CyclocrossRoads Clash Race Report

Saturday’s CX Roads Clash race was somewhat of a late addition to the Memphis Cyclocross calendar. It worked out well, though, because the double race weekend I’d originally planned to attend in Nashville was shortened to a one-day event, and there was a race on schedule in Wynne, Arkansas for Sunday (about half the distance compared to Nashville).

I managed to miss my pre-race tune-up ride on Friday (I was planning on doing some quick intensity during my commute home from work, but found out during the workday that my super baller EVO had a seized drive side bottom bracket bearing which had scored the aluminum spindle of the crank. Unfortunately, the bearings feel fine out of the bike and both get “heavy” once they’re pressed in (the drive side being worse). Cannondale is sending a replacement BB and spindle, though I’m pretty sure that’s not going to solve the problem. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong.

Anyways… So I didn’t ride Friday. Saturday, I decided I’d get to the race pretty early (it was at Shelby Farms, which is only a couple of miles from my house, and where I go for most of my CX training). Ryan (who raced the A race) and I drove over, and I headed out on my B bike for a nice, 40 minute warmup. I arrived back at the car to have a Red Bull, change bikes, and go for an easy lap of the course before lining up at the start.

There were 4 other women at the line, and, between us, cat 4 men, and singlespeeders, there were 31 starters. I figured I’d have a good handle on the women (they lined up in the back and told me they liked to start “slow”), but I wasn’t sure what the men (some of which are very strong roadies) would do. When we were given the GO signal, we hammered off down a hill. A guy from Marx-Bensdorf took the holeshot, followed by Boomer Leopold on his singlespeed and Dale Sanford (also a strong road guy from M-B), who explained to me during the race that this was only his second time on his cyclocross bike. I was next, followed by all of the chasers.

As we negotiated the first few turns/hills/barrier before the first singletrack, Boomer took the lead, and I fell in behind Dale and M-B guy. The first couple of turns were rooty and pretty ridiculous for high-speed CX riding. Dale nearly wrecked (I don’t know if he clipped a pedal or nearly went off-trail) and Boomer took off as we almost piled up behind Dale. Going up the longer hill out of the woods, the other M-B guy who had hole-shotted ended up flubbing his remount after some logs, and I ran past him, landing me in 3rd position, chasing Boomer and Dale with the other M-B guy on my wheel.

I put my head down and reeled Dale in a couple of feet at a time over the next lap. Somewhere, the other M-B guy fell off. As we exited the woods into the headwind on the 2nd lap, I overtook Dale. He stayed mostly on my wheel for the entire race, but never tried to go around.

(I’m not totally sure why he was on that side of his bike in this photo)

Some more photos, courtesy of Micheal Carpenter…

 

I suffered hard. You have to when you’re leading someone who, by all the power-to-weight numbers, should be kicking your ass. I never caught Boomer, but I wasn’t that far back, either.

The A race that followed was a good one to watch- with the recent addition of junior tri/running talent Seth Rider to the top of the podium, there’s a bit of a shake-up in the usual “pecking order” of local men’s racing. Should be a good one to watch at next weekends’ Outdoors, Inc. race.

The Next Episode

Ok, so earlier in the week, I made mention that I was quitting work to begin training more. It’s a decision that Ryan and I have made after a fair amount of deliberation over the last few months. Being a professional cyclist has been a dream of mine since the first time I pedaled a bike as an adult. Right now, I’m good. I’m fit enough to win regional stuff and get an NUE podium when the right people (don’t) show up. I’m not content with this. I feel as though I’ve reached a bit of a plateau in my ability to get faster because of both the time and physical demands of my job (as a mechanic, you’re basically on your feet for 30-40 hours a week).

Now for the realistic part- I could do this and still fail. I might reach a genetic limit and not get a lot faster than I am now. I’m aware of this. I’m OK with this, too. It won’t upset me to know that I tried as hard as possible, but there’s no way for me to be as fast as the women I want to race head to head with. I also realize that there’s not much money in cycling- ESPECIALLY women’s cycling. I’m not looking to make money. I’m basically looking for it to no longer cost me money to race. So, I’m giving it two seasons, then re-evaluating and making future plans. ‘Til then, I’m going for it.

