Monday, December 14, 2009
On Friday afternoon I suited up for a pre-ride of the course. In warm weather, it would have been a fast track with many flat sections and limited climbing. However, the weather was ideal for creating ice and after 2 days of racing everything was packed down into a slick, rock-hard surface. Even the grassy sections that were not covered in snow were extremely treacherous. Bone crushing crashes through these off-camber ice rinks were clearly foreshadowed.
There were only two true dismounts on the course: a double set of barriers and a set of stairs with about 30 steps. Several tight turns, a few of them 180 degrees, would slow down the pace and require powerful accelerations to stay with a group. It seemed that such accelerations would not be possible due to the unusually low coefficient of static friction between rubber and ice. Felling lucky to have kept the bike upright for three laps, I terminated my pre-ride and rode for a short time on asphalt.
Dave and Tony Lackey (who joined us on day 2) raced at 9:30 am on Saturday. The conditions were almost exactly the same as what I had experienced during my pre-ride. The Ace boys got terrible call-ups behind more than 100 other Masters 40-44 racers. They both kept the rubber down as they avoided the start line pileup that broke at least one collarbone. I watched in awe as crash after crash after crash brought racers to the ground. The course was a veritable ice rink. Dave and Tony stayed mostly on their bikes and essentially held their starting positions. They finished about as well as you'd expect from a couple of Ace chumps, 110th and 136th place. The winner of their race completed 6 laps, Dave and Tony were pulled before they completed 5. Deprecation aside, they did well to escape the race without any major injuries (bruised ego excluded).
My race, Masters 30-34, was scheduled for 3:30 pm. By then the temps were in the low 40's and the sun had worked its magic on the ice rink, turning it into a wet, sloppy mess. I was called-up about 50th position behind all the Category 1 and 2 and many Category 3 racers. All of the 4's were behind me. The gun sounded and the fun began. I came to a complete stop at the first turn as the group slowed in front of me. At the next straight stretch, I accelerated as hard as I could and got off the beaten path to pass about 15 guys. From there I just dug in and tried to hold my position.
The course was very much unlike what I had ridden the previous day. My Michelin Mud tires hooked up perfectly and only rarely did I lose traction. The pace picked up as the riders stretched out over the course and traffic became less of an issue. Instead, braking was my biggest challenge. I did poor job of setting up my brakes after disassembling and reassembling the bike for the trip to Oregon. The slow-mo pre-ride didn't reveal the issue, so it wasn't until I was racing that I realized that I'd have to drag a toe Flinstones-style to make it through some fast downhill corners.
I occasionally heard people yelling out positions and could tell I was somewhere around 30th place. Finishing in the top 30 seemed like a reasonable goal, so I tried to pick off a few guys here and there and avoided getting passed. I was yo-yoing with a guy until the end of the last lap when he spun out in front of me while going up a mud hill. I was pretty sure that move guaranteed me a top 30, but wasn't sure until I saw the results that evening. 25th. Nice. I was muddy.
Check back in January/February to hear about how badly DG gets whooped in the Noque. Also, if for some reason you want to see pictures of Dave and Tony, or a shot of me with Miss Alaska teen, check out the photo album for the trip here. All of the good shots were taken by Lucian -- Dave, Tony and I took the rest.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing and enjoying the company of new and old friends. The annual party downtown was crazy as usual including the party bus. Breakfast the next morning was the now tradition of The Omelet Shop, and amazing as always. Iceman is always one of my favorite race weekends of the season and I can't wait until next year.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
This was another big weekend for SISU Cycles. Tyler Jenema and Jesse Bell battled one another for the whole race. Coming into the last lap it looked like it would come down to a 2 up sprint to the finish. Unfortunately, Jesse dropped his chain at the last dismount, just 200 yards from the finish, allowing Tyler cruise in for an uncontested win.
Tyler's win earned him top honors in the seven race series, narrowly edging Jeff Juntti, who finished 2nd overall. Jesse's second place finish kept him in 3rd place in the series.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Tyler opted for his full-rigid, carbon-framed 67.5-er, a one-of-a kind bike built up with a 27.5" front wheel and 26" rear wheel. Jesse was riding his brand new "The Ex", a titanium cross-specific frame pictured in a previous post.
