Saturday, April 18, 2015

Lowell 50 - Classic Gravel Road Race

The Lowell 50 is silently becoming one of the best races in the state if not the mid-west! with a beautiful start finish venue, some of the best dirt roads in the state, and an awesome race promoter, its not hard to see why. And each year since the race has started, the field has gotten better and deeper in both the 34 mile and the 57 miler. For the past few years, this race has been a must do and top priority for me. This year wasn't any different. But with the depth of the field, and moving into the always fast 40-44 age group, I knew this wasn't going to be easy and I would have my work cut out for myself.

The race started out with a neutral roll out this year. The KLM squad had a full armada in the race, and everyone was showing their best. This was a good sign as we could all try to work together throughout the race. As the roll out vehicle rolled to the side. JTP threw the first punch! This got the group going. Jim J, Tony B, JMAK, Shaun W, and myself all closed in near the front of the group. This start to break things up a bit already. As we approached the first big steep climb of the day. JTP threw his 2nd blow. I jumped on as did several others. By the time we cleared the top, the majority of the selection of who's who was already sorted out. JTP, JMAK, Jim J, Tony B, and myslef began to try and turn the screws and rotated through the pack to share the work.

We continued like this for the first half of the race. Then out of no where, Luke Mullis, and the Martin Brothers, along with a few others, came from behind with an attack up a slow grinder. The pace quickened, but was manageable. It was clear that these guys had been sitting in, and to my surprise, the group was still 10-15 guys strong.

The fresh guys began to play games a bit. Another big hill and then a hard attack. JTP jumped right on the wheel of the leaders. I slowly got popped at this point and fell off the back. Shaun, and Bryan Waldmen came to the rescue. Bryan told me to hop on his wheel. This helped me recover a bit. And on the next section, I turned on my diesel in the flats and motored all 3 of us back to the lead pack. This was it. The winner was going to come out of this group. There was no longer anyone in sight behind us as well.

As we hit the pavement again, we crossed the river and began climbing again. This time JTP and one of the young guys went off the front. No one chased. Tony and I settled in to see what would happen. The gap grew to at least 30 seconds. I thought they might actually have a chance to stay away. Finally one of the Martin brothers yelled out, to the rest of us, "we cant let them get away". Then they took up the chase. We were all back together again.

We rolled through the remain parts of the course with minimal accelerations. Then as the last few hills popped up. The attacks happened again. Every hill someone would go! I covered them and was still in the group. One by one, others were slowly getting dropped. On the last big hill the group was down to 8 riders. I was still hanging on. JTP was on the front! I just couldn't hold on any longer, and now I was popped. But I still had Bryan W, and another guy by my side. We closed the gaps before and we can do it again. I turned the diesels on one more time and pushed forward doing most of the work. I was OK with this as I was feeling good, and figured it was my chance to lose. We closed down the gap to about 10 seconds before the last turn. I now knew that the top 5 overall was settled, but there was still a chance to snag the last step of the 40-44 age group podium. I turned the screws one last time, and finished just a few feet ahead of the other guys that I had worked with. It was enough for 3rd in the age group, and still 7th overall for the race out 250+. Still very respectable!

My hat is off to JTP for fighting in the front the entire race and giving himself a chance to win all the way to the end.

Tony B and JMAK for hang in the front all day long and keeping the race real and high paced! You guys had some kick ass results!

Jim J and Shaun W. You put it all out there in the early part of the race, and helped the team overall, and still had solid results! Very Cool.

Yankee Springs! Next stop...

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Barry Roubaix 2015 - New Direction

After a long winter, and some early aches and pains, and mental struggles through base, it is finally racing season! I have been overly excited waiting for Barry Roubaix to roll around, and be racing as part of KLM / Coldstone.

Going into the race, I wanted nothing more than to be apart of a winning team in the over team competition for this race and to do it with some of my closest cycling brothers and in a KLM kit. Well you boys came through and delivered for me!!! KLM / Coldstone Racing - 2015 Barry Roubaix Overall 34 mile Team Champions!

