Spa City 6hr Race Report

As I mentioned earlier in the week, the weather forecast for Hot Springs had looked dismal. First, rain in the forecast, then torrential rain ahead of the race and a 50% chance of rain during. It eventually evolved into a perfect, sunny day with temperatures in the low 60s. Nonetheless, I’d readied the singlespeed by tearing apart my fancy new Air9 RDO in order to race a suspension fork (still waiting on one for the singlespeed, so it was set up rigid) and my new set of ENVE carbon wheels.

Unlike previous years (where the women’s roster was smaller), the growing popularity of the USA Cycling Pro UET series had drawn several out-of state hitters, including the likes of Pua Mata (not to disrespect the other women by not naming them, but, since… spoiler alert… Pua won, I’ll leave the additional e-stalking of the entry list up to you).

Tinker Juarez was there, too. I geeked out after the race and had him autograph my Huckin Kitty t-shirt.

The change for the better in the weather forecast didn’t “necessitate” the reliability of the singlespeed. However, from my past season of NUE racing, I’ve found an unexpected comfort zone in taking on Pro class women without the use of extra gears.

So, Saturday morning, I placed my bike in the rack and lined up for the most ridiculous LeMans start in modern endurance racing- ~300 yards of running on gravel and asphalt. At the least, it’s incredibly inconvenient. At the worst, the length of the run invites injuries such as sprained ankles and “tripping & falling on your face on the asphalt,” which is exactly what happened to a racer immediately to my left as the pack veered towards the bike racks. Luckily, I made it to my bike unscathed.

Also lucky for me, I made it onto the wheel of local endurance matriarch Laureen Coffelt at the start of the first lap. I followed her until nearly halfway through when she slid out on a root and I was able to sneak around. She’d been tough competition in the past, so I knew I’d have to keep kicking ass to stay ahead. In the 2nd and 3rd laps, I’d find myself battling back & forth with Jessica Cerra. I passed her partway through the 3rd lap and kept the pedal to the floor.

I had an epiphany somewhere around lap 4 or 5. I’d been riding at a breakneck pace for far upwards of 4 hours when the famous Greg Lemond quote “It never gets easier, you just go faster,” entered into my head. All I could think about was how much that quote was cheating aspiring beginners into a false sense that they would never experience greater pain, just greater speed. Greg was right- it doesn’t get easier. To the contrary, it gets harder. You go faster for longer periods of time. It hurts like hell in a perfect sort of way.

I thought of that for what seemed like a long time. The previous two years, I’d had bad days at that race. I’d exhausted myself and death-marched around the course in my granny gear. I’d felt tired and sore after it was over. Now was different. I was in my 5th lap and hammering up hills past people like I was still on lap 2. My brain was constantly overriding the burn in my legs that was telling me to take it easy. I started my 6th lap, and my body felt like it was ready to fall apart. As I rounded the pits, Todd “Antique Gun Show” Henne yelled that there was another woman just around the corner.

I put my head down and caught her on a muddy hill just before the trail dove into the woods. My legs threatened to cramp, and I thought of a much better quote, courtesy of Kevin, one of my favorite yoga instructors…

One more time, for enlightenment!

Indeed.

I managed to stay ahead for the entire lap, finishing my 6 in 6hrs, 10 minutes- 3rd place behind Pua Mata and Sara Gibeau (a rider from Colorado). The other two women who had been so competitive during the race were not far behind. I laid on the ground in the pit area for the next 30 minutes… exhausted and enlightened.

It’s nice to break a streak of bad luck at a particular race (though, honestly, the only other race where I’ve had much bad luck is ORAMM. I’ll get that one eventually). It’s also nice to break that streak with a performance that surprises myself. I’m left wondering where the combination of leftover cyclocross fitness and increasing endurance will land me this year.

