March 27, 2011

Ready to Go!

Race season starts next week and my bike is ready! Not much has changed since last year, but below are a few key points I'm excited about.

Cranskins to protect the finish on our Sram XX crank arms.

Maxxis IKON tires. EXO sidewall protection will be great for rocky New England racing. This will be my second year on the Stan's 355 29er rims. They have been holding up great. Together, rotational weight is kept to a minimum.

My clever (I think so) use of two ByKyle straps. I dislike saddle bags; I like to have everything be easily accessible. I don't like putting things into a jersey pocket because it is easy to forget things and whatever might be in a jersey pocket could come out during a crash or a not so smooth bunny-hop. I have a multi-tool and a chain tool held securely in place. The chain tool has a Sram quick link inside. That stuff won't be going anywhere.

Color matching, duh. It makes you go faster...

Genuine Innovations Big Air inflator. I hate flats (who doesn't), but I feel confident that should I rip a sidewall or ride over a bed of thorns, I can get back rolling in no time. GI has the best heads; I've tried a Planet Bike and Bontrager inflator. Both, quite frankly suck (harsh, but true) because they are not controllable and are a lot more fragile. With GI, you twist on the cartridge and push the head onto the valve, it is spring loaded. If you don't need to use your whole cartridge, just take the inflator off the valve (but don't unscrew the cartridge!). It won't keep spitting out the gas, it will stop. It is not rocket science for GI, but for other companies' inflators, it is. The Big Air comes with a sweet seatpost attachment that secures the system in place. Rubber band not included, I just like to be extra safe.

Quality parts means one can focus on riding and racing!

March 22, 2011

Crankskins Video - 2011 Products

Here's a video from one of our awesome sponsors, EJ at Crankskins.  If you're looking to protect your bike from paint wear, to add some color to your bike (he can turn out custom sticker kits for you in a heartbeat), team banners, or pretty much anything you can think of (he made some cool custom Nalgene bottle samples for us last year), check out his site at:

And, use this discount code to get a special deal on your order:

- Jeff

March 18, 2011

Shootout on Angler's Ridge - Race Report

What: Shootout on Angler's Ridge Cross Country; Wicked Witch Time Trial
Where: Danville, VA
When: March 12/13
Who: Aaron and Jeff
Conditions: Perfect spring weather - dry and sunny and in the mid-60s to mid-70s
Results:  Time trial - Aaron 2nd, Jeff 5th;  Cross-country - Aaron 4th, Jeff 7th

I headed south last weekend to Danville, VA with Laura to the Shootout on Angler's Ridge to meet up with Aaron and Jen (who were driving north from Key West) for a great weekend of racing.  The Southern Virginia Mountain Bike Association was hosting a time trial Saturday afternoon, a movie (Ride the Divide with multi-time Divide Race winner Matt Lee in attendance) and a cross-country on Sunday.  The weather couldn't have been better and the turnout was enormous.  Plus, I haven't seen a prize list like the one offered there in quite a long time (not insignificant cash prizes for the Sport categories, as well as large cash prizes the Expert and Pro categories (male and female))

On Saturday morning the town of Danville held a trail running race on some of the mtb trails (Laura won her age group in the half marathon and was the second woman overall).  Laura reported back that the trails had some very steep, but short climbs and the course had no flat sections at all.

A nice warm-up on the trails showed them to be in top condition - it's evident that the local organization has done a tremendous job in upkeep of their trails.  They showed almost no sign of the torrential rains earlier in the week.  I confirmed Laura's trail info - very short and steep hills.

Time Trial Start
 The time trial was one lap around the shortened cross-country course and featured punchy climbs and just about 100% singletrack that was a blast to ride.  The time trial was open for all and paid $500 for the winner, with cash back to 10th (or 15th) place.  Aaron turned in a fast ride to finish a close second and I came in 5th.  That was my first hard effort of the year and it was a rude awakening for my legs. That hurt!
Heading down the road and into the woods on the TT course
Sprinting for the finish in the TT
Saturday night was a pasta dinner put on by the race organizers, and featured Sierra Nevada beer plus a movie on a large screen in the Danville town community center (a converted train depot).  A very fun way to spend the evening!
Day two was very warm and the races were delayed for nearly an hour becuase of the high numbers of people registering.  The race sold out in full.  I haven't seen that happen in years in a mtb race and it speaks well to how much fun this race was - everyone wanted to join in, especially on such a sunny day.  After the 6 hour endurance race got under way, the pro race started 30 minutes later (they started the pro field plus all of the multiple expert fields at once).
Before the start
On the starting line
Someone went down in the pro category just after the start, taking down a number of other people and bringing Aaron to a dead stop.  A bike flew up and whacked my rear derailleur, throwing it out of alignment.  But, I was able to get through the carnage and followed Nick Waite into the singletrack where a group of 6 formed.
Aaron chasing back to the leaders after the start line carnage
About 1/3 of the way through the first lap, I was about to blow up due to the high pace and finally Aaron caught back onto the main group.  As soon as that happened, I dropped back to try and recover at my own pace.  Boy, was I glad to be riding my Scott Spark RC.  Its 110mm of travel smoothed out all of the roots that crossed the trail and helped me speed up on all the downhills and weighing only 21 pounds helped me up any hill in my way.