The entire team performed well and was well represented in almost every class! This is amazing to be apart of something with so many people that share the same passion, and excitement about training, racing, and just riding and having a good time as I do!

As my individual race. I stuck to my plan of staying with Simon Bailey, and working with team mate Todd Green the entire time. I felt great and was able to stick with the leaders the entire race. But in the last corner, I was taken out of the top 5 hunt by a falling rider in another class... total over the bars, on my head going around 20 MPH. This doesn't usually end well. I hurt my wrist pretty bad, and have since been slowly evaluating it and seeing if I avoided a breaking it. Time will tell...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

...2014

The year went by quick, and it was a great ride. For the first time, I think I was able to keep it all together and have a consistent season all year in Mountain Biking, Gravel Griders, and or course Cyclocross!

I even smashed my previous best hours and miles for the year with 520 hrs, and 8309 miles. During all this, I learned a lot more about training, recovery, and where my physical limits "might be". Still don't think I have completely found them. The most important thing I learned through all this, is to sit back and relax a little more. And I think it has paid off in the end. This sport really isn't that serious at our level. So its good to know that I am still having fun.

New direction for me next year. Should be another good year on tap, with new challenges. See you at the races!

Thanks to Macomb Bike and Fitness for their continued support with Team Sandbag.

Thanks Mike's Mix for their outstanding support with their world class sports drink and recovery drink mixes! Your products are the best I have ever used, and can't imagine training and racing without them.

And finally, thanks to all my family and racing friends for supporting me through all the long training hours, time away from home, at the races, and listening to my whining when things don't always go right. Especially Jeff and Brad for helping to keep me on track with a solid training plan.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Last Dance

It's a wrap. Another season in the books. It always amazes me how fast a cross season goes by when you're racing almost every weekend. And this year it went a little deeper for me than years past. So going into the last 2 races, I made sure I focused on keeping the engine revving high and not fading off too early like I have done so many times... Well I think I nailed it.

A big goal for me this year was to try and take the Series Championship for overall points in the Master 35+. I have never done this since I began racing Masters, and missed it by 1 point last year. A lot of things need to go right for this to happen. And remaining fit enough to go head to head for 4 straight months is only one of those things. Leading into the last Tailwind series race which was Saturday, I was tied for 1st overall with Simon Bailey. So my goals were simple, try and win the last race of the series and take the maximum points I could. And this is how it played out.

I headed over to Grand Rapids the day before and shacked up with the KLM boys. We arrived the next day to John Ball Park. Flat, grassy, and a very steep Euro style run up into the wooded hill. The Course was about perfect. And to make it even more interesting it already getting muddy.

I went through my usual warm up rituals and was ready to go. The field was small but there were enough of the regular guys that were just as hungry as I was for 1 last shot at a win before the end of the season. The clock counted down and it was show time. We fired off the line and into the slow muddy grass. We were locked in wheel to wheel, sliding and bumping off each other. I had an OK start, and settled in behind Tom Barrett, Andy Fedwa, Todd Greene, and Peter Monoko (Chicago rider) Tom was laying down and great pace, so I was happy just to sit in and see where things would go. After 3 laps, Tom was still leading the charge. By now Andy had slipped behind me. Todd and Peter were still in the hunt as well. Peter started making a few small mistakes and it would cost him a little each time. I decided that on the next power section I would put in a monster effort and attack to see who had the legs and possibly pop Peter and settle out the points race with Todd and Tom. I went, Todd reacted first and hopped on, and Tom followed. Peter was dislodged. It worked! But now I'm towing the other 2. Know that the effort hurt everyone, including me! I turned the screws a little more to grow the gap and try and soften the legs of Tom and Todd.

We rolled around another lap, and I decided to try the same move again. This time, I was able to get a small gap on Tom. Todd stuck like glue. We both turned the screws some more and began to trade pulls. With about 4 laps to go we had a good lead over everyone else, but I needed to find a way to get rid of Todd. This deep into the race, the steep muddy run up was killing us both. The mud on the first half was getting deeper and we were both on our limit and not willing to give each other an inch. By the time the last lap rolled around, I figured if I can't attack him and make him pop, I will need to be in front of him after the steep and sketchy downhill and try to take it in a sprint.