On the sponsor front, exciting things have been happening since Interbike, and, surprisingly enough, very little of it Interbike related. My main sponsors will be Niner Bikes, Industry Nine, and Outdoors, Inc. A couple of local guys are the US distributors of Nimblewear Clothing, and they’ve offered to make a kit for me. It’s going to be black & purple. I love purple.

These companies are all being very generous in their support. While you enjoy reading the next chapter in my great cycling adventure, the best thing you can do right now is shop with my sponsors. Tell them you appreciate their support of Brickhouse Racing (and whoever else they sponsor). The important part is that they make money because of the relationship they have with my racing/blogging. Your money helps them make aspiring cyclists’ dreams a reality.

I’m in the process of figuring out what races I’m targeting. So far the list includes the Whiskey 50, Trans-Sylvania Stage Race,  Breck Epic Stage Race, and XC/Marathon National Championships. There will be more, but those are the ones that are on the radar for now.

Just Riding Along

I know I left you hanging with that last post, but I’ll get to that soon enough.

You may remember back during the early race season, I made a couple of guest “appearances” on the XXC Magazine podcast. Since then, they’ve ceased recording podcasts, and Ben has gone on to start an internet radio channel called Mountain Bike Radio. Broadcasts include racer interviews, a racing/training/nutrition show with pro Drew Edsall, the Guitar Ted Show, and, now, Just Riding Along with Poolboy Matt, Fullface Kenny, and myself.

Just Riding Along

It’s kind of like NPR’s Car-Talk, but with 3 hosts, fewer callers (for now), and a little more off-topic-ness. It’ll be on at 7:30 central time every Monday night. I’d like to invite everyone to listen and call in if you want to ask a question (bike-related encouraged, but NOT mandatory). The number will be available on your screen when the show is live. Right now, we’re brainstorming about things to talk about during the hour long show, but we’d love to hear from listeners as to what you’d like us to talk about. If you’re not of the call-in persuasion, feel free to suggest a topic here, on my Facebook page (link on the right side of your screen), or on the Mountain Bike Radio Facebook page.

More on the “I’m trying to be pro” thing later. For now, listen and enjoy…

 

Show of hands…

How many of you have been around here since the blog beginning?

The Kenda road team days?

How about back during my short stint on the Metro Volkswagen team followed shortly after by a nervous breakdown which led me to mountain biking?

My first 100?  (You know… the Cohutta ’10 with all the rain and thunder?)

My first road trip to Colorado? Second?

Just started reading today?

 

How about that time that I decided I’d quit working my “normal” job in the bike shop and dedicate most of my free time to racing and training in an attempt to become a professional cyclist?

 

 

 

Wait, what?

 

Cannondale SuperSix EVO

I’ve had this bike since about the middle of the month, but it’s taken some tweaking to get it exactly how I like it. Essentially, this is the most awesome road bike ever (ok, if it had a set of carbon clincher wheels, that would be awesome-er, but that’s just splitting hairs). It’s equally as stiff as my previous bike- the BH Connect, but much lighter (some of that weight is frame, some is components). It makes me want to climb hills all day.

Here’s the original spec from Cannondale’s site. As you’ll see below, I swapped the stem/seatpost (the post that came with it looked janky and the stem was only 90mm, so I got the matching EC90 set from Easton), saddle (0nly one I like to ride), chainrings, and tires (the Mavic griplink/powerlink tires were scrawny- a hair under 22mm wide, so I installed some Maxxis Padrone tubleless tires). Final weight- 14 pounds, 3 ounces…

 

PMS Awareness Day

I’ve been wanting to bring this topic to light for a long time. However, since it involves a woman’s reproductive system, it is considered “taboo” by some. But, since a large portion of my readers are women or men who occasionally interact with women, I’m going to go for it.

