Saturday, December 12, 2009

Day 4 and 5 at Natz

Its been 'cross all day everyday. What an awesome week so far. On Friday, Connie and i got up early to get out to the the frozen tundra of a course to see Emma White (CBRC) and her brother Curtis (Clif Bar Cyclocross Development Team) race. Emma's race was early.... 8 AM, and it was like zero degrees out. Emma got a great start and the race quckly turned into a two person race between Emma and a girl from Albequerque New Mexico. Emma came out of the wooded section in first place and then crashed on an easy left hander just prior to crossing the road to the 'lower' part of the course. The two girls battled back and forth. Each taking turns sliding out on corners and taking over the lead position. On the last lap, Emma was in front but crashed hard approaching the barriers and the other girl took over first place. On a snowy uphill approach to the road that linked the course to the steep icy uphill, the girl from NM slid and was on the ground, Emma was just about to go around, when Emma got caught up in a tape post at the same troublesome spot. Now all that was left in the race was the tricky uphill 'horse shoe' climb, a bumpy icy downhill and then a pavement blast to the finish line. NM girl had maybe a 20 meter lead on the pavement, but Emma was charging. At the right hand turn onto the finish stretch, Emma had closed the gap to about 5 bike lengths and she was smoking. Emma finished about a bike length back for a well deserved Silver medal. This race turned out to be one of the most exciting races of the day.

Next up was Curtis. Curtis was lined up in the 4th row due to some inexplicable computer glitch. No matter, because after the gun went off, Curtis had blown through rows 3 and then row 2. He was top ten after the first corner. He and team mate Nate Morse rode cleanly through much of the first part of the race, taking some chances, pushing hard, but limiting encounters with the icy ground. After a couple of laps, Curtis had moved up to fourth place, but still had a large gap to close, which he did, eventually catching the wheel of the 3rd place racer. In the last 500 meters of the course, Curtis marked his target. In the same location where Emma and her competitor had bobbled, Curtis made a move and attacked the 3rd place guy, getting around him before that tricky uphill horse shoe hill. Curtis knew that he needed to be ahead of this guy on the hill and he made that happen, and that sealed 3rd place for Curtis. Another great race.

At 11 AM the single speed dudes raced and that brought the biggest and loudest crowds so far. I am still trying to understand the whole single speed thing. I think next year i'll try it. It may stick, and it may not. What a gorgeous day though.... brilliant blue skies, frigid cold, loud boisterous crowds, and cross, cross, cross.

New Yorkers Ruth Sherman ( Corning Race Team) and Margaret Thompson (Hammer Nutrition) each earned bronze medals later in the day. New Englander Jonny Bold took the Championship jersey in the Men's 45-49 race.

Later in the evening we dined with the White family at a very cool place in town called McMenamins.

The schedule for day 5 allowed Connie and i to sleep late and have a nice leisurely breakfast at the hotel, and the rest of the morning was a good time for me to pack up the bikes. My race on Thurs was in such frigid weather that my bike was free of any real mud or grime and the pit bike was spotless. The bikes went into the box a whole lot easier this time and soon we were off to the afternoon races. Today (Saturday) was quite a bit warmer. The temps had climbed up to 40 degrees. The course was now getting greasy. No real mud as the ground was still frozen hard from the previous week's extreme low temps. We watched Danny Summerhill win the U23 mens race. In the Men's 35-34 race, Nathaniel Ward ( / Joes Garage) had a front row slot on the start line and took advantage of it by taking the hole shot. Nathaniel was in first place after the first few turns of the race. About midway, N Ward slid on the grozen grass and his right hand shifter snapped in half when it enccountered a pole. Tough luck for N Ward. New Englander Matt Kraus (Richard Sachs RGM Watches) had a great ride taking 9th place in a race of almost 150 racers.

Night time events: closed out of the World Premier of The Cyclocross Meeting, a film to be shown at the Tower theatre in downtown.... sold out! ... bummer. Dinner was take out from the Typhoon, a Thai resturant! So unlike me, but it was good.

Tomorrow, its Women and Men Elite.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day 3 Bend, Oregon

Day 3 at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships dawned bright and sunny with morning temps again in the single digits. My race was at 1:00 PM which is a good start for me as i am not a morning person. This start time allowed me to sleep in and have a nice breakfast at the hotel. The plan was to get out to the course around ten, check out the bikes again, and witness one of the race starts. The race start in a 'cross race is critical. Folks that make it to the first turn have a decided advantage, as a cyclocross course will tend to stretch riders out and if you are way back in the bunch, its difficult to make up ground on the leaders. Tough, but not impossible. I once witnessed a last row guy in Providence R.I. race make it all the way to the podium. None the less, starts can make or break your race. Adam Myserson says that the sprint is at the front end of the race in 'cross, referring to the explosive sprint effort that takes place when the whistle blows to start the race. So i wanted to see a real race start so i could judge where a good line might be, or where a choke point might occur. After watching (and learning) from the Men's 30 - 39 age group race, i planned to line up on the right side of the starting grid and take a wide line in the approach to the first gentle left hand turn that went up a small icy hill and then took another left at the top. This pre-race reconnoiter paid off.

Another small detail related to quick starts is something that we practice at our training rides and that involves clipping into the pedals as soon as possible to be able to turn a huge gear to get up to max speed as soon as possible. In order to do that, clipping into the pedals is crucial to avoid lost pedal strokes looking for that spot to clip in. So just as the race is about to begin, my left cleat was completely clogged with ice and would not clip into the pedal at all. I quickly ducked into the Clif Bar tent area and got Rob Weubker and one of the pro mechanics to chop the ice out with a screw driver.... whew, another detail covered.

