Monday, November 30, 2009

Gravel Grovel

So just when you think you've had enough racing for one year there is a new event that takes place 3 weeks after Iceman. Racing in November is pretty brutal no matter the event, but the Gravel Grovel in southern Indiana brings to meaning to pain. All I knew going in was that the race was 100km, rolling hills, and gravel roads. Couldn't be that hard right?

Well a few weeks ago I put my cross bike together thinking I was going to do the Icecross (the day after Iceman) but I never did. I hung it on a hook in my room and hadn't touched since putting it back in the car to head to the race.

I got to the race site nice and early to get registered, figure out what I was going to need to wear as the coldest air of the season had arrived, and also get some info on the course. The first thing I noticed was the number of mountain bikes rolling around. Hmmm, maybe most don't have cross bikes, which was partly true, but I would soon realize that wouldn't be a horrible option. Finally Greg Strock showed up and I started discussing the course with him as he pre rode the two previous weeks.

Some of the highlights from that conversation that really stuck out where, 4-5hrs to preride the 100km, the deep gravel, single track, dead cows, and creek crossings. Maybe this was going to be a little more then just riding some gravel roads.

So with well over a 100 riders at the start, and not many really knowing what to expect, this day would turn out to be brutal, epic, unprecedented, and rewarding to finish. Who started off the fastest, no one other then Birdman, but as fast as he took off is about as fast as he went back to the draft.

The first hill of the day started only a few miles down the road which had soon turned to gravel. I would encounter my first mishap of the day, the kind that would not be a problem if I did that whole riding the bike before you race it thing. Also known as a shake down cruise. But anyways before I knew it I was shifting the rear cog and ended up in my big, big and apparently my chain was not long enough and it locked up. After getting it unjammed I sprung back up to get to the front of the group which was quickly shattering. I managed to tag on the back of the front group which was pulling away.



Soon enough the real fun of the day began when we hit the 8km section of single track. It was muddy, tons of leaves, creek crossings, log crossings, rocks, and gravel. It would be rough on a mountain bike, and most where on cross bikes. Personally I felt like I was bouncing off trees and rocks and falling into lines that didn't exist, but at least I wasn't the only one. Only one rider looked good going through it, and he was pulling away. I just happened to catch on the back of him going up a good climb, but then there was a giant log that we had to throw our bikes and body's over. It was straight down the other side and again he was pulling away. Off a few more trees and my rear wheel skewer had come open. So a quick stop to fix and I was back on my way only loosing a place or two. We were getting to the end of the single track and my bike felt weird and something was off. I looked down and my stem was cocked off to the right. As soon as the road opened up I stopped and twisted it back into place.

There was a bit of regrouping at this point and I went straight to the front to bring it all back. We started a bit of rotating, but most of the group was hesitant. Eventually we got to a long uphill drag and I put some pressure on the pedals and pulled away with Greg. We had a good gap and worked together. Unfortunately though my stem had swung to the right again and at this point I knew I was going to have to tighten with an allen key. As I stopped to straighten it out again Birdman had caught up with one other rider, and I handed him my glove so I could get my tool out of my pocket and tighten on the fly. I got the top bolt tightened and went to tighten the bottom and I dropped the wrench. Crap. I stopped, flipped it, picked up my wrench and tightened everything down, and had been passed by two riders.

I got back on and started to chase. My main motivation to get back to the front group was to get my glove as it was barely 40 degrees and my hand wouldn't last another 40 miles. Luckily I was able to get back up to them after 5 miles of pain. Of course as soon as I get back up we're about to start a nice little climb and Chad looks back goes to give me my glove, but drops its. Ughh. I stop to get it and start the climb with no speed, as Chad decided he had enough fun riding hard. Luckily the chase back on this time wasn't as long and only took a couple of miles.



The three of us continued to work together for a long while. Heading down roads, dirt/gravel roads, closed roads, over barriers closing off bridges, and so on. At one point we were going down a gravel road, which was no different then any other and started to pitch up on smooth black top that was oddly out of place. More pressure was put on the pedals and Greg and I were gone again. We immediately picked up the pace and headed for a turn around. Coming close to it with 20 miles to go we hit yet another gradual climb and I ended up pulling away just before the turn around. I make the turn around and notice the 3rd place rider not that far off of Greg, so there would be no waiting and I would go at it alone.

