Thursday, July 24, 2008

Single Speed

So I finally have the Rig built up and rideable. There a few issues with it, but it's rideable. So of course the first actually ride I do with it is a race. Wednesday night I brought the Rig up to test the bike and my will power to pedal up the mountain with only one gear.

Thanks to Chris and KC who not only helped me get the bike operational but are also the ones encouraging me to try it. Yes that's a somewhat sarcastic thanks. Adam also deserves part of the credit/blame as it's his old frame and he too commonly rides his SS on our rides.

Nevertheless the inevitable reality of riding a single speed is speed. You simply must go faster, must stand up, must push harder, breath deeper, focus more, use breaks less and ride as smooth and powerful as possible. It's bound to make me a better rider, but oh how it hurts.

I've never had to push myself so hard on the Sundance course. It's so easy to back off, click down a gear and settle into a comfortable pace until you recover enough to up the pace again. Not so with the SS obviously. It's go or no go pretty much all the time. Even the flats you have to spin quick to maintain some speed and not roll to a stop.

It was challenging, my legs feel it, but I'm glad I did it. Now I just have to talk myself into doing it again.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Snowbird Mountain Bout

Domination! Yes, Finally. It only took a smaller field of 12 riders, Reed on Vacation in Hawaii (aww too bad) and Jay having a mechanical (finally someone other than me), and then I can WIN. Hurray! It was actually a good race for me, so I can't discount that I felt good, but in reality results could have easily been quite different. I'll enjoy it while I can. All I know is I have a Blue Ribbon this year.

Here's how it went down. At lineup we got reshuffled again and were behind most of the Sport Men divisons. I was waiting further up and when my group finally got near the line I noticed that there were many more riders that I originally thought, most groups are small at this race for a variety of reasons, but that doesn't deter the 40 somethings from coming out for a nice day of racing. Oh no, a handful less than normal, but still a good group. I did notice Reed's absence and Jay informed me that he was basking in the tropical sun in the islands (sweet, one less adversary to watch ride off the front).

With the short road to singletrack I figured a sprint was going to be critical here. The only thing that makes this possible for me is that the Sprint is not at 10 degree incline but much more moderate. I got off the line first and hammered up the hill determined not to get caught in traffic on the technical singletrack. As I approached the hard turn I looked back to see a bit of a gap to the field which allowed me to let off and relax a minute as we moved into the trees. I bobbled once on some technical rocks, but recovered quickly and got into a rythmn. I knew Jay would be right behind me, but being on the front allowed me to control the pace. Half way of the Bill Bass Highway he came around me and picked up the pace a bit. I tried to hold a tolerable gap but I needed to ride my race. I kept him in sight but wasn't ready to close the gap yet.

Into the second lap I was still close enough through the start/finish to see Jay and knew I'd have to work hard on the single track to get closer. Still in contact, 30-40 yards off, at the top of the climb I turned on the downhill to try to close the gap a bit more before the 3rd lap. Near the lift turns I saw Jay off the bike working on it. I thought "flat" and came through hoping I'd get a bit of a gap before he was going again. Apparently the netting on the ground here got caught in his rear cassette and tangled up. It took a bit to clear the mess and that made the difference. I went as hard as I dared on the loose, dusty, dangerous downhill and pushed throught he base area to start the 3rd lap.

Sometimes you kinda want to know who's coming up behind you. I didn't! I refused to look back just in case Jay was coming up and my chances of actually getting home first would dematerialize. Apparently the gap was big enough and I came around the final lap in a steady pace and really didn't have to push too hard or stress about catching someone.

A good race for me, but not a great race as I didn't have to battle the speedy competitiors (sans mechanicals). I don't know that I'll be fast enough this year, but one little win sure is a great morale boost.

Jackson Hole is this coming Saturday and it's one of my favorite courses. It might be a small field again, but I know Jay and Reed will be there, so it will be challenging.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Trail Day

Today I didn't race, I cleared trail. The Jurassic Park trail to be exact. In actuality it's called the Lame Horse trail, but that name is just plain lame. Even the USFS representative who lead our work crew thought so. She liked our name better.

The trail is actually in great condition for about half of the 2.2 miles that connect the Alpine Loop Summit to the Timpanogos trailhead at Aspen Grove. But the lower half is perpetually rocky and is regularly in need of some attention. Today Bill, Kevin, Joseph, Tim, Scott, Jeff, Jake and I all walked the trail from top to bottom clearing overhanging branches, removing rocks and clearing the scree. It took the morning to get the trail worked and is now in great condition.

