September 18, 2010

H2H Chainstretcher Race Recap - September 12

The Chainstretcher is hosted by WMBA at Blue Mountain Reservation in Peekskill, NY. The trail system at Blue is probably some of the best riding in NJ/NY. The course has some good technical sections but is primarily all connected by very smooth and fast single track. This year much of the climbing was cut from the course, however as is standard for H2H race courses the climbs are short, fast and technical. The race started out at a good pace, not too fast and certainly not too slow. My teammate John Arias pulled off the front for much of the first lap setting a strong pace for the initial lap. I was doing my best to sit in behind a couple of our primary competitors from Team Bulldog. The pace never let up and I found myself 30-40 seconds back of the leaders on lap one. I came into this race with a set strategy of riding strong consistent laps so I was not that worried about the gap. I was feeling good going into lap 2 and 3 and knew that I would be able to bring the gap down.

As the the race progressed this is exactly what happened. On lap 3 I moved into second place and was only able to hold this position for a quarter lap before Jason Clark of Cannondale Factory Racing passed me back with a strong attack. The remainder of the last lap continued in this manner to the finish. After creating a small gap, I was able to crawl back to Jason and finish two seconds back for an overall third place. John Arias also finished strong in fifth place.

Best wishes go out to Mike Kucharski of Team Bulldog. After falling early in the race Mike was evac'd with a cracked pelvis and severe laceration to his hip.

September 10, 2010

Shenandoah 100 Race Recap

Shenandoah Mountain 100 - Final event in the National Ultra Endurance mountain bike series
September 5, 2010
Stokesville, VA
In attendance:  Jeff Dickey
Weather: Perfect early fall - cool in the morning, but warming through the day with bright sunshine and very dry

After slogging through the Leadville 100 less than a month ago, I decided I wasn't done with long distance mountain bike racing and I was able to get an entry into the sold out Shenandoah Mountain 100 about a week before the race (unlike Leadville, which doesn't permit entry transfers).

Laura and I headed to the SM100 campground in Stokesville, VA on Saturday afternoon after her weekly 20+ mile Saturday morning run.  There, we met up with Colby and a bunch of the folks from Gripped Racing.  If you haven't seen Gripped Films' HD film "Chasing Legends" about the HTC-Columbia team and the 2009 Tour de France (in which Scott bikes feature prominently), I'd highly recommend either buying the DVD or catching a showing.  Gripped has also made some cool films about the fight to race in the Atlanta Olympic mountain bike race (Off Road to Athens) and a film about 24-hour racer Chris Eatough - good viewing for those winter-time training sessions on the trainer in the basement...

Unlike Leadville, the SM100 is one big loop and features a number of shorter climbs, leading up to the "Death Climb," a 20+ mile fire-road monster.

SM100 Elevation Profile
Also, unlike Leadville, the SM100 never cracks 10,000 feet (my lungs were really happy about that fact), "only" 600 people start the event (compared to the 1400+ at Leadville), and most of the descents are on very fun, but rocky singletrack.
Gorgeous morning for a race!
 I almost missed my 6:30 start after long lines developed for the port-a-potties.  

Frantically trying to get myself ready for the start
  But, I was able to start in the front group.

Starting up at the front
On the first climb with eventual winner Christian Tanguy stringing out the field behind him, the main separation occurred and 5 guys got away. I crested the first climb in about 8th place and immediately happened on Jeremiah Bishop who had torn his sidewall in some sharp rocks and was fixing his tire.  On the first road section to climb #2, a group of 5 of us formed and pacelined to the base of the climb. Very cool to be riding with Chris Eatough, who has (mostly) retired from a pro cycling and now runs BikeArlington, which develops cycling opportunities in my hometown.

A small split opened up on the second climb and I found myself riding with two other guys. We set a solid pace up some steep singletrack and after cresting the top, headed down through some rocky terrain.  Unfortunately, on the descent, I flatted on a sharp rock and ripped a hole in my tire - too big for my Stan's to seal.  I kept hoping the hole was a small one, but it was not to be.  I had to pull out my tube and use my last CO2 to inflate it. 

By the time I'd finished playing around with my tire, about 40 guys had passed me. I hate riding with a tube and was afraid I'd pinch-flat, so I rode down the descent very gingerly and started to try and chase on the next section of fire-road.  I caught up to 10-15 guys who had passed me, but I used a ton of energy chasing without anyone to work with.  On climb #3, I kept up a solid pace until the series of false flats at the summit until I cracked.  I guess I wasn't eating or drinking enough because I was trying to chase back to my position, but I really fell apart.