This may have been some of the most painful 20 miles of riding I have every done. I just grounded away only thinking about getting to the same single track section we started with. I figured if I got there I knew it would be a touch easier. After what seemed like an eternity I had arrived. Unfortunately it didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped. Being more tired it felt like I was crawling through it. Then I hit the climb with the log at the top. As soon as I got off my bike to get over I could really feel my legs. I popped on leg over and ended up just sitting there for sec and thinking how I could stay here for ever. But I pressed on, had my legs completely burn up on the last climb, and rode to the finish alone with time to spare. It's been a while since I felt that completely worn down.



The awesome Trophy. It looks good next to my toasters. I really enjoy getting the exotic trophy.

The better part of the day came when more riders finished and we headed to the bar which was in the basement of the store on the start/finish line. Riders would trickle in with that worn down look, getting food, beer, and telling war stories of the day. It was turning into a full days event as the 100km took myself 3hrs and 15min full on and so others were still trickling in 5 hours after the start. This had to turned out for everyone to be just that little bit harder, but more rewarding challenge then ever imagined. I would recommend anyone doing this, either to race, for fun, or just a sense of accomplishment. What a fun way to get out the day after Thanksgiving and enjoy some beautiful riding and great company.

Breeze On

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Director

Starting cycling young in Michigan during the 90's meant that the "Guy" you looked up to most was non other then Michigan native, 7-11, Motorola, and USPS road racer Frankie Andreu. I remember how awesome it was to see Frankie race the local spring series occasionally, then a few weeks later see him racing the classics followed by the Tour in the summer. He was so kind and would always say hello.



Here I am standing next to him. I believe this was around '98. So I must have been 16. I know you and I would guess 13, but it's just the way I've always been. I probably just got beat up in the B race and was getting ready for the junior training course. Wow what would it be like to be that fast!

Years would past and who would have thunk, but I made it all the way into the A races. Not only was I in the A races, but I had even finished in the top 10 once or twice. Then came the first race in the spring of '02. I remember my dad I talking before the race about just going out there and being aggressive no matter what. Just ride hard, get off the front, rah, rah. Like it's easy, but that was the idea.

Well as luck would have it I found myself off the front with the strongest master of the time Nick fairly quickly. Soon enough who makes an appearance, Dave Koesal, and non other then Frankie Andreu. I couldn't believe who I was in the break with.



On the front with Frankie sitting 3rd wheel. It was all going swimmingly and we had a huge gap that would not come back, but the sprint for myself was anything but smooth. I just so happen came out of my pedal and took Frankie off course, but lucky he made it safely around and I didn't go down.

It would be another 3 years before I turned pro on Advantage Benefits Endeavour. Now my 6th year, 11 years after meeting him, and 9 years since racing against him, I find myself on the same team as him, as he is our team director. I am very excited to have him on our team and look forward to all the things he can teach and show me. He has a wealth of experience and knowledge and I am really thinking this is a huge step for our program. Chad Thompson is putting together one serious program. Watch for the Kenda Pro Cycling Team p/b Gear Grinder this year.

Breeze On

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Threads

Here's a look at the new threads for next season. FYI there will be red shorts to match!



Breeze On

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Past

Just cruising through some old photos. This was probably my first Iceman. Finally my dad had confidence in me to be able to make the LONG 27 mile mountain bike race. I believe my first time was around 2hrs and 40mins. I've shaved a bit over an hour over the past 10 years.



Never Quit. Stay tuned for a picture of a certain youngster standing next to his idol of the time who may be this youngsters new race director.

Breeze On

Friday, November 13, 2009

ICEMAN

Finally, my Iceman report.

Once again we made a fun weekend out of it starting off with the pre-ride on Friday through a new event on Sunday, the Icecross.

So Friday I did my first real mountain bike ride since last year's Iceman race when I pre-rode the course. The first few miles where interesting going through the sand and feeling the bike move underneath myself. It was definitely a different feeling. After taking just about every bad line whether in be in the single track, through sand, around corners, or on the downhills I think I had it all figured out how to ride it the following day. The hard part would be to remember everything in order, doing it behind riders, and at least 5mph faster.

Friday night continued on with going to the expo and registration. After walking through the expo and my dad talking with just about everyone there we went to a pasta dinner held by a mountain bike team that my dad had previously ridden for. Even I was on it briefly back in the day, The Midwest Cannondale Cycling Team. It was put on by the Scurr's, and Sherri was right when she said it was the best buffet in town. To bad I filled up on lasagna, ravioli, bread, and salad before tasting the most delicious and out of the world chocolate chip cookie and brownie piece. Thanks so much and I am looking forward to next years feast already. I'll save more room for dessert this time.