I pushed hard through the slow deep mud in the first half of the course going tape to tape in the turns to shut down the doors, and take away any opportunities for him to pass. My legs were screaming and now the steep run up awaited us. It was painful as hell. I was done with this hill on the 3rd lap, but knew I had to stay ahead. We coasted down the hill, and I was still ahead of him. The next part of the course was to not do anything stupid by taking risk and leaving a seam for him to squeeze by. It was all working so far. One more time through the barriers and into the power section one last time. I pedaled as hard as I could through this section to make sure he did not try and attack. I maintained the lead. Through the last twist and turns into the final straight I could hear everyone screaming. The legs were no longer feeling any pain. I got out of the saddle and started to sprint just after the apex of the last turn taking the inside line. I could see Todd's front wheel come along my rear wheel on the inside as well. I kicked again made sure I held my line and accelerated to the finish. It was enough! My 2nd CX win of the year, and my 1st overall Series Championship in Masters.

The Midwest Regional Cyclocross Championships were held the following day. My season was all or nothing on Saturday, so I decided to give it a go in the single speed class. I finished an OK 6th. But the good news was, Tailwind put on one hell of an event! Raising their bar to a whole new level.

Congrats to Simon Bailey and Todd Greene for round out the series overall podium. And special congrats to Todd for one hell of a weekend. 2nd on Saturday, taking 3rd overall in the series. 3rd in Masters 35+ for the Mid West Regional Podium and 5th in single speed on the same day!

Thanks to all the fellas that raced in Masters this year. It was incredible how fast and deep the field is and keeps getting. We truly have some the best and fastest racers in the state and the Midwest! See you all next year!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Michigan CX State Championship - Bloomer Park





Its coming down to the wire. The CX state championship has already came and went! This is a race that I look forward to every year, but is not always kind to me. And Worst yet, I often don't seem to have enough gas this late to finish it off. But in the past few years, I have been slowly figuring out the recipe to get it right on this one time shot of a day which is the CX State Championship.

This year I was hoping to show better than in past years. With some left over Iceman Fitness, the race moved up a few weeks, and at Bloomer Park - one of my favorite venues. I was confident and ready to go.

In the days leading up the race, Mother Nature was playing all kind of tricks. Rain, Snow, Cold Warm, she threw out everything. This made training difficult at best. And it was sure to leave the course a mess come race day.

And a mess it was. We don't often get muddy races for CX in Michigan and when we do its usually the splashing, and slippery time... But for Bloomer it was thick peanut butter mud. I don't mind racing in the mud, in fact I think I have a little advantage over most guys when it comes to handling my bike in the stuff. But lets face it, I'm not a little dude. So when the peanut butter mud comes out, I sink in it. So knew I was going to be difficult and was up to the task.

It was finally to go, and we were off. I got a good start and settled near 5th behind Andy who already had an enormous lead, Brian W, Simon, and Alex. I inched my way up front to avoid any crashes. By the time the 2nd lap rolled around. We pulled back Andy's lead and were in striking distance of catching him. I was feeling really good and decided, it would be a good time to test some legs and see who was ready to play. I surged and came around Brian. Within a few seconds, caught Andy and passed. Soon after, it was only Simon and myself. We had a sizable lead and just traded pulls for the next few laps. Around the 4th of 5th lap, we could see Tim Saari clawing his way back to us with Todd Greene in tow. Ugh. No matter how hard Simon or I tried to push we could not keep Tim from coming. When he finally caught us, he stood up and put in about 10 hard pedal strokes in one of the few long straights. That was it. Simon and I were fighting for 2nd place!

We battled lap after lap. I would attack in the technical sections and then he would attack in the really thick stuff. With 1 lap to go, I tried to make one last move to pop him in the start/finish straight. I came by quick and soon opened up a small gap. I knew I had to try and stay in front of him in the slow thick muddy section leading up to the barriers and into the 2nd 1/2 of the course. I knew that the first person off the slippery velodrome hill and into the final turns of the race would have the advantage. This was my goal.

