limited skill set. Plenty of racing left on the calendar, so there’s always next week.

Photo: ©Dejan Smaic

Saturday

Kristal’s race was loaded with talent, as the purse was considerable. The course was greasy mud, due to snow from the previous night. She got a good start, which  was key, since the course quickly funneled into a twisty section and would invariably bottleneck behind the first few riders. Nonetheless, she emerged with the chase group and looked solid on the initial laps. As the race went on, she faded slightly, eventually ending up in 7th overall—still a top 10 and in the money! All in all a solid race with good technical handling and fitness still coming.

Photo: ©Dejan Smaic

Carl’s race went off in the afternoon on a dry fast track. He was riding solidly inside the top 20 when his rear wheel pulled out on a steep, punchy climb (total user error, not tightening it enough). Quite a few riders got past while he fixed it, and although he got back some spaces by the end, he rolled in 25th. However, he felt good about his ride and took away a lot of confidence from it for Sunday’s tilt.

Bard’s Report:

I arrived to watch the tail end of some sloppy, greasy racing in the morning. By the time I got out to warm up and preview, the course had dried out substantially, and the surface was tacky, fast and bumpy. I didn't get a great start, but felt pretty good for the first half of the race, and pulled my way from the back of the pack into the top 20 by the mid-point of the race. As I headed into the fourth lap, my lungs started to give out, and I faded a bit the last two laps. I ended up 25th, which was a bit disappointing given how good I felt early, but still took a lot of positives from the day, which was great since I was getting ready for my first two-race weekend tomorrow.

Sunday

Sunday morning dawned clear, but with a forecast of rain or snow in the afternoon. Kristal’s race went off with a strong contingent again, and Kristal was right in the mix. Her legs were feeling the previous day’s efforts a little and she drifted in the final laps to finish 7th again. Of special mention is the fact that 16-yr old Ksenia Lepikhina and 12-yr old Katie Clouse both finished ahead of Kristal. They are both really great kids and represent a bright future for Women’s Cross!

Getting ready for the Pre-J race with daughter, Cate

that's the face of a guy who LOVES some mud! Photo: ©Dejan Smaic

Carl’s race was probably the most fun of the day—the first 3 laps were ripping fast on a dry track, then the rain started and things got greasy as heck! The low speed sections were still fine, but on any high speed turns the bike wanted to just slip out from under you. Fortunately, Carl loves technical conditions, so although his solid top 10 start was ruined when another rider took him down, he was still able to ride his way back to 17th place by the finish. It was the most fun race of the season, but the conditions were about to deteriorate fast…

 

Bard’s Report:

What a difference a day makes. When I arrived and warmed up, the course was basically dry, and in great shape. About an hour before my race, the rain started. I knew it would get a bit messy, but I had no idea what I was about to get myself into. I had the best start I've ever managed, moving from third row up into 6th or 7th place by the time we hit the first berm. I made it down the initial sketchy descent in 9th place, and passed a couple guys who'd crashed at the bottom. I exited the first technical section covered in mud, but in a really strong position.

Photo: ©Dejan Smaic

Unfortunately that was as good as it got. The rain kept coming, the mud turned to grease, and I was quickly in conditions I'd never seen before on a bike. The longer descents and barriers that made up the back side of the course were more than I could handle, and I spent the rest of the first lap getting passed. I easily ran 30 - 40% of the course. Conditions were so slow that only 1/4 of the field finished on the lead lap. I ended up pulled along with most of the field after three laps, finishing 29th.

Definitely an eye-opening weekend on the bike. The results weren't great, but I took the opportunity to work on some skills that I'd never tested before. Thanks to my teammates for sticking it out in the cold and wet on Sunday to cheer me on. Wouldn't have got through it without them!

 Postscript:

Winning pitcrew! Errin, Colin and Breeze Brown helping Ken to his win! Photo: Mary Topping

We also have to mention our teammate, Errin. She was still on the shelf this weekend with 5 stitches in her knee from her Boulder Cup crash, but that didn’t prevent her from being part of the Men’s Open race winning pit crew for her brother (and our good friend) Ken Benesh. 

Conditions for that race featured slick mud that built up like adobe on the bikes. Ken ended up pitting every half lap for a total of 10 times during his race. Errin and her husband Colin made sure Ken had a (mostly) clean bike to take each time by the pits and in those conditions, that’s a huge advantage! Ken is a great guy and a super strong rider who deserved the win, but Errin and Colin definitely merit some praise as well. One of the things we love about ‘cross is how in the worst conditions, it is truly a team effort!

