Well that just happened

So I did it. I went out and pinned on a number and did a bike race on Sunday. All-City Intercontinental Cyclocross Championship. Nothing quite like getting off the couch and going out to race.

Truth be told, I have been riding, and quite a lot. Just not the kind of riding I was doing a few years back. No, this is an hour to 90 minutes 5 times a week since moving to Minnesota (more on that here) kind of riding, but with very few moments of intensity. I was thinking back to a few years ago when I did my 50 races and I came off a full road season. Heck, the weekend before ‘Cross started I found myself off the front at the state championship road race for about 10 unplanned miles.

Kudos to the All-City crew for a securing a great venue and setting up a proper course!

Kudos to the All-City crew for a securing a great venue and setting up a proper course!

Anyways, back to Sunday morning. A nice cool and crisp early fall morning. It was nice not having any expectations, which also threw any of the pre-race jitters out the window. That being said I was still stressing a bit over tyre pressure and bike set up. It isn’t flat around here like it was in Texas. I changed to a 42t SRAM X-Sync chain ring to a 40t the evening before (and mid-race was wishing that was a 38t). Tyre pressure was an entire other dilemma, but it was pretty cool to have the Zipp Tyre Wiz sensors on the bike for real time data on my Garmin.

I registered for the 3/4 field, and being the first race of the day, gave us ample time to get 3/4 pre-ride laps in. As I went to the staging area that familiar buzz and rush started to creep in. I unexpectedly got a second row call up and had to fight through the crowd to grab that spot before they filled the rest of the field in behind me. So there I am, waiting for the whistle and trying to tell myself to not go hard and take it easy. Yea right, we all know how that works.

Setting up the left hand turn to bomb the off camber back down to the bottom of the bowl

Setting up the left hand turn to bomb the off camber back down to the bottom of the bowl

The whistle blows and we are off. Keep in mind I have done exactly zero practice starts and zero dismount/remounts in almost a year, but somehow managed to clip right in and get in the flow of the opening start loop. As we made our way to the course I had to back off a bit knowing that someone would probably wash out as we made the turn off the gravel on to the course proper. I tool a really wide line to ensure to avoid any carnage.

The race venue at Theo Wirth was quite incredible. It was in a bowl type setting and the course was laid out as such that it climbed up towards and near to the top 3 times each lap. The one with the nastiest sting in the tail was the opening climb. Nothing tricky about it, just straight up past the finish line and to the top. I am not sure of the grade or elevation, but it was taking well over one minute plus each trip up.

Stairs before the switchbacks, a lactic acid lovers dream combo!

Stairs before the switchbacks, a lactic acid lovers dream combo!

Then, as the course wound its way back down to a quick of camber drag, the track tilted back up again. A set of stairs followed by a remount only to climb two berms up towards the high point of the course. These berms are actually used in the daily down hill section of single track at the park.

Now at the highest point of the venue it was time for a trip back down via gravel and single track. It was smooth with good flow, but not so smooth I didn’t feel it in my neck and shoulders the next day. At the bottom a sharp right hander off the single track back on to some gravel for the last short climb. This climb didn’t hurt nearly as bad as the other two, but by no means was it easy.

Coming off the loose gravel by the chalet to start another trip back to the top.

Coming off the loose gravel by the chalet to start another trip back to the top.

After the final ascent there were a few tricky turns to negotiate, one being a tight left that I saw at least two racers wash out in to the final descent to the bottom of the bowl. This descent was a fast and bumpy off camber section that led to a section of fresh gravel that was much harder than it looked. The gravel had two turns and being the first race of the day, the grooves hadn’t been fully set in yet, so there was a bit of fish tailing to be had.

And that was that, well for 7-8 laps. I am not sure if I lost count or if I was even paying attention. I made a deal with myself to finish the race, keep it up right, and ride conservatively enough to avoid any mechanicals. Mission accomplished. While I certainly don’t see 50 races happening anytime soon (well maybe collectively over a couple of seasons) it was good to be back out there suffering with the rest. So I guess I will get back out there next week.

Cross is coming....or so I have heard

So as many of you might now, the rumor out there is that ‘cross is coming. Pretty sure that it isn’t a rumor. It is coming and I had a chance to get together with a crew of Fort Worth cyclocrossers on Saturday morning. There is a not so “secret practice course” off the Trinity Trails over here in Funky Town and with all the rain we have had this year it is time to start “burning in” the course for the season.

Derek  aka  @plywoodsky  leading the charge

Derek aka @plywoodsky leading the charge

As I rolled up I head Derrick and Paul chatting with one of the others about the 50-race season I had a few seasons ago and was instantly asked if I was up for doing that again. Let’s be perfectly clear, Hell no!! It was a blast but not sure I need to do anything like that again. Though I do want to get quite a few races in this year, what really started running through my mind is that I want to start writing again.

Steven Price  says "Let's get off this gravel and do our 'Cross thing"

Steven Price says "Let's get off this gravel and do our 'Cross thing"

Since I last posted numerous things in my life have changed. I left Richardson Bike Mart and the Dallas area for Mellow Johnny’s and Fort Worth. I never saw it coming but I am having a blast.  Crazy to think that just a short drive from Dallas how much things change. The riding is fantastic over here with living right on the Trinity Trail system. To be able to hop on and crank out an hour and a half before or after work and not have to worry about any traffic is amazing.

8 AM and 100% humidity,  #badselfie

8 AM and 100% humidity, #badselfie

Well, since I have not written in over a year I better not overdo it on the first one back. And I may as well get that new frame out of the box and build it up. Here is to a great end of summer and looking towards the upcoming cyclocross season!!!

50 Down.....Cross Nats

*This recap originally appeared on    TexasBikeRacing.com    — where you'll find all the racing news and cycling lifestyle features for bike racing in the state of Texas.

*This recap originally appeared on TexasBikeRacing.com — where you'll find all the racing news and cycling lifestyle features for bike racing in the state of Texas.

DONE.

Well, I made it to 50. And with a final race at Cross Nationals in Asheville, North Carolina, it was definitely a great way to end a really fun season chasing the goal of 50 cross races.

This wasn't about trying to win a bunch of races, this was about a crazy idea that was hatched over the summer, about having fun and trying to be a good ambassador for the sport and for Richardson Bike Mart. I had fun, though it hurt sometimes, I hope you all had some fun with it too. I think you did because I could hear your heckles and comments every race. Thanks for following along.

Before I get started on the recap, I'd like to send out some thank yous:

A huge thanks Woody and Jim at Bike Mart for supporting these endeavors and giving me the flexibility to work, train and race. Max, Sam, and the rest of the Matrix crew for making things happen and taking care of much of the backend work. Barry for being there to wrench and be in the pits, Theresa for the logistics and making the long trip in the van with all the bikes and gear. All the guys and gals at Bike Mart. Jeff with Trek for all the Bontrager wheels, equipment and gear; Jesse with Sram and Felt; Chopper for keeping me fueled up with Clif product. To Carlson for his pearls of wisdom about how to attack a course and then how to attack SoundPony afterwards. TexasBikeRacing and Robert Wray for the opportunity to write about it all and share it with a much bigger audience. Jeff Lucido and all the race promoters for the tireless hours in the heat, cold, dark and rain to put on events so we can all play on our bikes. To all the fellow competitors for words of encouragement and acknowledgement. And lastly to Annie, for making me look like a writer and like I know what I am doing when it comes to this blog thing, this would not be happening without her creative and editorial skills.

So, here is to a few quiet weeks for some easy spins and some really good beer!!  #willraceforbeer

Number 50: Race Recap

The venue on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina was an impressive one. Save for some long walks getting into the actual race area from the parking lots, it was a beautiful place fitting of a national event like this. Trees, hills, cold temps, mud, barnyard animals, tradition and history — all made for a great cyclocross race course. As I write this, there’s not been a tree-related scandal.

The forecast was so cold and the fact I raced so late in the prior day, I opted not to go early and pre-ride. I would have been riding early in temps in the teens, only to have to try and stay warm for nearly three hours until the start time. I opted for the same setup as the day before: Mud tire on the front for traction and a medium tread on the back for an attempt at some speed. Same air pressure. It had gotten cold enough to freeze and put a hard frost on the course, but as the sun was getting higher things were thawing. Creating some slick spots from the thawing moisture. I figured this to be a good set up.

Crisp and Cold would have been putting it lightly Wednesday morning.

Crisp and Cold would have been putting it lightly Wednesday morning.

Better call up than last year. 74th I believe. If I remember right, it was 88th last year. So at least one row better, maybe two. Although as I took my jacket and warm-up pants off and looked around, the guy next to me mentioned there sure were quite a few more racers in front of us rather than behind us. Very true indeed!

For what it is worth, the USAC rider ranking system seems to work fairly well. Rarely do you see someone move up 40-50 places in an event like this. Nor does someone fall back unless they crash or have a mechanical. Most of the time it seems that you will be racing with the row you are in and the row or two in front of and behind you.

As the whistle blew, I clipped in and got right into the row in front of me. Just like yesterday, I was keeping a lookout for somebody to lock bars or cross wheels. Sure enough, as we came under the finish line to set up the first turn, one of the guys tried to channel his inner Mark Cavendish and sprint through a hole that wasn't there. Fortunately, to the best of my knowledge, we all made the first turn safely.

One of the many steep drop-ins around the course

One of the many steep drop-ins around the course

My plan was to get wide at that little drainage ditch that caused so much drama yesterday. I wasn't the only one with that plan. I actually had to cut back down on the inside line to get through. I only think one guy went down, but he and his bike were 15 to 20 feet past the lip and facing the wrong direction. He was trying to pick his bike over his head and turn it around, but with more than 100 guys bearing down on him, I think his best option was to just stand still and not cause a massive pile-up.

Up and over flyover number one and to the first run up. A really good line had developed on the left side throughout yesterday and the early-morning races, but of course, everybody wants it. So, totally brake check and wait in line or just say whatever and take the steeper right side? Right side it is. A bit slower and steeper, but probably managed to grab a position or two.

Heading up the gravel road and setting up to make the 180 onto the first serious off-camber section along the barn, I noticed that it was getting clogged up. As I made the turn I really wanted that high line. As luck would have it, a gap opened up and nobody else really made a move for it. I took a chance and cut over to it and made it stick. As we came off the hill into the barn I had managed to pick a few more spots up.

Coming off and getting back in line from the off-camber before the barn

Coming off and getting back in line from the off-camber before the barn

You know you are in a huge race when the leaders are already screaming down the descent after climbing heckle hill and negotiating the switchbacks on the way down. That meant I was at least 60-90 seconds down. Oh well, gotta keep pedaling, or in this case running. It didn't even cross my mind to try and ride heckle hill. I know that it was being done off and on all day but not by me. I would really like to go back and try it again not during a race. Maybe with the right gearing I could pull it off? Oh yea, and when it rains this weekend, that hill, and all the others? Watch out, it's going to be extraordinarily challenging.

ICE ON THE COURSE

Hitting the bottom of the course after coming off the hill we found some frozen mud and ruts from the frigid temps. The sun hadn't quite hit them just right so there was a bit of slip and slide in that turn. Onward and upward back to the cow pasture on the side of the hill. The lower part of this climb had gotten grooved in great and was very tacky. It would have been perfect mud for a high speed turn, but it was currently bogging us all down a bit. Making it through the switchbacks and onto the ridge-line it was time to set up for the drop-in into the woods.

Many parts of the course packed in, nice and tacky.

Many parts of the course packed in, nice and tacky.

Everyone around me had spread out enough that we all made it through without having to get off the bikes and with no crashes. As we were picking our way through the trees and roots, one of the spectators hollers out, "the corner at the bottom back into the grass is getting really slick." I managed to hear and process all of that and scrub some speed but the guy in front of me didn't. He had a nice crash as he and bike skittered across the frozen grass. As I picked my way around him, and down to the long backstretch, I tried to put some power down and get to the wheels of a small group in front of me. As we made the finish line I looked at the clock hit the 10-minute mark. Essentially right on pace with yesterday's splits, give or take.

I mentally prepared myself to do that three more times over the course of the next 30 minutes, full-well knowing I would get pulled and not finish on the lead lap, more on that in a bit.

As I made my way around the course, I was able to stick that high line around the barn every time. And almost every time I either passed someone or closed down a gap by doing so. I am surprised that not very many of the guys I was racing with were riding that line. As most of you know, I am not a great bike handler, so if I can stick it....

Smiling as Theresa heckles me on one of the run-ups

Smiling as Theresa heckles me on one of the run-ups

Theresa managed to get a smile and a laugh out of me as I made my way back up to the woods for some more climbing. Up in the cow pasture things were starting to get a bit difficult. The climb up was hard and starting to wear on my lower back. Then the transition across to the drop in was starting to thaw and get slick, very rideable, just with a bit more caution. And I was able to ride that drop in every time but once. On what would be my last lap, I got to witness an OTB crash from the guy in front of me. Not sure where his bike was going to end up landing, I quickly dismounted, ran past and hopped back on in the trees.

ANOTHER RACER-PULLING HAPPY CREW.

As I was just about to get back to the finish line and duke it out for one more lap. I took a peek up the road and saw they weren't pulling anybody yet. This was maybe from 200 meters away. I saw 30 minutes on the dot as a fellow competitor and I came under the gantry. Five seconds later as we were hauling ass to head out for another lap, one of the volunteers or officials jumped on course and told us we were done. Another racer-pulling happy crew. Ugh! I get it, cross is hard to score and you don't want lapped riders interfering with the head of the race, but I looked at the splits after they were emailed to me and short of just sitting up and soft pedaling, the two of us would have made it around for another lap without getting caught. That would be my only criticism of the weekend, is how quickly they pull racers deemed out of contention. Hell, if you aren't in the first three rows at the start grid, you are already deemed out of contention, may as well start pulling racers right there. 

I finished in 66th place, almost 20 places better than my 85th from last year in Austin, but I was honestly shooting for a top 50 but one more lap would not have made that difference. That would have been a big jump from where I was on the starting grid. Looking at the results and the score USAC gives you for each race, my results was much better than last year, but my best "score" of the season was yesterday's race followed by the Sunday at Ruts and Guts, then the Sunday at Resolution Cross.