Saturday morning I got up nice and early 6:30 for my race that didn't' start till 2:30, and was a short 30 min drive away. But since my dad started at 9am my brother and I got up to join him and Nick for breakfast and drive them to the start. The amount of people that do this race is amazing. There are waves of starters every 5 minutes for 2 1/2 hours and each wave is between 50-200 riders. Absolutely incredible. Although the thing that might have been slightly more incredible was the amount of guys that would be in a road areo tuck killing it 300meters after the start on the pavement. Check this guy out.



My dad started off at a more reasonable pace, some may call it recreational, but who am I to judge. Word is he picked it up to a more race like pace and came through with a reasonable time for someone who only started training 3 weeks prior. Here's an action shot.



After his finished we loaded up and headed back to the hotel so he could grab a quick shower and I could get some food and dressed for my race. As I walked out of the room to head to the car I realized how warm it had gotten. The temperature was 63, and for northern Michigan in November at race that has seen as many snow days as sunny days, it was very pleasant.

My goal was just to hang on to the group as long as possible and do my best to make it through the tricky sections, and by tricky I mean mountain bikey. The first open section of single track I got slightly off the back as it felt like we were going 100mph and I just couldn't follow right on the wheel. No biggy as I was right back on as we hit the 2 track.



To bad my luck would change as the single track section 8 miles in was a touch tighter. I got about halfway through before a gap formed. A few guys past and I was left to chase again. After a chain drop and bit of chasing I brought a few riders back. By this time we were on some open two tracks, but only one rider, a fellow roadie, Graham Howard, could hang on. I had no idea how far up the front group was, but I just rode it like a TT. After the excitement of heading through Williamsburg Rd. I was starting to feel the burn. It was at this time we hit a bit of a straight stretch and what do I see, the front group about 30 seconds up the trail. Unfortunately other then catching one rider dangling on the back of the group I never saw the 6 leaders again for the final 9 miles.



Coming through Williamsburg Rd. Thanks for all the cheers.



After catching Derek Graham and loosing Graham Howard on one the last hills we came to some more dreaded single track and the last finishing stretch which was sort of tight. The inevitable happened as I took a bad line and Derek past me in the last 500 meters. But I was like a turtle and he was the hare as he went a bit to fast into one of the last corners and crashed. I went by not overlyjoined, but not disappointed to be finishing 7th.



The way I see it if I had made it through that single track section with the leaders there is a good chance I would have finished 7th anyways as the would have flown by me in the last two miles of it. Maybe next time I'll get on my mountain bike a few times before.

Well that night we headed to the awards ceremony which usually takes hours, but had a new format which was rather pleasant as the evening flown by. A lot of guys usually go out partying, but we were just plain out by 10.

The next day was the Icecross and after much himhowing I decided to sit this out and just enjoy watching. Although as my race started I was wishing I was in it as it looked like fun. My brother went out in the B race and showed off his skill at the barriers.



To bad his skills start and end there. Although if he keeps at it soon enough it will all come and you won't catch me on the same cyclocross course as him .

Ok off to my cold, snowy, and long winter. With a baby coming in less then 2 months though that should make things more interesting.

Breeze On

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Racing

Oh boy it's been a while, but I'm back racing. Even though just for a day it brings back the feelings of joy, anxiety, and nerves. A bit more nerves because of the fact it's on a mountain bike, all of which I've ridden twice since last year and those times were on snowy roads.

Anyways there's more then the race itself. It's the company of traveling to the race with my father and brother, it's the enjoyment of the pre-ride, the expo Friday night, running into so many people you haven't seen in months, then watching my dad race and thousands others, racing myself, and finally the parties afterwards. Going to be a good weekend.

This year I'm going to add to the excitement and pain by doing the cross race the next day with my brother. I don't know why, other then there isn't much to do and why not. I haven't done a cross race since last year on my birthday where things like, "Your to fast to be riding this slow!" were shouted out. To my defense it was icy and I didn't want to crash.

From there I'll be staring into 4 months of winter misery. Cold, wind, snow, and the very exciting rollers. Luckily for myself, not so much for them, teammates Chad and Rob are all about being my training parter for the the winter. It makes those long cold days go by faster when you're in good company. Chad does have the next two weekends to recover from the past few weekends of awesome rides, as I'll be gone this weekend, and he will be gone next weekend,

Ok I have to pack and get ready. As long as I remeber my mountain bike shoes and not my road shoes I should be ok.

Breeze On