Colorado Cross Classic and Boulder Cup

This past weekend featured the biggest races of the season (other than Nationals this January). Both days were UCI C2 races, so all the heavy hitters came to Boulder in hopes of getting valuable points that translate to call ups at World Cup races. Our team helped put on Saturday’s race, which was held at the Boulder Reservoir. This course was changed slightly from the past due to high water levels, but still featured a twisty course filled with lots of loose turns and sand. Sunday’s race was held at Valmont Bike Park and used a completely different course than any previous. It had us repeatedly going straight up and down a steep hill, so we were really happy to have our new bikes with disc brakes (but more about that later)!

For the second year in a row, we donated $20/rider to the prize purse for the Women’s Elite race. The UCI mandated prize levels for Men’s and Women’s C2 races are about $400 different, so last year we stepped up with a matching donation to try to help drive field size and equalize the payouts. This year’s fields were over 50% larger than last year’s, so maybe it’s working! In any case, we feel it’s the right thing to do, setting an example and driving change. It is also very appreciated by our friends who run the races, Aaron Bouplon and Chris Grealish, and in turn they give us lots of great publicity throughout the day.

A beautiful fall day at the Res. Photo: Mountain Moon Photography

Colorado Cross Classic

After helping to set the course Friday, Carl was back out bright and early Saturday morning to set up the team tent and prepare for the big day of racing! We have new banners for our tent and rack, so we’re growing our branding well. When we got out on the course, we found it to be a fun (but bumpy) combination of tight turns, and a sand pit interspersed with straight sections to get back up to speed. Despite having little actual climbing, it still didn’t offer much recovery and rewarded riders that could put out steady power and maintain speed.

Errin going for the win! Photo: Mountain Moon Photography

Errin started us off with a bang, taking the hole shot by about 30’Bard came next, putting in a solid ride, moving forward throughout to finish 21st in a huge field. Rob and Carl’s race followed, with Carl getting off to a slow start, but moving up steadily before a bobble in the sand cost him 6-7 spots. He ended up finishing just above mid pack in 30th place. With fewer points, Rob started off towards the back of the grid, but in typical fashion, picked off plenty of riders to finish 46th on the day.

Bard. Photo: Mountain Moon Photography

Carl. Photo: Mountain Moon Photography

Rob.  Photo: Mountain Moon Photography

Last up was Kristal in the SW Elite race. For this race, start order was first determined by UCI points, then anyone with no points just drew a number. Kristal blew the draw, ending up at the back of the grid—not the way you want to start against the best riders in the country! She rode a decent race, but never felt like she quite ‘got going’ and finished in 30 out of 40+ riders.

Boulder Cup

This course proved to be an innovative use of space, as they tried to keep most of it on the north side of the park to improve sightlines and spectator experience. They even ran the racers through the expo each lap, which was really cool! It was full of short, steep, punchy climbs and followed by screaming descents.

Errin’s race was the first of the day, so there was still frost on the grass adding to the challenge. She was nervous in her preview laps, but put that behind her for the race. She dug deep throughout to hang with the climbers. In the end, she was battling for the final podium spot, sprinting out of the last loose corner when she went down, tearing open her knee and requiring 5 stitches. Nonetheless, she still rolled across 4th for a great weekend of results!

Carl came next; he rolled to the line with a limited warmup and knew the effort was going to be difficult. About halfway through the race, he started to come to life and was able to put in a strong last lap and a half to finish in 33rd, mid pack again.

Kristal’s race featured the same players, but she got a better starting spot this time, though still in the 4th row. She liked the course, but just couldn’t seem to get in gear, either mentally or physically and was pulled with 2 to go, a rare occurrence. This coming weekend are the Cross of the North races near Fort Collins. We like this course and this team always puts on good events, so we’re looking forward to some redemption.

New Bikes!

Our Unovelo cx bikes finally arrived this week on Friday and JD and Dana at Foxtrot were able to build up two of them in time for this weekend’s races. We’ll do an in depth review in coming weeks, but suffice to say, we love them! They feature unidirectional carbon fiber, internal cable routing, and disc brakes and we’re already sold on the braking system. Kristal rides a Small, and Carl is on a Medium, so stop by our tent this weekend and check them out. You can even take them for a ride if you want!