LESSONS LEARNED // NEW FRIENDS // CYCLISTS ARE THE BEST

I'd like to think I learned some this season. I think I'm getting better in the mud, I think I'm picking better lines, maybe a bit stronger, and I've learned that traveling long distances to race packing the right gear is tricky.

This season brought some great new people into my life and made existing friendships even stronger. As I wrote earlier this season about Carlson at the track, we all kinda come from different walks of life but the bike is common ground, and we all pull for each other while simultaneously trying to destroy each other, that's something unique. One giant dysfunctional family.

Until next season, Hup, Hup.

photos in this post by Richardson Bike Mart's Theresa Francesconi.

49 Down..........1 To Go!

DUDE.

I got my massive "yard sale" wipe-out out of the way during course inspection a few hours before start time. It was such an inauspicious section of the course. Truth be told, on the first few inspection laps I saw a few other guys and gals wad it up there, but when I came through on the third warm-up lap guess what I did? Yup, tried the inside aggressive line and totally washed out. Quote of the day from the single speeder that stopped to check on me, "Dude, your phone is over there." 

Race 49 was the Master's 40-49, call ups to be done on the USAC ranking system. At last check, I was slated 55 out of 134 on the website. My objective was to go hard at the start, try to take advantage of the long false flat to the first turn and see what happens. Sitting on the 6th row when the whistle blew it was time to do just that. I was able to get clipped in fairly quickly and push right into the 5th row of guys as we crossed under the finish line gantry. I really hadn't passed anybody, honestly the barriers pinched a bit a 100 meters or so after the start, and after last year in Austin I was a bit apprehensive until we got past that point. After that, I went as hard as I could up to turn one and took it and my momentum as wide as I could to get past as many as I could.

The first section on the course is relatively flat and down in the valley; the course consists of an open field in the valley and riding up the hill that lines the valley. As we snaked under the Kask flyover we were quickly approaching the innocent little section where I had my wipe-out in pre-ride. I had already decided that I was going to swing this one as far out as I could, full well knowing that something was likely to happen there on the first lap, if not all race long. Sure enough, as I started to set up wide, I heard and saw someone go down, and take a few racers with him. Of course, now everybody wants my line. This pushed me even farther out and made the drainage ditch I had to ride to get back to the other side that much sharper and deeper. I managed to do just that and gunned it for the next turn.

Riding under the Kask Flyover

Riding under the Kask Flyover

With us still in a large group, each little sweeper and corner can make a huge difference at that moment. So, I took a real hard inside line getting back into the groove full well knowing that I could get the door slammed on me at the apex. I made it stick and off we go the next flyover. This is your standard up-and-over flyover with a bit of mud on the entry side with a nice straight leading to it. Then on the back side we begin snaking around the pits and working our way up out of the valley.

That starts by a medium-length run-up to get to the gravel road that leads the course even farther up the hill. Think the length of the levees at WNCx in Irving but even steeper with little grass left to dig into. It was even frozen and slick during pre-ride. Now it was fully thawed, but we were still packed in pretty tight so the was some pushing and bumping of bikes going on. To the best of my knowledge, nobody in my race was riding it. With the forecasted rain later this week, I don't see any of the Elites riding it either, we'll see.

After getting up to the gravel road, it was a right turn on the road and head towards the barn. But before we could get to the barn there were a few course features to work through. The first was a quick shot right back down the hill through a big rut (drainage ditch) only to go back under the Kask Flyover and right back up the hill to the gravel. The drop into this rut has one or two good lines but they were all occupied at the time so I decided to make my own line on the first lap. Good call, I was able to sneak a head of a few of the brake-happy guys clogging up the good line.

Now that we were back on the gravel road, we had to negotiate a 180 up the hill and onto the first of big section of off camber. I have no idea where this came from, but during pre-ride I kept slipping on the low and medium line. There was a high line right next to the building but it had yet to be grooved in and really didn't look rideable. Once again I found the other two lines occupied and decided to give that high line a bid. Nailed it! I think I actually may have been grinning as I shot onto some asphalt and picked off a few more guys. That asphalt led us up around and though the barn. (That will be interesting with wet tires on the wood floor later this week.) A quick flick to the left and we are still going up and turning into the pasture.......and going up.

RUN, DON'T WALK, IN CROSS

This next hill has been dubbed "Ingles Heckle Hill," not sure what that means or who Ingles is, if anybody out there knows let me know. Anyway. Long and steep, with minimal momentum at the bottom. The dismount was awkward on a left to right sloping off camber (I used to play a lot of golf you know). Then it was shoulder that bike and start running, or even walk fast. That's what I felt I was doing. Then at the top it turned to the right and set up a right to left sloping remount. Yes, jumping back on your bike from 6-8 inches below your bike. I saw a few people using the old left foot clip in and swing onto the bike remount. It has been so long since I have used that style I figured it wasn't time to break it out now.

So we have now reached the pinnacle of this side of the course. Almost time to scream down, but first, a few slippery off camber turns to work through. The second one was certainly get a foot unclipped and change the center of gravity kind of turn. After getting clipped back in it was a fast bomb down, a quick short whoop up, followed by a big bomb down onto the gravel road. There are good lines here, but you can see a bit of hesitation in some guys' faces before rolling over the edge. Not sure what the speed was off that drop in but it only matter for a short bit because it was time to almost lock up the brakes and set up a hard right. That hard right was also another drop in that doesn't look like much when you are looking at it from afar, but sitting on the bike trying not to grab any front brake is another story. More hard braking and off to the the Kask flyover.

The drop right before the Kask Flyover, trust me, steeper than it looks

The drop right before the Kask Flyover, trust me, steeper than it looks

I had to admit, when I saw the pictures of this flyover being built the last few days I was a bit concerned that it might be one of those "big-air" flyovers. Not the case. We basically rode from the gravel right out on to the top of the flyover. From there it was a slightly graduated yet fast descent back down into the valley section of the course. I actually came off this feature very smoothly and with a great deal of speed. So much so, I even found myself getting into a bit of a tuck taking the big right sweeper off the ramp and back towards the pits.

I have no idea why, but the stretch of grass along this side of the pit just slogged along. It wasn't muddy, but there was not good fast rut. It had been in the shade of the snow fencing the last few days so it couldn't dry out? That or it is the really thick-bladed grass that has yet to get a real good line put down. Another flick to the right and it is time to go up.....again. This time up the hill starts with a short little kicker that was rideable, the same hill as the early run up, but just shorter and rideable. Now we get to what I think is the most interesting part of the course.

TAKE THE SAME LINE THE COWS TAKE

Being from Missouri, I have spent my time in a pasture every now and again and that is what we are now riding in. A cow pasture. I even walked up for a closer look at this section and it is complete with "cow-patties." Here is the unique part, after busting through the woods and into this pasture, you very quickly have to pick one of about 4 lines. These lines were put in place long long before any bike racers were here this week. Nope, I found out these lines are actually in place because the cows put them there as the get up and down this hill!!

So the lines kinda come together and split apart. Oh yea, it is also off camber and if you picked the low line it is a looooong way around the next right hand turn. Sure you could cut across the "virgin" turf for a one of the higher lines but it was very bumpy, to put it lightly, between lines. So this switchback style of climbing went on with a left, right, left. Then somehow there was a drainage ditch to cross at he end of the last one. Now it was up some more, once again choosing from multiple lines as we made the way to probably the hardest part of the course.

Dropping into the woods, this view is actually looking back up the course.

Dropping into the woods, this view is actually looking back up the course.

We were now once again all the way at the top of the hill, only one way to go from here, down. But getting there meant dropping into the woods, mountain bike style. It was so strange, the off camber was so steep, the "cow trails" we had been following suddenly looked like shelves, and we had to make a right and get down them. After a few shots at this in pre-ride I was fairly certain that I was going to run this section and remount in the woods based on the face we had over 100 guys in the field. But I found myself with clear course in front of me if I accelerated past one guy on the line below me and basically cut him off, so I did — it's racing after all. I stuck that front wheel into that rut and let it go, the next thing I knew I was in the woods.

Getting through the woods took a bit of root dodging and line picking, think Resolution Cross in Garland. After that it was some quick and muddy turns down to the very bottom of the course. There isn't much mud on the course, but since this is the lowest part of the course, this is where it is. Oh yea, and a set of max height barriers, but after all of the other features the barriers are kind of an afterthought at this point. Jumping back on the pavement a left hander sets up for the final 100 meters to the line. First lap, 10 minutes, probably a 4 lap race for me today.

So now that you have an idea of the parcours if you are racing later in the week or have seen any of the posted videos and pictures.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM RACE No. 49

That little innocent side hill shortly after the finish line. On the next two laps, guys in front of me washed out consecutively. Just take it wide man!

I am not sure what lap it was, maybe the 3rd, but a group of 6 or 7 of us came through the finish section together. I mean like really together. So much so I heard the announcer say that it was the Asheville group ride and we were probably on our way to a coffee shop or something.

Many of you know that I love to heckle back and I got my shot today. As I was about to take a trip up Ingles Heckle Hill a dude with a megaphone could only come up with a "what's up?" as I rode by, to which I responded, barely, "Nothing, just hanging out." Completely caught him off guard as I heard him laugh into his megaphone, so I had to follow it up with a "how about you?" That rendered him speechless and he was gone the next lap.

Remount time at the top of Heckle Hill.

Remount time at the top of Heckle Hill.

Then on my 5th trip up that hill, some dude RODE PAST ME! Chapeau to him for riding that beast of a climb on the 5th lap. I was barely walking. Speaking of 5.

As I came down the long, muddy final part of the course on the fourth lap, the "coffee shop ride" was still partially intact. My gut told me that we were going to get pulled. I decided to push the pace a bit and be ready to sprint for whatever place we might be in as they officials stepped out to pull us off the course. Well, guess what, we still had one to go and we were not outside the 80% time cut. Ouch, this 5th lap was going to hurt.

I hung in there best I could on that last lap, I think I only lost a spot or two. I was very pleased with the fact that I rode that high line near the barn and stuck it every lap. I was also able to ride those "shelves" leading back into the woods each lap though on one lap a dude took a flyer over the bars and I had to pick my way past him quite slowly. I knew I had a decent result but it wasn't until I looked it up a bit later that I had come in 30th for the day. I'll take that full well knowing that the next race will be even harder. Here's to 50!

48 Down, 2 To Go!!

Greetings from a very cold, yet beautiful, Asheville, North Carolina — site of the USAC Cyclocross National Championships. Last summer when I decided to embark on a crazy #questfor50 cyclocross races in one season, I knew I wanted to end the crazy journey here. And, well, here I am.  I have only two races to go to reach 50.

I kicked off the season in Specialized's Dealer Race, spun through Las Vegas for CrossVegas, made it to my hometown of Kansas City for a race, wore a dress at SpookyCross, shouldered my bike up a mud wall in the Pacific Northwest and after a whole lot of weeknight races and frequent use of the hashtag #willraceforbeer, I was easily checking off race after race.

But with some rainy weather that caused the cancellation of local races and deciding to spend a weekend with H8ter aka Bryan Reid and the #sisterwives in Santa Fe instead of racing, I was going to fall one short of 50. Not the world's biggest problem, but a bummer for sure. With two races at Nats, I'd be stuck at only 49 races. I'd figured I could always race Worlds — but they were cancelled too. 49 it would have to be.

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But, this cyclocross group, it's pretty awesome. Like super awesome. (Thanks for letting me borrow that T$A!) A new buddy of mine, Ryan Hobbs, is a recent transplant from NYC and has jumped into the cross scene in North Texas. He's been pretty amazed at our friendly 'cross community and told me to keep my ears open, something was brewing over in Ft. Worth and to be on the lookout for an invite. Gotta say, it was pretty cool to see someone I've known for less than six months keep me looped in just so I could finish this silly goal. And it hasn't just been Ryan who has been supportive of this ridiculous adventure — a big thanks to everyone who has kept up with this blog all season, handed up a beer or two, watched the countdown and cheered (heckled) me from race to race. Like I said, a ridiculous adventure, but made really fun with all the support from our Texas bike racing community.

Steven Price takes a hand-ups from the kids: must be a CX race! #willraceforbeer #thankskids

Steven Price takes a hand-ups from the kids: must be a CX race! #willraceforbeer #thankskids

Anyway, instead of an actual bandit race, a super top-secret training session went down with about 30 local cross racers, some of who were headed to Nats. Let's just say this, the boys over in Ft. Worth have a really cool place set up where they practice on fairly regular basis. A fun five- to six-minute loop with a great run-up, a few off-cambers, tight twisters and some fast pedaling sections. It wasn't a race per se, but I lined up at a start line against other cyclocross racers, we went through a course and someone crossed the finish line first (it wasn't me) so for the sake of this 50 thing, we'll call it a race. Oh yea, and we had hand-ups and beer, so it was definitely a cyclocross race.

It was a bit chilly and overcast Saturday morning, but with a few warm-up laps for those of us not familiar with the parcours (see what I did there, went all fancy on ya!) we did six "hot laps" that would count for the race.

Derrick Saunders has a good spot on the grid at #CXnats, looking forward to watching him crush it!

Derrick Saunders has a good spot on the grid at #CXnats, looking forward to watching him crush it!

I've been really good at taking care of my equipment all year and as I rolled up, I couldn't help but notice how squishy my just-inflated rear tire had gotten. A slow leak at the valve stem, the Cross Gods of Northern Europe were showing there displeasure with me for washing my bike after Waco, then only training on my road bike over the holidays. It wasn't going completely flat, but I could only get about one lap on it before it felt like it was going to unseat itself. I was able to borrow a hand pump from Steven Price and top the rear back off.

So I stuck that pump in my back pocket and off we went to start our race. As I mentioned, it was a nice little group and we had a long straight to get things started. Knowing I was going to have to stop for air every lap, I went as hard as I could to stay on Derrick Saunders for the first lap. He and Ethan Storm were getting after it! I held close for most of the first lap, but as the air went down it was hard to hit a few of the corners hard. So I stopped at the end of the lap, pulled the pump out, filled that rear up and went out for another lap.

That back tire got me: nothing like having to stop each lap to put air in it.

That back tire got me: nothing like having to stop each lap to put air in it.

