Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fun at Home

With all the bike race travel that happens from March to September, it's a welcome treat to have a race so close to home...no packing, driving or flying is required.  This last Sunday was the final race of Seattle's MFG Cyclocross Series, held in the idyllic cyclocross venue at Seattle's Woodland Park - and a convenient 5-minute spin from my house.  Seven hundred seventy-seven racers came out for the races on Sunday (according to the Ballard News Tribune).  Cyclocross Magazine did an official write-up of the race, so you can get those details HERE!

The highlights of the day included:

  • Being able to pedal to the race from my house
  • Watching Sarah Butsch and Liam Voorhees each compete in their first cyclocross race EVER
  • Taking the win in front of a hometown crowd

Sarah looking experienced after 10min, owning the run-up and on her way to winning Beg. Women's field.  First 'cross race, and second bicycle race ever.

Liam Voorhees blazing along in his cyclocross debut

Taking the win
Thanks photographer Mike Hone for the shots (mikehone.com)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rossland BC video shoot

The old saying, "ride it like you stole it!", may be aptly substituted with, "ride it like you're in a video shoot!!"  That may be a commonplace idea for the regular stars of freeride films and ski movies, but for your average spandex-clad,  cross country racer, it's quite the novelty.  Being filmed from a chasing helicopter while tearing down a frosty, snow-covered ridge-top trail was key to inspiring the new saying.  That's what I decided this weekend on assignment with Kona Bicycles for filming the next installment of House of the Big Wheel, Kona's shred-inspiring presentation of their big-wheeled mountain bikes.

LOCATION: Rossland, BC
TRAIL - Seven Summits Trail, IMBA Epic, check it out!

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Jet fuel...check.  With dollar signs literally falling out of the helicopter with each chop of the blade, it was a money-saving and time-saving plan to bring the fuel-stop to the top of the mountain, rather than have the heli fly back and forth to an airport.

That's Derek Frankowski, co-producer of Life Cycles.  He shot stills for the weekend.  Videographer Eric Crosland worked his magic while hanging out of the helicopter all day long.  It was a privilege to work with such  accomplished artists who have done so much to bring our sport to the magazine stands and silver screen for the last several years.

Foggy down low

Breaking through
All clear at the top of Red Mountain

To get to the first shooting location, "standard ride time is 2hrs, you boys need to be there in 40min, chopper's comin' in...here's a map"...

Barry Wicks, on location, fresh snow, elev. ~7,000'

Chopper...Old Glory in the background

Barry & Eric setting up for the day

Kona Team Chopper - Bell 206 JetRanger - gross weight ~1,870lbs

By the end of the day, Barry and I rode between 40k and 50k of epic trail between shoot locations.  It would have been an incredible day of riding without the whole helicopter element.  Barry aboard his Hei Hei 29 Supreme, me aboard the new carbon King Kahuna 29 with the team race build, weighing in at a scant 21lbs.  Getting chased by a helicopter while riding world-class trail through the Kootenay Mountains was pretty fantastic.  A major highlight of the off-season, and a highlight of the year in general.

The action shots and footage should be ready in the next couple weeks, and they're sure to be impressive with the likes of Eric and Derek behind the lenses.  And Mitchell Scott, too (Kona Global Communications Director), who arranged and directed all of the logistics for the entire weekend, and photographed the action as well.

Kona has been doing great things for mountain biking since they started in 1988.  I was flattered to be a part of the story this weekend.  We speculated that this just might be the most epic footage of pure, spandex-clad cross-country riding in the last decade, maybe ever...at least since the seminal Chainsmoke, released by Giant Leap Films in 1996.  My friends and I must have watched that movie almost every weekend during summer of 1998 when we first discovered mountain biking.  So much in the sport has changed since then, but the feeling at the end of a day of great riding...feels the same as when I was 14.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

2011 Worlds - Wrapping up the Season

And that’s a wrap!…for the 2011 mountain bike season anyway. Two weeks ago I competed in the elite World Championships in Champéry, SUI as a member of the US National team. This was my second consecutive attendance to Worlds, and the normal electric atmosphere was amplified (at least for me) by the insanely beautiful location of the race venue, nestled into an “alpine cathedral” in the Swiss Alps.