The trails were tons of fun and all of the other riders were very polite and accommodating given the tight passing areas.  Lots of "can I pass on your left" and pleases and thank yous went a long way to getting around slower riders very easily.

On lap #2, I grabbed a bottle of Tri-Berry nuun for some electrolytes.  The day was much warmer than I'd anticipated and I was sweating out a lot of salt.  Given the short steep hills, it was a recipe for cramping.  I started to pick up the pace and felt better and better.

By the end of the second lap, I'd made up some time and was ready to go for lap #3.  I grabbed my favorite type of electrolyte drink, nuun's Kona Cola (caffeinated - it tastes somewhat like Coke and gives the energy that Coke gives at the end of a race, but without the carbonation so it's exceptionally easy to drink and doesn't upset my stomach) and roared out for my last lap.  I
passed four riders who had been ahead of me for most of the day and just ran out of time to catch two more who were almost in reach by the time I hit the finish to get 7th.  The result wasn't the best, but it felt like my form was coming around and I felt better at the finish than at the start - that's a good feeling!

Post-race salt deposits on my face - nuun prevented any cramping from dehydration!
Aaron in 4th - rocking his new SOLE Casual Flips
I was very impressed by one rider, Dylan Johnson, a 16 year old who raced in the 19-29 year old Category 2 race.  He rode a singlespeed and beat all of his competitors.  If he'd been in the open singlespeed category, he probably would have won that race too.  I remember seeing Dylan in the Shenandoah 100 last fall where he finished 4th place in the singlespeed category against some top riders.  Watch out for him in the future - this kid is fast!

After a bit of a wait for results - the wait was made much easier by tons of BBQ from Checkered Pig BBQ - we hit the road back to DC to close out on an awesome weekend.  A great sunny race weekend - finally warm enough to wear my SOLE Sport Flips - it could be the reason I felt so good this weekend was becuase my feet were happy!

Results are here.

I'd highly recommend this race to anyone next year.  The course was tons of fun, the event with its two day format, plus a social event, made for a great time and the prize lists were phenomenal.  This was as much fun as I'd had at some great events last summer like the Massanutten Hoo-Ha, the Leadville 100 or Shenandoah 100.

Next up for me are two circuit races in Maryland this weekend, then a crit and the Jefferson Cup road race next weekend in Charlottesville, VA.

- Jeff

March 15, 2011

new sunglasses!

Optic nerve sent some shades for 2011...Their otto syte sunglasses are my favorite... I lost the pair i had last year and had been missing them.

March 10, 2011

California Training

I went to California recently on my annual pilgrimage to somewhere warm, sunny and green to fight off the end of winter doldrums and to get a solid week of road riding miles into my legs.  Like last year, I headed to Los Olivos, CA, just outside of Santa Barbara.  Los Olivos is home to the Santa Ynez round of the US Cup mountain bike series, and even more appropriate for a week's vacation, multiple high quality vineyards and lots of climbing on quiet roads.

This year I headed to CA to ride with my girlfriend, Laura, and three teammates from my National Capital Velo Club road team, Tom, Rob and Rob, and Rob girlfriend (and my realtor), Tiffany. As we drove north from LAX to Los Olivos, it started raining and the weather report was for snow in the mountains surrounding the valley.  I thought it never snowed in Southern California!

Our first day of riding, we set out for a 100 mile loop that took us up and over two significant climbs.  We could see the snow off in the distance on the descent from this 15 kilometer climb:

Heading down the canyon, snowy mountains in the distance
Having been stuck in the snowy and cold East Coast for the winter, a 5+ hour day to start the week was a shock to the system, but I was happy to have finished off the ride not completely bonked.  I must still have some residual long-distance endurance left over from my fall of adventure racing. As the test-piece mountain in the area, Mt. Figueroa was still snowed in on our second day of riding, we headed out for another 80+ mile ride through the local canyons.  Some viciously steep climbs, but thankfully, they were no longer than 10-15 minutes each (with the exception of the hour+ long drag up Foxen Canyon).