Now it was time to stage up.... The staging of riders was orderly and well controlled. Officials called up each and every racer by name. I was lined up in the fourth row, which is quite a change for me as the races i had been doing in the Northeast had fewer riders or points that i had accumulated allowed me a front row spot. I lined up way to the right as planned and waited for the whistle. It blew and we were off. My start was a good one, clipped in early, blew past some guys, went wide right as planned, avoided a small bottleneck, and went from 35th to maybe tenth. Yikes my heart rate was pegged. Guys were all over the course, weaving, crashing, crashing into the tape, crashing to the ground, crashing into me, it was cool. I settled into race pace and vowed to stay upright and not make mistakes. It paid off. I lost positions on some parts of the course but i was able to pull back guys in other parts of the course. I had a couple scary moments, one where i was suddenly sideways in the lane and then sideways in an opposing direction. That ticked off the guy behind me but, you know what? Go around me if you can. Another near crash involved a pass i made to get by a guy that caused me to approach this uphill shelf with a left turn at the top with way too much speed. I hit the lip of the shelf and the force knocked my left hand off the bars. I made the turn and kept it upright, but i was right on the edge.
I battled with four or five guys and we all traded positions often.

It was great racing. I ended strong and held off the one guy who had passed me at least three times earlier and i ended up 14th. Not bad. I was pleased. It was a great day of racing.

Paul Curley of Tauton Mass., a fellow Northeast guy, took the win in my race to add to his closet full of National Championship jerseys.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships

Day 1 and 2 on the way to the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Chanmpionships were long days indeed. The trip actually started on Monday, when i stuffed two Redlines into a double bike box that i borrowed from my good buddy Tim Leonard. I spent 2 to 3 hours taking apart two bikes and fitting pieces into the box like a jigsaw puzzle before i was able to completely close the lid on the box. It was a tight fit. And i worried about how everything would fare under the hands of the Southwest baggage handlers.

Tuesday Connie and I headed to Albany airport, checked luggage, checked the bikes, and boarded flight 141 to Las Vegas. The connector in Las Vegas was late.... like what else is new, but no matter because that allowed us to have a long and delightful dinner with the White family, also enroute to Natz. Curtis and Emma were excited about the trip but were taking it all in like its just another race. The second leg of the air trip arrived, and we landed in Portland around 11:30 PM local time, 2:30 AM Albany time. We were pooped. We got a behemoth rental vehicle and crashed at a Marriot in Portland, finally settling in at around 12:30 AM local time.

Day2 started crisp, sunny and cold... like 6 degrees farenheit in Portland. The trip to Bend took us over the pass in the shadow of Mount Hood. What a sight.

Bend was a three hour trip from Portland.

We arrived about Noon, another check-in at another Marriott and then i went to work putting together two bikes. I was a bit stressed over the whole bike box trip, baggage handlers at various airports, and whether i packed up the bikes correctly. Low and behold, everything made it perfectly fine. The bikes went together nicely and i was off to the race venue and packet pick-up.

Bend, Oregon is a very cool town, an eclectic downtown area, lots of shops and restaurants, and lots of bikes on roofs. Packet check-in was orderly and rather quiet. I expected bigger crowds. Numbers on the left.

Off to the the race venue which was just across the river from the Old Mill area in Bend and within eye-sight of the check-in. I parked in one of the Event lots and unloaded the bikes to shake them out, make sure everything worked correctly, and maybe even ride the course. I ran into David Goodwin, antother 55+ guy from Northampton Cycling Club. We chatted and compared stories about the trip out. He had already done a couple of laps. After straightening the bars on the pit bike and adjusting the seat height a bit, i rode out onto the course. It was all taped and had maybe several dozen racers pre-riding. It was 90% snow and ice covered. There was a 6 inch wide icy rut as the 'preferred' line and about 3 - 4 inches of powdery snow covering the rest of the lanes. A small section of the course in the grass was free of any snow, but it was a very small stretch. There was a man-made stair case and the standard set of barriers, but other than that, little else to get you off the bike. There were a couple of small, short 'hills' that were very icy and could perhaps cause a dis-mount. I saw Paul Curley and Tom Stevens of Gear Works and also Utah Rob, who called out to me, but i was unable to connect up with Rob as he was heading one way and i the other.

I rode the pit bike first and i did two laps. I took it very easy, just trying to get aquainted with the course. I returned the pit bike and then rode the primary bike a bit to make sure that i had connected all the dots, and i had.... it was working quite nicely with no further adjustments. I was feeling a lot better now that the bikes were all in good working order. I was also liking the ice and snow. I am thinking (today) that the ice maybe a good surface for me, and perhaps it will even out the field a bit... i don't know... we'll see. Check in tomorrow. My race goes off at 1:00 PM.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bay State Cyclocross Race

Today was 'Sterling', Race # 11 of the New England Cyclocross Championship Series. The Bay State CX race in Sterling, Mass. Connie and i drove out the night before and made it to the race venue slightly behind schedule due to a whole number of small incidents that just added up to being a little late. I was feeling a bit crappy besides, stomache or nasuea type feelings, nothing to speak of (and i never mentioned it to anyone until now ) and i was trying to ignore it and chalk it up to race jitters. Anyhow, i pre-rode he course. It was pretty much identical to previous years. There was one new chicane section in the side of a small hill that had a quick succession of up down left right combos that was really cool. You could bomb thru them with speed, but the last left hand uphill was slightly tighter and steeper than the previous three turns so you had to be ready for that. I get a real kick out of how i tend to dissect all the CX courses i do. They are all different and all have their quirks or personality or in the case of the Bethlehem Cup... which has a serious atttitude.