Photo Credit: Colin Meagher/Pinkbike

Last year, my berth to Worlds in Mt. St. Anne, QC was more of a Cinderella story outta nowhere, having balanced my full time job at Ridgeline all season long, racing for Erik Tonkin’s Team S&M, and really just thinking a trip Worlds was a long shot.

The 2011 season was different. First of all, the idea of qualifying for Worlds was no longer a completely daunting prospect - I knew I could do it. To back it up, I earned a rookie spot on the Kona Factory Team , complete with top-of-the-line equipment, support at races, and the confidence boost of being a member of an internationally recognized company and team. Kona has a storied history of supporting great riders (riders whose accomplishments I aspire towards). My approach to racing is a good fit with the company - it's as much to do with the story as it is with the racing, and not all about results - the Team S&M approach is the best way to describe it.

In 2011 I also gained the support of my company, Ridgeline Energy who, after learning of my accomplishments in 2010 and my aspirations to pursue a campaign for the London Olympics, supported me in establishing a balance between work and racing. Having worked at the company for three years while balancing a growing race career (albeit slow growth), we arranged a scenario for me to reduce to part-time starting in June. The reduction in office commitment allowed me the time to travel to key qualifying events, and Veolia even helped to support a portion of my travel expense! Ridgeline should have been in last month’s issue of Outside Magazine in their article on the 50 Best Jobs in the country.

With such a huge increase in support, I was able to focus, for the first time ever, on attending the full World Cup and domestic US Cup tour. The increased travel would be a big challenge and learning experience in itself, but either way, Worlds was in the plan from the beginning, and the new "Cinderella Story" goal became a spot on the Long Team for the London 2012 Summer Olympics! Thus, my focus during the 2011 season (besides having fun training and racing) was to pursue a campaign for London, however much of a long shot…and that meant initiating myself to traveling and racing in Europe.

For those curious, the World Championships is, in the context of elite Olympic format cross country mountain bike racing, the most prestigious international event of the season (unless it is an Olympic year!). Like the Olympics, countries select only a small number of their top riders to compete, and instead of wearing their professional team kit, everyone dons the colors of their country. Worlds is held in a different location every year. For elite cross country, the US selected 7 men and 7 women to race in Champéry. For an underdog like me, just to race in the World Championships is a thrill and an honor.

SO…formal context out of the way…the race! How was it? With all of the build up and prep this year, I felt less distracted by the experience (the “holy sh!% I made it!!” feeling), and more prepared for regular business. That said, there wasn’t much regular business about the course in Champéry.

The start - Photo Credit: canadiancyclist.com/Cycling News

15,000+ fans made a wall of sound as we hammered up the first climb - Photo Credit: canadiancyclist.com

Totally awesome and gnarly! 7.5 laps of roots, mud, wet rocks, drop offs, insane crowd, heinously steep climb, all in under 2 hours, starting #104 out of some odd 111 top-notch racers.

My fabulous call-up position...(seems my tradeoff for learning how to compete internationally was learning how to do the travel and setting myself up for improved results in the future, but this year, not quite making “the top 60 club”, which earns you a good start position).

Starting from the back is still rough. It's more a game of luck than skill. But it makes passing fun…but passing was TRICKY on a course with so much slippery root terrain, the kind of sections which, if you don’t maintain the right momentum, you end up riding like a small child fresh off training wheels.