As I approached the muddy chute leading up to the barriers, I pedaled my ass off! Legs were burning, as were my lungs. But I was only inching my way forward. I could hear Simon slowly closing the gap I opened up just minutes before. In a matter of 100 yards., we went over the barriers side by side. He clipped in first and now was in front. I tried to get around before the velodrome, but just could not find a clean spot through all the twist and turns or put in any more power to go by him. We both made it off the slippery hill without issues, and I tried to keep the chase close. It was not enough. I watch him ride across the line in 2nd, and I grabbed the last State podium spot for 3rd.

I had a solid smart race, and just got beat by 2 better racers on the day. I was very happy with the result, and what I have been able to accomplish so far this year.

I have to say that Simon rode what might have been one of his best CX races ever. He handle his bike in the mud and technical sections like I have never seen him do before! Great Ride!

Also, I want to congratulate Adam York and an awesome ride and winning his first Elite State Championship. You came a long way son. Very happy for you.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Lower Huron CX


With Iceman out of the way, and some built up fitness, it is time to turn all my focus back to CX. Especially with only a few races left. The points series is going to be close, and I really wanted to get at least 1 CX win before the end of the season. I figured the next few races would be my best chance, so heading into Lower Huron I was confident, motivated, and ready to go all in.

Lower Huron has always been one of my favorite venues to race at. When I think of cyclocross I think of this place. It just has everything. And this year did not disappoint. A few new changes to the course and the familiar sections made for a great race!

The cold temps made for a difficult warm up. Nothing like sitting at the start line worrying about borderline hypothermia every weekend. We got the whistle and were off. I had a shity start! completely blown my pedal, and drifted back to the rear of the group. But I was able to recover and fight back as soon as we hit the grass somewhere around 6th. Tom Barrett was already on the front ripping legs off and controlling a sizable gap. Andy, Simon, Brian W, Alex, and Todd Greene followed. I dangled off the back and watched. The boys in the front were going hard! One blow after another. It was hard keep with the group, but I managed and decided to just let it play out and see what happens. The run/ride up was horrible for me. Either I was not committing or I would get botched at the top by other riders. Either way, It was costing lots of time in the 1st few laps, leaving me to chase down the lead group. I finally decided to not be the hero any more and just run the damn thing. In the end I think it made all the difference. We will come back to this.

So halfway through the race, there were signs of guys starting to fade. Andy, Simon and Alex soon fell off pace and were behind me. We were pulling back Tom as well. The around lap 4, Todd made a huge surge. He caught and passed Tom. Brain didn't react. I waited a lap, and decided where I would make my move.

Lap 5 started and Brian, Tom, and myself were within striking distance of Todd. But Todd was not showing any signs of giving up. We came back to the run/ride up. I noticed on the previous laps that although I was getting dropped by the guys riding up the hill, that I would easily catch them again on the long false flat to the bike path and then up the bike path hill. I believe that running was actually less stressful on my legs and thus could continue to lay the power through this section while others needed to recover. So I decided to put it to the test. Todd, Brian, and Tom all pedaled up. I jumped off and ran. About a 4-5 second gap formed, but I closed it down quickly and legs felt good. I followed up the bike path climb and onto the next flat fast grassy straight away and laid it down. I came by Brian and Tom, and closed the gap to Todd instantly. I decided to pedal straight through and push a few more harder gears to see if it would stick. It did! I was now in a good spot with 3 laps to go. I was feeling good and focused on putting out consistent power and riding smart. The gap continued to grow until the then. I was free and clear. My first CX win of the year.

Great racing by all the boys again. Its been close and fun every race. Im sure the next few will not be any different.

Congrats to Jeff Simpson on his first CX podium ever!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

ICEMAN - REPEAT

 
The 2014 Iceman is one that will be remembered. Not for the fact that it was the 25th anniversary, but for the epic conditions. And it was these conditions that had me questioning the entire day.