After we completed our work some of us rode the trail up and then back down. It was fast, smooth and fun. It still works your hand due to all the breaking, but now is a bit less sketchy on some of the turns. The last section which drops into Aspen Grove is much improved and I rode it faster today than I ever have.

It's alot of work to go rake, ho and clear trail for a Saturday morning, but I think it's important that those who use the trail give back a little. We discussed the involvement of other trail users in trail maintenance with our the Forest Service employee. She said that they are working hard to get moto and horseback groups involved in trail maintenace which is good to hear. However, it's important to note that the most damaging impact to some of the trails in this particular area have come from those groups. Now there's irresponsible usesage from any number of users, including cyclists I'm sure. However it's nice to know that at least our group is one of the few out there maintaining and improving and not just utilizing.

Thanks to those who were able to come out and help today. It greatly improved the trail and shows we care about our access.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Solitude Race

I love this course. I find that I somehow do better on the technical windy trails rather than the long moderate climbs which others seem to just spin up without effort. Mind you this course is not without difficult climbing and starts with a grueling pavement climb which is so steep that it essentially neutralizes the "roadie" types who mentioned above. Apparently I need to work on sustained effort at a high heart rate.

Anyway, I went into this race feeling good even though I felt pretty fatigued after the moderate 2 hr. ride the day before. Mentally I was ready to race and knew this course favored my style of riding.

As one would expect the road ascent thinned the field nicely and put me in 7th after a half mile. I have to keep count otherwise I'll never know if I'm making up ground when my pace kicks in and I start to pass those who can start quicker than I can. By the top of the climb I had worked back up to fourth position and was feeling pretty good about the fact that I could see Jay and Reed, (this isn't very common as they usually disappear within about 10 minutes of the start). Traffic on the course and my downhilling helped me to keep contact with the leaders as we started out Serenity. There were some riders in between us, but I was hoping they'd keep up their pace so I didn't drop back to far. About halfway up the climb on the ski run a rider ahead had problems and the line of 6 of us backed up. Reed told me later the stop and go spiked his heart rate and he had to hold back a bit. So I got by him and was now in 3rd. Close enough that I was determined not to lose Jay and Rich. They kept a steady pace and I was able to close the gap even more on the downhill. As we started the 3rd lap an Expert female who felt she could go faster kept asking to pass, so I let her go on the pavement before the final switchbacks but as we started the climb we were back on her as her pace slowed. I encouraged her not to lose the two guys in front of her as they were my objective and she did a good job holding pace and eventually requested she let her by, so we were all together 1,2,3 but now holding her wheel until she finally let us all go knowing that her pace had dropped off enough that she was holding us back.

I did everything I could but as we approached the upper pavement for the last time I didn't have enough left to match the pace of the leaders. I hit the pavement 30 yards back of Rich and Jay was at least 20 yards ahead of him. On the steep climb I forced myself to hammer and get up it quick and within 5 feet of the top my left calf cramped. Knowing Reed was likely not far behind I kept spinning but at a slower pace. I watched my prey disappear up the next hill. By the top Reed had caught me and asked me how far back we were. I told him we were in 3rd and they were just ahead and I encouraged him to go catch them, he left and I tried to work out the kink and my frustration that I was going to drop the spot I had worked so hard for. On the dirt downhill I rested and started a quick cadence onto the flat to the final downhill. I let it all go and eventually was back on Reed's wheel by the pavement. Then to my amazement he slowed. We entered the last switchbacks and something wasn't right, but his pace was off and I knew he had to know I was there. I took turn inside of him and went around with a couple of quick pedal strokes. I was back in 3rd within site of the finish line. I finished 39 seconds behind Jay, 23 behind Rich and Reed was right behind me.

Overall a great day of racing. I didn't win, but I felt like I was racing and actually being competitive the whole day. I felt good afterwards but felt bad for Reed who would have held the spot had his chain not bounced off on the last downhill, it was the sort of mild mechanical that ever racer dreads, especially when so close to finishing.

Next week, trail building on Jurrasic Park trail (Aspen Grove). So some riding, but mostly raking rocks off a great trail behind Timp.

Rounding the final corner.

Post race delirium.