Custom decals! 

Frisco and Primalpalooza

As Rob mentioned in his report last week, this weekend brought us back to the high country for Frisco CX at 9000’ of elevation! Snow Friday brought a treacherous drive the night before and morning of the race and Saturday morning came with light snow and cold temps with a bitter wind off Lake Dillon. The snow (and mud later in the day) made the course a lot more fun than the usual dusty, hardpacked course we have at the Frisco Nordic Center and we all had a lot of fun.

On Sunday, we were back down in town with temps in the 70’s facing a new course at the Jeffco Fairgrounds. This course wound up around a rodeo arena with some mud of suspicious origins (keep your mouth closed through it!), before dropping down to a twisty section through a grassy park. The payout at this race was huge, so we knew the fields would be large. Overall it was a good course, but brought some bad luck to a few team members!

©Dejan Smaic

Frisco CX

©Dejan Smaic

Following the usual schedule, Kristal started us off in the SW Open and set a high standard for the day. She got off to a bit of a slow start up the 1/3 mile start climb, coming past Pit 1 just behind mid pack. However, after that she started making her way forward and by the third lap had taken the lead. She defended the front until local legendary strongwoman Karen Hogan put in a monster attack the last time up the big climb. No one could follow her, but Kristal was able to hold on for 2nd place on the day in what was easily the most exciting Women’s race this season.

Carl came next, with retribution for the past few races on his mind. He got a good start, making his way up from the 5th row to about 10th wheel when a rider in front slammed on the brakes, putting him towards the back. He was able to consistently make up ground throughout the race, railing and drifting muddy corners and riding the runup before finally losing 2 spots after blowing on the final lap and finishing in 20th, happy with the ride, if not the result.

©Dejan Smaic

Errin:

It was much colder and more snowy than expected when we arrived in Frisco, and I was really nervous as I haven't done any racing in snow or mud. I figured the best way to get over my nerves was to get on the bike and get going. Watched as much as I could of the women's open race while I started warming up. Loved seeing Kristal leading in those tough conditions! After her finish, Kristal gave me some great advice on handling the snow and ice, which I tried to heed on a warm up lap, then hopped on the trainer to finish warming up (or as warm as you can get with an ambient temperature of 24.) This was probably the most nervous I have been for a race, I knew that the climb at the start combined with the altitude would be really tough for me, but I just tried to remind myself to do the best I could.

Started strong, but by the left turn at the top of the hill, I was close to last in our group of 15, and was pretty demoralized. Passed a few people on the descent thanks to Kristal's advice, and then a couple more on the flats before settling in. With 2 to go, my husband was telling me I was in 4th, but I was convinced I was 8th or 9th. 2 possibilities crossed my mind; one, he was just trying to keep me motivated, or two, the front of the 4's were integrated into the 3's group and he couldn't count. Well, turns out he was right and I ended up 4th! Definitely need to keep improving the fitness so I can work toward staying in the front group, but not nearly as scared of snow or mud or cold now!

Overall a fun day on a gorgeous course. Go Rapid Racing!!

 Primalpalooza

Congratulating winner Kristin Weber. ©Shawn Curry

After a silent lap in honor of Amy Dombroski, the SW Open took the grid. It was an emotional moment, definitely affecting the riders and fans. Kristal felt pretty flat all race, struggling to stay in contact with the lead group, and the efforts in Frisco were certainly being felt. She ended up rolling in 10th, not what she hoped for, but just barely in the money!

Carl’s Report:

I have to admit, after watching Kristal’s race from the poor vantage point of the pits, I wasn’t that keen, but once I started doing some preview laps I really liked the course. There were some narrow (dangerous) spots, but overall it was a fun course, with high speed sections interspersed with tight, twisty parts, stairs, and even some bunny hop barriers. I felt good warming up and rolled over to the grid.

At the start, I ended up a little ways back at a pinch point going over barriers. I saw the lead group heading away, so decided to ride the right side of the mud section to get past about 10 slower riders in front of me, which was huge mistake! The right side turned out to be a ditch about 18” deep and full of water, so once I entered, I couldn’t get out and had riders flowing past me. NEVER ride somewhere in a race that you haven’t previewed!