Anyways, it was a great deal of fun to see a bunch of guys getting out there on a holiday weekend and having some laughs. It just solidifies the way I feel about all of great people that ride and race bikes. I had to book it back to the other side of town to load my stuff up for Asheville and send it off with Barry Bishop and Theresa Francesconi as they packed up the RBM trailer and headed to North Carolina.

Barry and Theresa before they headed out to North Carolina with bikes, dogs and even a kayak in tow. (and the one-and-only Miss Kim Chance in the middle, who drove with another racer to North Carolina)

Barry and Theresa before they headed out to North Carolina with bikes, dogs and even a kayak in tow. (and the one-and-only Miss Kim Chance in the middle, who drove with another racer to North Carolina)

45, 46 & 47 Down, 3 To go : Highlander Cross... Is this the end of my 50 races?

Before even leaving for Waco to compete in Highlander Cross there was a small gathering of friends for Ryan Hobbs and his new fiancee Kerri Anne in Waco, congrats you two! Then I decided to check in at McCarran airport in Vegas while I was sitting at dinner in Addison just to mess around with someone. So it all fits in the wacky Waco theme, and I didn't even get overserved.

Day 1

Rolling out before the sun came up is actually something I don't mind doing as long as it isn't ridiculously early or cold. On Saturday morning it was neither. Saw a nice sunrise and arrived at the venue with just enough time to grab my number and jump on course for a lap between the Master's 50+ and the 4/5 race. Just rolling around the course I knew we were going to be in for a hard day. This was one of the harder courses from last year and Ian Moore found a way to up the game, significantly. More on that as we get into the races.

Back at the team van, Barry Bishop was giving my bike one last look over as I finished my warm up. I have said it time and time again, but Barry is such an asset to both the team and Bike Mart. It would take two hands to count the times people came up to him asking for a quick, and even sometimes a not so quick fix. Technically, RBM wasn't there for neutral support, but Barry is not the kind of guy who is going to say no. He was even truing one of the Elite women's bashed in front rim as the light was fading Saturday evening. Thanks again for all your hard work this year Barry. Now go jump in a kayak!

Off to the start line. Weather was about perfect. Maybe a touch humid and windy, but it is Texas after all, never know what you are going to get in December. This was going to be a fast start. Probably the fastest start of the season. A quick downhill on the pavement, then back up, flick right, flick left, the a ramp into the backside of the course. Then a quick left and right sends us screaming down the hill towards the woods.

This image does not do justice for the elevation change at Highlander Cross. A great course.

This image does not do justice for the elevation change at Highlander Cross. A great course.

I only rode the turn into the wooded section once during inspection and knew it may be tricky. We didn't have a huge field but it would only take one guy to change that. I am not sure what position I was in or who went down but all of a sudden my only line was to ride over Mark Rawlings' front wheel as he and his bike were both on the ground. I did manage to get out a "Sorry Mark" as I did so. (Things all worked out in the end for Rawlings as he closed out his season on the podium.)

That managed to clog a few people up and as we shot through the first clearing I did a quick count and found myself in 6th. That was to be short lived, the course was going to take its toll, and quickly. We quickly made our way past the pits, through the mud, and up the first section of Belgian stairs. It hadn't rained in about a week and the course was probably 90% dry, but the two spots that were muddy were going to come into play. This first set of stairs was rideable (even for me) last year, but now it was hard slogging to even run them clean. Then as soon as you cleared them it was the hard and twisty climb up to the next set of stairs.

This was a longer set. Dry, straight, and long. I don't remember how many, but probably eight. And the kicker was, and even on the first lap, you were gassed at the bottom of this set from climbing out of the basement to the essentially the highest point on the course. For the first time of three — on each lap!

Heckler with a donut, I had to tell him I only #willraceforbeer.

Heckler with a donut, I had to tell him I only #willraceforbeer.

Next was about 15 seconds to recover, but it was on serious off camber so there was no time to let concentration lapse. This was also a chance to bring us near the parking lot and the team tents. I can remember one time near that spot the aroma coming from the food trucks, then someone wadded it up right in front of me and focus was quickly restored. 

 A quick descent took us back down, not all the way down, but it is followed by a right turn that has us looking at a wall. I remember walking bikes up and down this wall to the pits last year, it was hard doing that. Now we have to ride up this thing and back to the parking lot. As I rode over the curb into the lot I was praying that I wouldn't need my pit bike. I had just barely made it up with a 38t chainring and the pit bike had a 40t on it, that could be disastrous. Oh yea, we weren't quite done with that climb yet, still had to get across the lot and up one last little gravel kicker before setting up to scream all the way back down to the bottom. Gassed again.

Here was another spot to try and catch your breath but not to let down your guard. We were about to descend down what was a gravel road that we climbed out of the bottom last year. But there wasn't much gravel or road left. I am guessing with all the rains everything had been washed away. Scoot that butt back over the saddle, let go of the brakes and hang on. There really hadn't been any good lines put down yet so I was taking it super wide to the right and trying to carry as much speed as possible as the course turned back to the left. With a decent head a steam going it was now time for mud section number two.

As we shot into a tight section with trees on either side a quick decision had to be made, high line or low line because there was a huge pot hole right in the middle. Once past that hole, then you could start to slide down to the right and the low line. I started high on each lap but once I was passed the pot hole I think I took a different line each lap - and never found a good one. Oh yea, that entire mentioned part, greasy mud. Then it bottomed out to cross a mud bog with standing water before getting back to the grass.

We were now once again at the bottom of the course, with only one way to go: up. But not quite yet, the second side of the pit needed to be passed and a few lovely twists around some of the trees and woods before the climb began proper. As we avoiding something painted with quite a large amount of neon orange spray paint there was a steep kicker and then onto the pavement. Now, just because the course was on pavement doesn't mean that it was easy. I heard talk from many people throughout the weekend that it was about a two minute climb. Sounds about right, you could almost reach out and touch the guys in front of you, but we were all doing about 6 MPH and covering the ground was slow going.

As I reached the top section of the parking lot I was gassed again. Coming through the start finish line I had no idea what place I was in. All I know is that it hurt bad, it took me a little over eight minutes, and that I was going to have to do it at least four to five more times. Just the thought of that makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit. Thanks Ian.

If this is the last CX race of the season for me, it was a good one to go out on!

If this is the last CX race of the season for me, it was a good one to go out on!

As I am making my way around the second and third time, I felt like I may have been getting faster but at the same time quickly fading and getting tired. I would guess the faster part was coming from picking better lines while of course the tired part was the attrition of the course. As the laps wound down, the longer set of Belgian stairs was becoming less of a run and more of a quick walk. There was also a few of the technical down hill areas where I lost focus on the task at hand sucking for wind that I almost hit the deck a few times.

As I came across the finish line for the final time I was so glad that it was over. I limped over to the bike wash for a quick rinse before heading over to the team tent to get on a trainer. Partially to cool down and partially to stay lose. I was going to be doing it all over again in less than 90 minutes, who's great idea was that!

The 40+ race hurt and I was certain that I was not going to have much in my legs for the 2/3/4 race but I limped over to the line anyways. I think we had right around 60 guys and a few gals line up and my call up was right in the middle. Should be an interesting start to say the least. Both on the pavement and the first downhill switch back into the woods. As the whistle blew we all started fighting for position. As we came around the right-hand bend in the parking lot, everybody kept it upright and we began tearing ass for the woods.

I am not sure how far back the field the first person to unclip and run the section was, but once that decision was made it was made for all of us. This was the only time both days I didn't ride that downhill section. It was a clean run but it had us stretched out in a hurry. As we approached mud pit and the first set of Belgian stairs I decided I was going to ride as far up to the first tie as I could and run from there. Well, I never made it through the mud. I am still not sure how or why, I don't think anybody bumped me, but next thing I knew I was over the bars and to the right, with the back behind me.

It only took a few seconds to grab my bike and start running but the searing pain in my calf was almost instantaneous. Once again, I have no idea what hit me, but my best guess is the pedal smacked my as I started my less than graceful trip to the ground. I was still going and it wasn't locking up on me but it was noticeable and the pain was not fading.

I am not sure what place I was in, most likely around 20th as we made our way up the longer set of Belgian stairs, this was only a few short moments later, and between the earlier race and the calf getting hit, this might be a short one. I was passed by about five others right there alone. I switched into survival mode and was just going to hang on as long as I could.

Shouting out words of encouragement to Matrix teammate Tyler Cloutier.

Shouting out words of encouragement to Matrix teammate Tyler Cloutier.

I was down near the pits about to start the backside climb and I was beginning to notice that the pain was radiating elsewhere and starting to effect my pedaling motion. At this point there was no need to push it any further and end up tweaking a knee or something else. As I came through the finish line I sat up and pulled myself out. I wasn't doing all that bad either, looking at the final results I think I could have kept myself near 30th give or take a few.

Day 2

After a few rounds of ice and laying in bed for most of the evening, my first few steps of the day were quite interesting. I could hardly put any weight or pressure on my right leg. Playing soccer, basketball, and other sports over the years, I have taken a few knocks like this before. I was fairly certain that once I was up and moving I could get some sort of warm up in and make it through on more race. But then again, I'm not getting any younger, so maybe it doesn't work that way anymore. Haha!

I got to the venue and found Ryan straight away. He mentioned a few course changes as I prepped everything. As soon as the 50+ were getting the bell we jumped on course to check them out. Very minor changes, the track was going to run very similar with two significant differences. The first was a mud pit that had developed on its own, either during the elite races the afternoon prior or over night. It was right before the quick blast up the hill. Not a sticky or tacky mud, just as if somebody had left a hose on all night and there was a giant puddle as a result. The second change was in the off-camber tight mud section in the trees. We would cut out to the right sooner, but you still had to pick the high or low line early to avoid the pot hole.

Ryan and I circled back more than once to work on the line coming out of the gap between the trees. Even though I saw Chris Carlson nail the low line during his race, I was liking the high line then cutting across the corner to try and carry momentum through the muck at the bottom. Of course that can all go out the window in a hurry during the actual race.

Ryan then gave me a tip that I ended up using for the entire race that morning. Dismount and run the first mud pit/stairs combo. Riding the mud won't make the lap significantly faster and will only make the bike heavier each time through. This was a good strategy since the power washers weren't going to be turned on until the Elite races anyways. Now if those sprinkles that were starting to fall would just stop.

The infamous OMC dancing and rapping in the pits????

The infamous OMC dancing and rapping in the pits????

As we loaded up onto the starting grid I was able to put the right calf muscle out of mind and get clipped right in. The most interesting moment of the race would come right after the whistle was blown. The sprinkler system on the campus was running that morning and some of the run off had come right across the pavement in the right turn after the start. We had a very small field that morning and I thought we were going to make it past cleanly when all of a sudden 3 or 4 guys were sliding across the road. There was just enough water and mud on the pavement to cause the wipe-out. I was able to get past on the inside, but for a split second I thought I would be collected.

Paul Bonds was in our race on this morning after picking up his first ever UCI point in the Elite Men's the day before, congrats Paul! Of course, that didn't mean he was going to take it easy on us, and we were strung out by the time we hit the grass and headed to the woods. It was fast and furious early and I had to pull back just a bit to make sure I didn't totally blow up on the early laps.

Paul Bonds slogging through the mud with ease. Wonder if his rodeo skills help in these cases!

Paul Bonds slogging through the mud with ease. Wonder if his rodeo skills help in these cases!

Since the field was so small this was a relatively uneventful race for me. The guys in front of me were well out in front. There were just a few guys behind me and I had opened up a decent sized gap on them. I was only riding near one other, Mikey Benes riding for the Woodlands Cycling Club. I am sure I have raced with Mikey before, but since there was so few of us it was just he and I until the end of the race. 

There were a few times I was able to get ahead of him on the climbs only for him to get me back on the more technical sections. Matrix teammate Rob Sandusky was in the pits for me and yelling for me to get back on his wheel each time we came through. It worked for a while, but as we were getting ready to head up the backside hill climb for the last time, I had nothing left to try and get back to him. Bonnie pulled us and the weekend was over. Mikey and I shook hands and he thanked me for pushing him all the way to the end.

Well, where does it go from here. Hard to say. I was looking forward to one last cross weekend and getting the last three of 50 races there. Then a trip out to CXNats was going to be the cherry on the top for the season. Even, with two races in Asheville I will fall one short. As I review the season in my head it would have been so easy to double up on a Saturday or not take a weekend off to travel and recharge after Thanksgiving. And of course the weather Thanksgiving weekend cancelled at least two days of racing as well. Oh well, it is what it is. Maybe a bandit of the books Cross race will be needed in a few weeks' time? Comment below if you think that is a good or bad idea. Until then........

 

 

 

42, 43 & 44 Down, 6 To Go : Resolution Cross

Another awesome image by  Lee McDaniel  making it look like I was flying over the barriers.

Another awesome image by Lee McDaniel making it look like I was flying over the barriers.

Ah, Resolution Cross. Winters Park in North Garland is such a nice and quiet park until the end of the cross season comes around. Then, inevitably, it will rain and we will play in the mud. At least that is what we have had two years running. Although this year I think it was almost twice as warm as it was last year, so that was already a win.

On late Friday afternoon I was able to get out to the course for an hour or so to pre-ride. Many features of the course were identical to last year, which is great. But there were also new features added in as well. Most notable was to "walls" to ride or run up in the woods and a section of single track just after the start finish line with a tricky little hop back up onto the road. These sections would play critical roles in most every race throughout the weekend.

Day 1

Since I was able to get the pre ride in the night before, I didn't see the need to be at the park first thing to grab any extra laps so I lounged at my place a bit and enjoyed a second cup of coffee. I was lucky enough to be about 15 minutes away from this race and that plays a big role on day 2. After checking in for my number, I had to make the rounds and get in the hellos and catch up with all the guys. From there it was warm up time. In chatting with the guys it looked as if the 40+ field was going to be stacked. No big surprise there. Just hope for a decent call up and try to get a goad start.

Brian Leib  and I sharing a laugh before the start, something about bikes are stupid. Photo :  Chad Bagnell

Brian Leib and I sharing a laugh before the start, something about bikes are stupid. Photo : Chad Bagnell

 I ended up being the first guy on the third row. I picked one of the spots in the middle. After some quick instructions on where we would head on the first lap the whistle blew and we were off. Anytime you have the likes of a Paul Bonds in your field, you know it's going to be a fast start and get strung out quick. That is exactly what happened. We flew up the pavement and for the briefest of moments I saw a quick touch of wheels as we took the little bend by the start finish line. I thought the combination of the two was going to have us all piling up. Fortunately that didn't happen and we took to the grass.

