May 22, 2009

Belated Urban Assault Report

The Urban Assault MTB race was held in downtown Richmond, VA on May 16, 2009. It was part of the first annual Dominion Riverrock Festival and was promoted by the Sportsbackers organization. The race course looped through the James River Park (Butternut and North trails) as well as Forest Hill Park which is adjacent to Belle Island and Brown's Island in downtown Richmond. I held out registering for this race because the weather was sketchy heading into the weekend but ended up being fairly good given what could have occurred. I did this race last year when it was part of the Xterra championships weekend which was in the middle of June and very hot, if I recall. Of course, I did the beginner race last year which was only ~8 miles and I was racing the Sport Master 40+ this year which was ~16 miles.

Given the urban area in which this race is held one would think that it may be a less technical course but if one were to think that they would be incorrect. Other than the roads and fire roads, the course is fairly technical with a lot of narrow steep trails, lots of switchbacks and some rocks and roots (not to mention the 22nd street stairs we descended twice and the 42nd street stairs we ascended twice). My race had 18 folks entered. We were almost the last group to start in the 12:30 wave. The start was on a grassy area off of fifth street on the Tredegar Iron Works property. For those of you interested, Tredegar Iron Works was the source of all the Confederate Army's Artillery and cannons during the American Civil War and there is a Civil War Museum on the premises that I would like to visit someday.

Anyway, the course ran along a trail under the R. E. Lee bridge and then up a gravel road to the bridge which we used to cross the river. I was toward the back of the field initially but started moving up on the gravel road and passed a few folks on the bridge. After crossing the river we exited onto a local street and headed to the 22nd street stairs where you had to dismount and run/walk down to the James River Park fire road. We took the fire road to the 42nd street stairs where we climbed up and over the railroad tracks to get on the Butternut Trail, through a tunnel into the Forest Hill Park trail system. It was in Forest Hill Park that I was riding along and heard some folks behind me that I thought might be about to overtake me. So I looked back to see where they were as we rounded a rooty curve and the course seemed like it was heading up a relatively steep shortish ascent. The folks I heard weren't close enough to overtake me so I got out of the saddle and attacked the climb. When I got to the top I realized there were no course arrows in sight. I had seen a racer coming down and turning left in front of me as I was climbing and looked back and saw a course arrow. At that point I decided to take a u-turn and follow that arrow. I immediately realized that I had been through this part of the course before. So, as I came around to the point where I looked behind me before I made sure to pay attention for course markings. Sure enough, behind a branch on the left there was an arrow that I missed causing me to do an extra minute or two loop. Not to worry, but I felt bad and apologized to the guys that followed me. Anyway, we finished the Forest Hill Park trail, went through the tunnel and back to the Butternut Trail east to the 22nd street stairs where we descended again, rode the fire road back to the 42nd street stairs, ascended and then went west on the Butternut trail the the Boulevard Bridge onto the North trail and back to the finish. A guy passed me really close to the end and I stayed on his wheel and was planning on sprinting past him at the finish. I clearly need to work on this because I waited too late to start my sprint. Even though I was overtaking the guy I didn't have enough time to do it before the finish line. The other thing that was holding me back was my recollection from last year when I observed two guys sprinting for the line crash right after because of congestion in the grassy area before fifth street. At this race there's not a lot of room and finished riders tend to congregate past the line reducing the amount of space available. Needless to say, I did not want to be sprinting for tenth place and crashing. As it was, both of us had to lock our brakes to stop in time to avoid the crowd. I congratulated the guy who pipped me and headed to my car.

I was very happy with the way the race turned out. I ended up in ninth in my class. My first top ten in the sport class (not counting my third place out of four at Camp Hilbert). My time was 1:33:17 and I had no crashes. I only had a couple of scrapes on my calf/shin from my pedals from some unsuccessful attempts at some technical obstacles. I feel my technical skills are improving and look forward to the Iron Hill Challenge at the end of the month. I also want to give a shout out to Mark Junkerman (and his crew at Run, Ride, Race) who promotes the Camp Hilbert series, the Twisted Tire races, and a number of running events as well as providing race timing/results for a bunch of events including the Urban Assault. Great job Mark!

May 21, 2009

Finding my Legs!

After 3 solid months off of the bike (other than the trainer for a month) I'm finally finding my legs again. Still haven't found them completely, that'll take another 6 weeks and some further recovery time.

I had major back surgery Feb 10th and have been cleared for the last six weeks to get back on the road and ride less then 80kms a day. This weekend I will be allowed to move to 100kms and next weekend I'll be in Southern France climbing Ventoux. I know, it's ridiculous right.

The day before surgery the doc expected me to be back on the bike in six months, three weeks ago he said I looked like a patient recovered after 6 months, after only three actual months.