So getting back to the Bay State. I had a fair start up the cinder running track. The wind was horrendous, and on the back side of the track, everyone was hunkering down in the drops and sliding in behind wheels. I took a chance and went around a couple guys and set up for the turn to head for the run-up. I didn't want to get hung up in any kind of congestion on that steep mucky hill. I made it up OK and settled into a mediocre first lap. I felt mediocre. I soon got into the race though as the course is interesting one, with the horse jump and all. Its a signature Tom Stevens course with flow. Its all about the flow and this course has it. The Redline was perfoming way better than i. I love that bike!

I was surprised that i was able to get by David Goodwin who has beaten me in all previous Verge races, so i am sitting in about 5th or 6th position which is pretty good. After about 3 laps, another serious foe, Gary Pressler is right on my wheel. Gary also has kicked my butt pretty soundly this year. Well, Gary sucked my wheel for 3 laps! He rode a smart race. He used me to break the wind. I made the mistake of riding into the wind on the right side of the running track, right where the head wind (coming form the right) was the worse. The next lap, i smartened up and rode way to the left up against the tape to provide less shelter for Gary. Didn't work. I kept pushing hard though because i was really worried about Goodwin catching me. So on the last lap, just as i expected, Gary came around me about 150 meters and one left hand turn from the finish. I had my chain on the big ring and was pushing a big gear so i could be ready for a sprint. And sprint we did. I buried it with all i had and Gary conceded. I was feeling good about that finish! Afterwards Gary and i talked at length about how the race unfolded. I told him that i pretty much expected his attack. Even if i lost that sprint, i would have felt just as good about our race that day. It was fun. Gary is a great competitor as is the whole 55+ crew. A great day.

Friday, August 28, 2009

to put it bluntly

ok, that's a cute title 'cause this post is about my first CX race of the year which took place last Sunday at Blunt Park in Springfield Mass, about a 2 hr drive from Nisky, NY. The ride out in the AM was in the pouring rain. No matter, i was pysched to start the 'cross season and i was anxious to try out the bike in the mud. Connie too, wanted to go and we brought along Iris, our little puppy. Two bikes, two lawn chairs, two people, one doggie, cooler, and a lot of gear filled up the Highlander. Once over the Berkshires the rain had let up and it was looking to be a warm and humid day. A bit of delay getting to the park as the directions were sketchy for sure and this was my first time out there so we made one wrong turn and wasted about 10 minutes, but no matter as my race wasn't until 1:15 PM... which was quite a change. We arrived in time to offer an extra pair of shoes to Curtis who had destoyed his own after mountain biking through some kind of toxic mud bog a week earlier. Curtis however was content with some old road shoes that his Dad had apparentlty modified to make do on the 'cross bike. Curtis could kick butt wearing sandals and a bath robe.

Eric, Pete, Jimbo, Liz and the White family all made the trip to represent Curtis did battle in the 3/4 race and did quite well, as did Jimbo. As i was getting ready for my race, i mentioned to the woman parked next to me that my race was going off at 1:15. She squinted sharply and said "no its not, that's the Women Elite race." Ok, i checked the schedule again and sure enough my race was at 1:15 so i smiled and said yeah you ladies are starting with the Juniors and the old guys. I could tell from the look on her face that she was not at all happy about that, so i tried to make light of the situation and told her that its OK cuase the old guys are gentlemen, and they won't get in your way. They may pull over mid lap because they gotta pee, or maybe take a nap, but they won't impede on your epic day of racing for $15 prize money. She had no sense of humor, a lovely person, but i just could not get her to crack a smile, and ultimately i do believe i beat her time overall.

Anyway the race was a fun early season race. It was great to see a lot of guys that i haven't seen all winter. Dusty Adams was in great form. The race director lined up the Junior girls and boys at the front, followed by the 55+, followed by the Women 1/2/3. And everyone started at once. Yikes. That was bad. The race to the first turn was dicey, and a couple guys stacked right into the tree that marked the first turn which was a 180 degree left after the pavement start. I went wide and got around the chaos unscathed and found myself in 2nd place right behind Dusty Adams. Nice, but that didn't last too long, as a speedy junior made it past and i could see Dusty pulling away. Dusty was in great form as usual. I faded towards the end, but i did manage to pull back one rider who had passed me earlier and i lapped a few others, so i felt OK for my first race. It was a fun early season race. A little weird weatherwise for 'cross in that the temps must have been in the high 80's and the humidity was oppressive.

The Men's Elite race had a small field but an interesting duel formed at the front between Alec Donahue and Adam Myerson, in first and second wheel respectively. Both were working hard but riding smoothly. With two laps to go, Adam dropped a chain right after the barriers (four of 'em!) which gave Alec a gap of about 6 or 8 seconds. Adam chased back and with about 500 meters to go, Adam sqeezed past Alec, giving him a little shoulder bump and that was the race. Maybe Alec took it easy on the boss.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Trek to Treadlemire

Last Sunday, I did a ride with Chuck, Artie and Curtis. And the story needs to be told.

Curtis' Dad had contacted me to see if Curtis could perhaps connect up with some of the CBRC folks that were exchanging e-mails about a ride of some dirt roads. Several e-mail had been exchanged with several combinations of potential participants, including folks from Keltic, Battenkill United, and a Pro rider that was in town. Admittedly, i was a bit intimidated contemplating joining this group on a ride that had all the potential of an epic 6 to 10 hour ride. I was also committed to attending a graduation party that same afternoon, of which i could show late for, but i couldn't show up several hours late looking for IV drips and emergency medical attention due to a 10 hour hammer fest. Ultimately we settled on a reasonable plan that the Q had suggested and the group of interested riders had been whittled down to four... ride leader Q, Artie Gee, Curtis, and myself. The plan was to begin in Altamont, mosey up the hill on Rt 156, head out into Schoharie Valley, and ultimately attack a hill called Treadlemire Road.

