Monday, August 30, 2010

Volunteering my time

During the summer months (June - August) I had the opportunity to volunteer for the Bend Endurance Academy as a cycling coach for 8-12 year old kids.  This was a chance for me to help young athletes learn more about the sport of mountain biking and to teach them some new skills.  The program that I was coaching was called The Mighty Bikes.

I didn't know what to expect for the first group ride with the kids.  However, I was very pleased with my experience and hope to be able to do it again next season.  There were roughly 10-15 kids that showed up each session (Tues and Thurs) for 2 hour rides.  Besides myself, there was usually 1-2 other coaches to help split up the kids into two to three separate groups.  This allowed the coaches to keep the kids matched with similar riding abilities.  I was amazed at how skilled and fearless these kids were. 

Each session I had about 6 kids in my group, and all were very eager to ride more technical trails than the previous sessions ride.  We met at the same two locations each week, so the trails we rode were limited.  However, there were still plenty of trails to show the kids.  Some of the skills that we worked on included:     

   **how to start on steep ascents and descents
   **how to ride over obstacles (such as logs)
   **how to balance your bike for 5 seconds
   **how to position yourself on the bike for climbs and downhills
   **how to properly use the front and rear brakes, and when not to use the front brake

Most of the kids had clipless pedals so they seemed to have already grasped how to clip in and out of the pedals pretty easily.  We taught them proper etiquette while riding on the trails and even how to fix a flat (more than once).  It was fun to see them really paying attention to what I was telling them and to see each of them progress each week.  The Bend Endurance Academy provided "skills cards" for each rider that the coaches used to track the progression of certain skills.  Most of the kids in my group completed every skill and will be ready to join the Development Program; which utilizes both mountain biking and road cycling.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A look back on a busy month

Here's a look back on the past 5 weeks of what I have been up to.

Beginning on the weekend of July 10, I competed in the local High Dessert Omnium race.  This race has three stages (TT, crit, and RR) over the span of 2 days.  I was using this race as a tune up for the bigger upcoming Cascade Cycling Classic that would be held two weeks later.  The HD Omnium Crit and TT were on Saturday and the RR was on Sunday.  I got into a break with 8 other riders during the Crit and we were chasing down 2 riders (Boswell and Miller) who had a descent gap on us.  I was able to pull out an 8th place finish out of a field of 38 riders.  I exerted a lot of energy, so I wasn't expecting too much from my TT performance later in the afternoon.
As expected my TT time was not all that great, something I need to work on if I am going to try to be competitive in road stage races.  Without the use of any aero equipment, I was already at a disadvantage but I still have not yet figured out how to ride a solid TT.  The course was identical to the one used during the Cascade Cycling Classic TT only 4 miles shorter.  A 4% uphill during the first half and all downhill the second half.  My time for the 9 mile course was 21:03, 1.5 minutes behind Carson Miller who pulled out eh victory just ahead of Sean Passage and Ian Boswell.
My plan for the road race on Sunday was to get into a break early as there wasn't much steep or long climbing on the course, just lots of rollers and a 1 mile climb to the finish.  Around mile 10 (race was 60 miles) I got into a break with 8 riders; including Ian Boswell, Chris Sheppard and Carson Miller.  We had a strong group and were all working together to keep our gap and even increased as teh race went on.  Around mile 40 Boswell and Sheppard attacked and no-one could go with.  So there was now 7 of us chasing those 2 for the next 20 miles.  We stayed close but couldn't quite catch Boswell.  Once we hit the final climb to the finish we caught Sheppard who looked tired, and it was all out to the finish.  I was able to pull out a 6th place finish while Ian Boswell had won the stage. 

After the HD Omnium race Jenny and I headed up north to Chelan, WA where she was competing in the  Chelan Man Triathlon.  This was her first Tri of the season so she didn't have too high expectations.  The weather was very hot and very windy.  The day of the race, the lake actually had white caps making for an extremely difficult swim segment.  Unfortunately, there were lots of athletes getting pulled out of the water due to not being able to reach the turn-around point.  Jenny was able to finish the swim but she said later that it was the hardest swim she had ever done.   Jenny's sister and her husband were also doing the race so it was good to see them and their son Benjamin.  I had a great time cheering them all on and taking some photos.  We stayed in a remote cabin on Lake Pateros that was just big enough for the two of us.  We had some killer sunset views and a nearby fruit stand that we were able to get some fresh fruit from.  Photos...