 

 

The choice is (probably) made…

So, if you follow Brickhouse Racing on Facebook, you already know that the Air9 RDO magically showed up on Monday. I built it and rode this morning. First impressions? (in random order)

-It rides just like an Air9 CYA, but about 1.5 pounds lighter. The stiffness of the Enve wheels and carbon frame make it handle like a road bike. I feel like I could inflate the tires a little more and rock a criterium on it.
-I wish that Niner had included i-spec XTR shifters with the build. I’m ordering the (not Matchmaker cheap OR easy) conversion kit next week so I can clean the cockpit up a little.
-The Raceface Crank, BB, and PF30 adapter weighs exactly the same as a Truvativ XX BB30 crank and PF30 BB.
-Even on the medium frame, I still need a setback seatpost. I’m going to take the fancy red RDO post that came with the bike and put it on my road bike.
-The alloy Niner stem is really, really, nice. The 90/6deg that came with my bike weighs 107g. I just can’t use it since I’m rockin’ the medium frame (taller headtube), and I need a serious negative rise to get my handlebars anywhere close to where I want them. I went for the Zipp Service Course in -17deg, and I’m still wanting a little more drop.
-It weighs in at 20.12 pounds.
-I haven’t had a chance to take nice photos yet. Here’s a photo I took with my phone:

 

 

So, the choice is made, right? I’m gonna race the awesome new hotness, right?

Not so fast…

 

Singlespeed weather.

I’m 95% certain I’m going to end up pirating the suspension fork off of the A9RDO hawtness and slap it on my trusty singlespeed (it’s patiently waiting on a suspension fork of its very own since I sold the shared 20mm thru-axle fork that I was previously using). I hate riding gears when it’s sloppy. Don’t get me wrong… I’m always looking to torture test some new stuff. Just not in my first race of the season, and not when the conditions/terrain lend itself so well to singlespeeding.

Even though I’m not taking most of everyone’s advice, Of course, I always appreciate your input.

In non-Spa City 6hr news, I did a post- SouthernX podcast interview with XXC Mag that should be out in the next day or two. I’ll post a link once it’s up.

1st World Dilemma

Next weekend, I’ll be traveling out to Hot Springs Rockansas for the Spa City 6hr and a hearty Ouachita/Womble trail ride on Sunday . I was planning on showing off my fancy new Air 9 RDO that was going to ship out earlier this week. For reasons probably involving the Chinese New Year, the black paint-matched suspension forks on the black RDO bikes aren’t in stock, and that hasn’t happened.

So, now I’m left with two bikes full of options…

I’ve got my singlespeed. It’s rigid. I rode rigid (on my geared bike) last year and the rough, rocky tread beat the everliving snot out of me. The entire time I was racing/Sunday trail riding, I was wondering WTF I had been thinking when I’d made the decision to NOT use a suspension fork. Of course, bike racing is apparently much like what some women say about pregnancy and childbirth- for some stupid reason, despite the amount of pain I know I experienced, despite the conviction with which I’ve stated, “I never want to do that again,” I’m considering doing it again.
Of course, that route is not without its own hiccups. One of my beloved Formula R1 brakes crapped out on me at Syllamo earlier this month, and I just got around to investigating it on Wednesday. Formula wants the brake back to fix it. To tide me over, I installed the Avid XX brakes I’d pulled off of the geared A9C when it sold. The thing about those brakes is that one of them blew a seal a while back. Avid warrantied the brake with a 2012 model. I noticed Thursday that the replacement has very little power, makes a vague, squishy noise at the lever, and honks like the pads are fatally fouled. I should be able to make it work, but the XX brakes have been reliably unreliable enough that I’m not 100% comfortable with using them for a big weekend.

I also have the Jet9 RDO. Everything on it works. I love the bike, but I don’t feel as though I’m as fast on it as I would be on the singlespeed.