With two races remaining on the season Tyler and Jesse are #1 and #2 in the UPCross point series. Go SISU!
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I raced hard and placed 58th out of 1759 finishers.
Friday after work, I traveled down to Hayward, WI with Dave Grant, hereafter referred to as "DG". After picking up our race packets we stopped in to KFC for the obligatory greasedown. We were greeted at the drive-thru by Susan who was eager satisfy our every culinary desire. Although she forgot DG's coleslaw, we continue to recommend the Hayward KFC.
Lodging was dicey in Hayward, so we settled into a quaint motel room in Spooner. The motel's proprietor was perplexed when we asked what the main attraction was in Spooner. She mentioned that some people come to fish, and others shoot bears.
We retired to our respective beds after last minute bike tune-ups, number plate placements, secret energy drink prep and Ambien only to rise again at 4 am. There was a hint of rain in the air as we drove 30 minutes to the start of the race where we left our bikes in the middle of the street to secure our start position. We were 7 rows back when we arrived at 5 am and heard that to get a front row placement you had to arrive at 4 am.
We caught a couple more hours of sleep back at the hotel and returned to the race start for 8:30. 1800 is a lot of people, and a lot of bikes, as you can here.
You may be able to spot me at about 25 seconds into the video. Consider that my start position is considered very good and that I had to get up at 4 am to secure it!
Anywho, the rain cleared out and made way for blue skies. The temps were high and rising, a drastic change from the 30's and rain racers experienced last year. The rollout was pretty well controlled and not too fast. There was a lot of accelerating and braking, but that's the norm. I saw one dude lock 'em up and fishtail on the pavement. Not good. I pulled a little chicanery myself and bunny hopped up onto the median putting the hammer down and passing at least 100 people in the process. It felt like the right thing to do, but in retrospect, I wouldn't do it again.
The lead group immediately got a gap on the rest of us and was probably a quarter of a mile up the road by the time they reached the dirt. I wasn't going to blow myself up chasing them alone, so I just sat on a tandem and cruised. I tried to keep the pace steady throughout the race, avoided going anaerobic, stayed seated on almost all the climbs and just hung on. Normally I blow up and end up riding most of these races by myself after getting shelled from a group. Not this time. About 1/2 way through the race I put in an effort to pull my group up to a group ahead of us. This group included ladies winner Jenna Rinehart (who beat the tar out of me in the Ore to Shore). I figured if I stayed with her group I'd do alright, so that's what I did. I ended up dropping all but two of our 20+ group on the Firetower Hill climb. From there I rode as hard as I could trying to maintain my position.
Another smaller group came together and we rode it out to the last section of Birkie Trail. I don't remember much of what happened the last few miles, except that as I crested a little hill someone shouted, "it's all downhill from here". I put it in my big gear and ripped it to the finish. I was very pleased with 58th place in my first Chequamegon and hope I earned a preferred start for the next time. The course is very fast and enjoyable to ride, and I think suits my strengths (not climbing).
DG finished 2 minutes behind me and beat his time from last year by 15 minutes! We partook in a beer and kraut-covered brat at the finish line, then jumped in the truck, still covered in dust, to make the 4 hour drive home.
In 10 hours of driving between Marquette and Spooner we didn't see a single deer. This does not bode well for the hunters this season.
Monday, September 21, 2009
The pace of the first lap was smokin' as everyone vied for the prime... a growler of KBC brew. Team Priority Health rockstar Tyler Jenema set the tempo for the first lap, but was temporarily distracted by some curvaceous spectators and piled up in a narrow, sandy section. He brought Jesse down with him and they were passed by a few contenders, including Chocolay Ace phenom Jeff Juntti.
Jesse fell back to 8th place after dropping his chain three times, while Tyler Gauthier fought to stay in the top 4 for the first half of the race, only to rip off his derailleur hanger, ending his day on the bike. Meanwhile, Jenema broke a chain and DA flatted, forcing both of them into chase mode. Tyler Jenema quickly made his way back to the front; DA got rolling in 8th position behind Jesse, but was unable to match Jesse's enormous ego, I mean power. The two of them yo-yo'd a bit, and picked off a few riders who went out a bit too hard. Danny and Matt beat the crap out of themselves for 60 minutes and finished respectably.
