Sunday, September 16, 2012

MTB Marathon Nationals race report

Whew!  Now that was how a National Championship race should be...hard!

Other than the Whiskey Off-Road 50 race earlier this season, the US Marathon National Championship race boasted one of the strongest field of riders.   Names like Todd Wells, Adam Craig, Carl Decker, Barry Wicks, Alex Grant, etc. toed the start line to see who would take home the marathon stars and stripes jersey.

Adam Craig took top honors last season, but knew that in order to repeat his effort this season he would have to bring his "A" game.  The course this season was a much more difficult course than last year, consisting of 90% singletrack (mostly loose and soft sand) and over 6,000ft of climbing.  In addition to a tough course, we were also having to deal with the smoke in the air from the nearby forest fire.    Temperatures hovered in the mid 80's during the race, which made hydration critical to finish the 53 mile course.

Todd Wells took home the victory while local Bend riders Carl Decker and Adam Craig, and Barry Wicks finished 2nd and 3rd, and 4th respectively.

1st place - Todd Wells

2nd palce - Carl Decker

3rd place - Adam Craig

The race began and finished at the Wanoga Sno-Park.  Starting at 9am, there was a bit of cool air which helped to keep the body temp down.  This didn't last long, however, as the sun rose and quickly warmed up.      For the first 5 or 6 miles, we rode out on a fireroad (very dusty and loose) and the pace was insane initially but then settled down to a temp pace.  As we approached one of the first descents, the pace picked up, and I think it was Adam Craig doing the work.  This descent was very loose and extremely dusty, so much to the point where it was almost impossible to see the trail from the dust kicking up in from the rider in front of you. I was shortly behind and made sure to get in front of the rider close to me to be able to pick a good line.  

Shortly after the descent we had to do a short steep climb up a super sandy section.  Climbing up this section, there was one main line to ride on, if you tried to pass here, you would lose all momentum and zap lots of your energy trying.  We continued climbing as we entered the first singletrack section (Vista Butte) that would consist of many switchbacks.  After a few miles, we turned right and began to descend one of the more fun sections (Ridge Loop trail).  this brought us to the first Aid Station at mile 10.5.  I was roughly 13th at this point, and I could see 4 riders in front of me.

course markings

For the next 14 miles, it was all singletrack and would consist of lots of climbing (very steep in sections) and would bring us to the highest point on the course (nearly 7,000ft).  We climbed up Flagline Trail which starts off very sandy and loose and becomes rocky and technical (and more steep climbs).  This part of the trail is in dense forest, making for some remote riding.  I was riding with Nick Truitt, and Clinton Claasen.  Fellow Oregonian, Even Plews,  (who finished 9th) passed me at this point.  Finishing in the Top 10 at this race is impressive, nice job Evan!

Evan post-race with Mike Ripley (Oregon's best race promoter)

We worked our way down Flagline Trail to Dutchman Flats (Aid Station #2).  Jenny was handing me bottles in the Aid Station and she kept me going without losing my momentum.  From Aid #2 we rode some doubletrack and sort of back-tracked our way on trails we rode during the first 8 miles...more loose sand.  A couple short steep climbs would test the legs, and fortunately at this time, mine were still felling pretty good.  Then there was a 4 mile fireroad section before reaching the Dinah Moe Humm trail.

This section of singletrack really took a toll on my body.  It consisted of lots of switchbacks, steep climbs, and constant rough terrain.  My back was beginning to ache and I could start to finally feel the legs beginning to get tired.  I didn't have anyone in front of me that I could see to help keep me pushing, so at times I felt like I was letting up a little.  Then, fortunately, I caught up to Truitt again and it gave me an extra surge of energy, amazing how that works...mentally.  We passed another rider and eventually would catch up to 2 others before exiting this trail.  Another short fireroad section brought us to the final Aid Station #4 at Wanoga Sno-Park.

For the next 12 miles, the course consisted of some of the sweetest singletrack in Bend (Funner and Tiddlywinks trails).  Of course, these trails are "fun" when you have energy, so considering my legs were beginning to cramp and I was low on energy, I wouldn't necessarily say this last section was "fun".  The first 7 miles are rolling terrain and fast descents, with several technical rocky sections.  Then the final 5.5 miles are all climbing (more technical rocky sections).  This was certainly a challenge to see how much you had left in the tank.  I could feel my tank beginning to run out of gas.  Battling leg cramps, I pushed on as hard as I could passing 1 rider and also getting passed by another.

Sloane just after crossing the finish line - exhausted!

The final 1K to the finish was through the Wanoga Sno-park parking lot.  Crossing the line with a time of 4 hours and 7 minutes was good enough for 18th place.  My goal entering the race was to finish in the Top 15, so I wasn't too far off.  I know the other 5 or 6 riders in front of me where only a short distance ahead, so overall I am pretty happy with my result.

You can read the race report here...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

MTB Marathon Nationals Pre-Race

The US MTB Marathon Nationals race will take place in Bend, OR in less than 2 days.  If you have not yet seen who has registered for his event, you need to take a look.  This is merely going to be one of the toughest USA events this season on the mountain bike calendar.  Not only are the fastest US XC racers on hand, but some of the fastest ultra-endurance racers as well.  This will be a true test of who is faster.  Does the XC rider win or does the endurance rider?  Only time will tell, and if last year's performance is any indication, the XC rider has the edge (Adam Craig and Carl Decker were 1-2 at last years' race).  Here is the list of registered riders, it's a who's who of mountain biking.  The only 2 riders I don't see on the list that could make it even more impressive is Olymipian Sam Schultz, and Cannondale's Jeremiah Bishop.

start of last years race

The course for this years' National event will be much more challenging than last year.  In the previous version, there were many miles of pavement and fireroad.  This year, however, the course is 90% singletrack.  Most of the trails will occur near the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort at elevations of around 5800-6900ft.  Read the USA Cycling Report here.