Then, there are the combo options:
-Put the suspension fork and/or brakes from the Jet9 onto the Singlespeed. Diva dilemma: I wouldn’t have a handlebar-mounted lockout, which is something I use constantly when I singlespeed.
-Use some more of my pull-off XX parts to make the singlespeed a 1×10 AND add a suspension fork. Possibly fun, definitely lots of work.
-Call Mike Stanley (Best Niner Rep in the World) frantically on Sunday afternoon and ask him to change my order to a green bike, which, hopefully, aren’t bound in limbo by the lack of black fork availability.

I have a hard time making up my mind on things like this and would probably end up deciding sometime around Thursday and having to rush and scramble. What I’d rather do is follow the wishes of the Almighty Blog Audience that includes you, the person reading this post right now. Comment your wishes either below, on Facebook (see link in the right sidebar), or on  Twitter (link also in the right sidebar).

GO!

Southern Cross Race Report

Despite being occasionally disturbed overnight by the plight of my next-door hotel neighbor Sergio, I felt pretty good after coffee and breakfast. I finished packing everything into the car, checked out, and headed back out to the Winery. The weather turned out to be gorgeous- a little chilly, but just the right amount of wind, and lots of sunshine.

Once I was changed, I rolled around a little (including a pre-ride of the first “run up” on the “cyclocross course” that we’d negotiate before heading to the road) then headed to the start area. Eddie O’dea made his usual pre-race announcements then started the race. As always, it’s a little hectic until everyone gets to the road- getting to the pavement with a group of fast riders and catching a good draft to the first hills can be instrumental in putting a gap on competitors.

I wasn’t sure of the gravel grinding abilities of most of my competition, but I knew that Cheryl Sorensen and Selene Yeager would be kicking large amounts of ass. So, I made it a point to hold their wheels. They’d put a small gap on me in the first half of the CX loop, but I caught up to them by riding the initial runup (see the Cyclingdirt.com video HERE . They pass the camera about 40 sec in, and around 55 sec, you see me ride by. I caught them at the top) The three of us exited the Winery together with Cheryl and Selene trading pulls all the way to the gravel. I wasn’t sure where the other women were, but I figured I was doing well in that position.

Once we were on gravel, the first few rollers started to break the pack up. One woman wrecked hard on a washboarded downhill, taking herself out of the race. I watched Cheryl drop Selene up the first decent-sized hill as they both rode out of sight. I settled in to my own pace. Within a few minutes, we were on Winding Stair- the first of two major climbs. There, I realized that singlespeeding has been good to me. Rather than use my lowest gear all the way up, I stayed more in top half of the cassette and tried to maintain a cadence I’d feel comfortable with on my singlespeed. I was back and fourth with some of the other women, and kind of lost track of where I was placed.

At the top, I swapped out bottles at the aid station and kept moving. I felt great, and the descent on the other side was exhilarating. I realized that the Addict CX is not only awesome for “normal” CX racing, but is also very stable and comfortable down sketchy gravel descents. Bonus!

Once at the bottom, I gathered up with some other riders and flew through the mid-race asphalt to the next climb- a long, steady grade that follows a gorgeous creek for several miles before heading uphill to the 2nd time through the aid station. I still felt great. I attribute it not only to good training, but also to consuming moderate quantities of Gu Roctane drink and gel. I’m usually one to be skeptical about expensive versions of fancy sugar, but I can’t help realizing that I just feel better when I eat Gu’s version with the addition of small amounts of caffeine and amino acids.

Back at the top, I refilled a bottle and went back to climbing. Not much after that, I came around a corner to find Selene flipping her bike upside down with a double flat. My surprise reflex exclamation was “Oh, SHIT!” which, in order to cover up my surprise, I quickly followed up with something along the lines of “do you have enough stuff?” I was a little dumbfounded, which, once she said she was OK, made me pedal really hard.

Another descent later, it was back on to pavement. I went all-in and put my elbows on my bars to time-trial to the finish. Along the way, I managed to pass one more woman that I’d been back/forth with on Winding Stair. I put my head down and didn’t look back until I reached the final CX lap at the Winery. The last run-up is always a killer, but at that point, everything already hurts enough that it doesn’t really matter. Within minutes, I crossed the finish line. Cheryl and the other two women were still there, so I knew it was a close finish. Cheryl was out there, but the other two had only been a few minutes up.