Once in the grass we had a really fast sweeper then back up to the hill to the Belgian poles (I think I heard Jeff Lucido call them that last year), then screaming back down the hill to pass in front of all the tents. Before I had entered the first of the four turns in the poles, the leaders were already coming out of the last one. And it wasn't a big field, maybe 30, that's just how fast they were pushing it.

Big sweep around the pits and back up the hill one more time before working into the woods. Now to get up that hill we had to ride or run a section of 5 or 6 telephone poles that had been laid in the way, just for us. Then, just like last year it was down a dirt road with a quick right into the woods followed by a left over some roots and into a "pump track" section. after cresting a berm and making another tight turn we were faced with the first of two run ups. This particular run up had three lines. Steps had been cut into the right side but required a small turn at the bottom to line up for them. On one lap I had a great head of steam for these cut steps only for the guy in front of me to come out of the middle line and cause me to ram his back tire, oh well. Then the far left line was the only line that was ridable. I am not sure if anybody in our races was riding it, but I knew guys were capable from watching preride.

After a remount and exit of the woods we turned right back into the woods. I we came screaming down a sharp pitch, a hard right was necessary (if the snow fencing wasn't there, straight would have taken us right back up the first run up) Instead, we had to find another way out. Still with a pretty good head of steam the course led right to a big mud bog and a right hand turn run up. I am pretty sure that nobody in any race was riding this one. I found on the second lap if you unclipped early, swung the right leg over but stayed mounted on the right I could get to the far side of the run up with a bit of momentum and some dirt with better traction. I was actually able to make some passes in this spot a few times using that line and technique.

Out of the woods and time to do the "twist." The course was routed down along the creek to wind back and forth and in and out of the trees. Lots of roots as well as some sand and mud. Nothing crazy and serious, but to me this was a fairly technical section of the course that I was not able to ride super fast or clean (roadie). This eventually led us back up the pavement to the finish line and now we dove into the single track section to the left of the pavement. 

This was essentially a climb from the lowest part of the course all the way to the highest part of the course. If you raced this weekend you know exactly what I am talking about. By the time I went up the pavement, through the single track, across the pavement, then finished with a few more twists and turns to a utility pole, it was an all uphill section. I am not sure how long or how far it was, but I was gassed each lap before  the sweeping turn sent us back into the field. 

So there is the lay of the course, not time to dig in and do a few laps. As I mentioned, it didn't take long for the field to get strung out and explode. I actually found a picture of about 10 of us and I am sitting second wheel. From the photo it looks like we could be the front of the race but it is actually a chase group with 10 guys or more already split off the front.

Much like last week in Tulsa, I really suffered the first two laps, it wasn't until third and fourth laps until I stared to feel decent and get into a rhythm. Looking at the splits, my second lap was my fastest but I think it really put me in the red. The course was fun, I good mix of wide open fast power sections and tight technical sections that required touch. At one point in the race I found myself trying to rail one of the long sweepers with a tight inside line and pealing out of it like a crit.

As I made my way over the telephone polls on the fifth lap, one of the hecklers told us we were in an epic battle for 26th place. He was close, I don't recall who it was now, but there were three or four of us locked into some back in forth for those placements for at least three laps. Hearing the bell while I was running up the hill in the woods gave me some relief that the pain was almost over. The plan was to let us all finish the race on the lead lap, but as I twisted through the bottom section of the course, I took a peek and saw a big zero on the board. Paul Bonds and the leaders were not going to catch our little group, but the officials had decided we had had enough and at the time I was in full agreement, 16th place on the day, right smack in the middle of 31 starters.

I did line up and do a second race a little over an hour later. I wasn't sure how much I had in the tank or how it was going to go, but an error at staging took care of that for me. As we were getting our call-ups, bib numbers 2-9 were inadvertently left off the call-up sheet. Guess who had number 7? Human error, it happens. As the 8 of us took to the last row we were trying to figure out what the heck was going on. I took it as a sign to have fun and not take things too seriously.

The whistle blows and off we go. There isn't too much to report about race wise but I did hear some good heckles and give a few back. As I ran over the telephone poles somebody with a megaphone, "here's Adam Spears....again....this is 239th race of the year or something." I had a good laugh but forgot to take a peek and see who it was. I also got into a "yelling" match with Sam Montag back in woods when he tried to tell me what to do. For those that don't know, Sam and I work together but the folks in the woods that heard us must have thought we were crazy. (Side note on Sam, one of the best and most generous people with his time when it comes to the sport of cycling, thank you Sam!)

Beer time! And A well earned one at that. Over to the RBM tent to six down and relax for a bit or so I thought. The great thing about being on the Matrix team is how we help each other out in the pits and the tent during races and warm-ups. We had a few "guest" teammates this weekend and one was Rebecca Gross. She races in the Elite Women for KHS/Rolf. Like many of the other pro men and women, Rebecca is taking advantage of three consecutive weekends of UCI racing here in the south and will be in Waco for Highlander Cross. So while Chris Carlson was off to the pits for some of the other teammates, I hung back at the tent in case anybody needed anything there. (and that is where the beer and Rebecca was, no brainer.)

Selfie with Rebecca Gross

I helped Rebecca set her bike up in the trainer to start her warm up and at this point it started to rain. We knew it was going to, it was in the forecast and it was already coming down in sheets south of town. Unfortunately for the 2/3 women that had started in dry conditions, the course was changing in a hurry. This had Rebecca pumped up for her race. She told me she loves racing when it's slick. She also discussed some of the finer points of racing with me such as how she needs her eye liner to be perfect when she goes to clear lenses. We also discussed what an appropriate amount of glitter on the legs is for cross racing. All of this while the 2/3 gals are having one hell of a time trying to keep off the ground at the big sweeping turn right in front of us. And the run ups in the woods? I've seen the pictures and it wasn't pretty.

As for the UCI races, Rebecca got the top 10 she was looking for and in that same turn, Allen Krughoff went down twice in that same turn and took a few guys with him. I am not sure what place he fell back to, but he was near the end of the field the first time up the telephone pole hill. He finished 2nd, 2nd? What an incredible ride to make up that much ground in those conditions.

Day 2

So that rain that started on Saturday just intensified and continued........all night long. When I woke up Sunday to take a look outside, I was immediately trying to figure out a way to talk myself out of going. It wasn't the fact that it was cold, wet, and muddy - but more so knowing how much stuff I was going to have to clean afterwards. At that point I decided I was only taking one bike, I only have one set of mud tires anyway, and I also decided on a different warm up.

I had my coffee and a Noosa put all my gear in the car, put the bike on the roof, and kitted up. Then I went out to the garage, fired up my laptop, and hoped on my trainer for 45 minutes. I was going to try and time it just right that I could roll up to the venue and essentially head straight to the start line. I had timed it out pretty well and only had a few minutes to kill once I arrived. I spent that time asking a few friends about course changes for the day.

It did come as a huge relief to find out that we were not going to have to run the walls in the woods on this day. I can only imagine the carnage had that been the case. We still had to ride the "rhythm" section and this was as slimy and slippery as could be. More on that in a moment. I took to the line feeling tired and sore from the day before but in good spirits to have some fun in the mud. And I did just that. I wish I was a better mud rider, my first lap and half were so slow as I was trying to figure it out. After I felt a little bit comfortable I was able to start passing people and move up a few spots.

Mud and slop. Photo :  Kim Chance

Mud and slop. Photo : Kim Chance

The thing with this course and the rain is you get two things. You get plenty of slippery mud and full on lakes in the woods and at the bottom of the course. Then you also get the grass and mud mixture in the field that just brings things to a grinding halt. Those parts just drain me of any and all energy, then I have to try and recover when I am focused on trying not to wad it up. None the less, racing in the mud is fun and I was quite pleased that I was able to ride the little hill in the woods on three of my five laps. 

I was not sure what position that I was running in and the field was much smaller than the day before, but as I could hear the bell off in the distance I could sense and see a few guys starting to reel me back in. We were winding through and creating massive wakes in the ponds at the bottom of the course as I could see the finish line. Just like the day before, the leaders weren't going to pass us before we went out on the last lap, but they started pulling us out anyways. I was just fine with this, my bike had gained about 10 pounds of mud and I am not sure if it would have made it out for another lap.

At Least My Bike is a Winner

So I cleaned my bike off and headed to the RBM tent to get my jacket and head out for the day. I actually had non-cycling things to do for the afternoon/evening. As I was about to leave Carlson asked what size my bike was. I told him and I could see his eyes light up. "Perfect," he said, "I think that will work" and off he went. He returned a few moments later with Kim Pettit, turns out she was having issues with one of her bikes and she needed a "B" bike. She asked if she could borrow it and of course I said sure. I had to take off, but come to find out she won her race! I'm not sure how much of that race she spent on my bike, but at least my bike finally won something!!

It was a fun filled weekend and it is always nice to race so close to home and not have to deal with a bunch of driving around. A huge thanks to all of the local volunteers that made the weekend happen, so much hard work so we can play in the mud.

Off to Waco this weekend for three more, that will get me down to three left but I am not sure the #questfor50 will be fulfilled. None of the links for the North Texas Cross Series finale, Oak Point CX work and there has been some radio silence on existence of the event. Stay tuned........


More mud and slop Photo :  Kim Chance

More mud and slop Photo : Kim Chance

As Team Party Time would say #mudbutt

As Team Party Time would say #mudbutt

Beer Time!!

Beer Time!!

40 & 41 Down, 9 To Go: Ruts'N Guts

Hi there. It's been a while. With all the rain we had in North Texas and the subsequent canceling of those Thanksgiving races, there hasn't been much to talk about the last 10 days or so. With the weekly series over, training has moved to the garage. It's that time of year, but there are some really big races left on the calendar. Starting with the first-ever UCI cross race in Oklahoma, Ruts 'N Guts.

Day 1

Arriving at the event location early enough to get a lap or two of course inspection in meant an early wake up call and cold temps for the pre ride. There was even frost on the course, we haven't seen that in Texas yet. Before we could get on the course there was a trail run, seems to be a theme this year. I think it is a cool idea, but they always seem to run a bit long or start late, maybe put them in the middle of the schedule? Then they might be more apt to hang out for a beer or two and heckle?

I participated in this event last year and while many of the same features and lines were in play it was really a completely different course, and long, well over two miles long. There were three sand pits, Belgian steps, and a massive fly-over. Rumor has it two truck loads of sand were not anticipated and showed up at the 11th hour. Tanner Culbreath and crew decided a second and third sand pit would make the event that much more epic. Ugh. Let's move to the start of the race and I will highlight more of the course details.

RBM/Matrix Ready to roll

RBM/Matrix Ready to roll

As we were called to the starting grid, I was able to catch my only break of the day. I was near the end of the second row and there was a spot right behind Johnny Sundt. I figured he would be a good wheel to chase down the start line. He looked back at me, pointed to his rear cog and said, "Adam, single speed, you don't want to be lined up here." I was able to move over to a different slot and that was about the only thing that went my way on day one.

I was able to get clipped right in and had a pretty good start. Of all the cyclocross races I've done in the last few years, Ruts 'N Guts has one of the longest paved starts out there. We were really hauling ass when we hit the first turn that lead us right into the first sand pit. I am not sure how many of the guys rode it on the first lap but I wasn't even going to try, I opted for a run. Between the long full-gas starting stretch and the sand run I was already gassed.

The first part of the course led us around the pits and to the far north section of the race. This is where a few of the "ruts" come into play. I am not sure if it is a creek or a drainage ditch that feeds that part of the course, but sections are mostly dry while other sections are filled with mud. As we worked our way through these ruts, over the roots, and through the trees we began to become fairly lined out.

We ultimately would find ourselves over on the other side of the creek up the little hill and facing sand section number two, down hill. Here we go! I didn't really try to ride it during inspection but it was now or never. Chris Carlson gave me a quick pointer before my race on lifting up on the front end if I start to bog down. Get the weight off the front end and power though. Nearly 3/4 of the way down the pit that is exactly what started to happen, so I did as he suggested and I was able to make it to the end of the pit. It wasn't that way all day for everybody. I have seen some pics and Chris Jennings made a cool short video with some people having total yard sales in those two downhill sand pits.

After the sand pit, we made our way through some mud and back towards one of the open areas and the pits (did I mention this was a really long course). This is where things were really starting to hurt and I was losing contact with the top 10. This was to lead us to our trip over the flyover. Since the flyover took us over a fairly wide section of the creek there were already some deep grooved in ruts from the prior two races. Always a bit nervewracking looking for that good line as you approach a well-built wooden structure with the speed required to climb it. One little bobble or miscue and the result is going to be bad.

I was able to find that line both up and down the flyover, but I was already totally gassed. I looked down at the Garmin and only seven minutes had elapsed. I was on a bad day for sure. And now I had to go down into a 180-degree turn and negotiate the Belgian stairs. I wasn't even going to try and ride them, I watched on and off all day and most people ran them so I don't feel too bad about that. 

A croc lurks in the murky waters for those who failed on the flyover.

A croc lurks in the murky waters for those who failed on the flyover.

Next on the horizon was to ride along the shore of the lake and prepare to work through the off-camber back and forth along the back of the pond "dam." As I made my way to that section of the track The things that were going through my head are not repeatable on this blog. It was bad, not even one lap in and I was thinking it might just be the day to pull out after a lap.

Well, I kept on pedaling and running. So much running as I was back out into the open field on the far side of the pond working my way to the last of the three sand pits. As the course made a hard left after the sand pit, we rode under the flyover and made our way towards the finishing stretch. Four to go as I cross the line for the first time. Ugh. I am not sure how or way, despite all the negative in my head, i just kept turning the pedals over. There was certainly some relief when I came through the finish line a few laps later and was told I was done. For this particular race day, I was not upset in the slightest to be pulled when I was.

UCI Race: In the Pits

After getting cleaned up and having a bit of food, the plan was to enjoy some racing and help any of my teammates out if needed. For the ladies' race we helped Kim Chance and Missy Hardeman. I am not sure what Kim does when she is riding, but she called for a bike and her seat was pointing straight in the air?!? Later that afternoon for the UCI race, Chris, Johnny, Logan DeBorde and I all headed to the pits to help our Texas brethren out.