I got out of that eventually and started making my way forward. On lap 2, I noticed my front tire was getting soft (lots of goat heads here), so I was looking for Kristal to have her get a wheel to the pit for me. Before finding her, I rolled the tire on an off camber 180. I jumped up and started running until I got to the paved finish straight, where I rolled the tire back on and ride gingerly to the pits. Kristal met me there with a front wheel, but it was only at about 15psi. I headed back out, but soon decided I would probably just end up rolling this tire as well, so I went back into the pits the next time past and borrowed a pump to add some air. At that point, I knew I was WAY behind the race, so I just jumped back in and rode hard for training until the end.

Bard’s Report:

Sunday was not my day.  I flatted twice trying to warm up.  About halfway through my first preview lap, my front tire started to run low.  In a foolish rush to get back out and preview the whole course, I took a short cut and pulled out about a half dozen goat heads, added some Stan's, and jacked up the pressure, without bothering to check my tire.  I headed back out, and after seeing the same first half of the course, the front tire again started leaking quickly.  I headed back to the car, pulled everything apart, and found a good thorn buried on the inside of the tire.  It took an extraordinarily long time to get the thorn out. After what felt like half an hour I got a new tube in, added some sealant, and had about ten minutes to get over to staging.  

I got a third row call-up, but without any real warmup, the uphill start drove me back in the pack.  I took it easy on the back half of the course, as I hadn't ridden it yet.  I started feeling good as I finished the first lap, and picked off a few spots coming th

rough the finishing straight and along the starting climb.  There were two low barriers near the summit of the course, which I had easily hopped on the first lap.  This time, I cleared the first, but my back wheel landed square on the second barrier, and I felt the rear pinch flat.  That was the end of my day, and the first DNF of my short CX career.

 Looking forward to a full race (and no flats!) at the Boulder Res this weekend for the Colorado Cross Classic.

 UCI Weekend—Colorado CX Classic and Boulder Cup!

This coming weekend are the big UCI C2 races, with all the national level riders coming in. We’ll have a tent out both days and are once again donating $20/rider to the prize purse for the Women’s Elite race in hopes of driving larger fields. So far, there are nearly 40 riders both days! Stop by the tent and visit if you’re out there.

 

Remembering...

Amy Dombroski

With apologies for starting off on a heavy note, we have to mention our young, local rider Amy Dombroski, who was tragically killed Oct 3 in a training accident in Belgium. Amy had won numerous U23 National titles in various cycling disciplines and always had a bright smile when she raced locally. She reliably had time to interact with junior riders, and led a number of Cyclocross clinics this summer (including a Women’s Only one which Kristal helped teach). To say the local community is in shock over this news would be an enormous understatement. It’s hard to fathom that someone so young and talented is gone forever. Our hearts go out to her family and friends.

There are numerous tributes pouring in on social media regarding Amy, and the consistent themes are her friendliness and determination. I hate the platitude that a person ‘died doing what they loved’, it’s meant to console those of us left behind, but most people would not choose to die in any way other than old. When you think about your own time coming to an end, what would you regret in that moment? Would you regret the things you never did, or the things you didn’t get to finish? There’s an important distinction between those two, because the latter indicates a life fully lived, no matter how long. It shows that you didn’t fear trying things and didn’t pass up opportunities. I think Amy left things unfinished, but she wasn’t afraid to do them, including racing Cyclocross professionally in the heartland of Belgium—the hardest venue in this sport, particularly for a woman. She died in the active pursuit of her dreams, and that’s what all of us can learn from her. THAT is a powerful legacy. Am 


Junior Cross Camp, Storm the Castle, and Flatirons CX

Whew--the fourth weekend of the 2013/14 season was definitely the most jam packed! It started off with the BRAC Junior Cross Camp, held this year in Empire, Colorado. This is an awesome annual event held over 3 days/2 nights. This year it had 125 junior riders and dozens of adult volunteers and coaches. Kristal helped out Friday and Saturday before returning to the front range to hit the Storm the Castle race in Castlerock, the first nighttime cross race on the front range and just fourteen hours later, she would toe the line at Flatirons mall.