This is not me...but a good example of the rough terrain - Photo Credit: canadiancyclist.com

Hammering 120% on the short climbs is a tactic to make up lost ground, but the downside is that you are that much more gassed for the ensuing technical section, which takes almost as much energy to ride smoothly. Meanwhile, the guys in front (who are already faster), are riding at a relatively steadier pace. In general, for mortals like myself, there is lots of excess energy and luck required for starting in the back. To make things even harder, the rain hit two laps in. I raced my heart out, and I fought up to 66th before being pulled with 2 laps to go (I had fallen more than 20% behind the leader, so was pulled before being lapped). Sitting on the side of the trail panting and all muddy, I had a moment of feeling pretty diminutive watching would-be World Champ Jaroslav Kulhavy fly by looking cool and collected. But soon enough I settled on feeling fairly proud that I had made it this far, given my all in 2011 the best I knew how, and after everything I have learned, ready to do even more in 2012.

I exchanged muddy high fives after the race with good friend and fellow American Adam Craig, both of us feeling glad to be through with it and looking forward to some beer and Swiss cheese back at the team hotel. After packing up and farewells to the US Team and staff, Sarah and I rolled off to Kona Europe headquarters in Geneva, where we’re gonna celebrate the finish of the season with a few days of awesome riding and rest in the Alps. After that, it's back to work at Ridgeline in Seattle, some cyclocross racing, some REST!!, and eventually, lots of planning and preparation for the 2012 season.

The Kona office/showroom in Geneva

P.S....if you tried to watch the race on Freecaster and were blocked by the 30 Euro pricetag, you can now watch the race for FREE...CLICK HERE!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dobrý den!

I completed my second trip to Europe last weekend – special mission to World Cup #6 in Nové Mésto na Moravé, Czech Republic.

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After the first Euro World Cup trip to the UK and Germany this Spring, the whole process felt very relaxed…considering I was flying this far away for a single bike race! I thought sarcastically that it’s a good thing for my wind energy job at Ridgeline so that I can still offset the carbon footprint.

I arrived in Prague and zipped down the 2 hour drive in my Škoda Roomster...
...great dimensions for carrying bikes...

...and checked into the Hotel Hajčman in Žďár nad Sázavou, about 10km west of the race venue.

This area of the country is big on cycling, or at leased appeared to be this weekend. There are tour routes all over the place, and it was a big deal that the World Cup was in town. There were huge billboards and signs advertising the World Cup (with local hero Jaroslav Kulhavy front and center) set up within an hour radius of the town.

The race venue outside of Nové Mésto is used for Nordic Ski World Cup events in the winter time, and the organizers certainly knew how to put on a perfectly run event. The race started and finished in a big stadium, and on race day, over 20,000 fans poured in to watch the races. Most people gathered in the stadium, but thousands more were spread out through the woods screaming riders' names as loudly as possible. Fast lap times on the course were right around 13:00min, by far the shortest lap times so far this year. The soil in the wooded trails was very loamy, fed by a thick canopy of coniferous trees, and soaked up rain water like a sponge. There were 4 steep climbs between 1 and 2 minutes long, and descents were fast and technical with roots and man-made rock gardens. With 7 laps plus a start loop, that made for around 30 hard efforts (just with the climbs, not counting the flat dragstrip through the stadium) in less than two hours.

There were 117 starters in the men’s race on Sunday afternoon. I've moved up slightly in the international rankings since the spring, but still not enough to gain immunity to the start-loop melee. I got caught in solid pile-up exiting the stadium, and those of us caught up were instantly at the back of the pack. Going into the woods I was about third-to-last, and hemorrhaged 2:45 in the start loop alone! The race was exciting and fast-paced, and I felt strong and aggressive, but it was still a fight. On the third lap a small twig wound its way into my cassette. It was heinously narrow and flexible enough to instantly work its way between the mid-range of my cassette, forcing me off the bike to pick the pieces out. By the end I fought my way up from near 114th to 65th, and it looked as though I would complete the race without being pulled, but unfortunately, the race judges decided otherwise as I rolled into the stadium for the last lap. It was discouraging, since I sat there for over two minutes before Kulhavy came roaring into the stadium. All frustration went on pause, however, as I marveled at the noise of the crowd cheering Kulhavy across the finish line. It was so loud, it made a rumble in my chest.