In the pits with Tyler's bike.

In the pits with Tyler's bike.

I was to be watching out for Matrix teammate Tyler Cloutier and his bike. I made a trip down to staging to collect his warm-ups and offer some final words of encouragement. I made it back to the pits right before the whistle blew and those boys were off. Tyler had an good start going from the back row to the top 15, he rode his heart out, but that ever-elusive UCI point was not in the cards for him this day.

From the pits, we had an incredible view of almost the entire course. The five of us were definately pulling for and keeping a close eye on Tristian Uhl. After a few laps of sorting out, Tristan found himself bridging up to Yannick Eckmann and Craig Richey. The two of them let him sit on wheels for a few laps or so until they saw three to go. I think it was Eckmann who lost it for just a split second in the sand and Tristian attacked. He came out of the sand first and immediately opened up a gap as he was in the drops sprinting past the pits. From that point he just steadily opened up the gap all the way to the finish. Very cool to see Texas on the top step of the podium. Great ride Tristan!!

Day 2

Have fun. That was my focus for the day. After having zero fun racing the day before I was just going to focus on having fun and riding hard on Sunday. I was able to arrive early enough for a course preview again. Had I been able to put track shoes on with cleats, that would have been a good idea, even more running today! We were going to be running up the sandpits we road down on Saturday. Here we go.

Lined up for the start I felt okay and with the long drag to turn one I was able to situate myself in the top 10. The first turn was a hard right that sent us directly under the flyover then right up the sand so we were immediately single file. From there we worked over to the long straight away on the backside. There was one deep rut that was very deep and full of mud, rideable but very slick and slippery. As I lined up by rut to blast through, for a split second I thought I was going to kill Cat Moore. (Don't worry, I think Cat has like 99 lives.)

Since Cat had mashed up her finger the day before she was racing the with us in the Master's. Cat is always great to ride with and a fierce competitor. Anyways, as she hit the rut, the rear end of the bike slid out from under her and went into the tape. The front end of her bike was still pointing back into the course and for a split second it looked like she was going to pull it back onto the course and she was going to be lined up right on my front wheel. It looked as if T-boning her was inevitable. Suddenly her bike went back the other way and she was pushing through the tape about 10 feet off the course. The next thing I was passing her as she was riding next to the course before turning back towards the course and blasting back through the tape. I was laughing at her and yelling at her the entire time. 

Now I had to run up the back side of the little pond in the part. There isn't much to it but is is sharp and steep. I am sure other guys were able to ride it, but it was a bit above my skill level. After cresting the top and getting back on the bike, a trip along the shoreline led us back to the Belgian stairs quickly followed by the flyover. What little speed gained off the flyover was quickly lost in some muddy ruts and small false flat back towards the pits. There was just nowhere to rest on this course.

The massive size of the 4/5 field

The massive size of the 4/5 field

As I made the 180 turn to head by pit row I did what all the pro's tell us to do in clinics, go tape to tape and use all the course. I did just that, but there would be some drama in the same turn a few laps later. Back over to the other side and the second sand run up. Legs were once again fried. I did see some tire tracks leading into the sand pit, but never more than a third of the way in. Was anybody able to ride up either sand pit at all that day? I'd love to know.

To finish off the lap, we wound back through the woods and ended up on another false flat straight away up to the backside of the pits. It was also into a slight wind, once again, nowhere to recover because this led right into the third sandpit. Finally, one that was rideable. It took taking an inside line and trusting the float over the first part of the sand, but I was able to mash to the end of it. I made the last turn into the finish line, heard the announcer call my name, and saw the five to go sign. Jeesh, wasn't one lap enough?

I took stock of where I was. I think I was just outside of the top 10 and a gap was quickly starting to form. I reminded myself to have some fun and enjoy the day. I decided to seize that opporutnity. While still riding hard I decided to have some fun as I cam back to the last sandpit as Ben Sewell was rolling footage and ran along side of me. I was begging for a push and when he wouldn't give me one I feigned throwing up on his camera. That got a good laugh, can't wait to see the footage on that one.

Remember that corner near the pits I went tape to tape on? Well, it wasn't actually tape, it was the orange snow fencing and it does not mix well shift levers. Next thing I knew I was on the ground trying to figure out what the hell just happened. Missy was in the pit looking at me like I was crazy. Yea, pretty much. Of course I always aim to give a few heckles back at the hecklers when I can so I took the opportunity when I could but it was still fairly tame since it was early in the morning.

90% of the course was dry, but where there was mud, there was mud.

90% of the course was dry, but where there was mud, there was mud.

I was feeling much better than the previous day and I was really trying to work hard and finish on the lead lap. With two to go I lost all chance of that when the rear tire started going flat. It was folding over and I was losing air fast. So now I was nursing it in the corners and really watching out for roots. It was still seated and I did not want it coming off. I was able to call out for Carlson and we did the world's wackiest bike change but I was able to hold my position and and finish the race, one lap down, three places better than Saturday.

So while I only moved up a few spots I felt so much better on Sunday. Crazy how that works. I'll be back in Oklahoma for Tulsa Tough next spring so that is something to look forward to, In the meantime, the races are winding down with Resolution Cross this weekend. I am signed up for three races and may try for a fourth. The weather looks to be favorable so that will help in my #questfor50!

 

 

 

 

 

35,36,37,38 & 39 Down, 11 To Go

Sorry, I am a bit behind on some recaps and updates on the #questfor50. With the Thanksgiving weekend here, I will make this one  simple. I knocked out five races since last Wednesday.

Wed. Nov 18th

I went over to Irving to participate in the WNX. As you may recall, we had quite a bit of rain in the area leading up to Wednesday, and while the course was in great condition, Bryan Fawley added in just enough off-camber that tire selection played a huge role. My bike with the mud tires was still en route back from Seattle and the day had gotten away on me and I didn't swap out the Bontrager CX0s file treads for the  Bontgrager CX3s with medium treads. It only took about half of a warm up lap to realize that it was going to be a slippery night.

As we took the course and got strung out it didn't take long to figure out what part of the course I was going to have trouble with. On the second lap, one of those turns got me and I found myself on the ground. As I hoped back on my bars and twisted a bit, looks like my headset was loose. So I rode a good portion of the lap with the bars going one direction and the wheel pointed another. I stopped at the top of the run up to line it back up, but at that point any nerve I had for the night was gone.

Time to heckle the hecklers. As I made my way towards the barriers and run up with a few laps to go, I saw this incredible burst of color speed past me. It was none other than Jimmy Dowhin running up the hill with me carrying a handle of Jack. Sounded like a good idea, but not sure I could have kept it down. On the next lap I had what I think was one of my top 5 "heckle backs" of the year. As I started up the hill, I noticed a bottle of something reddish sitting right in the middle of the course. I drew closer I could see that it was a 3/4 full bottle of white zinfandel. In my best wine snob voice, I calmly told the screaming hecklers convince me to drink it that, "I only drink California reds." Ha ha!

Thus Nov 19th

What do you mean weekly cross is over?!? Image Kim Chance

What do you mean weekly cross is over?!? Image Kim Chance

Creek Cross, tire choice gets me once again. The field we use at Woodcreek Church drains very quick and dries out fast, but there were just a few turns that held water and they were slippery. As I was racing the "B" race I decided that I would go as hard as I could, sit up with one togo, then head over the Richardson Bike Mart tent and see if there was at least a front wheel with more tread I could throw on. There was, but nothing with a 160mm rotor and a thur axle, bummer. Also a bummer, I was running 6th when I pulled out and may have been able to make a run at 5th.

As I lined up for the "A" race I was just going to race hard and try to keep the rubber side down. I was able to do both, but both took some work. I was finding a few corners very tough with no tread to bite in. At one point I did some sort of "power slide" in one of the turns and a triple foot dab kept me from hitting the deck.

It was shortly after this when I could tell that something was clearly wrong with my bike. I was getting a terrible rattling and something was loose on the front end. The bike was ridable, but needed a fix. The crew over at the Bike Mart tent seemed to be having a good time so I figured that I should stop and say hello. As I swung through a turn near the tents I hollered out to Barry Bishop that something was loose on the front. 30 seconds later as I rolled to the side of the course, there he was wrench in hand to try and give me a fix. Of course, Theresa Francesconi thought this would be a perfect time to have a drink and handed me  one of her Skratchtails that she has been making every week. Good stuff!

The thru axle was the culprit. Barry tightened it up for me and I had two laps to finish up. Mat Stephens and Tyler Cloutier caught me on that lap to suddenly make it one to go. That was a bit of a bummer because I had finished on the lead lap every Thursday night up to that point. That put a wrap on what has been the most mentally challenging week or so of racing this season. At least I heard some first-class heckling from Chris Jennings that night!

Tues Nov 24th

The grand finale at Woodcreek Church for Creek Cross. I had the Felt back from Seattle and the right tires on. The bike was dialed last night, felt really good. As I took to the "B" race to get things going the buzz and excitement was starting to build near all tents, Bicycles Plus, Cadence Cyclery, Plano Cycling and RBM all in full force last night. It's pretty cool with all the tents together like that for one big party.

The "B" race went the way it has most of this year, Bobby Etheridge out front crushing it and everybody lined up chasing. A bit of a pile up in the first turn split the field up quickly. Everybody quickly settled after that and we were off and racing. There was big tactical bit of racing to utilize last night and I did for at least one lap. There was a very strong wind right out of the south last night. Combine that with the long starting straight that Jeff Lucido and Sam Montag added in week before and it made sense to sit on a wheel for that section. I can't remember who I was on, but I took advantage of it and then made a pass later in that lap.

Moving to the "A" race it was I knew the Bike Mart crew was up to something but wasn't quite sure what, yet. As we wound ourselves around the course and made the left into the sand pit, I found out. For those of you that know, I am the buyer at RBM. As I rode into the 20+ employees and friends on the side of the course they were all waving blank special order tickets in my face. On top of that was, "Where is my order?" "When is the next QBP order being delivered?" "Have you done the Trek order yet?" It was actually quite funny and clever. Not to be outdone, I immediately started pointing at tickets and yelling back, "out of stock, out of stock!" Good times.

Back to the racing. I was feeling much better than I had the week before and felt like I was riding fairly well. It was helpful to get a boost from the RBM crew and even seeing boss man Woody Smith on the side hooting and hollering. I got locked into a pretty good battle with Dalton Walters for a few laps until he did a foot dab and I was able to get past him. Right behind me were Lisa Uranga and Troy Anderson of PACC, and they were coming fast. A few laps later Lisa came ripping past and I was feeling pretty much done but there was one race left for some.

The last race of the night I chose not to participate in. A race/pie eating contest. A full lap eat a piece of pie, then repeat the process all over. Oh yea, you can't hurl or have any water. I would have hurled in a hurry. It was quite comical watching racers of all the skill levels get out there and go for that $100.  In the end, Logan DeBorde beat Mat Stephens by a crumb with one of my co-workers Mitchell Erickstad coming in 3rd.

Well it is hard to believe that we have already closed out all the weekly series cross races. It was a blast lining up with some great guys like Daniel Fontenot, Deuce Courtney, Kato Bentley and all the others. There is still some work to do to get to 50 and the cancelling of the races this weekend is going to put a big squeeze on things. If I fall a race or two short we may need to have an unsanctioned race in somebody's backyard!!

Happy Thanksgiving y'all!!

Rain and a Mud Wall : ‘Cross Racing in the Pacific NW

*This recap originally appeared on    TexasBikeRacing.com    — where you'll find all the racing news and cycling lifestyle features for bike racing in the state of Texas.

*This recap originally appeared on TexasBikeRacing.com — where you'll find all the racing news and cycling lifestyle features for bike racing in the state of Texas.

I have to start this blog post with some big thank-you's. First to Mike Hinton, Barry Bishop and Jordan Schroeder at RBM for always keeping my bike dialed and packing it up for this trip. Also to Kevin Tyree for handling the logistics on the shipping. Finally, to Woody Smith for all he does to support me and the Matrix Cycling Team.

Races 33 and 34 down. 16 to go!

Hey Dorothy — this ain't Texas

Hey Dorothy — this ain't Texas

As the plane landed at the airport in Seattle on Friday afternoon, all I could see was wet and gray; this was no surprise. I’d watched the forecast all week, but I had held out hope that maybe it would stop for the weekend. Oh well, may as well get the full Pacific Northwest experience.

When I was looking at the race calendar a few months ago with this silly idea of trying for 50 ‘cross races in one season, I thought it would be fun to visit other parts of the country and see what the ‘cross scene was all about. While nothing else outside of the Southern region has materialized, the Seattle trip never went off the radar. Quite the long-distance trip for a couple hour-long races, but with a place to stay and miles to cash in, it seemed like a most excellent ‘cross adventure.

The Subaru Cyclo Cup presented by MFG Racing has a long history of being held in Ft. Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, WA — since the early 90s. This was also a UCI race, so some of the big boys and girls would be in attendance. The MFG website stated that the course would offer a little bit of everything for all skill levels … those who can climb, those who excel on technical descents, and those who can power away on the flats. Throw in the fact it had rained for a full week and the temps were dropping, I was going to be in for a real ‘cross treat. I knew that I was in over my head, but I was still excited and eager to check things out. Plus, I knew I’d enjoy a lot of great local craft beers during this trip. #willraceforbeer

Day 1: Rain. Rain. Rain.

Day one was quickly was turned upside down when FedEx made a half-assed attempt to deliver the bike on Friday morning prior to our arrival. After a few phone calls, and some serious miscommunication, it was apparent that I wasn’t getting the bike until Saturday morning. (I’m sure traveling with bikes can be an entire post one day, perhaps I’ll get my teammate Tyler Cloutier to collaborate with me.)

The rain. It never stopped. From the time I stepped off the plane, through the night, and as we drove from Seattle to Tacoma, it never stopped. This race would be waterlogged.