Lake Pateros


Jenny, Tim, and Patty

Our cabin for a few days in Chelan

After Chelan Man, next up for me was the Cascade Cycling Classic Stage Race on July 23-25.  Four stages over 3 days and good competition made for an eventful race.  Stage 1 was the penultimate stage, a 71 mile road race that went around Mt Bachelor and finished in the parking lot at over 6,000ft.  I knew that I would have to put in a solid performance on this stage and maybe try to put a few minutes on the other GC contenders because of my past TT performances.  I was hoping to be able to get into a break, but that didn't happen. The pace was pretty high the entire race with very little slow periods.  Anytime a group of riders would try to attack and get a gap they were quickly pulled back.  So my strategy had now changed to how I would approach the final 5 mile climb to the finish.  I moved towards the front of the peloton as we approached the climb to make sure no other riders attacked, and if they did, I was able to jump.   The pace slowly began getting faster and all of a sudden the group of 20 or so riders was now down to about 8-10 riders.  I wanted to attack but didn't quite have the confidence with the pace being so high.  A Hot Tubes rider attacked as we began to crest Sparks Lake and no one could go with him.  As we approached the final turn into the parking lot with only 400 meters t the finish I was positioned perfectly.   Not having pre-ridden this part of the course I didn't know what to expect.  There were cones that marked the course, and the final left hand turn was pretty sharp and I got boxed in a little causing me to lose one position, but I was still able to hold onto 7th place.  I didn't put the time on other riders like I was hoping to, so now I needed to have a good TT in order to maintain my overall placing.

The TT didn't go as planned and I ended up losing nearly 2.5 minutes to the winner.  This caused me to drop significantly in the overall GC. One of these days I will focus on riding in the TT position and purchase some aero equipment, but for now it was all about saving energy for the Awbrey Butte Circuit race in Stage 4 so that I could try and make up some time.  The Crit was to be held in the afternoon the same day as the TT and as long as I stay towards the front I wouldn't lose any time. 

Crit racing in downtown Bend during Cascade Cycling Classic
Crits can be dangerous and exciting, depending on which side of the road you are on.  For me crits are exciting because the pace is almost always high, positioning is critical and good bike handling skill splay a role.  You have to always be attentive during a crit race; one wrong move can cause a 20 rider crash very easily.  The race went pretty smooth as I stayed towards the front most of the time and tried to conserve as much energy as I could.  Unfortunately, there was one crash during our race which involved local rider Brig Brandt.  He was sitting roughly the same position as me in the overall GC and would have been a good ally to have for the Awbrey Butte    Circuit race the next day.  He was taken out on a turn and ended up suffering a slight concussion, so he was not able to start Stage 4.  Watching the Pro Crit is always exciting because you can really see the strong teams work to get their rider/s in position.  United Healthcare was definitely the strongest team out there.

Stage 4 was on Sunday and consisted of a 4 lap circuit on roughly a 12 mile course with lots of rollers around Awbrey Butte.  I was planning to attack on the 2nd lap, but again the pace was so high that anytime someone tried to attack it was quickly brought back.  By lap 3 I attacked with 2 other riders and opened a small gap before the climb out of Tumalo St. Park.  I thought that if we could make it over the hill and get out of sight that we might have a chance, but that didn't happen.  So on the final lap, everyone began to get antsy trying all sorts of attacks which increased the pace even higher.  Going into the final 5k it was a little sketchy with all the round-abouts, but I stayed clear and towards the front and was able to finish in 19th place; not what I was hoping for. 

This was a great tune-up race for Trans Rockies which was in 2 weeks.  With the exception of longer easy rides on the weekends, my training from now until TR was going to be short and high intensity with lots of rest.  Making sure the BMC FS01 bike was dialed and ready to endure the Canadian style riding at this point was a priority. 

Trans Rockies was an event I was looking forward to all season as this would be my first (but not last) mountain bike stage race.  Since the TR race was one of the original stages races (along with Trans Alps) I figured it would be safe to do this one.  I have heard of some horror stories about logistics in others.  The meals that were catered for the riders and support staff was amazing.  Each morning and evening there would be enough food so that each rider could make 3 trips to fill their plates.  Keeping the body fueled with carbs was the ingredient for a successful race.