Stopping for a bite to eat after summiting Drum Canyon
Day three brought more clear and warm weather and we headed up Mt. Fig, a mountain that overlooks the Santa Ynez valley and the route climbs almost 4,500 feet in 15 miles.  My legs were feeling pretty cooked and I wasn't able to keep up the 350 watt average that I held for the hour long climb last year, and instead enjoyed the scenery on the way up.

Unfortunately, the summit was snowed in still (lucky for me as the guys had to turn back and found me on the way back down - I'd hit a sharp rock and torn my sidewall - I was worried about a very long walk back home, but my Genuine Innovations inflator got me home - I have the Ultrainflate Plus, which is awesome for these trips because I can't always be sure which CO2 cartridges are available and it uses both threaded and unthreaded cartridges).

Heading to Mt. Fig

The start of the climb, proper
Heading up to the mountain summit in the distance
The descent
Day four brought an easy ride and tours of several local vineyards.  We bought tons of wine to bring home and really enjoyed our visits to Alma Rosa , Sanford , Dragnonette and several others.

Day five was an epic route - huge climbing (the first one on dirt), crazy descents (one was a 10 mile dirt road descent) and incredible views. Old San Marcos Road into Painted Cave Road hurt me and it took awhile to recover, but hung on to get to the summit of the mountains overlooking Santa Barbara and the crazy descent down Arroyo Burro road to the (suspected) nudist camp and back to Los Olivos.  Everyone looked a bit shelled after that 5+ hour loop.

Looking back at Old San Marcos Pass road
The view from the heights of Santa Barbara
Descending Arroyo Burro
We took one day off due to rain and got in an easy ride on day seven before heading to Los Angeles for the night and our flight out on Sunday.  We went out to dinner in Santa Monica and it was very cold - the locals were saying that it was the coldest they'd seen in recent memory... Oh well, I guess it's not always warm and sunny in Southern California, but I hope to go back again in 2012.

You can check out GPS routes of our training days here on the Ride with GPS site.

I'm off to my first mountain bike race of 2011 in Danville, VA this weekend - the opener of the Virginia Off Road Series and promoted by the Southern Virginia Mountain Bike Association.  It's a two day event, with time trial on day one and a cross country on day two (or an endurance race for those who are so inclined). The event also has a trail running race (Laura's joining me for this trip to do the half marathon to get ready for the Boston Marathon) and a free screening of the Ride the Divide movie about the incredible mountain bike race from Canada, through the US Rocky Mountains to the Mexico border.  Ouch.  I'm looking forward to seeing it!

- Jeff

March 07, 2011

Finally Riding on Dirt

Here in MA, we have had a craaazy winter:
The snow kept coming, then it wouldn't melt. Only one hour away, the Cape is a wonderful place to ride bikes. They get less snow and more rain, so the trails are dry and fast.
Where I am, there is still snow on the ground. It will be a while before my local trails dry out. This was my first real mtb ride of 2011. I can't remember my last mtb ride on dirt, but I know it was back in November / December. The roads have been in horrible shape and simply unsafe - no shoulder (a negative shoulder?) and 10 foot high snow banks. So, needless to say, Nate, Fred and I were ecstatic about getting to ride bikes on trails. The Cape is THE place to ride bikes in the winter.
He had so, so, so much rust on that bike. He had to ride in the 44 the whole ride because not too many gear combos were working...
There was some mud in spots.
It was 65 and, just wow!!! I almost got a sunburn. Maybe I shouldn't say where we rode (ehh, doesn't really matter), but we saw 10 National Guard Hummers (hint, hint) on the way down and more Hummers on military trucks once there. Behave yourself there, you could have an F-15 chasing you before you know it. We rode for about three hours and saw maybe fifty other mountain bikers. I'm sure there were more. No one else, just Cabin-fever-ridden mountain bikers. Nate bonked hard about 2 hours into the ride. He enjoyed the Nuun Kona Cola and Raw Revolution bar I offered him. Despite his hallucinations about Alice in Wonderland, he survived and got us home. In other news, I prepared my new Sole custom footbeds in my Mavic shoes and running shoes. I've had some issues relating from shoes lately, so hopefully these will help.
In the oven!