Better late than never

Better late than never

After picking up the bike at a FedEx central location on the way to the race, we stopped to build my bike in a nearby parking garage to stay dry as long as possible. Upon arrival at the course, I saw the familiar yellow tape and stakes throughout a lush green field. As my Seattle-based artist buddy put it, “the course was a muddy track surrounded by verdant green grass, set against a changing fall landscape.” Told like a true artist. I put my muck boots on, headed over to registration, and noticed how clean the bikes were staying – despite all the rain and mud. The NW mud wasn’t nearly as heavy as it is here in Texas, that was a bit reassuring since I had no pit bike, wheels, or anything for backup.

At registration, I was handed a race number and a piece of tubing that looked like it could be from a beer bong. One of my first thoughts was that it might be for a cool beer drinking game on course. (Yep, #willraceforbeer.) Turns out that it contains the timing chip to help score the race. It was to be attached to our helmets. Let’s just say I saw some very interesting displays of how one goes about attaching these to the helmets.

I did not make it early enough to do any pre-riding or inspection of the course so my warm-up consisted of riding along the various sections trying to get a bit of course knowledge. This does almost nothing to prepare you for what will actually happen, but it helps a bit. I knew there was a run-up in the woods at some point during the lap but had no idea how long or steep.

Oh yeah, dare I forget to mention – it’s still raining. And hovering right around 45º. So my warm-up is also trying to stay as warm and dry as possible. It’s not going well on either front and I’m also not getting my system ready for the full-gas start that’s coming, rookie mistake.

Second mistake… registering for the men’s open. WTF? At what point into my bottle of scotch did I think that was a good idea. Geesh. First call-up of the day? A two-time Masters Cyclocross World Champion. Second call? A rider sporting a “stars and bars” jersey. No slackers here. At least I did register early enough that I got a good spot on the second row.

Washingtonians get a B+ for heckling. Pretty good but not great.

Washingtonians get a B+ for heckling. Pretty good but not great.

Stripped off the warm-up gear … that was actually really just soaking wet and cold … and waited for the whistle. As it blew, nothing could have prepared me for was about to happen next. The guys blasted from the line and as we came off the pavement with a right sweeper, fence-to-fence mud puddles about 6″ deep stood in the way. At the speed we took them, my relatively dry and not-yet-too-cold feet immediately went to soaked and freezing. Once the blood got pumping, it was fine but it’s probably been since last January in Austin at ‘cross nats since I have been that cold.

So… I’m riding the course blind, with minimal warm-up, and the mud is every where. I’m trying to follow the lines of the guys in front of me, and it’s working pretty well as we wind through the field. I’m getting passed by plenty of riders but it’s going okay (foreshadowing).

As we came out of a few “s” turns and line up for the woods, I was about to experience something I’ve never seen or done before. Climbing a wall of pure mud. Not a hill, a WALL. It was almost in three sections, each with distinct differences in pitch, but mud, from fence to fence. Amazingly it was climbable, albeit painfully slow. Bike on shoulder, I just stared down to find a place to dig my foot in. So many racers had already gone up that footholds seemed to be in place, even with the rain still coming down. I think part of it may have been that we were using the tree roots as footholds. (Yes, Austin Heritage Tree Foundation you read that right, “roots as a foothold.”)

Wall 'O Mud

Wall 'O Mud

As we came out of the woods, there was a short downhill section that afforded about 10 seconds of recovery, if (big “if”) you could get clipped back in. Next came the back breaker – a climb that was about 500m long. Looking at it before the race, it followed what was clearly a well-used walking path. While there were some decent lines to follow, it had to of pitched to 7 or 8 percent near the top while getting super slippery. By the time I was halfway up I was gassed and unhitched from my group. And it wasn’t getting any easier. While being completely winded and slobbering it was time to negotiate a super slick off-camber. I did go way wide to find some grass but that just made the next climb up a bit longer. Oh well, it’s paid for, I’ll use as much of the course as I want.

Now it was time to descend back down to the field and other features. I had scouted the turn out of the woods and knew it would be dicey. They sent us down one of the well-groomed walking trails that allowed for a great deal of speed. So as I emerged from the woods I had to nail the brakes and set up a right-hander. I got a foot out, felt totally out of control, was ready to go ass over elbows, but somehow kept it upright.

The majority of the course was in this field and featured the sandpit and the barriers. Oddly enough, they are within spitting distance of each other. No sooner had I remounted from the sand and did a dozen revs, the barriers appear. Not nearly close enough to run all at once but close enough to really hurt the legs. Of course, if I was Tristan Uhl I’d just bunny hop the barriers.

The thing that I couldn’t get over was how bumpy the field was. Jeff Lucido will love me for saying this, but it makes Creek Cross on Thursday nights look smooth. This beautiful emerald green field and I had to work hard to stay seated for risk of getting bucked off. Crazy.

I’d love to tell you that I found a rhythm and was beginning to pull myself back up to riders in my field, but that would be a lie. I did find a rhythm, but I was falling farther and farther off the back. With two to go, the chief referee pulled the trigger and put me out of my misery, sort of. I still had to stand in the rain, wash my bike, peel off that mud-soaked kit, and load the bike back up. Shivering, but quite the day.

Fun note though — As I came across the line, the announcers did mention I had on the coolest kit of the day and gave Richardson Bike Mart a shout-out over the PA system and welcomed me to Washington. But then they kinda laughed and said, “welcome to Washington. The weather’s always rainy like this!”

Harder than it looks....trust me!

Harder than it looks....trust me!

Day 2: The Sun Shines
Before even heading back out to the venue for Sunday’s races, I had already decided that I was going to attempt to move from the Men’s Open to the Men’s 35+ Open. Still excellent competitors, but maybe, just maybe, I could stay in contact for a while longer.

As we made our way south to the park, the sun was starting to shine. Still very cold, but at least it looked like we wouldn’t have to race in the rain. We even got a rare peak of Mt. Rainer as we made our way through Tacoma. My psyche already felt a touch better than the previous day.

I was able to change categories and went out to check the course for changes, which looked to be minimal with the exception of removing the run-up exiting the woods. Didn’t break my heart a bit.
I was able to get a much better warm-up and was once again looking at the bikes – not too much mud sticking to the frames and drive trains. I haven’t raced long enough or in enough places yet, but I know that mud can be different all over the country. This was quite clear after the muck that’s been sticking to my bike the last month or so in Texas. I’ll have to take an advanced mud course soon. Maybe the hard-men of Belgium are right – when it is raining, get out and ride, practice getting on and off the bike, train for ‘cross in ‘cross conditions.

Anyway, as the whistle blew we started the race in sunshine and it would stay out for the entire race. That said, many parts of the course were still sloppy and very slick. This was apparent when shortly after the start one of my competitors found himself missing a rut and flying over the bars and through the course tape.

We still made a beeline for the woods, but now instead of dismounting beforehand and shouldering the bike, you could muscle up through the muck and make the new left turn down one of the walking trails. Much nicer, but we still had to get to the top of the course.

Different mud, it wasn't sticking to the bike like in Texas.

Different mud, it wasn't sticking to the bike like in Texas.

Now we had to climb up to the paved walking path that would then lead us to the gravel path climb. This essentially tied two climbs together with a steep pitch at the bottom and that step section at the top from the day before. Once again, lung-burning and leg-searing by the time we reached the top. Then a right-hander and back down into the slop.

There were two lines in a really wide off-camber to head back up. Wide added distance and having to cut across the slippery section while inside was slick and any bobble meant a foot down and the likelihood of a dismount and run. I took the outside like all but one lap. I didn’t pick the inside line clean but got it just enough to keep from dabbing a foot.

Back down the speedy decent and into the big field. Good news, I was still in contact with some guys from my race. Bad news, the field was still as bumpy as could be. Ugh, so humbling not to be able to put the power down in a wide-open field when I wanted to. At least I was riding aggressively and not holding back– so much so I found myself on the ground out of a turn. Shit, hurry and pick up the bike before the next guy clobbers me.

That was a bit demoralizing but time to suck it up. I was beginning to settle into my groove. I wasn’t catching anybody at this rate, but I didn’t feel like I was losing any ground either. Time to get some good NW ‘cross training and technique practice in.

I finally nailed riding the sand and got over the barriers only to be pulled with two-to-go again. This time I was frustrated. I get the “80 percent rule” but I don’t think the size of the field warranted using it. Neither did the guy in front of me. We had a little group of three and we were the first ones to be pulled. As I rode to the bike wash, he was letting the official have it for pulling us too soon. Come to think of it, I think Cross Nats in Austin last year was the only time I’ve actually been pulled from a ‘cross race.

We stuck around and enjoyed the sunshine for a bit. While I did take note that the racers were very strong, and the event was well organized, I’ll have to brag on my Texas brethren that we get into it more with the heckling and hand-ups. I didn’t even feel like anybody got on me enough to heckle back. And that happens every week in Texas. Hmmm.

A huge thanks to my newest craft beer-drinking buddy, Evan, and his family for hosting me and making sure I had everything I needed, including transportation all weekend. It really made the trip. I’m taking next weekend off, but I’ll be at the weekly series this Wednesday and Thursday. See you there or catch you on Thanksgiving weekend!

Gears and Beers, 27, 28 & 29 Down, 21 To Go

*This recap originally appeared on    TexasBikeRacing.com    — where you'll find all the racing news and cycling lifestyle features for bike racing in the state of Texas.

*This recap originally appeared on TexasBikeRacing.com — where you'll find all the racing news and cycling lifestyle features for bike racing in the state of Texas.

This weekend was a new race to the North Texas scene. Cranking Gears and Drinking Beers presented by Cadence Cyclery and hosted by the fine folks of Tupps Brewery in McKinney. It just so happens to be North Texas Beer week, so it seems fitting. The part that is confusing is the Beer Week is ten days, which I am all for, but might confuse some people. Perhaps that will be discussed in a future post. 

Navigating the rhythm section

Navigating the rhythm section

As I rolled up to the event I saw the familiar sight of stakes and tape throughout a wide open field. This was where over half the race would be contested. I had heard and read that the race itself was going to go right through the brewery so after getting my bikes out I went to check it out.

As I rolled into the rhythm section behind the brewery, it didn't take but a few hundred yards for the bike to be completely bogged down with mud and saw dust. I actually had to pick my bike up and carry it out to the start finish area. I grabbed a stake and started trying to clear the grapefruit sized ball of mud from the stays. As some of the other guys came by that had ridding out in the field, the feedback was the same, the rain that had just rolled through overnight had made the course a sticky mess. With no pressure washers in the pits I was thinking this was going to be a shoulder the bike and run race.

Chopper getting ready to blast past me

Chopper getting ready to blast past me

Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for us, the cat 4/5 race took care of laying down some lines and picking up a good portion of the mud. It was a massive field, close to 100 racers I would guess. And I saw at least 3 to 4 derailleur hangers snapped off, most of them on the first lap. One of them was a poorly timed as possible. Jimmy Dowhin was having a great race and in all likelihood was going to join his Team Party Time teammate Deuce Courtney on the podium until his snapped.

NTXCX Masters series leader Ryan Hobbs, brings it every week

NTXCX Masters series leader Ryan Hobbs, brings it every week

The Master's 40+ was next so I made my way to staging. Were were quickly staged and given our instructions, 50 minutes in some very sticky mud. This was going to hurt. We were all present and accounted for a few minutes early, so the official told us that she would start us a few minutes early. Well, she didn't say it very loud so her whistle caught a few people of guard. I was in earshot to hear her, so I was clipped in and ready to go.

My last few races I have gotten much better starts. I am not doing anything much differently, just hitting the pedal on the first try. I was able to nail that pedal on the line, combine that with the fact I am still hanging on to that front row call up, I found myself gunning for the hole shot. I am not 100% that I was going to get it, and I would much rather follow someone taking better lines, so I slotted in behind Bobby Etheridge into the first turn. 

The course was drying out but was still somewhere between tacky and peanut butter mud. The bikes were staying relatively clean but it was taking some serious effort to pedal through some of the sections. With all the tight turns it was taking serious effort with the constant re-accelerations. 

Beer hand-up from Travis Pope

Beer hand-up from Travis Pope

The mud was taking its toll and I was slowly sliding backwards. I didn't know exactly what position I was in but I knew was somewhere around 10th. I just couldn't get any power going and I may have spent a bit much trying to stay in the top five the first few laps. There was a group of about five of us that I was hanging on to the back of, but towards the final two laps it was too much and I cam unhitched. I came in exhausted for a very pedestrian 10th place.

Since I had skipped WNX the past week I had decided that it was time to double up and get another race ticked off the list, but first food and beer. A beer token was part of the registration fee, so there was no way I was turning that down #willraceforbeer There was BBQ on site from the great folks over at Triple G Group. A plate of pulled pork and a Tupps Texas Black Ale and it was my turn to cheer and heckle. After cheering for some of my Matrix teammates in the w's 3/4 it was time to kit back up for the P/1/2/3 race. With the sun coming out and one beer in I just wanted to lounge and heckle.

Leah wanted to take a selfie, I tried to get her to do a lap for me in exchange

Leah wanted to take a selfie, I tried to get her to do a lap for me in exchange

When I line up in a P/1/2/3 race I try not to take myself to seriously full well know where I will quickly be just a few minutes in. I set two objectives, finish the race and have fun taking a few hand-ups. I am pleased to say that I did both. The racing was fast and furious, amazing how quickly a field of 15 or so can get strung out when the top five or so really put the hammer down. With an hour of racing ahead of me it was a good time to work on lines and technique.

Even with the 50 minutes of racing in my legs already that day, I felt pretty good, actually much better than I did that morning. Now don't be confused - I was way off the back but felt pretty good about my riding. About 30 minutes in I decided it was time for a beer. Behind the brewery in the rhythm section they took the tape all the way out to the spectator tables. This actually made for a really cool "pit stop" section. My friend and Mirage teammate Travis Pope was waiting for me, beer in hand, what a guy. Of course I shot right past him and had to reach back for a beer. At this point it is fun to interact with the crowd and shout back to them each time I come through.

The next time I decided to make a pit stop I caught everybody off guard. Nobody was ready for me! I did happen to roll right up next to Craig Peterson of Bicycles Plus and he had probably just bought himself a beer. He was kind enough to share and let me have a few drinks, while Leah Rives grabbed me for a quick hug and selfie. My adoring fans. Time to clip back in and finish the race. The last 15 minutes was pretty hard, I was feeling the effects of both races now. I limped through the finish line and was ready for another beer. This time I went with the Tupps IPA. 