After the descent down mountain #3, I had a long stop at aid station #3, got my tires re-inflated and took on a lot of food.  Also, the aid station had ProGold ProLink chain lube, so I used a bunch on my chain to fight off the dusty and dry conditions.

I rode out fairly slowly after aid station #3 and rode some fun uphill and downhill singletrack with eventual female winner, Amanda Carey. At aid station #4 (57 miles into the race) where Laura was volunteering, I was ready to throw in the towel. I just didn't have it that day, but the conditions and weather were so nice, I decided to keep going up the Death Climb and finish the race.

I don't think my heart rate really got above slow walking pace on the 1.5 hour Death Climb from mile 60 up to aid station #5 at mile 75.  Once there, I stopped for 10-15 minutes, drank a lot of Coke, ate some pizza and chatted with a friend who was volunteering at the aid station.  After my extended stop, I still had another 30 minutes of climbing left to go up to mile 80 before a rippingly fast and rocky 7-mile singletrack descent to aid station #6 and the psychologically difficult climb back up Hankey Mountain (where I'd initially cracked on the day).

I got a bunch more food at aid station #6 and dragged my still-bonking self up and over the mountain and down to the finish.

Finishing up the race and collecting my beer mug!
An awesome day for a long ride in the George Washington forest
The party before and after the race made the SM100 far better than many other races - the organizers had a full dinner for racers on Saturday night as well as another full dinner on Sunday night after the race.  The large number of DogFish Head beer helped make the dinners into a big social occasion.

A well deserved beer after the race
Also, the volunteers at the SM100 were awesome - tons of energetic and cheerful folks to help out at each aid station to fill bottles, food and have drop bags ready before your wheels stopped turning. Also very cool was every racer had their name prominently on their name plate. So there were no shortage of folks yelling "Go Jeff" at every turn.  And, even better was the number plate had the elevation profile of the race printed on it - very helpful.

I finished in 8 hours 48 minutes, good for 62 place out of 500+ finishers (results are here).. Not a good day for me, but I'll be back for 2011 and hopefully break the 8 hour mark. And, even though I thought I had a hard day, my race didn't compare to a number of people who took nearly the full 16 allotted hours to finish the event.  As I was going to sleep in the campground at 9:45pm, people were still finishing in complete darkness.  Those folks' perseverance is amazing.

And, I had a really good conversation after the race.  A fellow racer came up to me after the race and thanked me for recommending that he ride with ESI Grips.  Earlier in the summer, I'd told him about how much I liked the silicone grips for their comfort, shock absorption, light weight and tackiness even in wet conditions.  He'd raced the SM100 a few times before and had problems with hand numbness on such a long ride.  This year, riding with a set of ESI's Chunky Grips, no problems at all! (and he knocked a good amount of time off his prior best finish time).  I've been using ESI's thinner Racer's Edge grips all season this year, and I'm totally hooked. Nothing else works as well as these grips - check out the photos of any US national or any world level mountain bike race and you'll see most of the top pros riding with them with good reason.

Next up for me is adventure racing season (followed by cross season).  I'm doing an 18 hour race near Williamsburg, VA in late September and racing the 30-hour USARA National Championships in Pennsylvania and the 30-hour Checkpoint Zero National Championships in Moab, Utah.  Those races are going to make the SM100 seem like a short training ride!

- Jeff

September 08, 2010

Windham Worlds Weekend

Well the Windham World Cup weekend has come and gone. I've waited to write something about this weekend because I wanted to see how Mount St. Anne played out. Well as of this writing Nino Shurter and the Swiss Power Mountain Bike Team have sealed the 2010 race season. I mention this because being a Regional powerhouse team I can't help but feel inspired and motivated by the international guys.

I arrived at Windham on Friday the 27th swung by the house we had rented and since no one was there yet figured I would stop by the race sight, pick up the packet, stop by the Scott tent and just wander around to see what was going down. After getting the packet I swung over to the Scott tent and ran into teammates Jay Dodge, Cam Dodge, Nathaniel Williams, Ginny (Jay's wife). Also to my surprise, just coming in from a ride, was Nino Shurter, Florian Vogel, Patrik Galleti and Thomas Frischknecht.