The result in Czech was consistent with my performance in the North American World Cups, but I had hoped for a better improvement. It was still a trip and effort well-spent, but I'm looking forward to a solid, culminating effort in a couple weeks in Champery, SUI. In the meantime, I'm back in New England for end-of-season fine tuning before the last big race.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

sticking to the plan

There's a lot that goes into a season of racing mountain bikes, especially one that takes you all over North America and Europe...staying on track with training, earning strong results at big races...always learning new ways to keep everything running smoothly. Every bike racer has their own way of making the program work.

The plan doesn't look so intimidating lined out on paper.

For the majority of us cyclist folk, myself included, we do it for all kinds of reasons, but in general we all associate with little things like picking important events to peak for, mapping out training plans and long drives to events, cringing at the price of plane tickets when we have to fly, remembering to bring the right tools to keep the bike running smoothly at the race, wishing we could be paid to do it...in general, making a second, unpaid job out of managing all the pieces of bike racing in concert with the other responsibilities and obligations in life...job, family, etc....and still keeping all the big goals in sight.

This weekend I achieved one of my MAJOR goals for the year by being selected for 1 of 7 spots on the US Team for the 2011 World Championships (this year in Switzerland). My morale horn is tooting up a fanfare for making it to this point for the second consecutive year, because not only have I worked my tail off to make it, but I have been competing against many esteemed racer colleagues who earn their living by racing. I still aspire to be at that point someday. I spend so much time with bike-related activity that you could say I make cycling my living, but I certainly do not earn my living from cycling. Until the day I am paid to race, I understand that achieving goals like this through my own voluntary planning and hard work is beyond the value of any paycheck. This year, I would not would not have been able to make it work without support from my employer Veolia Environnement , bike sponsor Kona Bicycles , and friends and family.

What's next? On Wednesday I head out to the Czech Republic for the next stop on the World Cup circuit. After that, the final stop on the 2011 schedule - World Championships in Champery, Switzerland.

Along the way, the passenger seat in the rental car is full of the typical travel items

Lots of hours spent on Kayak.com to dial in the logistics, finding the best deals on plane tickets, rental cars and hotels

View 2011 Race Season in a larger map

Some training rides are better than others. The best are on the trails near my home in Trout Lake, WA.

Cross-training at the Trout Lake Fair - here my mom and dad about to win the two-person saw competition:

Many hours spent keeping the bikes maintained - shop not always this organized:

And still working on projects at Ridgeline, which not only keeps a good balance with racing and work, but also pays the bills:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sun Valley Nationals...by way of Mt. St. Anne and Windham...

There has been a big race every weekend for the last 4 weeks, and it has the dual effect of stretching and compressing time. The two days at each event feel like a week, and the weeks between fly by faster than weekends. Last weekend's National Championships held in Sun Valley, Idaho was the high point of the domestic season. What a difference a season makes for goals and expectations! Last year I hoped for at least a top 10 result and was elated with a 7th place finish. This year I had my sights set on a podium (top 5!). We were a few 1000' lower compared to last year's course in Granby, CO, but the climb straight up the ski slope bumped up the difficulty factor to somewhere around 11! Barry, Alice and I got in a practice lap on Friday night and laughed at the idea of doing the climb 6 times at race pace.

I came into the weekend with quite a bit of self-imposed pressure to perform well and (at least) do as well as I had done in 2010. With the hard climb and moderate altitude, I knew I had a good chance at riding well, but also, as with any race, a chance for some mishap. Standing on the front row at the start, I hadn't had the jitters that bad since state champ track meets in high school. I put the mental tension to good use by getting the whole shot and leading the field up the first part of the climb! It was a short moment of glory, but good enough for a photo:

Photo Credit: Dave Macelwaine, Trailwatch.net

I slipped a bit on the first of six laps, but thereafter rode a strong and steady race to repeat last year's performance, finishing 7th. Barry rode a strong race as well and finished 10th, his second win in two weekends after winning the BC Bike Race with Kris Sneddon. A solid day for Kona, with both of us in the Top-10.