Mark Rawlings absolutely crushed it on Saturday

Mark Rawlings absolutely crushed it on Saturday

Sunday started off very chilly and windy as we arrived at Tupps Brewery. The course had dried out and I wanted to run a different tire set-up. I quick change over the the Bontrager CX0s and I was ready to warm up for day 2. As I made my way around for some practice laps I could already tell this was the right call. The course had dried out significantly and the sweeping turns were going to be very fast. We were also running the course in reverse and the rhythm section behind the brewery seemed to flow better in that direction.

Somehow I am still managing that front row call up and about 2 seconds after the whistle blew I decided I may was well take advantage of it. I nailed the pedal first try and stood up to sprint. I am not sure who was to my inside but I wanted a few minutes of glory and really went after that hole shot. When it was clear that I had it it was time to scrub some speed in a hurry. Immediately after getting into the grass we had to set up for a pretty sharp left hander to get us flowing on course. (at least I got the turn right unlike at Spooky Cross 2014) 

It was nice being out front for a few minutes, but I knew it wouldn't last long with the talent behind me. I was able to stay on the front until we started our trip behind the brewery. Bobby came by and I got in on his wheel. Then as we came off the last berm Eric Warden came down low and passed both of us, he makes it look too easy sometimes. As we went out for the next lap I was sitting in third. Next was the series leader Ryan Hobbs, he encouraged me to jump on his wheel to get back up to the other two. I tried for a bit, but it was too much. Shortly after both Chopper and Mark Rawlings were past.

So now that I have clearly spent a match with the start and the first few laps I had to bring it back some before completely imploding. As Chris Jennings of McKinney Velo came past I was able to claw back up to his wheel. I did this mainly because we were about to head back up the road and into the wind and I wanted a wheel to sit on! I was able to do this for the better part of two laps until we set up for the first left hander back on course after the finish line. Chris came in way to hot, had to scrub a bunch of speed and went super wide. I passed him on the inside thinking it was only fair to pull him around for a while. I looked back about 30 seconds later and noticed he was back with a few other riders.

Another fantastic image by Kato Bentley

Another fantastic image by Kato Bentley

Now I was solo for a few laps trying to pick the fastest lines and avoid the previous days ruts. John Sanborn of Dallas Bike Works had closed in on me and was setting up to pass. Once again, this was near the section that was headed into the wind so I dug just a bit to try and catch a ride back behind the brewery. I played this game of yo-yo on his wheel for a few laps. Inside of two to go. I made a big turn to get back to his wheel one last time. He hit it hard along the far stretch of grass and I was able to go with him. At this point I wasn't thinking to try and beat him but more so have him help pull me away from the guy on the mountain bike lurking 15 seconds or so behind me.

I know that if I could stay with him I would and then maybe I would have an outside chance to pass him late in the race. I knew I would have to ride perfect lines and then came my only miscue of the day. I missed the line going into a deeper rut heading to the rhythm section and had to dab a foot to get my balance back. This cost me just enough speed that I lost his wheel and was not able to get it back again. I made one dig out of the brewery door to try and he did at the same time to open a big enough gap.

Now my focus went to holding off the mountain bike rider Mark Macklin behind me. He was coming hard so my focus was clean smooth lines. I told myself if I could get out of the field and behind the buildings with a gap I should be able to hold on. I too hit it really hard on the far side of the field and into the wind to try and stretch it out just enough. I was able to and I also picked a good line through the same rut that got me the lap before. I came across the line fully spent, no second race today for sure.

Inside Tupps Brewery, what a fantastic venue for a cross race

Inside Tupps Brewery, what a fantastic venue for a cross race

Nothing glamorous or fantastic about the 8th place finish, but as I enjoyed my post race beer I quickly replayed the race back in my head and it felt like my best race of the season so far. Other than one little bobble late I ran good lines, felt like I had good power and really pushed deeper than I have all season. My back even almost held up the entire race and one of these days it will.

As I was taking it easy around the house Sunday evening watching some football my mind was already fast forwarding to the week ahead. It is looking like 3 races during the week and then a trip to the Pacific Northwest on Friday to go race in the Subaru Cyclo Cup UCI race just outside of Seattle. Forecast is for rain and temps in the upper 40s, sounded like a good idea a few months ago when I planned the trip and it was 90 degrees and dusty here in Texas. I'll be sure to keep you posted on how it goes next week!

I know what's in the bottle, but I'm not telling!

I know what's in the bottle, but I'm not telling!

Spooky Weekend - 24, 25 & 26 Down, 24 To Go?

Sorry for the delay in getting the recap up but there was a World Series to watch and a parade to attend that abruptly interrupted my writing. #ForeverRoyal

My kid brother Mark and I balanced on an old iron fence for a better view of the parade. Think he's taking his own selfie back there. And yes, we are wearing matching Oakleys.

My kid brother Mark and I balanced on an old iron fence for a better view of the parade. Think he's taking his own selfie back there. And yes, we are wearing matching Oakleys.

We will get to the countdown question mark in a minute.

Spooky Cross is always a great weekend is always one of my favorite weekends on the race calendar. When I first started dabbling in 'Cross a few years ago, it was one of the first weekend races that I did and it really opened my eyes to greatness of a full 'Cross weekend. Throw in a venue with the Dallas skyline and a village of vendors, beer, food trucks and team tents you've got yourself a party.

As I was watching the World Series and having dinner Friday night, the skies opened up full blast. When I went to bed I could hear the rain falling against the window and it was more of the same when I woke up Saturday morning. So before the first race even line up we already knew what the biggest factor of the weekend would be. All we could hope for was for racing to go on as scheduled with no cancellations.

Day 1

New to this year was a Spooky 5K trail run presented by Spinistry and 4A Good Time Event Services on the course before it was open to the riders. I went down early to snap a few pics of the run and cheer some friends along. Unfortunately, the run was delayed due to the lightening and storms from the day and night before — just too much inclement weather to have the course marked off and ready that extra early. 

The 5K takes to the course.

The 5K takes to the course.

After a short delay, the small group of runners took to the bricks and headed out for the run. It had stopped raining by now, but the trail was certainly slippery. I am not much of a runner, but it sure looked like a few of them were hauling ass. Here's looking at you, Becky Angeles. This much I can say for sure, they all looked to be having fun and I don't think that anyone busted their butt in the mud, right Paula Felix?

As the run was wrapping up, we were told that the start of the day's racing would be pushed about 30 minutes, made sense, the run was 30 minutes late to start the day. They did let us out on course to get a few laps in and check things out. Early indications were pointing towards mud and slop. After our short delay, a massive cat 4/5 filed took off from the start to begin tearing things apart.

Almost an hour after that it was our turn in the 40+ to take to the course. Coming into the weekend I was tied for 3rd place in the NTXCX series and was able to get the 4th call-up and set myself in a good position on the start line. This was huge because there were potholes and puddles a scant 50 yards or so from the line, not where you want to be off the whistle.

When the whistle blew I was able to get a decent jump and clipped in right away. As we took the first turn, I was in 4th position as we went into the open field. I held on to the wheel in front of me and to the 4th spot in the line for a good portion of the first lap. As we moved deeper into the first lap I didn't want to, but a gap was starting to open up and a few guys jumped around me.

About halfway through the race I came up to one of the barriers and the bike felt like it weighed a ton. I took  a peek down as I remounted and it was covered. The course was chewed up and the mud was really sticking to the bikes. As I came through the start finish line to make the U-turn at the next set of barriers I was able to holler out in the general direction of the Richardson Bike Mart tent to the great Barry Bishop that I was going to need a bike change. And sure enough as I made my way around the course, the next time I passed the pits, Barry was there and we swapped out to the clean bike.

Post bike change on a relatively clean bike.

Post bike change on a relatively clean bike.

Ideally, we would have had access to a wash station and been back on that bike next trip around to the pits. We didn't not have access a power washer at the pit and that's ok, the second bike stayed clean enough to not bog down and get me to the finish.

As a slogged through my final few laps I was desperately trying to close the gap to Bobby Ethridge, racing for Dallas Bike Works in front of me. Bobby is a fantastic rider with great skill, trying to catch him was no easy task. I would close down on certain sections of the course I was stronger at ,then he would pull back away on the sections that he was stronger at.

I am not sure what the final time gap was to Bobby, but it could not have been more than 10 seconds. A good hard race with Bobby in 6th and me taking 7th. In those conditions I was quite pleased with another top 10 in the NTXCX series, especially how my legs felt. The conditions zapped me and I was a bit wobbly getting of the bike. My pal Ryan Hobbs, new to the Texas racing scene as a recent transplant from New York, crossed the finish line first. He's a strong rider and races for a shop out of New York. .... Pretty sure it's time to convince him to suit up for a local shop! But, I was not done, it was time to go run for a quick costume change for the costume race!

Costume Race

The costume race was to be run during the course inspection right before noon. With the delays in the from the weather, the one-lap costume race was now following the ladies 3/4 field. Fellow RBMer Theresa Francesconi busted out the donut tutu and accompanied me to the line. There we found the gang from Phenom Cycling out of Austin in full group costume as Devo. Kim Chance had on a giant sombrero, with her, I'm not sure if that was a costume or something she was going to wear anyway. ;)

Cheers! I wonder what is in that cup?

Cheers! I wonder what is in that cup?

Beer in hand off we went. Devo was taking this thing way too seriously — and hilariously in those yellow suits. That, and I had a beer in hand so I was not in a hurry. #willraceforbeer No need to spill the beer. Theresa and I were setting such a blistering pace around the course we decided we should short cut so we could get over to the hand-ups near the fallen log. Taking hand-ups out of a cup can always be a bit of an adventure because you are not quite sure what you might be getting. I am still no sure what we took other than being a fairly clear liquid with a nice cherry garnish. Thanks, Judge and crew.

Hanging out with Devo, Whip it Good!

Hanging out with Devo, Whip it Good!

As I rolled back towards the finish line I couldn't quite figure out why everybody was staring, pointing and even laughing. Oh wait, I did that race in a dress, that must have been why. At least i've got the legs to pull it off!

Day 2

Even with the extra hour of sleep, the second cup of coffee was more inviting than making it to Dallas Heritage Village for a lap or two of pre-riding the course. As I prepped my bikes and got everything ready I had a pretty good view of the Men's 4/5 race and it looked to be slow going but very tacky conditions. That was about to change as some light rain began to fall.

As we lined up for day 2 to be run in reverse, we were informed of a few course modifications, seemed simple enough. Whistle blows and I lost my nerve right from the gun. As we booked it across the pavement to set up to make the turn into the opening field, it just seemed ripe for someone to washout with the combination of mud and fresh rain on the pavement. Fortunately, that was not the case as we hit the grass. Problem was, since I lost my edge I was already out of the top ten and slip sliding all over the place.

Making sure Logan DeBorde was focused for the 1/2/3 race

Making sure Logan DeBorde was focused for the 1/2/3 race

As we made our way along side the fence line for the quick up and down behind the white building, I was certainly unsure of what line to take but managed to pick my way through. On the second lap that would not be the case. As I made my way around the second time I was desperate to make up some of the time and the gaps that I had opened up so I let it loose and went full speed down that little hill. There were two or three good ruts at this point and the best one was nearest the building and the manhole cover but for me it was quite unnerving to ride within inches of that cover so I just right.

Well, right put me into the rut with the giant root and put me right over the handlebars. As I scrambled to get me and my bike out of the way for the racers behind me nothing seemed immediately hurt. It was not until about 20 minutes later that some series back pain kicked in. At one point I reached back to try and rub on it and the top of the muscles/skin felt numb. That's not good, is it?

As I was getting slower and slower every little slip and slide had me thinking I was going down on one of the sidewalk crossovers, maybe the head to a corner of a  giant railroad tie or the edge of one of the buildings. Let's just say I didn't have any fun as I nursed my way around the course on Sunday. My plan was to actually ride two that day, but that idea went away just as fast as I went over the bars.

Tristan Uhl crushing souls.

Tristan Uhl crushing souls.

All in all it was still a good weekend and lots of fun. I was able to run home, grab a shower and watch some of the afternoon races. At that point it has rained steadily all afternoon and the course was a mess. So impressive to watch Tristan Uhl start on the back of the 1/2/3 race and have a 30 second gap at the finish line by the end of 3/4 of a lap. Dude is a beast. I am looking forward to coming out and getting 3 maybe even four races this weekend at Cadence Cyclery's Cranking Gears and Drinking Beers in McKinney this weekend.

Thanks for the Heckle

I heard you and have been hearing you. There are at least a few people out there reading this. At the weekly series and again this weekend I heard people heckling me about this asinine quest for 50 races. One such heckle this weekend was "the way you are riding it may be more like 50 races in 50 years." The way I rode Sunday I have to agree. Well played sir, well played

And the question mark. And I am soliciting feedback from the people on this one. Does the costume race get to count as one of my 50?  Let me know!!

Insta: adamonthebike

Twitter: adamonthebike

FB: Adam Spears

Haunted Spooky Cross Preview

*This recap originally appeared on   TexasBikeRacing.com   — where you'll find all the racing news and cycling lifestyle features for bike racing in the state of Texas.

*This recap originally appeared on TexasBikeRacing.com — where you'll find all the racing news and cycling lifestyle features for bike racing in the state of Texas.

With a haunted race location, Spooky Cross weekend is sure to be a real treat again this year. Get the costumes ready!

By Adam Spears

With the Halloween weekend quickly approaching and the temps finally starting to drop, it means the annual Spooky Cross weekend is coming. This year, Spooky Cross returns to the Halloween weekend and that the first day of racing will be on Halloween itself. This race is always a big draw for the Dallas racing contingent, but it’s also a weekend we get to welcome lots of Austin and Houston racers for two days of Halloween-inspired bike racing and plenty of debauchery, bike racing style.

spookycrossmansion

The Spooky Cross location is once again at historic Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park, just south of downtown Dallas. This unique park so close to the city center acts as a preservation and teaching setting about the history of Dallas. And, each year it opens up for muddy bike races that weave in and around those historic buildings. And, legend has it that there are two haunted buildings at the park: Millermore Mansion and the Law Office. Wonder if the ghostly spirits are fans of cyclo-cross?

But enough about that, let’s talk about bike racing.