I quickly caught up with everyone to find out what the course was all about. Very Euro in layout. Short laps with a bit of climbing and some quick descending. Keeping with the theme of the 2010 World Cup venues anyone spectating had some pretty good vantage points. After the quick introductions to the Swiss Power team I made my way out on to the course for a couple of pre-rides. The course overall wasn't bad.

Windham had, from what I was told, about 7 inches of rain over Monday, Tues and Wed, but was pretty dried out on Fri. I found the dirt to be Superman dirt where you can really lean the bike and not slide the tires. As for climbing the rear wheel sticks like velcro with every pedal stroke just throwing you forward. It's the kind of soil, course where you want to ride at race pace because you never feel this good in an actual race. After a couple of laps I headed back to the Scott tent and wound down from the euphoric feeling that is a World Cup. After all we are riding the same course and tenting with the number one team in the world.

When dusk started to roll in we headed back to the house showered up and headed into Windham to check out the Block Party they had going on. Everyone was in attendance including Aaron Snyder and his girlfriend Jen, who made it up for the two days and a couple of the Scott reps who happened to drop by for the festivities. The block party was pretty chill with what is basically a sleepy town until winter trying their best to pull off the winter skiing vibe in August. It was fun to watch, but the Roller Derby was by far the coolest thing I've seen in a while. The girls wanted to throw down on each other, but were behaving themselves. After a couple of beers at the local brewery it was back home and to bed.

Saturday was a fun, cool, low key day. Everything spectating was going on. I hooked up with Aaron, Jen and all around good guy Bart Passanante (team mgr, northeast sales manager for Scott and legendary drinker) and headed up to watch the Pro Womens XC and Mens XC. We had rockstar parking on one of the technical descents and dug our feet in. It's very telling watching the Elite racers. As for the climbs and flat sections there isn't a whole lot of hierarchy. If you have a good day you're up there, but on the descents it's a whole different story. You can definitely tell the Elites from the Continental and Regional Pros. They seem to go down as flawlessly as water. It's almost magical to watch. The Mens race the same thing, but at a faster pace and for the first couple of laps it seems they were all together. Ants marching, but at a Neil Pert pace. Super fast. Leading out the procession was local hero and motorcycle mad man Jay De Jesus (sp?). He looked good and at one point I thought he was losing to the Elite men. After 4 hours of being perched on the hillside Catherine Pendrel and Jaroslav Kulhavy took the win with Nino Shurter securing the World Cup overall. Mission one accomplished..

Nino Schurter flying into the spectator friendly woods
Ripping through the rock garden
Frischy's "loaner" Scale 899 - Florian Vogel's super fast and light bike
Frischy out taking photos of his riders
Mission two....Sunday 8am. This is the Race the World for the category racers and one which I was training specifically for. The Cat 1 30-39 race started at 8am. Teammates John Arias, Ross Anderson and myself were on the start sitting in the first two rows. John and Ross had a better start then I did.

Ross dropping into Kabush Falls

With about 50 starters in the field things got hectic quick. I flubbed getting into the pedal and with that many guys aiming for the same thing I got pushed to the back quick. After finding the pedal and the holeshots I started to find my rhythm and pull back the field that got away. I moved up rather quickly and found myself sitting in what I thought was 10th through the first single track section. I felt good on the second set of climbs and found myself moving up even more. At this point I started to pick off the classes that started before me.

John focused on the descent

John heading into the sunlight and toward the finish line after a technical descent

Cam taking the direct line through Kabush Falls

 Not sure of where I was and who was actually in my field I got into a good flow on the descents and the climbs.

Scottie heading into Kabush Falls

 On lap 2 of 4 I found myself battling with the same 4 guys. I would drop them on the climbs and they would pass me on the descents. It went on like this for the next 2 laps.

John heading through Kabush Falls

Cam exiting Kabush Falls and toward the win

 When everything shook out I would finish in 6th being bested by the 4 guys that I had gone back and forth with. Ross took 9th and John took 19th.

Scottie, John and Ross post-race
Ross and Scottie
Teamates Jay Dodge and his son Cam rocked in their categories. Cam won his field and Jay finished 3rd.

Jay heading to 3d place

 Jeff Dickey raced the Pro (non-UCI) field and finished 5th. It was a good race and weekend for the team. The highlight of the weekend would have to be getting to tent and hangout with the Swiss Power Team. Watching the race set up, the way the mechanic works on and cleans the bikes, and just the overall level of professionalism is overwhelming. Keeping in mind that they are on the other side of the ocean of what they are used to is surreal. Everyone was super cool. Nino, Patrik, Florian and Thomas were overly helpful, friendly and approachable. Great guys in a great sport.