Junior Cross Camp

120+ kids strong!  Courtesy of Dierdre Moynihan

The girls! Courtesy of Dierdre Moynihan

One of the guiding tenets of our team is to be a positive, motivating influence and work to grow the sport of cycling. What better way to do that than to send our reigning Master’s World Champion to help a group of avid young girls work on their cx technique! As a team, we also donated $500 towards the camp, sponsoring a cabin for the weekend. This was an incredibly well run and organized event (especially considering the number of kids!), and kudos definitely go out to everyone involved and Clint Bickmore and Deirdre Moynihan in particular for all the hard work setting it up. Nick also attended and had a great time, learning a lot. He and Kristal will both have this on their schedule for future seasons!

Storm the Castle

Originally, this weekend was slated to only have 1 race, since Cross Camp was running concurrently. As a result, it was scheduled to be a unique event, with the Open races held after dark on a lighted course. John Haley set up a great track for this, blending challenges of all types and very little time for recovery each lap. Unfortunately, the biblical rains a couple weeks back postponed the Flatirons race to Sunday, so a lot of people seemed to decide not to make the drive to Castlerock, keeping their powder dry for the race closer to home. It’s a shame, because this event was a great time!

Carl had a horrible race, with dead, sore legs and finished well off the pace. Errin, on the other hand, looked strong the entire time, finishing a solid 5th! Kristal made it down just over an hour before her race, enough time to get in a few preview laps and see that 9 time National Champion Katie Compton had come to race as well. Nonetheless, Kristal lined up and nailed the hole shot! She led until just after the first runup, when Katie came around and started slowly pulling away. By the end, Katie won by almost a half lap, with Kristal holding on to 2nd by over a minute.

Flatirons CX

We had raced only once previously at this venue, a large mall just outside Boulder. It offers up a mostly grass course with lots of elevation changes and plenty of parking! Still feeling weak, Carl decided to skip this race, but Kristal, Errin, and Rob all put their chips on the table.

Kristal led off, and she was the only rider in the SW Open who had also raced the previous night in Castlerock. Despite that, and a slow start, she made her way forward through the field. With 2 to go, she was in 4th and still moving up when she slid out on a turn and lost 2 places. She couldn’t regain them and ended in 6th with a strong, consistent ride.

Errin went off next, getting the hole shot in her race and riding strong and consistently throughout. She finished 8th on the day and leads the WOL SW4 cx series!

Rob’s Race Report

It’s been a difficult start to the 2013 cross season. My fitness is definitely worse than last year at this point, which makes sense in light of my hectic off-the-bike life this year. After badly injuring my arm and shoulder in a crash near the end of last season, the winter and spring were spent trying to regain some of the fitness I had lost.

In June I raced the Sunshine Hill climb just to confirm what I already knew about my lack of racing legs, and then attempted and failed to complete the 90 mile version of the Golden Grand Fondo later that month. I raced a duathlon in July, which went fairly well, and another duathlon at the end of August, also a decent result.

In my first cross race of the year, the weekend of the Colorado flo

oding, I finished near the back of the hyper-competitive 45 open category at the Zero Gravel event in Littleton. The following Thursday, after pre-registering for the Valmont race the night before, I tweaked my lower back while taking off my oversized and overstuffed commuting pack and had to sit out the weekend racing.

With my back feeling better, I raced the following Sunday at the Flatirons venue, a fun course that will hopefully become a fixture on the local circuit, and snapped my chain 20 minutes into the race. It happened right by the pit, which would have been great if I had bothered to put my pit bike there before the race.

Next up for me will likely be this Sunday at the Jeffco Fairgrounds. Good luck to the Rapid Racing crew up in Frisco on Saturday, always a popular course for reasons I have never understood.

 

 

Cyclo X Valmont and Body Sync CX

This was our first weekend of true double races, with Saturday’s race at the famous Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, and Sunday’s taking place at the Lookout course in Golden.

Cyclo X Valmont

Valmont always brings out the crowds, since it is in Boulder, with outstanding course options. It will also be the venue for the National Championships in January, 2014. Once again, our women led the day with Kristal taking 6th in the SW Open, and Errin in 9th in the SW4’s. Carl and Bard continued their upward trajectory, with each finishing solid rides in the mid 30’s in their respective races.