The ride started leisurely enough, with eveyone chit chatting about bike stuff, fitness levels and catching up on all the exciting developments in Curtis' world of cycling. Curtis has been selected to race for the Cliff Barr Cyclocross Team and also had just completed a road racing development camp in the NYC/New Jersey area. All exciting events. We are all extremely happy for Curtis.

The real destination however was Treadlemire. A year ago, i remembered that several CBRC folks did a Club picnic ride that included Treadlemire and these same folk came limping into the CBRC picnic area with tall tales of lung busting, leg searing, and teeth gritting steep grades, so i was a bit concerned about this hill. We turned onto Pickett Hill Road to make the approach to T-mire. After climbing up Pickett Hill road, we began on a relatively level stretch of Treadle-kill-me-now Road. Quickly the road tilted upward. No big deal, i had my CX bike with 48/38 (or are they 46/36?) rings in the front and a 12 x 27 ten speed cluster on the back, which will get me up anything. The road kept going up and we all settled into our own particular zone of pain. The surface was all gravel but a previous night's rain actually made the surface fairly hard packed and traction was decent. I was using Maxxis Raze clinchers, the same set-up i had for the BFC, which are very good for these types of road/dirt road rides.

The climb did not relent. The Q was off the front. It was impossible to guess how much hill was left. I would occassionally look up to see if there was an end in sight, or to see if there was any break in the tree line, or any sign of the top. At one point i was ready to explode and the grade went from 20% to perhaps 25% and there was no relief in sight. I could not stand as i would lose traction, so i had to sit and concentrate on a smooth spin and maintain a delicate fore and aft balance to maintain traction. I lost it (traction) and came to a stop. I was off the bike and on foot. Good grief, my heart was pounding. I walked a several meters to get through this steep section and climbed back on. A hundred meters further up, the road twisted into a sharp S turn with a seriously muddy surface and another sharp increase in grade. I was determined not to get off again and i spent some energy here to get through this section. Eventually the grade softened and i could see the Q and Artie Gee at the top. Thank God.

We continued south bound and after a scare with a large Doberman, we dumped out onto Cotton Hill Road. We turned Northeasterly and started the return trip. A remote road with a Hollow in its name caught Q's eye so we diverted onto Brooky Hollow Road for a glorious long curvy downhill. But, this meant we had to climb out of the Hollow and we did that on Lawton Hollow Road. Beautiful hills and nice quiet roads. Art remarked that this area looked very much like the remote hills in North Carolina. .... (The above is NC and not NY's Schoharie Valley) The weather was like NC too, warm and humid and we all were low on fluids. We headed back again, this time on Canady Hill Road and into West Berne where we refueled and then parted ways with Art. Art was heading back to Delmar while us three made the return trip to Altamont on Rt 156. We all made it back and were pleased with our efforts that day. I made a mental note and promise to myself that i will go back to Treadlemire and conquer that hill.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Skip’s Summer Solstice Ride

Once a year, on or about June 21st, We in the Northern Hemishere Experience the Summer Solstice and enjoy the maximum amount of daylight. And every year to celebrate the event, MHCC President Skip Holmes organizes his Summer Solstice Ride to take advantage of the extra daylight with a 50 mile ride in Southern Albany County. The ride is always a Tuesday night so this year the ride took place on June 23rd. Skip advertises the ride on the club web site and makes it a special ride with pizzas delivered right to the parking lot where the ride starts and finishes. Very cool.

More than 50 riders showed up on that beautiful warm summer night. I got delayed a bit at work so i missed the official 5:30 pm start time but i was able to snare a map and then i connected with a fellow CBRC'er hoping to chase down the pack. This of course was a futile effort, even though we worked well together and made a good pace into a light headwind from the west. There were hoards of very fast and fit riders that i saw exit the parking lot as i was changing into my riding gear, so i knew we would never catch the "A" group, but maybe the "B" group?

The route was mostly flat all the way to Altamont, so it was not likely we would catch anyone, but we did catch some folks off the main group as we climbed up the Altamont hill to Thompson Lake Road. From there we passed a few more riders and enjoyed the view along Warners Lake. We were again chasing but i knew we would never catch too many more riders. We dropped down into Thatcher Park via Beaver Dam Road and then along the park road before climbing up the Helderberg Escarpment for a second time on Indian Ledge Road.

It was here that we caught our ride leader Skip and some fellow Masters riders. Skip was stopped on the side of the road with a flat rear tire. We all pitched in to fix that and then proceeded up the hill. Indian Ledge connects with Wolf Hill and then NYS Rt. 443. Here the ride gradually descends for several miles and a pace line can cover this stretch all the way to Rt. 9W easily averaging 30+ mph. It's a blast. By now my group had dwindled to just me and Gary G. as Skip needed to cut his ride short to order the pizzas and a few others needed to bail for various reasons. Gary and I were determined to get the whole 53 miles in so we pressed on. We caught two more riders and we four stayed together to finish up in the dark. The reward at the end was finally connecting with all the familiar faces and having some pizza and cold drinks. Thanks Skip for a great Club tradition. And thanks Art for the beer... and yes, its pronounced "smid-icks". Who knew?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Black Fly Challenge

Yikes, its been a while since i last posted here... well i've got a good reason to post now, the Black Fly Challenge Race, held last Saturday, June 13th. This is a point to point 'mountain bike race' that has really grown in popularity. I put the mtb race in quotes because there is a fair amount of pavement and mostly dirt roads and a tiny smattering of single track. No matter...this race is a blast. Its extremely fast race on a CX bike and that's what i rode. In fact, the numbers of CX racers has grown so much that the organizers created a CX category this year and i think it was the largest field. Anyone with a 700c wheel was in the CX category. So we all raced against each other, men and women, Cyclocross dudes and dudettes, young and old, beginner or Pro. That was cool.

