June 27, 2010

West Hill Shop Race Report

The Sparknotes version: I raced my bike for 45 minutes, I got a flat, the CO2 didn't work and I DNF'ed. I'm good at making little things long, though, so below is the real edition.

So, anyone who reads this knows school had been intense the last two months. The spring of Junior year may be the worst part of all 12 years of public high school and I attempted to "get my priorities straight" by studying and not riding or racing my bike too much. I managed to get in four races, and four wins on 3-7 hours of riding a week. School ended recently and I decided the best way to celebrate was to ride my bike, putting in a 21 hour week of pedaling (pavement and dirt). I was beyond psyched to get out and race at Putney, VT. It is sponsored by the local West Hill Shop.

Local friend, Fred Howland got me up there.

When we pulled up, we saw the TWO time Olympian and totally rad Mary McConneloug and her husband, Mike Broderick. Pretty cool. They won...they dominated.

There were seven (hahaha, Seven) Cat.1 Juniors, some I knew, some I didn't. That was a record number, at least since maybe '06. So, the race started and a super quick 15 year-old almost got the holeshot, but I beat him to it. The first descent was very fun, downhill, smooth and berm-laden. I stayed in front for maybe five minutes, until said 15 year-old attacked and my friend, Ben, went with him. There was no way I could stick with them. They were on fire and I was certainly not. In fact, I was cold. I had cold chills, my head was throbbing and I had no power. I remained in 3rd for a bit, until my chain got properly bounced off my crank and the jockey wheels on my derailleur.This actually happened a few times and I think it was simply due to the fact that I was on a hardtail and the descents were super fast (and rough at speed). So, that allowed Zeb to get by. I rode a lap, had fun, but was withering in pain and wondering how I would survive another three laps. Well, fortunately, that pain was cut short on another fast downhill where a rock sliced my sidewall. I have never sliced a sidewall before, but I had a Stans setup, and I thought it would seal. I attempted to CO2 it, but the head wouldn't let it out. I decided to walk it out and cheer everyone else on. I later ran into Matt Green, who had also flatted, but got a spare wheel. He knew this DQ'ed him, but he was just riding around having fun. Ten minutes later, I ran into him again. He flatted again, attempting to ride his 18lbs Spooky hardtail like a downhill bike. He attempted to gap / tabletop 25 feet of trail on another fast descent. He came down on the front wheel (a 1150 gram MTB wheelset, mind you) and his tire exploded off the rim, causing him to die.

Not really, I lied. You can see in the picture above, he is alive and well. He had enough energy to lift his middle finger at me in protest of me taking his picture (it's a joke). So, he was in good spirits and told me about his "training week" that does not really include "training" rides, but rather trips to the BMX park and such. Must be all that rainbow colored unicorn blood.

Our local Adam Craig - Tom Sampson the 2nd best XC bike handler in the country (my subjective opinion)...he rides wheelies forever and gaps things, without making a sound or crashing. He can pedal, too.

So, I DNF'ed. Eh, I'm somewhat disappointed, somewhat okay with that. During the race, I felt like I was working hard, but going nowhere. There is good pain, and there is bad pain. That was bad pain. Anyways, I got to see some people I hadn't seen for awhile, and ride some pretty sweet singletrack. It's not all bad.

Last year, I filmed the race, along with Colt from Cyclingdirt. Our videos and pictures are here. The music on mine got messed up, so just turn it off.


June 21, 2010

H2O Overdrive Triple Crown Finals - Massanutten Hoo Ha!

H2O Overdrive Triple Crown Finals - Massanutten Hoo Ha!

Date: June 19-20, 2010
Location: Massanutten Resort, Keezletown, VA
Conditions: Hot!

In attendance: John, Aaron, Jay, Cam, Jeff

This past weekend the Scott RC Mountain Bike Team traveled to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia to race in the the H2O Overdrive Triple Crown Finals consisting of a three races: a Super-D, Short-Track and Cross-Country. Massanutten Resort, who hosted the event, is a classic mountain bike destination and has been holding races at the resort (on pretty much some of the same terrain) since 1989, including a UCI World Cup downhill event. The trails are typical Virginia - lots of rocks, climbing and included typically hot and humid Virginia weather.

Not only was this race the H2O Overdrive Triple Cup Finals, but it was also round two of the USA Cycling's Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships, and the Mid-Atlantic Kenda Cup Invitational qualifier. A lot on the line!