At the moment I'm about to hit the road to Missoula, Montana for the last stop of the Pro XCT and the last of the 5-week race block. I'll put together a good recap of the last month+ worth of racing. In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying their summer... even if you live in Seattle.

Thanks for reading.

Photo Credit: Dave Macelwaine/Trailwatch.net

Photo Credit: Dave Macelwaine/Trailwatch.net

Thursday, June 30, 2011


The reporting has been minimal since returning from Europe, but the activities certainly have NOT. Within two days of returning from Germany, I drove down to Hood River, OR for the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic Stage Race . It has been a normal stop on my calendar since 2008, and I've always been able to depend on it as a challenging, fitness-building 4 to 6 days of racing. In the end I may have taken away a bit of fitness, but I took away a bigger lesson on my psychological limits for racing and travel. Turns out I could have probably used a break from racing that weekend, since the brain wasn't transferring to the legs very well. I still toughed it out and got the job done, albeit quite a ways behind. The best part of the weekend was watching my little sister, Emily, finish her first stage race sporting the Team S&M colors proudly. She just started racing on the road this spring for the University of Vermont Cycling Team . She's learning fast and is gonna be a force to contend with!

Fast-forward through a short mid-season rest, some quality trail time at home in the Northwest, I'm out on the East Coast completing the big mid-season campaign. Five consecutive weeks of big races from Wisconsin to Quebec to New York to Idaho to Montana, with one already wrapped up - Pro XCT #4, Subaru Cup in Mt. Morris, Wisconsin. It wasn't my strongest showing of the year, with a 14th in both the XC and Short Track...but good enough for the start of a long race campaign in which I want to peak towards the end, not the beginning. I was also reunited with Kona teammates Barry Wicks and Kris Sneddon, who put in impressive rides, finishing 7th and 11th in the XC, respectively. Thanks also to friends Ben and Giz for making the long drive up from Chicago to come cheer us on. All photo credits go to Ben.

blasting through the "Fire-Lane" drops on the Mt. Morris course

Sporting the new Kona colors

The Wisconsin weekend helped to sharpen my mental game after a few weeks off the race course. I'm focusing on channeling a good dose of confidence going into these next two World Cups and National Championships. Positive thinking is key.

I know it's cliche to talk about the power of positive thinking in sport, but to put it in context, I would say this: as I'm sure is the case for most elite-level athletes (or ANYONE who does something they are passionate about), there's a constant dose of self-monitoring that weighs throughout the season. All synonyms for "monitoring" apply...analyze, compare, test, scrutinize...and through it all there is a constant need to balance between a positive and negative interpretation. With all the assessment that occurs through managing health, training schedule, travel schedule, race performances, job, family and social life, there is a lot of time to think about and question whether you are going about it all the right way. Best not to let the all questioning run out of control in a hundred different directions, otherwise, as I've noticed, it stifles ones ability to focus on the reinforcing self-affirmations that we all need once in awhile. Sharpening the mental game with a race is the equivalent of getting away from all the questions and focusing positively on the task at hand.

I've got lots of things to be positive about going into these next several weeks of racing. Feeling healthy and strong, hours of quality training under my belt, a fast bike to ride, my company supporting me through the race season, support from family and friends...

Looking forward to the Mount Saint-Anne World Cup this Saturday. I've got unfinished business on this course! (remember the flat tire at World's last year...) I'm going to reclaim a strong finish this time around.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Offenburg World Cup

I'll hand it to the guy who punched me in the face early in the race, he had a pretty good one for a scrawny bike racer. Enough to draw blood. After he did that he cut course. Lame.

...but not as lame as this broken chain which put a halt to my race on the 1st lap...

So what's the deal, 118th place and 3 laps down in Offenburg??!! Well...I really think it could have been a better day. The preparation was perfect, the legs felt great, the sun was out...but much to my dismay, I was dealt a pretty crappy hand in the form of a split eyebrow from being punched by some jerk racer, a broken chain 12min into the race, capped off by a persistent dropped chain/faulty drivetrain.