For the last 17(ish?) years, I’ve suffered from premenstrual syndrome. It starts with a giant pimple (or two or three) on my face, then, over a period of 2-3 days, turns in to irritability, which escalates to terrible, wild mood swings, which are punctuated by cramps that make it feel as if my uterus is attempting to stab its way out of lower abdomen with its IUD (yeah, I just threw a birth control reference in there, too. Scared yet?) There’s usually an overlapping day of debilitating cramps and actual menstruation, but the bulk of the pain is prior to and not during.

I’ve not yet found a cure for this, and, judging by the lack of research on the topic, one isn’t likely to manifest any time soon. (maybe now that we’ve got 50 drugs to help men function sexually, women can get a little more attention from researchers). Some women have successfully taken birth control pills in a continuous manner to stop the menstrual period. I tried that, but all it did was make me have PMS with no actual period. I’m also not a fan of messing with my hormones via synthetic hormones. Apparently, if symptoms are bad enough, some doctors call it premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and are prescribing anti-depressants. Yeah, I’ll go ahead and pass on that one.

My own personal coping mechanisms involve trying to avoid situations that would magnify my mood issues, not talking if I feel as though I want to say something that might be rude or hurtful, and taking ibuprofen if the cramps get to “double over and fall down” levels of pain. Sometimes, (as you may have seen reference to on Twitter) I vent my anger by drinking a glass of wine and yelling angry feminist rants at commercials on primetime television. Otherwise, I always strive to maintain my normal activity. While it does occasionally interfere with my everyday life, I don’t see it as a handicap. It’s just a challenge that I (along with may other women) face on a regular basis.

So, ladies (and men who occasionally interact with ladies), how many of you face this challenge along with me (or know someone who does)? How do you cope? Comment here or on Facebook.

 

Race to the Canal Report

Before this weekend, I’d never ridden in the Land Between the Lakes area. So, when I had to make a race-schedule decision between either Race to the Canal on my mountain bike or Cyclocross in Nashville, I went with the “spend more time in the woods with gorgeous fall colors” option. Race to the Canal is a 37 mile (for Cat1 and Open categories) point-to-point race that takes the North-South and Canal Loop trails from the middle of the Land Between the Lakes peninsula to the canal at the north end. Other categories started further north.

Poolboy Matt came along to race the “37 Open” category. We arrived mid-day on Saturday, and stopped by the bike shop to get some trail info before heading out to pre-ride some of the course. The people at the Wood ‘N Wave shop are super nice (they also have a female mechanic, which just adds to the awesome). Matt was having some problems with a bad schrader valve on his fork, and they were really helpful in fixing it. The pre-ride was great. We rode the Canal Loop- half of which wasn’t race course, but we figured it was a good chance to get a feel for the landscape. The conditions were essentially perfect- a little bit of dampness had transformed the trail into mostly “hero dirt” (when the dirt is just wet enough to make it ultra-grippy), and the leaves were in full-on color change. I was excited to see the rest of the trail on Sunday.

The next morning, with the help of some friends, we got a ride to our start location just in time for the pre-race meeting. The 37 mile group was small enough that we ended up being started as a group rather than with gaps between categories. I was glad- the other two women who’d entered had already told me they weren’t going to try to race with me (makes me a little sad), so I decided I’d see if I could hang with the guys.

When the race started, a bunch of guys took off at full speed. I was near the back of the fast people when I rounded a corner to see one of them getting back on his bike. The slowdown was enough to let Matt and the other guys get down the trail and out of sight. I was immediately on the wrecked guy’s wheel, but didn’t ask to get around because it was pretty obvious that he was faster, but just needed to get his shit back together after wrecking. I was right, and soon enough, on the first climb, he disappeared into the woods, and I was alone.

I had a hard time getting into the hills at first. They were too long to be punchy and generally too short to get a good rhythm going. It took me a solid half hour to get a feel for the gear to use to get up as quickly as possible without blowing up halfway through. Between hills, the trail was crazy fast and flowy with lots of baby berms and perfect dirt. Pretty soon, I was motoring along and waiting for the guys ahead of me to get tired.

It wasn’t long before I saw a group of three guys at the top of a climb when I was at the bottom. I knew they had to be fading.