I wanted nothing more than to win this race again. But I knew it would not be easy. My legs needed to show up. I couldn't get sick leading up to it. And a lot of things had to go right during the race. Including the conditions. So as the rain started to come down the night before and into the morning of the race, I started to doubt my chances as actually being able to win again. I felt with the slower slippery conditions, lighter guys with way more technical skills would just shoot me out the back of the group, and I would have to scrap for the last few places on the podium if I had a chance. But some how, It all worked out.

DC and I got to the start line early. We didn't bother warming up. and just sat in the car with the heat on. Finally we got the bikes out and pedaled to the tent just next to the start line. motivation was slowly dwindling. But chatting and laughing with Brad, Joe, DC, and others, some how made it all better.

Soon after the race to the starting grid happened 30 mins before the actual start. Brad, DC, and I all made it on the front row. Plan number 1 - check. We waited in the rain, and It just got colder and colder. FInally we were ready to go. The rope dropped and we were off! DC pulled the hole shot, and Brad followed. I sat about 4th wheel. Plan 2 - Check. Instantly I was blinded by the road spray from tires and grim. We made the sharp left hand turn and into the middle school fence. This is the most critical point of the race. You need to be at the front and I was! Plan 3 - Check! We hit the sandy mud, and now I really couldn't see. It was full on and I was holding my own. The we crossed the road through the ditch and onto the next critical part of the race, the first 2 track section. Then a rider just in front of me touches wheels with another rider and down he goes. I barely miss crashing myself and came to a complete stop! UGH! I watched the lead group ride away. And I was now swarmed by about 20-25 other racers. I did not panic and began to pick off guys one by one.

I used all the 2 track to power as far up as I could. It sucked at first, as I would get stacked up in the single track, and could not help but think that the lead group was slipping farther and farther away! Worse yet, I had no idea who slipped away with the lead group. I continued to lay it down as hard as I could and was feeling good. The trail was finally beginning to open up and riders were already falling away. By the time I made it to Dockery Rd. I was was making good progress. I was starting to see a large group of riders just ahead of me. Then finally realized it contained Lako and Jeff Whitbrott. This was good news! This had to been the tail end of the lead group. This helped me push a little harder and I was soon on the back. I chatted with Brad and Jeff a bit and told them to hop on. I pulled hard for several mins. and soon after, I was just us 3 chasing down the next group. We worked together up until Williamsburg road. A few younger riders caught us, and we hopped on their train. Jeff 1st, and then I followed. We hung on to the wheel and enjoyed the ride. Jeff and I were sharing the work with the other 2 guys, but they were a lot more skittish in their riding then we were. Soon after we were getting into some of the fast technical downhill just before Anita's Hill, and one of the guys fish tail in the sand next to the other and they both went down going about 20 MPH in front of me. It was bad! Jeff was in front so he got away. I had to lock up the brakes to avoid it. Some with Brian Harville who recently joined us. My first concern was that the riders were both ok. Before I took off, I made sure that both riders told me they were fine. They were, so it was go time again. I had to push hard again to try and make up as much time as possible. Brain was sticking to my wheel. When we got to Anita's Hill, Jeff was just cresting the top. I pushed hard and spun up. Brain had to dismount and run. Soon after I joined Jeff again and Brain was off the back. Jeff was happy to see me, and began our train again! On the Icebreaker, Jeff got unhitched, but now I had Joe Seidl in site. Joe had a stellar race. I was also able to join Don Hackney. This was good company and by now knew I was somewhere in or near the lead group. My legs were still strong and feeling good. I pushed through the slimy single track and into the final KM's. I knew I had another good ride, but boy was it one of the hardest and nastiest racers I had ever done.

After some waiting for the next few waves, it was finally clear, I had just won my 2nd Iceman! I actually couldn't believe it! I knew I had good fitness for the day, but I really thought the conditions would be the equalizer. In the end I proved to myself that I can still win a race like this even if it doesn't favor my all of my abilities.

No its back to the regularly scheduled program... See you at Lower Huron CX!