The team before the start

As someone who started riding/ racing in the mid 90's I have always followed Thomas Frischknecht his career and his races. It was very cool to have him sign my Ritchey jersey and ask me if my jersey turned purple on the sleeves (which it did). We discussed the old Ritchey days the bikes the man and tubed tires. His English is great and my Laden (Swiss/ German combination) is horrible, but we seem to understand each other in only the way one cyclist to another can.

One last point in mentioning. I want to send a heart felt thanks to everyone on the Scott RC Mountain Bike Team and especially Bart Passanante for making this whole trip and year as successful and fun as it has been. With the Mountain Bike season coming to a close and Cyclocross ramping up I couldn't think of a better group of guys to suffer with on multiple Sundays. I have one more race in my series and a few of the guys have two or three more. There will be more posts and judging by the way 2010 is playing out more fun and successes to write about.

Stay Healthy and keep the rubber side down, Scottie

September 02, 2010

Windham in Words

So much happened this past weekend that I will not be able to cover it all. It really was an amazing experience though and my race was just a small part of it all. I submitted a petition to race the Windham World Cup Junior XCO in July, thinking I had a few good results, but not much of a chance of actually getting to race. Each country only has a few discretionary slots available and I knew that I was far from being one of the 5-10 best kids in the country, so when I got the e-mail from Gully saying I was in, I was shocked, but definitely excited. I got over to the mountain on Wednesday and stayed until Sunday. The week leading up to the race was odd, my mind wasn't nervous, but my body was. I got three pre-ride laps in before the race and on one of them, I was passed by Julian Absalon on a muddy, technical uphill. The Frenchman said "hi" in English and didn't give me any attitude about being associated with Scott, the sponsor of his main rival, Nino Schurter.

When race morning came, I was relaxed and excited - ready to go. Warming up, there was a fantastic camaraderie between all the USA and Whole Athlete guys. For most of us, this was our first World Cup, or international race and we all knew what we were in for. I had my first ever call-up and got a sweet last row spot (I wouldn't want to hold anyone up!). Everyone was amazingly relaxed at the start. We had pre-race instructions read to us in three languages (one of them was French...but there were no French riders).

Okay, so on to the bike race: The gun went off and we were at the singletrack in no time.
On the startline

Heading up the first climb 
An unlucky Whole Athlete racer broke his chain right off the gun. That is just a testament to how quick the acceleration was. Despite having only 19 starters, there was a bottleneck in the first woods section. I was surprised how long I was able to keep sight of the main group, I thought for sure they'd be gone after five minutes. The sweep moto (or lead moto for the girls) rode behind me for the first lap or two so I couldn't just give up and stop. I felt like I was holding him up, so I tried to ride fast. Eventually the main group did disappear ahead, but a Hungarian was riding steadily 15 seconds ahead of me. My plan was to keep that gap until the last lap or two and catch him. On the third lap, I'd pass him walking his bike with a mechanical. Earlier on lap two, as I had feared, a Junior Woman caught up to me. The Chinese rider was a steady climber and a decent descender. I had seen her coming up on me for a while and when she finally got close enough, I just pulled over and avoided any chance of sketchy passing. I rode with her the entire decent and she slowly rode away on the third lap's climb.
Headed down through the fun singletrack
The fourth lap was tough, but easy knowing the end would come soon. Cramps were coming on. I had many friends, teammates, people I didn't know and course marshals (USA, USA!) cheering me on, which was pretty cool. I crested the hill, excited to pin the downhill and finish. About a third of the way down was a fast rock section. The preceding laps I went a little slow through it, but this was the last lap, so pin it I did...and slice my sidewall I also did.
Flying through Kabush Falls

 It was unbelievable how many Pro's flatted on that course. Nothing is crazy technical, but there are some fast sections. Going fast is good, but being smooth is also helpful. No problem, I brought a handy-dandy CO2 inflator. I loosened the valve...the whole valve - the valve core. At that point I just decided to run the technical sections and ride the rim on the grass sections. I didn't get passed since I was the last rider on the course (two kids were pulled with mechanicals). UCI records lap times and it looks like I only lost 3-4 minutes on the fourth lap, based on my other lap times. So, that was the race. 17th out of 19 starters. I will probably talk about the other happenings later. See my last post for some pictures.
Thanks for reading,