The major cycling news organizations came out to cover the race: http://www.cyclingnews.com/, http://www.velonews.com/ and http://www.cyclingdirt.org/.

Additionally, the Triple Crown format pitted all racers in the Triple Crown, whether pro, Cat 1, or in the open category, in the same running for prize money and started all of the categories together. So, an amateur could potentially win the top prize of the weekend if he won all the events.

On Saturday morning, the super-downhill event kicked off the weekend. The team met up before the 1:00 start and rode up the downhill course as a team to get a close look at what we'd be flying down. The trail was full of sweeping singletrack turns that followed the natural terrain, a few short climbs in rock gardens, large berms in fast corners, and some sections of 35+mph. It started out on a rocky ridgeline and finished in the main expo area. Unlike other super-D races, this one was a time trial format as the course was nearly 100% singletrack. We lined up by number and had a 1 minute gap between riders.

The team had a great result, with Aaron and me both top-10 in the pro field and Cam and John both finishing near the top in the open category. Jay had a brief mechanical, but managed to untangle himself and was able to finish with a fast time.
It felt like a 15 minute wind-sprint down the mountain. My heart-rate was maxed out for nearly the entire course!

Former World Championship medalist Sid Taberlay of Sho-Air won the event, with local multi-US national champion Jeremiah Bishop in second.

Saturday afternoon was the short-track, on a bermed course in the expo area, that featured switchbacks, some singletrack, a little jump and was very spectator friendly.

All 60 guys in the Triple Crown event lined up at the same time and went for the holeshot into the singletrack. John had an awesome start, but was taken down by another rider just before hitting the singletrack.

I made it 6th into the singletrack and rode on the wheel of Bishop, Taberlay, Andy Schultz and one other for the first half of the race. The venue was soon covered in massive amounts of dust from the riders and it was nearly impossible to see or breathe clearly.

I fell back from the lead group and Aaron caught up to me - I waved him through into the singletrack ahead of me so I wouldn't get in his way and he continued on to chase the leaders. I could see Cam in a group 30 seconds or so behind me, but couldn't see Jay or John through all the dust.
I eventually recovered from blowing up, but couldn't catch Aaron to help him chase the leaders. Aaron placed 7th and I was 8th. Cam was the first amateur to finish in 13th place overall (besting several pros).

The next morning was extremely hot - nearly 95 degrees - for the the cross country. Riders were tasked with completing two 12 mile loops that climbed to the summit of Massanutten mountain. The course was nearly all singletrack and riders encountered a long switchbacking ascent with several technical rock sections, a rocky-ridgeline, a long singletrack descent from the top of the mountain, lots of baby-head rocks and a few extremely steep, but short climbs. The race was a mass start and a number of riders showed up for just the cross-country portion of the weekend. So, fresh legs to push the rest of us...

The race started with a bang and headed uphill for the first 10 minutes. Aaron got a great start and caught onto the lead pack. I fell back a bit, lungs burning in the heat, and had to recover for the first major climb. I could see Aaron ahead of me in a large group of riders for almost the first 30 minutes, but I couldn't match his pace. Luckily, the promoters had a number of water stations and cooled us off on the switchback uphills.

The trails to the summit were incredible cut singletrack. The thousands of hours of labor that had gone to make them over the past several years were clearly evident. Aaron rode a very strong race to finish 6th in the strong pro-field. Cam was second in the men's open category, just missing out on first by 11 seconds; I picked up 12th in the pro field. John was 3d in the Cat 1 30-39 race and Jay won the Cat 1 50+ master's race by over 9 minutes.

In the combined overall for the weekend, Aaron was 6th, I was 9th, Cam was 13th and John was 21st. A great result for the team!

Results are here: http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/massanutten-hoo-ha-ne

- Jeff

June 14, 2010

2010 Stoopid 50 Race Recap

Stoopid 50
June 13, 2010
Outside State College, PA

In attendance: Jay, Cam, Jeff

Conditions: Hot, muggy, raining (for the first hour), rocky

Course: 50 miles over incredible ridgelines, rocks, roots, gorgeous flowing and swooping singletrack, and a good amount of fireroad climbing

This past Saturday, I drove up to the State College, PA area to meet up with Jay and Cam and race the Shenandoah Mountain Touring's Stoopid 50. Jay and Cam's friends, the Matthews, lived just across the street from the race and they graciously let me stay at their awesome house for the night and use their garage to make last minute bike preparations for the next day. It was great to stay inside in air conditioning on such a muggy evening - camping would have been tough.