After a furious start lap, I was focused on doing everything I could to move up through the crowd. In a cattle-herd section I got pushed into another rider, knocking him off balance. He singled me out as the malicious culprit and delivered a solid backhand punch right the to the left eye, smashing my glasses off. I kept the hockey-player reaction bottled up, and instead used the adrenaline to pass the guy on the next climb...only to see him running through the woods outside the tape (cutting course!!) on the next bottleneck. What a jerk! Still, I felt focused, and was ready to pounce on the first big open climb coming up after a short, steep, technical descent called Wolf's Drop.

A shot of Wolf's Drop, the big crowd cheering
Photo Credit Gary Perkin

Through the roots, my chain dropped to the outside, and when I hit the steep-to-flat transition, my cranks moved just enough to severely twist the chain. Same heart sinking feeling as when I flatted at Worlds, except this time I hadn't even had a chance to show my stuff. I ran into the tech zone where the USAC mechanic was able to find a spare chain. I counted 37 people go by me as I stood there getting it changed, so by my rough math I think I had moved up to 93rd from 130th...I didn't get rolling again until the last racer was way past.

I jumped back in, sitting in last place, and fought as hard as I could to make up lost ground. It's tough to stay smooth and consistent when you're racing alone trying to catch up, going too hard in some places, not capping off climbs as smoothly. Overall it can result in slower lap times even though it "feels" like you're going as hard as you possibly can. Something must have happened to my derailleur in the process of the chain bending, because my new chain kept dropping, forcing me off the bike to fix it two or three times a lap. In the frustration I started flailing at the course. Absalon, meanwhile, was putting out average lap times of 14:50. From timing myself in practice, I knew I was capable of at least 15:50, and here I had an open course, but the dropping chain really slowed me up. After the first lap I saw on the clock that I was 6min down, at least 2 or 3 of that was due to the chain. With the bad drivetrain, it was hard to do much with my situation, but I never gave up. I caught the back of the field and passed 10 people, but by then I had fallen too far back and was pulled with 3 to go.

Kind of sad to think I could've really had a chance to prove myself. Aside from the punch in the face, that's just how it goes sometimes. I was bummed for sure, but my preparation and subsequent experience here has been too valuable to be undone by bad luck. Ironically, I further realized my commitment to pursuing these big races. The difference between this mid-season setback and my flat at Worlds was that here, I was in the process of pursuing a larger goal, whereas at Worlds I had already achieved it. Misfortune stings a little more when its effect may prevent success in the future. I was reminded that the risk of a broken bike or other mishap is very real in any race, no matter how good I feel or how important I think it is. Even after traveling all the way to Offenburg, Germany, I realized that it is still a risk I am willing to accept.

After Sunday's frustrating race, I decided I need to go on a spin to clear my mind. In the process I came across a castle tower called Moostruck on the top of a mountain in the Black Forest.

And no matter how bad a bike race goes, there are still great things like fresh strawberries. The Offenburg area is known for its delicious strawberry treats.

Every single intersection in the Black Forest region is marked with signs. This would be a bike touring paradise.

A big thank you to my sponsor Veolia Environnement for helping to make this trip happen.

Hotel Kalikutt near Oppenau, Germany
Hotel Kalikutt

Euro-style helmet decal

Back home now and headed to the Mt. Hood Classic for a mid-season fitness plug, and looking forward to focusing my efforts to the second half of the season.

Men's XC Start c/o VeloNews.com

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dalby World Cup

Biding my time in the Manchester airport with a short WiFi window before flying to Germany, hoping that the freshly spewed ash cloud from Iceland doesn’t blow too heavily south before my flight. Throughout the nonstop headlines on all UK news channels, I've noted that no reporter has attempted to pronounce the actual name of the volcano. I remember last year's volcano was difficult for the English tongue, so perhaps they've decided to write this one off.