It’s a 40 + mile point to point race that for this year started in Indian Lake, NY and finished up in Inlet, NY. Each year the direction of the race alternates. Last year was my inaugural ride and we started in Inlet ending up in Indian Lake. In that race I had no clue how hard, how fast, how hilly, how difficult, or how long it would take me to complete the course. Last year I was quite surprised to finish in 2 hrs and 15 minutes. I was expecting a more MTB pace and more like 3+ hours, but I certainly did not complain and I made a mental note for next year not to ride so conservatively. This year I had a much better idea of what to expect, although this year brought some surprises.

This year the field of racers was huge… 300 riders, a record. And its a mass start! Oh boy, the start was frightening. They lined up all CX riders that considered themselves expert, then they asked for MTB experts, CX intermediate or something like that and proceeded to try to line up people based on expected finish time. A noble attempt. Anyway, its a mess as soon as we left the Parking lot with folks jockeying for position and trying to move up. I was terrified. Mountain bike dudes are riding on the left over the yellow line and on the grass on the right. I was about 50 or so riders back for the first few miles of pavement and it was all white-knuckles for me. At maybe three quarters of the way thru the pavement section (i had no time piece or computer, so i'm just riding and trying to avoid elbows and rear tires) three guys tangle up in front of me and i am able to go around the screaming and scraping and body carnage unscathed. Whew!

Now i reconnect to the front group of about 30 - 40 riders. Into the first dirt section, i accelerate and get down to some racing. Up over the first few punchy little hills, i'm having a blast. I have to dig a bit to stay with these fast guys, but i still feel that i can. Maybe on the fourth small hill i notice that the tail end of that front group of 30 or so is farther up the dirt road....buh bye! Now its racing with whoever i can connect with. Its still pretty crowded. I still feel strong and i eventually catch Chris McBurnie from Team Battenkill United. He and i rode most of the race together picking up a few riders here and there but for many miles we rode hard together, taking turns and catching no one. I could not understand it because we were flying! it seemed like we were flying to me, but why were we not catching anyone? Anyway, Chris McB was crushing the downhills... i mean i could not keep up. He would sometimes get 50 meters on me and i would reconnect on the uphill... i think i was stronger on the up-hills but i'm not so sure that he wasn't waiting for me so he could thrill me on the next downhill. I had a couple of OMG moments trying to negotiate some of the 35 mph downhill sweepers, not to mention bunny hopping culverts, drainage ditches, and orange colored bowling ball sized rocks. It was fun indeed.

Anyway, i did manage to finish with a decent time, just few minutes behind last year's time and a minute behind McB. Our own Chuck Q bagged a third place overall with a blistering time of 2:01 and change right behind my CX buddy Phil McC from Ommegang in second place .... Others from the CBRC tribe that had excellent rides were Rob Dadekian who lost a bit of time at the end by riding in with a flat tire, and Steve W who had to stop and repair a flat. All had a great time, with minimal blood spilt. Rob somehow went off course a bit and came home with a cut on his nose but other than that, no crashes for the Team. Other notable rides were Tierry Blanchet, (Cannondale MTB) 5th overall, the Young brothers, Brad and Brett, 9th and 10th respectively riding under new Team Tinney's colors. Hey Brad, how come i'm not on your team? Congrats also to first time participant, Jen Clunie, Executive Director of the NY Bicycling Coalition for her first place finish in the beginner Master's Women's race. Spectators reported that Jen blasted by a number of others in the muddy single track all the while hooting and hollering. Way to go Jen!

Thanks to CBRC team manager for the day, Connie Beals for the food, logistical support (driving) and team support... cheers.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Johnny Cake # 1

Today was the first race of the Johnny Cake training race series that my club ( puts on every Spring. We had good turn outs and exceptional weather. All in all, things went well, no serious crashes, and a good time was had by all. Race Promoter, Tom Butler, Race Director Tom Despart, and a host of CBRC volunteers did a superb job and started the season out on the right foot. Its been through these efforts that this race has grown in popularity and stature. Racers from all over the Northeast attended. Every year the race makes a donation to the David Brinkerhoff scholarship fund... a truly worthy cause for a NYS Trooper who lost his life in the line of duty. The scholarship will be given to an outstanding Coxsackie-Athens High School Graduate who is interested in majoring in criminal justice or the medical field.

This year, i filled in for our Club Treasurer and i handled non BikeReg registration duties. It was good to see a lot of familiar faces of folks that i have not seen for some months. I do have to make some purely biased comments and observations.... Please, racers, sign up on That's all i have to say. Well, one more thing.... bring your license to the race. And i will leave it at that. Well, maybe one more thing... i have a much greater appreciation for the hard work that our Treasurer and our registration volunteers put in for the numerous races that we run every year... including my own Schenectady Central Park Cyclocross race. Thanks again Harry and Margaret, and Deb, and Amanda, and Erica, and all you guys, you know who you are.