Jenny and I arrived in Fernie, BC Canada on Friday Aug 6th.  By the time we drove in to Canada across teh border, it began raining and didn't stop raining the whole trip.  It rained really hard Fri, Sat and Sun morning, just enough to add an extra element to the race; especially Day 1.  I didn't quite bring along "muddy" tires, just the Race Kings and Mountain Kings.  I decided to swap out the Race King for the Mountain King on the front tire due to the wider spacing.  The Race King was all over the place in the rear as it was difficult to get any traction on the steep slick trails.  Day 1 was typical east coast riding; with lots of off-camber roots and short very steep climbs.  This was probably the hardest day of racing I have done in a long time.  The course was only 19 miles, but it was brutal the entire time.   Day 1 was similar to a TT a riders went off individually.  Non-UCI riders went off early in the morning and UCI riders started later in the afternoon, with 1 minute separating each rider at the start. 

Let the pain begin

Checking the vital signs

At the finish, I think this says it all

I finished stage 1 in 9th place and it felt like it took everything I had to get to the finish line.  I was ready to take a nap and get ready to do it all over again the next day.  Stage 2 was 44 miles but most of the riding would be done on steep fireroads and a super long singeltrack descent.  The weather was a bit better today with temps still only in the 60-70's.  This was perfect for the 12.5 mile climb to start the race.  All done on fireroad, it was a fast tempo pace.  I stayed with the leaders until about mile 9, then rode the rest of the climb with the Kona duo of Wicks and Snedden before reaching the doubletrack section.  This part included lots of large puddles that at times were pretty damn deep.  For a few miles you had to sort of snake around the puddle son the outer edges of the trail, very similar terrain to a motocross trail.  The we turned left into a sweet singletrack section that was a mixture of rollers, one steep grunt, and a screamin' downhill.  I'm not sure how long it was but was probably the longest downhill section I have ever ridden (all singletrack) :-).  By the time I reached the bottom my hands and fingers were a bit numb, and I was afraid my brake pads were going to be won out.  Luckily they still had plenty of stopping power left.  The rest of the course was done on gravel fireroads that seemed to suck the energy out of you.  I caught up to the Czech Team that was leading the Masters category.  They were riding strong so I tried to stay on their wheel but eventually lost sight of them.  I rolled into the finish in 7th place with a smile on my face today.  This was still a hard day in the saddle but nothing like yesterday.

Brisk morning hours in Fernie before Stage 2 start

Barry Wicks leading the charge for Team Kona

Ahh, watermelon never tasted so good.

Overall Solo leaders:  Plaxton, Petro, Emmitt

The final stage was to be the most remote of all stages and the reason we had to carry bear spray with us during the race.  We crossed the Continental Divide going from British Columbia into Alberta, Canada.  Day 3 was all about the hike-a-bike though.  I don't think anyone expected to hike their bike as much as we had to in this stage.  I would guess I hiked my bike for a total of 3 miles during the entire day, and most of that was bush whacking through a forest or on rocky climbs.  Ugghhh!  The scenery while crossing the Divide kind of erased most of the anguish.   Heavy clouds began rolling in and it looked like their would be a major down pour of rain but it never happened.  Once we were in Alberta Carl Decker had caught back up (he flatted early in the race) and passed me on the descent.  There was some technical rocky sections mixed in with some gravel and grass sections before we hit the fireroad to the finish.  I rolled across the line in 7th place again and somewhat glad to know that my race was over.  Three days was enough for me this year, I don't think I would have wanted to race for another 4 days...maybe next year.  Unfortunately, I would later find out that i was penalized a 1 hour time penalty for not having my Passport (badge) scanned  at the beginning.  It's a long story (see Blog post on Aug 13th) and one I was not able to get corrected.

Here are some more photos from the race:

Worlds largest truck...and was actually used

This is our hotel in Fernie before the race started

Island Lake Lodge near Fernie, BC (we plan to come back and stay here sometime)

This was our home for the 3 days during the race.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Another Trans Rockies update

After pleading my case to the Trans Rockies President and UCI officials, it doesn't look good that the results will get corrected.  Myself and Mike McCalla were assessed a 1 hour penalty for supposedly not having our passports (badges) scanned at the start of Stage 3. 