Kristal at Valmont

Errin’s Report:

Whoo hoo, Valmont! Such a fun course, and in surprisingly good shape given the events of the last couple weeks, huge thanks to all the people that got it that way. Started out with a good warm up, squeezed into a skinsuit for the first time, and had some FRS chews and FLUID before heading to the start. Got a front row call up and a good start and was second wheel going into the first corner and up the hill. Got passed by 2 or 3 up the first hill (need to work on that!) and then hung up just a little by some sketchy entries into the first sand pit of the season, but was able to hang on to the front group of 7 or 8 for about the first lap. Couldn't quite hang on to the group the second time up the hill but managed to dangle off the back for a while until the legs just wouldn't let me push anymore. Had a rough lap 3 with some brain and bike handling mishaps, but managed to get it together for lap 4 and held onto a 9th place finish. Not quite where I wanted to be, but definitely some good learning and great motivation for training this week.

See Errin's start! 

Bard’s Report:

I wasn't sure what to expect at Valmont after the flooding, but the park and course were in great condition when I warmed up Saturday morning.  I got a third row call-up (35+/4) and had a decent start.  The opening corner was a bit loose, but the pack and I managed to get through it safely and onto the first climb in a good position.

I faded back a few places during some of the more technical spots, especially on the front side descents, but made them back (and more) along the sprint on the south end of the course, and the finishing straight.  I paid for those spots on the back half of the second lap, however, and started fading.  I'd pick off a place or two at some easy passing spots, but would lose them on the turns out of the descents.  

I left everything on the course, and managed a much better result than my opening race in Fort Collins.  Things are definitely trending the right direction early on!  Up next for me is Primalpalooza in Golden in a couple weeks.

Bard carving 

Body Sync CX

This race was lightly attended, since it wasn’t part of the points series, and is a ways from Boulder. Kristal and Carl both raced, eager to get our first double weekend in the books. We find that racing both days is really important for our training, as there is no substitute for the true race effort. The course here is dry, bumpy, and loose (despite the recent rains). Kristal had a good race, finishing 4th in SW Open. As for Carl’s race, well, we’ll let him tell the tale:

Carl’s Report:

Somehow, last year I lost the ability to handle my bike in loose conditions. For whatever reason, I just can’t seem to rail the turns anymore! I was 3rd at the start, and held that for about half a lap before we started getting into twisty sections and riders began streaming past me. I think we did 5 laps, and even with 5 chances, I still rarely found the right lines through turns. By the end of the race, I felt like I ought to apologize to any riders that had to pass me. They must have been terrified riding behind me and witnessing my overbraking and turn blowing antics! It’s funny, in general I’m a fairly skilled technical rider (I have to be, because I’m not that fast!), but loose courses have become my kryptonite! Guess I know exactly what I need to work on…

Carl charging 

Kristal's Report: 

Overall, the weekend was good. I had a decent race at Valmont and was eager to get in a double race weekend. I was definitely feeling Saturdays race but was ready to go. I had a good start and did ok on the twisty stuff, probably still a bit tentative. Overall the race went as expected, a good couple of laps, faded the 3rd and was able to pick it back up towards the end. This next weekend is Castle CX under the lights! This should be a fun change!

Sponsor Spotlight—FRS

Kristal and I first encountered FRS years ago when we were given a bottle of the concentrate in the rider bags at the Iron Horse Road Race. That was a brilliant promotion on their part, because we had never heard of FRS before and have used it almost continuously since. Every morning, Kristal and I both have a glass of the concentrate, and also enjoy the chews and various drinks they make.

From their website:

FRS was originally developed by health scientists to provide sustained energy for chemotherapy patients. Today it is used by elite athletes, wellness experts and anyone who wants to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.

All FRS products feature quercetin, a powerful all-natural antioxidant found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. It has been shown in multiple clinical trials to provide sustained energy, increased endurance, immune system support along with many other health benefits.

We are working to have them out at the Boulder Res for the UCI C2 Colorado Cross Classic (a race we are helping to promote) with their tent handing out product. Check them out there, or online at www.frs.com.

Thanks for reading!

 

Zero Gravel CX

As you may have heard, things have been a bit…wet in Colorado this past week. Depending on what you read, we had either a 100 year or 500 year flood event and many communities sustained heavy damage, with numerous homes destroyed. Our area, about 10 miles east of Boulder, was only minimally impacted, but we have quite a few friends that are facing real challenges in the coming days and weeks. Fortunately, none of our team was significantly affected.

The race for Saturday was held further south than the worst of the flooding, so was still on. It was billed as having ‘Zero Gravel’, which was almost true, as there was only about a 6’ section. The ground was saturated with water, so Kristal’s 9am race was pretty muddy. The course was fun—twisty with short, punchy climbs and the soft ground required serious power and effort. She finished 6th in a strong field. Her technical skills look to be intact and the form is coming on.