Chuck and i did a nice post-race ride... heading West towards Earlton and Catskill. Chuck knew of a nice road that a had a hill in its name that climbed up to a Christmas tree farm that he and his family had frequented. We found that road, climbed that hill and continued on. We had no plan nor destination other than to ride. We found some very picturesque roads and hills. Nothing is flat out there. We rode for a bit more and stopped to check the time... neither of us had a time piece, bike computer, cell phone, GPS device, heart rate monitor, or lap top computer with us, just a inkling to ride some. There was a soft voice (Jen) inside Chuck's helmet telling Chuck that he had house guests at home and he'd better not be out too late, so we turned to a more North easterly direction to find our way back to civilization, and to avoid the mean junk yard dog that chased some miles back, and to hopefully make progress towards returning to the school parking lot. After an unknown number of miles, we exited off a nice winding downhill gravely road onto Rt 81 which ran us right back to Coxsackie, almost like we knew what we were doing. Back at the parking lot... average speed? don't know... mileage? no clue.... maximum heart rate?... unknown.... What a nice ride.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Battenkill Pre-ride

Today, three of us old guys got together and made an hour drive north to Cambridge, NY to pre-ride the Tour of Battenkill course. Artie Gee, Q and I got an early start and left the Cambridge High School parking lot under brilliant sunny skies but bitter cold temps in the low 20's. The first hour or so, my toes and fingers were suffering from the cold. The sides of the road still showed some snow in the shadows and all the standing water was frozen, but there was hope the the strong Spring sun was going to warm us up. Q promised temps in the 50's. We'll see.

We made a stop at Stewarts in Salem and i sat in the sun and i fashioned some make shift booties out of duct tape. From that point on in the ride, i was fine. The route is different this year, but several favorite features remain, like the trip over the Battenkill River via a covered bridge, Juniper Swamp Road, and Meeting House Road and the usual collection of dirt roads. We approached Juniper Swamp from a different direction, which was OK by me as it somehow eliminated that painful pavement climb approaching Juniper. Going up Juniper was not as tough as i remembered from previous rides. Perhaps because the surface is nicely hard packed this year, no loose dirt to speak of, and the road seems wider. Are there road crews out here? or is everything just left to Mother Nature?
Another change in the route is a dirt road section around Willard Mountain which was very cool. There was opportunity here for a nice long big ring dirt road, gravel pinging downhill churn which was fun. Another change is doing Meeting House in the opposite direction. Towards the end of Meeting House, Q had a leaky front tire, so we stopped to fix that and Q got an opportunity to test out his fancy new tire pump which worked quite nicely. While we were stopped, several B-kill and Farm Team guys flew past, and Mark from Nav too. We got the flat fixed and were back on the road quicly and we connected with a bunch of other folks out doing the same thing as us.
Aproximately 5 miles from the finish there is new dirt section called Stage Road. Its uphill of course. It climbs and then false flats, then climbs some more and then a slight downhill to a low lying area that had been recently filled with 2 to 3 inch sized trapeziodal shaped boulders. More than one roadie had to get off and (gasp) hoof it. I had my old Redline 'cross bike with these big old 35 cc semi-road tread tires and i was able to pedal through, but it completely sapped what little energy i had at this late point in the ride. I limped back to town as back markers from the Battenkill and Farm team group blew past. It was a fun day in the saddle and we got to chat with some of the locals afterwards at the Cambridge Hotel. At the end of the day, i was pooped. I went home and took a nap. I was up way too late the night before watching the Siena game.

Photo courtesy of Rob Havemeyer

Friday, March 20, 2009

Back in Albany

The training camp has moved back home to the Capital District. Warmer temps and sunny skies lured campers back to the hills of southern Albany County. We connected this past Sunday and did a nice ride around the Alcove Resevoir. This is a favorite Spring ride of about 45 miles, depending on detours or deviations from the standard route, that heads south, then west on Rt 143 into the Town of Coeymans. The ride skirts the eastern edge of the Resevoir, passing by the dam. This area has an interesting history as told by our rolling on the bike historian Artie Gee. Back in the 1700's and 1800's the area was known for its brick making. At the intersection of County Route 111, we turned south heading out towards the dam. Just off the road to the left is the remains of a massive 110 foot tall smoke stack, left over from the Valley Mill that made wool then later on paper. It burned in 1892, but the stack remains.

The real destination of the ride is Featherbed Lane. A narrow, gravely, and sometimes muddy road in the Spring. Its 15 - 20 % steep for a very short distance as soon as you turn onto the road. So steep that your rear tire will skid if you don't turn a smooth pedal stroke. The steep part is only 30 -40 meters, NBD. Hidden along the way are two tiny county line or town line signs. Art and i always sprint for these. Don, who is along for the ride and does not know the area is at a distinct disadvantage here because he has no idea that these signs are coming up and he wonders why these two old guys are suddenly accelerating to such incredible speeds (like 15 to 16 mph) and pointing to tiny signs nailed to a tree in the middle of nowhere. He soon catches on to our tactics and starts marking every move, which is hilareous, because bozo the clown on a circus trike could cover any move i might make. The route passes briefly into Greene county (tiny sign, Art gets it) and then turns north back to Albany Co ( a huge green sign proudly proclaiming ENTERING ALBANY COUNTY ) and i have no clue who got that sign because i am so far off the back. Its a nice sceneic trip, with nice views of the Resevoir. Along the way back, Artie passes along more history.... a former mayor of Albany met his demise driving off road along the twisty hilly Onesquethaw Road that we sped downhill on. Yikes, thanks for that news.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Day 6... not really from Asheville… the Asheville weather forecast for Friday was cold...temps in the forties and a 30% chance of rain and 90% chance of rain for Saturday… yuck. The weather forecasted for Albany was sunny and the predicted temps were approaching 50, so we decided to hit the road in the Toyota and head home. We stopped along the way at the pawn shop and we got 175 bucks for Wayne's Look Carbon bike. The plan is to tell Wayne that it was stolen off the roof rack.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day 5 in Asheville… We started the day with French toast, eggs, bacon, juice and coffee. That was my job. That was easy. I can do basic breakfast stuff. Wayne is the real cook. Wayne did a great pasta dish two nights ago which was excellent. This AM, Wayne surveyed the meager provisions left scattered about the kitchen and cooked up this warm apple concoction with fresh apple chunks, brown sugar, cinnamon, jelly, jam, and other stuff that topped off the French toast and provided the kick for the ride ahead. Today Wayne is due to fly back to Albany. We are going to miss our cook. Its gonna be the Waffle House and cheap spaghetti from this day forward.