The next morning, we all got up early to get ready. The weather was threatening and overcast. After a few cups of coffee (great coffee at the Matthews' house, by the way!) and some waffling on my part on whether to use a camelback, we rolled over to the start area and I got in a bit of a warmup. All of the roots and rocks in the woods were covered in precipitation - I was having a lot of trouble riding some of the singletrack because everything was so slippery. And, as this was my third time back on my Spark since April following an injury, I was seriously lacking in fine-tuned technical skills.

I'd gotten some advice from Chad McCurdy (he was staying with us at the Matthews and helped me out with a tubeless setup on my Spark) to try and get to the front of the field before the Tussey Mountain ridgeline trail; that in years past, if you weren't one of the people first into the singletrack, you'd be walking for a long ways in the traffic jam.

The course consisted of some gravel road sections that led to awesome singletrack sections. Luckily, most of the climbing was on the gravel roads, so the singletrack was usually pretty flowing, either downhill or fairly flat. It made for a ton of fun.

At the start, the 200+ person field rode up a 15 minute road climb and it started pouring rain. Jeff Schalk, super-endurance racer from the Trek Co-Op team led up the climb and I jumped to get up a good position just before the first turn-off into singletrack, making it into the woods in 4th place. The two guys in front of me both crashed on the slick rocks that covered the trails. So, I followed Shalk for a bit until his Trek teammate bridged up to us and the three of us rolled along the extremely rocky ridgeline with what seemed like a good gap to any chasers. I was very happy to have gotten out of traffic and able to ride the rocks at a good pace.

Cam and Jay got near the front on the first singletrack section too, but Cam got a flat on the sharp rocks and took some time to fix it. He rode with 60psi in his tire to avoid pinch-flatting the tube which didn't make for the best of traction on the slick rocks.

Schalk's teammate flatted and I crashed at about the same time and Schalk got a gap on me. When we got to the first fire-road, I could see him in the distance, but as we went further, he put more and more time on me. I can easily see why he has won so many endurance races.

A guy from Alan bikes, Dave Weaver, caught up to me at the top of the long fireroad climb and I followed him down the other side to the feed zone and into the next section of singletrack, where I proceeded to crash, a lot. I seemingly crashed every time I saw a guy with a camera. Not the most photogenic day for me. Apparently, there's a video of me faceplanting into a rock garden. Despite all of my stupid wrecks, my bike performed flawlessly. I was so glad to have a 110mm-travel bike to get me through the rocks - riding a hardtail would have been exceptionally painful.

Weaver got a gap on me in some tight, rocky singletrack, and I was off on my own for the next hour until mile 35 at the feedzone when I caught up to him and a Freeze-Thaw singlespeed guy, Matt Ferrari, caught up to me. At the feedzone, Schalk had about 7 minutes on us. The climb after the feedzone seemed endless and I felt like I was standing still. I made the mistake of looking up the trail and couldn't see the end of it, or the top of the mountain. And, I watched Weaver and Ferrari get smaller and smaller in the distance. That makes the climb go so much slower. I was sure that a whole bunch of people were catching me, but I was getting some bad leg cramps in my right leg (I've been compensating for my left leg injury by using my right leg more) and I couldn't go any faster.

I caught Ferrari on the next climb and just trailed him to the top of yet another endless climb. On the last climb to the final singletrack descent, he got a gap on me and there was nothing I could do. I gingerly made it down the final, insanely rocky, singletrack to the finish to get 4th overall, about 20 minutes behind Schalk, 4 minutes behind 2nd and 3 minutes behind 3d.

Cam and Jay met up on the trail and rode together for most of the day and came in 20th and 21st overall - Jay was also second in the master's division (he had 30 minutes on 3d place).

Results are here.

All, and all, a hard day, but tons of fun. The SMT crew had built very cool rock bridges over difficult sections, chopped down tons of undergrowth in fast flowing singletrack and put together a fun and challenging series of singletrack linked by long fireroad climbs. I was just happy to survive.

Next weekend is the Massanutten Hoo Ha!, the third and final stop on the H2O Overdrive US Cup Triple Crown. It should be another day of long climbing and rocky singletrack!

- Jeff

June 10, 2010

Iron Hill Challenge Recap

Iron Hill Challenge - MASS Series Event

Iron Hill Park, DE
June 6, 2010
Hot (my car thermometer read 92 degrees), muggy and threatening thunderstorms

Nearly all of the team made it to the Iron Hill Challenge last weekend in Delaware. In attendance were Ross, John, Aaron, Jay, Cam, Scott, Mike and myself. Our team had a great race!