(caution- dubstep content)

I resisted the urge to catch them immediately and kept motoring at the same pace. It took what seemed like forever, but eventually, I was on Matt’s wheel (I wasn’t sure where the other guys were). He said he was having a bad day and let me around at a doubletrack spot in the trail. We about 1.5 hours in, so I kept the hammer down in search of the other two guys who I’d seen with him earlier.

I never felt tired, and found both of them within the next 15 miles. After ripping through the last couple of miles of race course, I quickly found myself climbing the road up from the trail to the finish line

 

Matt finished about 10 minutes later, and the 2nd place woman was about 5 minutes behind him. Our other Memphis friends, who’d raced the shorter versions, had great days as well. If you haven’t checked this trail/race out yet, I’d highly recommend marking it on your calendar for next year.

 

In paved-road news, My new road bike arrived exactly two weeks ago, and it is, quite possibly, the most amazing piece of carbon ever to leave a factory in Taiwan. I want to post a bunch of photos, but I’ve been (vainly) holding off because I’m waiting on a set of bottle cages that I ordered through the shop nearly 3 weeks ago. Hopefully they’ll be here this week, and I can show off the finished product.

 

Reservoir Cross Race Report

In order to keep travel cost to a minimum, I decided to skip the Kanis Park night race on Saturday night and just daytrip Reservoir Cross on Sunday with Poolboy Matt and one of our customers from the shop who was trying his hand at CX for the first time (kudos to him- the Reservoir course is tough and technical. Not the easiest when taking the plunge for the first time). I hate to miss a good night race, but I was being a slave to logistics.

The Little Rock area received a couple of hours’ worth of rain early Sunday morning, making the course both slick and gooey. Since everyone seems to ask, I rode the Challenge Limus tubulars that I glued up last year, and ran around 27psi front and 30psi rear. I say “about,” because I don’t know how accurate my pump is. I do, however, like how my pressure feels when my pump reads those numbers. My usual barometer for “proper” pressure is whether or not the rim hits the ground once or twice per lap when pre-riding, and it passed that muster. The Limus is a very knobby tire, and I have modified my rear one for improved rolling resistance:

 

The Open Women’s category was lined up behind the Cat4 men, Masters Men, and Juniors. Each group started about a minute apart. I’d told myself that I would race hard, but not totally destroy my legs so that I could race the men’s race afterward.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is impossible.

We started going straight up a paved hill. I got the holeshot and never looked back. I did, however, feel at first like I needed training wheels. I started the course turning gingerly though the mud, all over the brakes. Within a lap, though, I’d trash talked myself into going full-bore. I made it my goal to pass everyone on course that had started before me. I had a few close calls with sliding front tires and a pedal strike in the off-camber section, but I took those to mean that I was doing it right. If you aren’t the greatest bike handler, the Reservoir Park course will showcase that. I definitely could use some practice in getting my cyclocross mojo back for the season.

Halfway through the last lap, I was barreling through a really fast turn off of some pavement, looking to catch the last of the Cat 4 guys who had started first. As I loaded my front tire exiting the turn, I heard the incredibly terrifying noise of base tape and carbon unzipping from each other. Luckily, I was sliding at the same time rather than gripping. I continued on with the course, only to realize that the “I want to roll off the rim” noise was a result of the loss of pressure in my front tire. I managed to nurse it around the remainder of the course and finish before it was totally flat. Winning… but not my much over 14-year-old up & coming Emma Drummond. She’s going to be hot on my heels real soon.

 

The course ended up taking out an abnormally large number of tires that day. I saw somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15 flats during the Open race (I decided that since I’d bombed through the first race and flatted that I’d bail on the 2nd race). Poolboy Matt flatted two himself. Upon closer inspection, all three of our flats were punctures in the same shape, size, and orientation in the tread. I’ll post some high-res pics later.

SuperX

I like fixing bikes.

It’s mostly about solving (or preventing) a problem (or several problems). Usually, it’s a worn out, broken, sticky, or otherwise compromised part, but sometimes, frame manufacturers give mechanics a problem with brand new bikes… the perfect example being the presence of normal, road bike cable housing stops on a cyclocross frame.