Day 5 we took a conservative approach for the day’s ride. We chose to avoid the mountains and to ride out to Marshall along the French Broad River again. We visited the Zuma coffe shop there last Tuesday and enjoyed the stop and the town so much we decided to return. Plus, it was a known quantity and we were comfortable with the distance and the amount of time that it would take so we could get back to town in time for Wayne’s flight.

Today’s weather was cooler than what we had been blessed with earlier this week. Today was overcast and temps in the 40’s. Back to long sleeves, tights, and long fingered gloves. So the stop at Zuma’s would be for coffee and baked goodies. We started out at a reasonable pace and quickly settled into a nice four man pace line. The roads here are quite narrow with no shoulder at all. In fact, some spots the road can disappear near the right hand edge due to erosion. Everyone needed to be alert. Motorists are understanding and will hang back behind us and wait until the coast is clear to pass on the windy road. They also seem very appreciative when we scout the traffic up ahead and wave them on when we see that the road ahead is clear. No one has yelled or blown a horn at us for five solid days of riding. At one point in the ride, Wayne sprinted ahead for a county line sign. Obviously he had been holding back all week. Maybe because this was his last day, he was leaving it all out on the road. In any event, I chased and chased and came up short. It was a photo finish, though. It felt good to hammer a bit on a flat stretch of road. Soon we were in Marshal and we all piled into the shop anxious to get some warm liquid and fresh baked cookies. We sat in the lounge, read the paper, chatted with the locals, and sipped the house brew. This Zuma’s place is awesome. Friendly folks and tasty cookies.

We left the warm confines and fresh baked smells of Zuma’s and headed south. Again we settled into a nice unhurried pace line. This time though, I was on the lookout for the same county line sign going in the opposite direction. I carefully timed my duration at the front of the line so that I could be at the back when we were going to approach where I thought the sign was. Of course it worked out just the opposite. The sign came into view after a corner and I went off the front. This time I surprised Mr. Triner and I think the photo will show that I took that sign. We got back to the car in plenty of time for the drive back to the house, a quick bite to eat and then off to the airport. We will miss the cook.

On a side note, and off topic just a bit, special mention goes out to to “Carmen” Garmin Nuvi. This piece of technology has won me over. Its no toy. If you drive lots anywhere in unfamiliar territory… OMG it’s the hot set up.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tunnels and Mt Pisgah

Day 4 in Asheville.... Yesterday (Day 3) while we were relaxing mid-ride in the town of Marshall, we ran into a nice man (Mike) who said he was going to do a bike ride with some of his local friends and invited us along. We agreed so this AM (Day 4) we met up with Mike and his posse at a lookout along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had a group of nine. The plan was to was to pedal up Mt Pisgah and then back down on Rt 151 and then meander through the valley back to town. An easy 40 - 50 miles. A rough estimate. Loosely planned. We'll see where we end up after we drop down into the valley. Sounded good to all of us.

The start of the ride was straight up the mountain for about 15 miles. The road (BRP) is awesome, very quiet and well maintained. The incline is never more than 6 - 7 percent, it may bump up a bit in some spots. The views are incredible. What was most interesting this day were the tunnels. The first time through was scary. In the middle of the first tunnel it was pitch black and after entering under bright sunshine, it was a bit disorienting. There were a total of 7 tunnels to traverse to get to the top of Mt Pisgah.

Along the way we regrouped and snapped some pictures. The weather continues to be brilliant sun and warm temps. Today was high 60's. (sorry about that...for you upstate NY folks that may be reading) The climb to the top was a blast, with spectacular views on both sides of the road.

We did some sightseeing at the top and then we descended approximately 3 miles to the intersection of Rt 151. This road was wicked cool... steep descent with about 50 switchbacks to navigate. The road was banked nicely too so that you could sweep through the corners. I had to ride the brakes for nearly the entire trip to the bottom. Some of the corners had sand from the snow storm from ten days ago and were a little sketchy. At one corner there was a massive dead tree that appeared to have fallen into the road from way up the Mt. We all had to pick our way around the branches and debris. This was a hoot. After the ascent and descent of Mt Pisgah it was some more of tooling around the NC countryside .... lost. Even the locals get lost. No matter, it was a great day to be lost in the hills of NC. Another successful 4 + hour ride. Here is our official photographer with most of the crew in the background, taken at the start / finish on the BRP at the FBR overlook.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day 3 in Asheville. Well let's first rewind to last night.... where we went to a vegan restaurant in town, recommended by our good friend Frank from MHCC. The food was excellent. The beer was an English wheat porter served cold and especially tasty. It also packed a good kick at about 9 % alchohol. Good fuel for Day 3.

In the AM, Wayne started us off with some oatmeal ... not instant oatmeal, the real deal with apples and brown sugar too. This was important fuel for today's ride.

Today's ride was 50 mile ride starting just outside of UNC Asheville. This ride was called Roundabout into Marshall.

A pattern has developed for us when we start the rides. We immediately get lost. I'm sure that the local clubs and those familiar with the area don't ever have this problem, but for us out of towners, we need to have better directions on how to get out of the parking lot! and where are the first two or three turns. Anyway, we eventually find the route after exploring a bit. Plus, these rides are all about saddle time and enjoying the scenery and the weather and not so much about covering miles at a predetermined speed or average speed.