My goal for this event is to finish in the Top 15 and a finishing time of around 3 hours 45 minutes.  The beginning of the course is going to be extremely dusty and very loose, so getting a good start is going to be somewhat critical.  The first 5-6 miles will be on fireroad/doubletrack, so there will be time to jocky for position, but once in the singletrack it will be difficult to pas as the trails are pretty narrow.  The course will also also include the popular Flagline Trail; which I've been told has not been used in a race except one other time back in the 80's.  The trail is only open for a few months (beginning August 15th) to protect elk calving grounds.  The trail is some of the best singletrack in Oregon, and should give out-of-state racers a taste of Central Oregon's best.  It's quite remote with views of Mt. Bachelor, and it's the half way point on the course, so it will certainly be the most fun part of the race.

The final 10 miles of the race will once again include Funner and Tiddlywinks Trails.  These trails can be very demanding on the body, so after roughly 45 miles of racing it should be interesting how things play out at that time.  For some it will be a matter of survival, and for others it will determine the win or finishing 2nd.  

Stay tuned for race reports and photos.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Masters Road Nationals

For the 2nd year, Masters Road Nationals was held in my home town of Bend ,OR.  Initially I wasn't planing to do this race, but as the event got closer I decided that I might as use it as a hard training day and maybe try and pull out a good result.  This would be my only road race of the season (and for good reason, I'll explain later), so expectations were no too high.  Not that I didn't have confidence in my fitness level, but more the fact that my training was not suited for road racing.

I did the Masters 40-44 race last season and was able to get into a breakaway with 5 other riders but ran out of gas with 5 miles remaining.  This season the course changed and would be the same as the Cycling Classic Stage race road course.  On paper it looks like a good course, but for Nationals, I don't think it was a hard enough course.

The total distance of the course was 68 miles, and the first 12 miles were all down hill.  Then for the next 45-50 miles it was flat.  So needless to say, those 45-50 miles were like an endurance training ride.  Then the final 5 miles included a 2.5 miles (6%) climb a 1/2 mile false flat, then another steep 1/2 mile climb followed by 2 miles of flat roads to the finish.  Much like the Cascade Cycling Classic, the race would be decided  by the 2.5 mile climb.

The pace during the race was pretty high (avg speed was 24.5 mph), we covered the 68 mile course in just over 2.5 hours.  Talking with some fellow racers, Jason Snovel and Jason Boynton (Team Folsom Bike/Mercedes Benz), they gave me a heads up as to which riders to keep an eye on.   It was pretty easy to mark them during the race because things were steady the entire time, no attacks.

As we approached the final 2.5 mile climb I made sure to be near the front.  I was sitting about 15th wheel at the bottom.  This may have cost me the race.  As soon as the road kicked up, one of the race favorites, Chris Phipps, and a teammate attacked with a few others.  I was about 8 riders behind and had to work my way around them to try and catch the attack.  I was a little too far back to make the gap and as it turned out  that would be the move that decided the race.

There was 5 riders in the lead group, then myself and 4 others.  The peloton was getting shredded quickly.  In my group it was Larry Walker (last years' winner), Ryan McKean, and Dan Bryant, and one other rider  Bryant began to pull away and worked himself up to the lead group, while the rest of us tried to do the same.  Myself and Walker would do most of the work, and eventually we dropped the unknown rider.   So now it was Walker, myself and McKean as we crested the climb near Todd Lake.  We had a short flat section then another steep short climb before the final 2 mile run in to the finish.  Half way up the steep climb, Walker opened up a small gap on myself and McKean.  I tried to have McKean work together with me so we could pull Walker back but he wouldn't (this is the reason why I don't road race).  With 2 miles of flat roads left the smart thing would be to have each of us taking turns at the front to try and pull back Walker, and possibly the lead group that wasn't too far ahead.  All I kept hearing was that he was blown and had nothing left.  So I put my head down and rode as hard as I could, putting in a few surges (with McKean staying right on my wheel).  Then, and this is great, with 100 meters remaining he pulls in front with enough power to beat me by 3 seconds.

I would understand if we were racing for 1st and 2nd and this happened but for 7th and 8th, come on.  I understand road racing is a tactical sport but this was lame.  And Ryan is a friend, he is a local Bend rider, so I wouldn't have expected that from him.  So I finished 8th overall about 40 seconds behind the winner Matt Carinio.  

Full results

I now have a week before the MTB Marathon Nationals race, which will also be held in Bend, OR up near Mt Bachelor.  The course has changed from last years' race and this will certainly make for a tough race.  The distance is estimated at 54 miles so winning times should be around 3.5 hrs.  Stayed tuned for more reports on MTB Nationals.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Have you seen this?

If not you have to check it out...

I like to think my bike handling skill are above average, no where near that of Adam Craig or anything, but above average.  However, I think Adam and possibly even Hans "No Way" Rey would be impressed with this dude's skills.