The sun came out mid morning, so the course got progressively drier and faster throughout the day. Rob Gilbert kicked off his season, joining Carl in the SM45+ race. Carl got a front row callup and had a good start, exiting the pavement in about 3rd wheel. He paid for that effort, though, and drifted way back in the field during the first lap. He and Rob ended up together, working their way back forward through the field (other than a brief stop by Rob for a dropped chain), finishing mid pack.

Overall, we felt better about this week’s races than last week, so the trend is headed the right way! This week’s races are on at the famous Valmont Bike Park in Boulder and the Lookout Course in Golden.

A few photos are posted on our photo page.  

Sponsor Spotlight: Foxtrot Wheel & Edge

We have started working with Foxtrot this season and JD and Dana are awesome! Although they do carry limited inventory of bikes, this is a service oriented shop and they excel in that area.

They are friendly, knowledgeable and fast. I hung out there for an hour recently and it was inspiring watching JD interact with the constant stream of customers coming through the door—racers, families, commuters, kids—he gave them all his undivided attention. He made numerous adjustments for free to help them enjoy their rides more. He offered advice on parts, but never seemed to be trying to sell them anything. For a few bikes that needed minor work, he promised to have them ready for  pickup in an hour! You just don’t see friendly service like that anymore.

They are EXACTLY the kind of company our team wants to work with, and the type of shop we should all support.

And So It Begins—COCX 2013/14!

This past weekend saw the start of the cross season in Colorado with Cross of the North in Ft Collins. As with last year, Saturday was a cx time trial to establish call ups for Sunday’s race. The events were held at the former USGP course south of town, and since they were targeting ~15 minutes for the CXTT course, they had to head into plenty of ground that was previously unused. This made for a bumpy, loose course that challenged everyone. Mountain bikes were the best choice for the day, as the fastest overall time was set on a full suspension! Sunday’s course more closely followed previous USGP versions, featuring lots of sustained climbing combined with twisty, loose turns and a flyover. It was a fun course, but definitely hard, especially this early in the season!

Carl, Kristal, Bard, and Errin all raced both days, with Errin taking the top results both days with a win in the SW4’s on Saturday and a 4th place Sunday.  It was a lot of fun to hang out both days, as we had the tent there and enjoyed seeing our extended COCX family again. Between having the tent for shade and a 5-gallon cooler of ice cold Fluid Performance, we were definitely a favored hangout in the nearly 100 degree heat!

Visit our photos page for a few shots from this weekend! 

Sponsor Spotlight: Fluid Nutrition

We’ve been working with Rich and the team at Fluid since we started the team two years ago. They are great people and their products really work well for us. Their products are simple and clean with no unnecessary ingredients and real science behind them. From their site:

“Fluid Performance is an energizing blend of electrolytes and carbohydrates for sustained energy and optimal hydration during exercise. When used consistently during training & competition, its unique formula helps the body sustain energy levels, avoid cramping, buffer lactic acid, & maintain hydration. It contains a dual source carbohydrate system, bioavailable electrolytes, and Vitamin C, creating an all natural & easy to digest sports drink.”

We drink Performance before races to stay hydrated and maintain energy levels. It has a light, not too sweet taste, and isn’t sticky. After a race or training session, we go straight to the Fluid Recovery:

“Fluid Recovery is a protein and glutamine fortified drink for after exercise muscle recovery. When taken immediately following exercise, its unique formula helps the body repair damaged tissue and adapt to the demands of exercise training. It contains carbohydrates, proteins, L-glutamine, electrolytes, and Vitamin C, creating a comprehensive & natural formula for muscle repair, regeneration, and recovery.”

It isn’t chalky or syrupy like most recovery drinks, so we don’t dread drinking it. In fact, maybe the best recommendation is that we both drank it even after our final races the past two seasons—when there was no need at all to worry about recovery!

We highly recommend you visit their site www.livefluid.com, it is full of good sports science information. Check out their ‘School’ area for an education, and in ‘Social’, go to July for an interview with Kristal!

Fluid products are available locally at Foxtrot Wheel and Edge in Lafayette, Big Ring Cycles in Golden, and Fleet Feet stores.

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!