And let me tell you about the weather...absolutely beautiful... sunny and temps in the 70's. We covered the first 20 miles or so meandering up and down hills. Relentlessy up and down hills. The only flat surface here is the ocassional pond. The terrain and rural feel of this part of the state was decidedly different from the forest from yesterday's ride. The hills were never more than a couple hundred feet of elevation for any one hill but we went up and down about forty of these types of hills.

The real treat mid-ride is the stop in Marshall, Madison County, NC. This quaint little town sits along side the French Broad River, nestled up against the mountainside. We stopped and spent a good amount of time at this cafe and ate cookies and chatted with the locals. We met this young man who invited us to join himself and others on a ride tomorrow. We agreed. I hope we can keep up.
The ride back to Asheville was flat, along side the FB River. The views again... stunning. The head wind however was brutal. Towards the end of the day, we were all toast. I suspect it was a combination of the hills, headwind, and the ultra healthy vegan dinner from last night that did us in. No matter, we had 5 hours in the saddle, exploring the hills and enjoying the sunshine.

Because we were all running on empty, mondo fueling was in store for tonight. Wayne and i went to the local super and bought pasta, beer, bacon, whole cream, cheese, and more beer. Wayne made a delicious pasta dish and we inhaled food at an alarming rate. Soon after, food coma set in. Ah, life is good.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Creeks in NC

Day 2 in Asheville... Most important task for Day 2 was to get to a Waffle House. Art had been chatting up this Waffle House thing for about 800 miles of drive time in the car trip down. Every Waffle House sign was a major scenic attraction. Each siting brought forth another story about a Waffle Hose visit or a how Debby made the best waffles and generally if we are not eating waffles, we could never reach our true cycling potential. I googled Waffle Houses....8 bazillion hits. Strangely enough, there was a Waffle House just 1.3 miles from the rental house. We're off to eat waffles. We get there and immediately i'm reminded that we are in North Carolina. The folks are quite friendly, but folks smoke in eating establishments. Something we will have to get used to. Well Art announces that we are from New Yaawk and that we traveled all the way down here for waffles. The waitress seemd impressed because we got some pretty decent waffles soaked in warm syrup plus a care package of Waffle House calendars, Waffle House toy footballs and all sorts of Waffle House stuff. Cool.

But we are really down here to ride. We decided upon a relatively easy ride of 43 miles called Ben's Ride 43. It starts at the Liberty Bike Shop, where we go inside and again announce that we're tourists from New Yaawk and we show the nice young man at the desk this map... he smiles and says, " this is a great ride and i'm Ben". This too is very cool. We chat some and then we are off.

The weather is warm and sunny. The roads are busy around Henderson but as we progress further out of town the roads become quiter and always rolling. First we pedal along side Avery Creek, then Bent Creek. The scenery is interesting, with the woods just starting to bud fresh greenery, yet the tress are all still without leaves providing great views of the hills and we can spot houses tucked into the hills everywhere. Then its Hoopers Creek, then Powder Creek. Somewhere mid-ride we connect with a couple of guys from Cane Creek out on their lunch break. We learned that Cane Creek is located on Cane Creek Rd not very far from where we are staying. Towards the end of the ride we are treated to a stepped climb up Rose Rd. This climb was not too tough but it made us all work and sweat. It felt good to sweat some under the warm sun. I learned later that it snowed at my house back in NY. Oh well.

There are Awesome views everywhere. After about 3 and half hours we were back at Liberty, which is a very impressive shop. I love my LBS ...CK Cycles, but that Liberty shop was neat. I'm sure i'll be back there and i understand that they accept credit cards.

Back at the house, Art and i decide to traverse one more Creek... Cane Creek, the same Cane Creek that builds wheels and components. Plus, we wanted to scope out a ride that we could do from the house that would get us out of the busy area that we were in. We made it out to the shop but the roads were not all that great and we turned around to get some food. We did a good 4 and a half hours today. It was all good, no problems, mechanicals, or aches and pains! pretty good for a pack of old guys.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Oh its been so long since i've updated this thing... well i've finally got something to report. Art, Skip, Wayne, and i decided to get away from this bone chilling cold Northeast weather and go some place warmer and ride. I was originally hoping to go the Spring camp in Majorca, Spain, but i couldn't get anyone to go along with that. Instead, Skip organized a training camp of sorts of his own down in Asheville, North Carolina. Skip found a nice house to rent and a web site loaded with dozens of maps and rides. So Saturday we loaded up four bike and four guys into my little Toyota and off we went.

We drove down Interstate 81 which was a beautiful trip, great scenery, and excellent roads. I got periodic text message updates from my wife and daughter from the America East Men's Basketball tourney. UAlbany beat the number 2 seed Vermont in OT!!! That's AWESOME BAAAYYYY BEEEEE!

We arrived in Asheville mid afternoon, Sunday March 8. House is beutiful. We unloaded and suited up for a short easy ride to shake out the bikes and the old bones. I felt naked with shorts and a short sleeve jersey. We headed out onto a busy four lane highway, Hendersonville Rd i think and we headed north to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We made it to the parkway and we headed north. The Parkway is most interesting. The two lane road is decent, but no shoulder. The traffic was moderate but very considerate to cyclists. The climbs are gradual and the viwes spectacular. The weather is wonderful... 70 degrees and sunny.

Tomorrow we are planning to start easy... a 40 miler called Ben's Ride 43. It starts at a bike shop so perhaps we will do some shopping at the end of the ride. And we should have enough time to pedal out from the house to explore some more later. That's the plan anyways. Check in tomorrow to see how it goes.