Since I spoke to 2 UCI officials in the morning of Stage 3 to find out where to go to get my passport scanned, I thought I had done everything I needed to.  However, the race office only wrote my number down and said they didn't need to "scan" my passport, they said I was good to go.  So I am confused and frustrated. 

Lots more details to come and a whole lot of photos to share once I get back to town.  We are in the process of driving back from Canada and I definitely going to miss the scenery.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Quick update from Trans Rockies

I am typing this from the hotel in Fernie, BC Canada, just one day after the finish of the 3-day Trans Rockies TR3 race.  Overall I have to say that I am completely satisfied with how well the race was organized and the amazing food that was provided to the racers each day and night.  There was no shortage of "fuel" to say the least.
I am going to keep this post short as i am restricted to 30 min. of computer time, so here is a brief recap of the race.

Day 1:  A 19 mile Prologue (or basically a TT) on the trails of Fernie, BC.  This doesn't seem like a difficult stage on paper, however, this was probably the hardest day of the 3 days.  Rain had fallen over the past two days and made the trails quite muddy and very slippery.  Non- UCI riders were staged first and went off in the morning while UCI riders went in the afternoon.  My start time was 1:43pm.  The rain was falling in the morning but by the time I started the rain had stopped. 
The amount of off-camber, rooted  trails combined with the super steep climbs made for a tricky day of riding.  This as they say was a true mountain bikers course.  I finished 8th overall and was completely exhausted at the finish.

Day 2:  A 44 mile Epic Day on mostly fireroads but a killer climb for the first 12.5 miles.  The pack split up into a group of about 15-20 riders after mile 4.  I was riding with Barry Wicks and Kris Sneddon for the majority of the climb.  The came the sweet ass descent that seemed to go on for ever.  This was probably the longest downhill I have ever ridden.  Very steep in sections, and a few 180 degree switchbacks kept you on the edge the whole time.  Even though I had my fingers on the brakes most of the way down to help control the speed I was still reaching  speeds of over 25mph.  By the time I reached the bottom and popped back on a fireroad my hands were almost numb.  I  finished 7th overall today and made up some ground on the guys in front of me.  I am still sitting in 8th overall though.

Day 3:  The final Stage was another 40+ mile day in the saddle in which we crossed the Continental Divide going from British Columbia in to Alberta.  We also would ride through the Canadian Rockies, so the scenery was breathtaking.  The word for today however, was hike-a bike.  After the first 10 miles or so on fireroad to help split the pack up, we hit the singletrack and a few creek crossings.  Then came the endless miles of hike-a-biking.  I would have to guess we hiked for nearly 3-4 miles total and most of it all at one time.  It was either through overgrown bushes where you could hardly see the trail, or on very rocky steep sections.  By the time we crossed into Alberta, I was riding with Adam Craig and we each commented on the amount of wasn't good.  He mentioned that it was similar to La Ruta except not quite as muddy.  The Canadian Rockies were amazing and the trail felt completely remote.  I didn't see any wildlife (we did have to carry bear spray with us) unfortunately.  I finished just behind Carl Decker and Adam Craig in 7th place with a time of 3:53.
Here's the bad part.  After checking the results a few hours later in the hotel here in Fernie, BC I noticed I was penalized a 1 hour time penalty.  I'm not sure what this is a result of, but I am trying to contact the race officials and UCI to clarify this.  UCI points and a good cash prize were up for grabs for all UCI riders, so I'm concerned about not getting either.  After a 9th and two 7th place finishes, I believe I was 8th overall.  However, with the 1 hour penalty, this would put me out of the Top 10.

Stay tuned as I learn more about the result of the penalty.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Blogger troubleshooting

For the past few weeks I have been having trouble logging into my Blog account.  Not really sure what the problem is, but hoping to get it resolved asap.  Lots to discuss and share.  Up next is Trans Rockies TR3.  I leave this Friday and the race begins on Sun.  Driving up to Fernie, British Columba, Canada.  I am hoping to post updates daily while there.  Stay tuned...I will also be recapping the past several weeks in later posts.