It was great to see Ishpeming native Ron Williams show up at the race! Hope to see you again Ron!
"Eh" race results below, and at www.UPCROSS.net.
Check out all of Chris's race photos here.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
A good bunch of racers showed up including Jeff Adamcik, Anikin Nikolai, Aaron Swanson, Paul Belknap, among others. The roll out was a bit different this year with a little more road and up hills to split the field before the dirt track. Tom and I were on geared bikes and Glen was on a single speed. The plan was for me to set the pace as high as possible to the single track and let Tom set tempo through the single track. It worked and split the field to 4 of us. Note: Glen stuck with us to just about the single track which was super impressive being on a SS. We entered the single track with myself, Tom, Aaron, and Nikolai. Although Tom feels he was a bit off on the single track he set an awesome tempo keeping the each of us pounding the pedals. The tempo paced us and we had over a minute on the next guy going into lap two. Then the racing games started. Tom continued tempo in the single track and no one really wanted to keep that going on the two track. It cost us our split and with about 5 miles let Paul caught us on his SS. He knew he could not beat us on his SS letting us set tempo so he got on front and put in a hard effort. That effort struck an attack from Anikin splitting the 5 of us just ever so slightly. With about a mile left Tom and I worked as hard as we could to catch the attack but missed it by 15 or so seconds. Tom placed 4th and I place right behind him 5th. Tom was awesome in the single track and I would of done anything to give him a win that day, he deserved it. So it was a bit disappointing for us considering our team did a lot of the work and didn't get podium but a good race at that. Glen had a good day on the SS holding the lead for a bit but the strong effort in the beginning called the end to him down the finish. He placed 19th overall and 6th in SS.
Monday, August 10, 2009
I had a preferred start and lined up in the middle left side. As the O2S typically does it started at a red line pace as everyone jockey for position. My plan was to sit in the top 30 going into Lucy Hill as I knew Lucy Hill like the back of my hand. It worked as planned and I positioned myself perfectly and picked off 1 rider at a time on the ascent. Although the acid was pumping I felt good at the top and put the hammer down to establish myself with the top group. The pace was surprisingly slower for the next 3 or so miles which left a good time to recover. That is until the power line of North Lake popped into the picture. It really put gaps between most riders and established little groups here and there. I danced on the pedals through each up and down and found myself with a good group of guys going into Misery Hill. Misery Hill kicked every rider off the bike and I ran as much as the legs allowed me to without cramping. It was enough to stay with the group of 8 and this move would pay off as this group worked very well together and lengthen the gap to any rider trying to catch us from behind.
As I expected, the attacks were launched on 510 and I told myself to answer any attack no matter what it took, and I did. The constant attacks by the other riders took any thought out of my mind of attacking which was OK because I let the other guys wear themselves out. We rolled into the dirt together and small attacks by the good downhillers were attempted but were matched by me and the other followers. Knowing that they (the downhillers) really couldn't get away on the down hill I let him set the tempo into the Noque trail. The group stayed tight through the Noque Trail and we entered the last aid station. My support team supplied me with my last water bottle and yelled out our position, which happened to be 11th-18th place. I now knew I was with some tough riders and this was going to be a battle for the last 5 miles.
In attempt to prepare myself for a battle I knew fueling on the two track road was my best option. That best option turned into disaster and the near perfect day was not so perfect anymore. I lost concentration for about 3 second, thinking about refueling, before I knew it my front wheel was rubbing the rider in front of me. This caused me to jam the wheel left and it sent me flying over the bars followed by a knobby tire imprint from the rider behind me. I cause myself to crash and took someone else down with me. Surprisingly we were back on our feet quickly and I attempted to remount only to find out that my crash caused the rear derailleur to break into two. I don't know if it was my initial fall or the rider hitting me from behind that caused it but the feeling was indescribable. "Anything but this, a flat? a dropped chain? a soar body part? any thing but a broken component." It's about the only thing that could have stopped me from finishing. In one last competitive effort I started to run towards the last check point thinking that I might be lucky enough to swap for a bike. I quickly realized I was a lot farther from the aid station than I thought. I watched rider after rider pass me by and my realization of finishing disappeared with each passing rider. After about a 10 minute run I surrendered. I made a tough phone call to my wife with a spectators cell phone to come back and pick me up. Never having to surrender to a race before it was one of the toughest decisions I've made in along time.