I’ve posted before about my dislike of open cable on any bike that will be ridden in any condition other than “dry.” It’s just dumb. There’s no point in putting a break in a bike’s cable housing if there’s any chance that, on a regular basis, you’re going to ride the bike in a manner that would foul the cables with mud and/or water. Even so, it’s how most cyclocross bikes are manufactured.

In the past, I’ve just dealt with it, changing out shift cable and housing on a somewhat regular basis for a stable of cyclocross bikes. I’ve also used Gore sealed housing kits, only to find that while, yes, they do keep stuff out, with modern shifters (cable routing under the bar tape) and drop handlebars, the amount of drag is terrible because of the interaction between the stiffness of the housing and bend from shifter around the bars (in their defense, the sealed housing kits work beautifully on mountain bikes and road bikes with the older-style, externally cabled shimano shifters). Just recently, I zip-tied a full length housing to the frame of Ryan’s “A” bike. It works flawlessly. I’ll also be the first to admit, though, it doesn’t look very good.

So, when I installed a Gore housing kit on my new Cannondale SuperX (yeah, I’m doubling up on Cannondales this season) and the shifting was crappy and heavy, I decided to go one up on the solid housing by using a drill to convert cable stop to “housing holder.”

Side note: Before I tell you all about taking a drill to my bike, let’s talk about warranty. Some bike companies can be evil, and, if you modify your frame in such a way, then your seat tube cracks up the middle, they’ll refuse your warranty, even though it’s highly obvious that the two events are, in no way, shape, or form, related to each other. From my dealings at the shop, I can tell you that Cannondale is not this sort of company (Niner isn’t, either). However, it goes without saying, that if one of my drilled cable stops breaks, falls off, or suffers any other cable-stop related malady, it’s my fault, and there is no warranty to speak of. Your frame manufacturer may be somewhere in the middle with their warranty philosophy… I’d advise you to find out prior to drilling if that sort of thing concerns you.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.

I started by looking around on the internet for technique recommendations. I saw some good advice about protecting the frame with tape in case the drill bit gets jumpy, so I put a layer of Gorilla Tape around the downtube housing stop:

 

Next, I started with a small drill bit. How small? No idea on the numerical size, but it was a little bigger than the existing hole. Even with a not-so fresh drill battery, the bit went through the carbon stop like it was made of butter (so easy, I ended up not using tape when I drilled the stop on the chainstay. A metal stop may have offered more resistance). I prettymuch just repeated the process with increasingly large bits until a piece of 4mm housing fit through the stop with just a little friction. Done and done:

 

Depending on the frequency of cable stops on your frame, you will likely still need to use at least a couple of zip-ties to run the full-length housing. I typically wrap a piece of electrical tape around the tubing prior to mounting the housing/zip tie in order to keep the frame from getting rubbed at the mounting location. It’s still not perfect on the “looks” scale, but it’s a lot nicer than having the cable housing run next to unused housing stops.

Side note #2: I use Jagwire L3 lined cable housing for the best shift quality, though I’ve used less expensive stuff with equal success. The thought that using full-run housing will noticeably increase friction and drag on the cable is balderdash. Sure, from a physics standpoint, yes, there’s more friction on the cable when there’s more housing. However, I’d like to see you do a blind, side-by-side test, and see if you can tell the difference in lever feel between broken and solid housing. You’re sure as heck gonna notice a difference when the broken housing gets fouled. I digress…

I rode yesterday. The verdict? AWESOME. It’s only a matter of time before the Scott Addict CX undergoes the same surgery:

 

With the forecast for Sunday’s Reservoir Cross looking like “mud,” I can’t wait to plow through the slop with perfect shifting.

Cyclocrunk

I just noticed on my “stats” page that a lot of people are finding my blog via searching for “Cyclocrunk.” The series started tonight, and, for various reasons that would likely bring drama to my blog, I’m not doing it this year. Here’s the link to the Cyclocrunk site, and, if you need more information about the race than what the promoter has provided on the site (such as location, race format, etc.) you should call Victory Bicycle studio.