With that, my reign of Southern Cross semi-domination is over.

Upset? Not really… I mean, I’m not happily celebrating 4th or anything, but, as I mentioned in my previous postings, with a 2 month pre-Worlds hiatus from rides over 3 hours in duration coupled with a 2+ week break following worlds, I wasn’t expecting to be able to come out swinging at this race. I’m very happy with how hard I was able to push myself the whole time, and I feel like I’m climbing better than ever.

Full results HERE as well as a post-race interview from Cyclingdirt HERE

Southern Cross (pre)Race Report

I started typing this as my race report, but quickly realized that the Friday before Southern Cross was enough of a story to stand on its own…

Friday morning, I packed and left town sometime before 8. Some time around 9, Poolboy Matt called and let me know that my purse (including my drivers license and money) was on the kitchen table at home. With a healthy dose of cursing, I turned around at Exit 52 (I get on the interstate at Exit 16) to retrieve it and start over.

With the addition of an extra hour and a half of driving, I arrived in Dahlonega for registration as the sun was setting. Once again, Eddie and Namrita had done a great job of  getting the race set up at the Montaluce Winery. Sound like a weird place to base a bike race? Well, yeah, it is. When you walk in to the winery for registration, the fancy people all look at you funny, and the kind, nicely dressed woman at the hostess desk quickly directs you upstairs for bike registration without asking if you’re actually there for bike race registration. Of course, Montaluce is a beautiful venue (especially at sunset), and everyone appreciates their support of the races… but that doesn’t make it any less awkward.

I picked up my race packet and headed back out to the Quality Inn in Dahlonega. I hate going on a long car ride without riding a little afterward, so, while I unpacked, I turned the AC to its coldest setting and set my bike up on the trainer. I quickly realized that the National Geographic channel has also devolved into a series of “cops” style reality TV shows. The “Wildlife Police” (about California Game Wardens) version was my favorite…

After a few intervals and a little spinning, I cleaned up and debated as to where I’d go for dinner. At 8:30 on a Friday night, downtown Dahlonega (where a couple of decent pizza places reside) was sure to be crawling with college kids and bike racers. There was an Asian place attached to the hotel, but I suspect that the quality of the food would be questionable, and that it would be overly sugary and greasy. So, I nixed the sugar, kept the grease, and went with a more reliable pizza delivery dinner.

As I was drifting off to sleep around 11:00, I heard angry banging on a nearby door and someone yelling, “SERGIO!” over and over. I quickly realized that it was someone banging on MY door. I went to the door and yelled back, asking what the hell they were doing. The guy outside explained he was sorry and had the wrong room, and that he meant to knock on the one next door. Great.

But wait, it gets weird-er.

At exactly 4:09am, something woke me up. I didn’t realize what it was at first, but then I heard it again- the guy in the room next door (Sergio?) was groaning. It sounded like Master P was in the throes of the drunken state when you’re ready to pass out, but you’re too sick, and the room is spinning around you. I tried calling the front desk. No one answered. I was about to call the police (he sounded like he might actually need medical help), when I heard a sober voice in his room. Things got quiet, and I went back to sleep. He started back up again around 5:45 and woke me just before my alarm went off.

I hope he learned his lesson.

I packed the car and went to the Country Cafe near downtown. The waitress was superbly cheerful and friendly. Enough so that I forgot about the drunken groaning and started to mentally prepare for the racing ahead of me. Game time…

 

Famous on the Internet

Sorry I haven’t posted much the past few days, but I’m currently in the middle of Syllamo training camp 2012. I have a few nice photos, and yesterday, I did what was likely the most challenging loop I’ve ridden out here (hint- riding the loops clockwise is significantly harder than counterclockwise/race direction). I’ll post details later, though.