After putting in LOADS of kms over the last three weeks, including the Flanders climbs and some other 16% grades, I've decided my first race will be June 6th... with races every weekend until 12th of July - The Region Championships.

Last year I raced in this series and finished most of the races, sometimes with the front group (in Cat 3) sometimes just behind the group, a minute back, or lapped (Cat 2 or B). This year I plan to peak in August and will do my best to win a race and put an American name on a Belgian Podium. So what if it isn't Flanders or Roubaix.

I attended all three major Spring Classics this year and have amazing pictures from two of them. At Roubaix I was near the big crash entering the Arenberg trench and at Liege-Bastogne I was at the start, Cote de Ny, and Cote de la Redoute. For the second year in a row I was almost hit by Alejandro Valverde on La Redoute.

I've also started the twitter thing, check me out under screen name Cyclopathic.

Okay, I'm outta here, time for dinner and an early bed time, I have "80" kms (I mean 100) tomorrow in the sunny 75 degree weather.

Denis Menchov was amazing in the Giro Time Trial today, I hope he isn't on the Schumacher/Kohl training program. I kid...good job Denis and Levi. Now get out and get the Maglia Rosa off of Menchov's back Levi!


May 18, 2009

Riding with the Midnight Sun

Short post this evening. The ice and snow stuck around about three weeks longer than last year, receeding just in time for the first tune-ups of the season. These are generally shorter, just long enough to blow the crud out of your legs before one last, real effort. And thanks to Evan for offering the thermal jacket option. Worked great to counter the effects of the late seasonal melt.

First road race of the season fell on May 9th, late as I mentioned. One of these years I'll be like the other snow birds at the Sea Otter, greeting you all by the 53x11 stand first hand. Well, late start to the season, but with time well spent over the Winter staring at the same wall stud for hours of discomfort, the early attacks were readily countered. The pace slows down a little for stretches of gravel where the melt happened later and for the sections of road that didn't winter well. Then one last pull up a decent grade stretches everything out. Second over the line, and we are done.

May 11, 2009

Mistaken For Starbucks

So there I was, helping out at last Saturday's Ravensdale road race in Ravensdale, WA. I had volunteered to assist with the 8 am races to gain free entry into the 11am Masters C/D race. I was in my all black Alter Ego kit with white and black arm warmers (yes, despite the attempt to design a new kit with either blue or red my heart lies with BLACK) stationed at the finish line. I had already swept the final 200 meters and helped lay down the finish line timing/photo strip and been a model for the finish line camera, when two spectators asked if I rode for Starbucks. I immediately set them straight and referred them to the company's website. I then went down to the 200 meter to go sign to help with traffic when a rider commented on the alter-ego kit. Like many others he liked it A LOT.
I had not raced an officially sanctioned road race since June of 2007 (Elkhorn Classic Stage Race Baker City, OR), so I was a bit anxious. I also was having issues with my right hamstring (old running injury) and my recent training had not gone as planned, so I was hoping to just finish this race. It was 45 miles, consisting of 5 laps of a 9 mile rolling course (only 2 real right hand turns and no real climbs or descents). 75 riders started in the Masters C/D. The first 2.5 laps were uneventful, breaks going and being caught each lap. I stayed near the back getting my racing legs back. Then in the middle of the 3rd lap on a flat straight section a crash occurred in the middle of the pack, taking out several riders. I was able to avoid it and then had to work like a dog to rejoin the lead pack as it had put the hammer down after the crash. We were suddenly down to about 50 riders. Then, just a few miles into the 4th lap after a right hand turn another crash occurred just ahead of me. This time I barely avoided it and had to stop to get around it. The lead group was already gone when I started to pedal. I was soon joined by 6 others but did not have the legs to assist in the chase. I think we all gave up on rejoining and had resigned ourselves to a final 1.5 laps on our own when the follow race vehicle passed us to rejoin the lead group. My ego was bruised a bit and I wanted to rejoing the pack when I noticed it had slowed down and was dangling tantalizing close to us. I put in a sustained effort and took the 6 others back up the group. It felt so good to be a factor and to be back in the safety of the lead pack. I was thanked for my efforts which was a real boost. I knew I had no legs to contest a finish and was just happy to finish the last 1.5 laps with the group. We all took it a bit easy and safe as we were tired of the crashes. I finished 30th out off 45 finishers and 75 starters. I was very happy with my efforts and performance as my hamstring was acting up. I may go out next month for another race in the same area (60 miles).
For now I am happy to be flying the team colors in the all black alter-ego kit. But if I have to vote I definitely will go with the Red.
Stay safe and keep the rubber side down.
Ty (aka Saddledancer)

May 8, 2009

New Jersey designs

Hello Team Riders, 

We are looking into offering another Kit design. I've been working on two different color schemes and need your feedback. Red or Blue? You can also vote on the Team53x11Coffee facebook page