I’m feeling positive after the first European test at Dalby Forest. It’s best to look at the beginning of a World Cup campaign like a long-term investment. I’ve built a fair amount of equity in bike racing back in the states, but I’m fresh into the Transatlantic sector. Aside from preparing and racing as well as I possibly can, the biggest thing I'm focusing on is improving my start position. Over time, the more I can peck away at the field and build up points, the more I move up. The closer I am to the front of the field at the start of the race, the better chance I have at a good result. For the moment, starting in the back means I have to accept an otherwise discouraging result on paper, and look for the little victories whilst clawing my way from the back of the pack. At Dalby I made it up to 89th position, so passed around 30 riders. Not as good as the 60th I was shooting for, but next weekend in Germany is another shot.

I was called up even further back in Dalby than I expected - second to last row, so around 120th out of 130 riders. The start loop was a furious, all-out sprint for 60 seconds, and then into the traffic jam as soon as the path narrowed. The talent in the European World Cup field is noticeably deeper compared with the World Cups in North America. Here, EVERYONE is very fast, so it makes passing a bigger challenge than normal. For an example of how rough it is to start in the back, I lost nearly 5 minutes on the first lap (6 laps total) due to traffic jams. Making it through the cattle herd of racers is a mix of brute strength and luck. Either way, it's rough. Once things opened up on the remaining 5 laps, I could see on the time board that I was only losing between 70 and 80 seconds per lap. Assuming I could have started without the jams, I would have theoretically held my ground at a higher position in the field. I made up the most ground on the steep climbs, and kept passing riders all the way to the finish.

89th sounds like a discouraging result compared to my recent performances back home, but considering the speed and size of the Euro scene, my difficult start position, finishing on the leaders lap (i.e. not getting lapped), and the need to look at this as a slow, steady process of earning a better position, it was a good start. I'd give my performance a "B". 60th would have been an "A".

More soon, and pics, too.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dalby Sprint Eliminator and Practice

After getting used to driving on the opposite side of the road and shifting with my left hand, I made it safely to Pickering, UK . I linked up with the USA Cycling crew at the Sands Farm Cottages in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside. I've yet to sample any classic UK curry or fish & chips.

Signs mark the roads around the village.

Aside from my general excitement about being across the Atlantic for the first time, the best event so far was last night's XC Sprint Eliminator (XCE) event held in the streets of Pickering. The XCE is a new format held on Friday nights at this year's World Cup events. The event involves a short course (1 to 2min) with a time-trial format qualifying round, followed by knockout rounds of four riders at once. The event is mostly for the crowd, but there are still UCI points and cash available, and it attracts a star-studded field of the world's best. Friday night included the top-ranked racer in the world from Switzerland, Nino Schurter . I thought the race would at least be a good way to make sure the long commute was out of my legs, and get mentally revved up for Sunday's cross country. I was fast enough in qualifying to make the first knockout round, and was barely edged out of the sprint, and finished 22nd on the day. Most of all, it was exhilarating to race through the huge crowd and feel how popular cycling is in the part of the world. It felt like "the real deal".

The finishing stretch in Pickering, c/o BritishCycling.com

and HUGE crowds!!

Today was the last day of practice on the XC course before the race. The climate here is just like Seattle, and luckily the weather has been mostly dry. A little rain last night has made the trails tacky and fast. The forest and track here remind me a lot of riding at home - rich dirt, roots, mossy rocks, big trees... Tomorrow we will race 1 start loop + 6 laps on a 6km course with some intensely technical sections and aggressive climbs. My start position is 109 out of 137 riders and my first goal is to fight my way to the top 60. Finishing 60 or higher would earn me World Cup points and bump me up to a better starting position for next weekend in Germany.

Here are some good links for viewing the action:
LIVE TV COVERAGE: www.freecaster.tv
CyclingNews Report: www.cyclingnews.com
British Cycling: Photos and Race Reports

more soon...