Although the near perfect day ended not so perfect it was a great learning experience. I was able to compete with some of the better riders in the Midwest and learned a ton about racing and myself.
That day would not have been possible without all the support I received. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all that helped me.
My wife and my parents for their moral and loving support, they're the best fans a racer can have. My family for encouragement mile after mile. Jared Koski for my first bottle exchange. Tim Palomaki for his chiropractic and my second bottle exchange. My SISU Cycles team. Matt Palomaki for an awesome SISU bike. Finally but not least Dan Dehlin for all his nutritional advice and for hooking me on Hammer Nutrition.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Can you think of anything better to do than ride a bike for 24 hours? Only about about a million, right! Well I know two Sisu boys who lost their 24 hour endurance virginity this past weekend, for one, Tom Carpenter, it was a great experience, I think ? and Tyler had a memorable experience as well, but one he soon would like to forget! Tom Carp kicked butt having the fastest night lap and one of the fastest averages overall and Tyler having severe gastric distress and still turning in one of the fastest laps of the day, including one lap to the Wausau Hospital E.R. for a 2 liter intravenous pit stop. Mechanicals were in store for Glen, broken chain in B.F.E., with no tools, time for heel-toe express! A good Samaritan at Red Bud Road donated Glen a bike, wrong pedals, a single speed, no light (its pitch F'n dark) and five miles through a rock garden to go to transition! As you can see Team Sisu had some serious obstacles to overcome! We went from First to Worst in a hurry!
A definition of SISU is "intestinal fortitude" (a.k.a. GUTS) and that is exactly what I saw from this team. Tom turning in stellar night laps and Glen riding a borrowed bike, we slowly clawed our way back up the leader board. With 2 hours and 23 minutes to go and Team Sisu in third place, being 12 minutes out of 1st and 11:45 out of second , our strategy was set, Glen had to ride his fastest lap of the day and Tom (riding with only one lap's rest) had to ride the fastest lap of THE race. "Sisu" should be emblazoned on Tom's chest because he pulled us 7 minutes closer in one lap after racing all out for 24 HOURS! We only obtained a third place podium spot but it was definitely not a lack of SISU!
Team Sisu had a HUGE amount of support from the "WSG Girls"(who by the way took first in the 12 Hour race) and all of our SIGNIFICANT" others! Its nice to hear a cheer from Patty P.(a girl who never sleeps) for Team Sisu at 5:30 a.m. when your tongue is hanging out and you've got severe tunnel vision from sleep deprivation. Kudos to the "Houghton Boys" for placing 4th!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
After an embarrassing performance at my first Elite WORS race, I felt a bit defeated and wasn't sure I belonged in Cat 1. I arrived in Kewaskum expecting to improve on the first race and hoping I'd finish the day feeling like I put in a good effort that was competitive at this level.
I was a little more aggressive at the start of this race and moved up a few spots before entering the singletrack climb up the ski hill. On the first lap I narrowly averted disaster on a fast downhill when my shoes inexplicably unclipped from my pedals simultaneously. I learned quickly that you have very little control over the bike when your only points of contact are two hands and your taint.
I tried to hold back a little bit on the first few laps to avoid bonking. The first three laps were within 3 seconds of each other, so I knew my pacing was good. The last two laps slowed down just a touch, but I held on to get 26th place out of 47 finishers, 11 minutes behind the winner, Brian Matter. Full results are posted here.
I rode hard, didn't bonk, felt good and improved my results as measured both by overall placing and % time back from the winner. The improvement is encouraging, but I am still shooting for a top 20. It is within reach, but I need to get myself in better position in the starting chute and ride quite a bit faster.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
During a 12 hour race you have no time for rest. This picture truly represents fast food. Thank you to my sponsor, Culver's, for the well needed nutrition. (Check out my right hand, chicken sandwich).
A huge thank you to my parents who were there to support me. Without them it would have not been possible to stay on the bike as long as I did. Thank you for your love and support.