My real reason for posting this morning is to provide you with fine audio entertainment for your Friday in the form of an XXCmag podcast: http://xxcmag.com/xxc-podcasts We recorded it on Monday, and I listened to it last night. I’m happy to say, I find myself/the podcast to be quite entertaining.

If you’re reading for the first time, check the facebook/twitter links over in the sidebar. Enjoy!

 

Procrastination

Last night I had the pleasure of recording a podcast with the guys from XXC Magazine. It was (at least for me) one of the more entertaining 90ish minutes I’ve spent talking about anything bike related. Hopefully, when the podcast is up in a few days, you’ll enjoy our bantering. I hope they ask me back on the regular.

Step 3, profit.

In other news, instead of doing the 500,359 tasks I need to do to ready myself for 5 days in Syllamo (starting tomorrow), I’m writing a blog post. It’s the classic ADHD symptom where there are so many thoughts rushing around in my head that my brain short circuits, and I end up procrastinating and doing something totally non-productive to the things I actually need to do. My plans had been to wake up, ride a little, work on Ryan’s bike a little, and head up to the Outdoors, Inc. Distribution Center to talk to the Boss Man about sponsorship/next year’s race season. So far, all I’ve done is make coffee and look at the internet. I should probably at least eat breakfast and shower before I go.

At least this morning will assure that  my day can only get more productive from here.

For Sale: BH Carbon Cross- $1200

Next up in the garage sale- my “old’ cyclocross bike.

This is a 2008 BH Carbon Cross- size 51cm with SRAM Force components (FSA carbon crank and Avid Shorty brakes). I raced it for 2 seasons before getting my Scott. It was an excellent bike, but just a hair too small for me.

Important Stuff:
-The guy who owned it before me disassembled the front shifter and converted it to 1×10. I mostly raced it that way, but added a bar-end shifter and slightly chipped SRAM Red front derailleur for chain retention and the option to use a 2x setup.
-The front chainring is a 40t with a bash guard
-The wheels are Velomax with Kenda Small Block Eight tires
-Handlebars are FSA Wing Pro Compact- size 42 (they’re 40cm c-c at the hoods and 42cm c-c at the drops)
-I recently overhauled the bike, and in the process, installed new brakes (Avid Shorty 6s) and Cane Creek Stainless Steel Headset Bearings
-Here’s a geo chart:

Here are some photos. As always, if you have any questions, email andrea @ brickhouseracing.com or message me on facebook.

This is what happens when I don’t ride for a few days…

(Warning, this is about to sound a lot like a pseudo-philosophical rant that your one “stoner” friend might tell you an hour or so after eating a “special” brownie…)

In light of the giant, heat-producing contusion on my right thigh, I haven’t done any riding since I arrived home from Louisville on Sunday. I decided yesterday that I’d venture to the mall in search of a pair of jeans. However, rather than actually go into stores and try things on, I ended up wandering around pondering the meaning of life instead.

I mean, the entire contents of the vast expanse of building seemed incredibly useless to me. On the flipside, there are individuals who would feel that their well-being would be compromised if that building burnt down tomorrow.  Which led me to think, Why?
What I figured out was that the average individual needs this stuff because they dress up/down/out/etc to do things. Those things that they do add interest to their everyday life. The clothing defines you and what you do. I’m not judging or saying this is bad at all- quite the opposite…

I find those things useless because I don’t do anything.

All those things that all of those people are doing in order to need to dress up/down/out/etc. don’t exist here. Most people would think that, from the outside, that sounds incredibly boring- a large portion of my everyday existence is dedicated to being able to ride a bike faster than everyone else. Outside of that, I work on bikes, and many of my friends are bike people. I’m not saying this is bad at all, either, just that I briefly noticed the stark contrast between my reality and that of the general public.

It’s not for everyone, but I love it.
(Thank you, mall, for provoking my deep thought of the day. )