The course is about 5 miles long and tucked into a little park. It offered tons of twisting and turning singletrack, a few rocks, one longish climb and some awesome natural features (the promoters played up the "Mega-Dip" (a huge bowl-type feature), but there were some other fun things to ride too). Lap times were in the 24-30 minute range and we all were racing 4 laps.

I haven't raced since my leg injury back in mid-April, so I was a little tentative about getting back on the mountain bike and risking losing all of the progress I've made in the past month-and-a-half after 6 hours a week of physical therapy. At the beginning of May, I wasn't able to walk, couldn't force my knee to turn even one pedal-stroke and was basically restricted to lying on the floor with my leg elevated, trying to drain out all the blood that had pooled in my knee and return my leg to normal flesh-color (it had basically turned black from the amount of bruising). But, with a really good physical therapist, lots of work in the swimming pool and lots of time, I'm back on the bike again.

We went out for a team pre-ride of the 5 mile course (well everyone else went out - I hung behind to make sure I could go at my own pace). I was very tentative on any rocks, but made it though one lap OK. The foliage was extremely lush - I couldn't see where I was going for a lot of the time, but started to pick up some confidence and speed as I got further and further along the course.

The start was in a big field and the open/elite men's category had about 30 guys. I started at the back, watched Aaron get a great start and ride away, but I found I could hang with everyone and even started passing people on the first long uphill.

It was cool to look back and see Cam right on my wheel. We were passing people together for the first full lap until I think I lost him on one pass. Somehow, I worked my way up to about 5th place when my freehub on my wheel started to stick (it was an old wheelset that I'd brought to the race - a very bad idea to have used them) and I lost the ability to pedal. I walked for about 10 minutes until I figured out what had happened (the chain had pulled the derailleur into the crankset), then set about fixing it and lost about 20 minutes in the process. Darn! So, I rode two more fun laps and finished second to last (which was exactly my target for my first race back).
Mike flatted about the same time I had freehub issues and he and I both had a good time on the course, but finished towards the back of the field.

Cam kept flying and finished 8th - an awesome result for a youngster in a large field!

John pinned it from the start in his race to win after leading from start to finish, ending up 4 minutes ahead of second place.

Jay did the same thing in his race and won convincingly.

Ross picked up a solid 5th place in his super fast category.

The heat got to both Aaron (who had just endured a hellaciously hot race in Texas the week before) and Scottie.

Full results are here.

It was great to see the team this weekend! I'm off to the Stoopid 50 Marathon in the State College, PA area this coming weekend, and I think Jay and Cam are going to join me for some fun in the rocks of central PA.

The next team race is the US Cup Triple Crown All Mountain Series finals presented by team sponsor H20 Overdrive at the Massanutten Hoo Ha! on June 19/20. It should be a big event on a classic mountain bike course (think rocky singletrack)!
- Jeff

June 08, 2010

Race Video

Check out the helmet cam video of the Pro/Elite Men race from Iron Hill just this past Sunday!

June 04, 2010

US Pro XCT #3 - Mellow Johnny's Classic

A few photos of Aaron at the May 29th US Pro XCT #3, Mellow Johnny's Classic, on Lance Armstrong's ranch in Dripping Springs, TX:

Race Report - Tymor Park Challenge

Race Report: Tymor Park Challenge, H2H Series
Location: Lagrangeville, NY
Date: May 23, 2010

This was round two of the Campmor H2H series at Tymor Park in Lagrangeville, NY. This course is known for its super long and steep climbs and one of the hardest races of this series.

I was able to get a good start off the line into the first climb into the single track, I was sitting about 6th out of 25+ racers. Then we hit a long steep climb and was able to make my way up to 4th place behind last year's pro racer Roger Foco. After following him to the halfway point of the first lap, I passed him to sit in 3rd for the whole race until Roger passed me on the final lap finishing in 4th. The top 4 of us finished with more than 3 minutes on the 5th place guy.

Team mate Ross Anderson had a strong race finishing in 6th place.

This series is by far one of the hardest and most competitive series on the east coast. Every race is jammed packed with 20-30 racers who are all super strong. If you can do good at these races, every other series will seem easy.

Results are here.

Off next this weekend to the MASS series race at Iron Hill in Delaware on June 6.

- John Arias