Course Changes

For those familiar with Spooky Cross in the past there are a few key changes. The first one being that both days will be raced at Dallas Heritage Village. If you head over to the elementary school in Oak Cliff on Saturday you might find yourself a bit lonely. Don’t do that. Come hang out with the rest of us.

Another change would be the addition of a 5K run early on Saturday morning before Spooky Cross kicks off. This will be a mostly unpaved timed chip run around the park. Maybe you don’t want to go for a run before a cross race, but for those loved ones you drag all over creation to watch you race, perhaps they might want to get a run in before spending the day drinking beer.

The course has significant changes, too. Speaking with race director Jeff Lucido, I found out some of the highlights. Course direction: the course will still follow a very similar path around the village, but will run in the opposite direction than we are used to from previous years. Another significant change will be at the start: instead of being in the heart of the park itself, with about 200 yards to the first choke point, the start will be on the pavement outside the park. A long stretch of pavement will lead to an opening circuit in the field at the northeast corner of the park before looping back into the heart of the course.

CX in Costume

Also in the works is a costume race for Saturday afternoon tentatively scheduled at 11:50 a.m. during course inspection. The costume race will be a one-lap race open to anyone in a costume wearing a helmet. This race will be free of charge with some silly and fun prizes for unique costumes.

squirehalloween

Call-ups

Since this is the third installment of the NTXCX series, the first row of call-ups will be based on the results of the first two weekends of racing and the remaining call-ups will be based off of registration.

Pre-reg closes just at midnight on Wednesday, October 28 (technically 12:01 am Thursday) so don’t wait too long! Register HERE.

Beer me! #willraceforbeer

And here’s a bonus for us beer-loving cyclo-cross racers: There will also beer the Texas Bicycle and Beer Expo going on within Dallas Heritage Village. This was formally known as the Texas Custom Bicycle Show and is a great chance to check out very unique and cool bicycles as well as drink local craft beers. And food trucks, so you are covered there too.

So to recap:

5K? Check.

Cross Race? Check.

Costume Race? Check.

Bike Show? Check.

Craft Beer? Check.

Food On Site? Check.

Basically, once you arrive at Dallas Heritage Village for Spooky Cross there is really no reason to leave until you get kicked out of the park that night, both days. Hope to see y’all there! #HupHup

18, 19 & 20 Down, 30 To Go

Creek Cross // First Mud Fest of the 2015 Season

There's something about playing in the rain. What exactly is it? Is it because we haven't seen any significant rain in months? Is it cathartic, cleansing our souls? Or is it taking us back to when we were kids again? I'm not sure I have the exact answer to the question, but I sure know that I was smiling from ear to ear last night covered in mud as we slopped around at Texas Cross Syndicate's Weekly Creek Cross Series - Week 4.

Matrix Teammate Tyler Cloutier crushing it — it's what he does.   Be sure to check out Tyler's blog ( www.tylerontwowheels.com ) as he chronicles all things cycling, and cross as he attempts to rack up enough points to compete with the elites at Cross Nats in January in Asheville.    Photo by Kato Bentley

Matrix Teammate Tyler Cloutier crushing it — it's what he does. Be sure to check out Tyler's blog (www.tylerontwowheels.com) as he chronicles all things cycling, and cross as he attempts to rack up enough points to compete with the elites at Cross Nats in January in Asheville. Photo by Kato Bentley

If you are looking for a serious race report, probably not going to happen here, this one one will be on the lighter side after watching everybody have so much fun last night.

When I rolled up, we hadn't been hit with the massive wall of rain yet, but it had rained off and on all day and the course was certainly wet. I pedaled around a bit while the ladies were staging. I was trying to get the feel for slip-sliding back. As the gals took off, I found a spot to try and watch and capture some good pictures. While I wasn't able to get any of those, what I did see was lots of laughing, smiling and some awfully cute butts on the ground. I think that may be one reason we like to watch 'Cross so much, to see somebody on the ground covered in mud.

Mud ... It's been so long, it was a welcome sight.  Photo by   Kato Bentley

Mud ... It's been so long, it was a welcome sight. Photo by Kato Bentley

About halfway through the women's first lap a huge clap of thunder quickly followed by lightning had to postpone the race and get everybody off course. Logan DeBorde, the evening's DJ, was able to pinpoint this with his Weatherbug app. This created a scramble for the team tents. This was actually another fun part of the night. We (RBM, Bicycles Plus, PACC, Cadence Cyclery) were all huddled under our respective tents, but close enough we were all still chatting about nothing in particular. After about 20 minutes or so that big wall of rain passed through and the lightning was gone. Now it was time to get messy.

Most everybody pedaled around the course for 10 minutes or so before they called us all over to the staging area to start the Men's B with the Women restarting right behind us. Off we went — and the slip-sliding began right from go. I am not sure how many people went down in those first few turns, but there were plenty of feet on the ground. As we came around a turn near the woods, my buddy Kato Bentley from BP was looking for a good line but couldn't quite make it stick. He was headed straight for the trees. As I passed him I shouted out to not ride into the woods unless he was looking to hide for the rest of the night, haha. I heckle as I ride. 

So it rained last night.  Photo by Chris Jennings

So it rained last night. Photo by Chris Jennings

This was the theme as I picked my way around the course. I was seeing lots of broken tape, so plenty of people were all over the place. While there were some guys going all out for the win and claiming series points, like Tyler Cloutier,  the general theme was laughter and fun. And those not racing that braved the rain where doing a heck of a job heckling and cheering. I came across the line and after getting a muddy hug from my teammate Sheree Benavides, I headed directly to the bike wash to rinse off and do it again.

As I lined up for the A race, I noticed that the rain brought out one of the heavy hitters. Matrix teammate Chris Carlson hasn't raced his 'cross bike yet this year, but now he was. So the A race took the course and is was slip and slide again. Coming around the first turn I noticed that Tyler was half off his bike. As he got going again I was able to get my wheel just ahead of him, the first time I have been ahead of Tyler all season. But, not for long. Of course he would go on to win the race ..... again. 

One of the fun things about racing in the slop is that it takes longer for the the leaders to get away from me so I can hand with and see them for a while. It helps me learn and try new lines. One line I did not want to take was the one that Carlson took right into the tape on the back of the course. He had dropped his chain and wrapped courses tape around his bike. Time to put the hammer down. I'm never in front of Carlson either.

I knew he would catch me sooner or later and when he did I had to make the most of it, right? We took two different lines around back to back turns that put us in a drag race to the next turn. I knew he would get me but I still had to let out a braaapp as we accelerated for it. He got me, but I think I might have made him laugh. Then I saw Mat Stephens go for a bike change, except he didn't have a second bike with him? He hollered out to the BP guys to get him a bike with SPDs and off he went. Fun stuff!

So a big thanks to Jeff Lucido of Texas Cross Syndicate for letting us race last night. With four weeks to go in the series and the need to use the Woodcreek Church back for our racing it would have been real easy to pull the plug last night. But we go that rain and got to play bikes last night. I think we all had fun and couldn't have done it without him, so thanks Jeff. And a big shout out to Barry Bishop for hanging in the rain ready to wrench on our bikes at a moments notice - and holler at me every time I ride through the sand! You rock Barry!

The Aftermath.    Photo by Jordan Schroeder

The Aftermath. Photo by Jordan Schroeder


14, 15, 16 & 17 Down, 33 To Go

Image Courtesy of Kato Bentley

Image Courtesy of Kato Bentley

So I shorted myself one race last week. I skipped WNX. I have done the calculations and I can give away a very few races along the way. Plus my beloved KC Royals were playing a deciding game five against the Astros in the ALDS and it was worth it, on to the ALCS.

Thursday Night Creek Cross

So here is the one day a week I plan to knock out two races every time, back to back. Last week was no exception. The only thing that has changed will be my approach to the night.  For the "B" race, I will start near the back, use it as a warm up as well as a chance to work on some passing and other skills. Then with the "A" race, go full out and see how I stack up against some of local heavy hitters.

I was lucky enough to get a front row call up for the "A" race, but as the whistle blew I missed my clip in and that was all for not. I found myself moved to the back, but at least the guys ahead of me would have been passed me in the opening laps anyways. Just made it a bit easier on them. I did manage to grab a spot or two along the way and the Bike Mart family was out in full force cheering all of us on. In my head I had myself at 7th, but there were some lapped riders in the mixed and the officials accidentally had me in at 11th.

Knobbies & Slicks Crosstober Fest p/b Shannon Brewery

As the 2nd weekend of the NTXCX series, I woke up Saturday morning to much much cooler temps. Could it be that fall is finally here? I sure hope so. Getting one of the earlier start times for the 40+ race sure helps too. As I rolled up to Bear Creek Park in Keller I was ready to unload and get on the course.

Day 1

A few quick laps around the course before the start of the day and this was going to be a tight and twisty course, not too many places to pass. Passing would essentially be in the start/finish stretch and a few other select short straights.  And sand, I am not a big fan of sand, unless it is rideable, and this sand was rideable. One trip through on the warm up lap and I had that much figured out.

As the whistle blew, another terrible start. I start clipped in on my right side. I missed clipping on the left, meanwhile my right comes flying out. So now I am unclipped on both sides as what seems like the entire field is passing me by. Did I mention I had a call up to the front row? Arrgh! I quickly regain my composure and get clipped in on both sides with about 100 meters left to the first turn. I dig in real hard and dive into that first turn to try and grab a few spots back. I did, and as we did the first few sections I was able to get a few more. Moving further into the first lap, I was able to nip a few more and got to the point where the next gap was a pretty large one.

Knowing it was going to be a long and steady drag to pull the next guy back, I switched my focus to protecting my position and trying to shake a few guys off my wheel. I was able to slowly open up a gap as the laps ticked off but I was getting no closer to the guy in front of my. And so it went to a 7th place finish. Good race, but not a great race considering the start I had.

As I set up for day two, the first thing I did was take the tension down two notches on the pedals that I run. I do not want that to happen again. A quick spin around the course found a few of the sections had been modified on the course. The only feedback I heard from fellow racers on Saturday was how short the laps were on Saturday, it looks like the promoter was looking to try and add a bit to the overall course length and time.

Day 2

Heading over to line up for Day 2, I glanced around and noticed that a few of the heavy hitters were nowhere to be seen. This resulted with another front row call up and got me just that little bit fired up. As the whistle blew I had a much better start. I didn't nail it, but it was the best start I have had in weeks and I took the first turn in third. Ryan Hobbs nailed the hole shot and was quickly opening up  a gap.

Lou Lou and Happy making sure I keep pushing! Image courtesy of Miss Kitty

Lou Lou and Happy making sure I keep pushing! Image courtesy of Miss Kitty

So as we strung out single file during the first lap I was trying to quickly asses the race makeup and dose my effort. I was in for a podium slot but I knew of at least one if not more really strong riders behind me. As I made my way along the first lap I was focusing in on getting to the wheel of the DBW rider in front of me. I was able to put in a big effort up the start/finish straight then take a few aggressive lines and get on his wheel early in the second lap.

As we came out of the sand I was trying to figure out a good time and place to make a pass. He took the next turn a bit to hot and hit the ground. There was just enough room for me to get by. As I did, I put in a hard effort to try and put some space between us. Ryan was way up the road at this point so my focus was to try and hang on to the 2nd place that I was sitting in.

As I made my way through the middle laps of the race I could feel and see Carter Johnson of OKC Velo closing in on me. He had finished one spot ahead of me on Saturday so I knew it would take perfect lines and a huge effort to hold him off. As we came through the start/finish line with Carter came around me like he was late for something. I tried to jump on his wheel but that only lasted for about 30 seconds. Now the focus was staying on the podium.

As I was able to keep an eye on the two guys behind me fighting for 4th, barring a major mechanical I was fairly confident I could hang on for 3rd. Not to say I soft pedaled those last three laps, they felt like the hardest laps of the day. It was awesome having teammates, friends and dogs shouting out encouragement as I made my way around the course those last few laps. It gives you that little extra push and you don't want to let all of those cheers go to waste. As I came across line in 3rd I was very happy to have represented myself and my team that day.

I realize that some of the stringer guys were not present Sunday morning and the next time they all show up I will be fighting to get in the top 10. That said, you can only race who shows up and I enjoyed being back up on the podium for the first time this season, Who knows, maybe I will find it again along the way.

And beer, how could a cross weekend be complete without having a great beer to enjoy post race. Shannon Brewing Company was on hand to provide that. A delightful Chocolate Stout made for a perfect post race recovery beverage. So thank you to them for being on hand and supporting the sport! Also a big thanks to all of my Matrix Cycling Teammates and of course to Richardson Bike Mart.

I was able to find the podium Sunday.

I was able to find the podium Sunday.

#willraceforbeer #WeAreRBM #RBMcx #matrixcycling

12 & 13 Down, 37 To Go

'Cross Ft Worth p/b Colonel's and Smooth Operator Premium Lubricants

Buck Samson park is tucked just to the south of Meacham Airport in NW Ft. Worth, not exactly down the street, but we are seeing the 'cross love spread all over Texas this year.

Looking at the forecast on Friday, it was apparent that summer was going to be here for at least one more weekend. Forecasted temps in the upper 80s and lower 90s were going to play a role in the racing, especially later in the day. Fortunately my start time was 11:00 for both days. Even so, I shoved a water bottle down the back of my jersey both days.

The Course

With this being the first race of the NTXCX series, call ups were to be based on the order of registration. If I have learned one thing in the last few years of 'cross racing, it is that a call up can make a huge difference in the outcome of the race. I was able to register early and get a call up for the last spot on the front row.  Not that this was a huge field, but every little bit helps.

This course was very dry with a really long start/finish straight leading to the first turn. I have raced crits with shorter distances to the first turn. I was able to find about 5th wheel headed into that turn and I was pleased with that spot. I knew that there were a few stronger guys behind me and I had no notion of holding them off. I was just glad to have some clean wheels into the first few turns.

Working the barriers on day 2, photo credit   Kathryn Jennings

Working the barriers on day 2, photo credit Kathryn Jennings

As I mentioned it was dry, well it has been dry for months. I went with my Bontrager TLR CX0's with about 28 psi and they were hooking up with the dry grass and dirt really well. The only part that made me nervous was riding up over the posts that had been laid across an uphill section. When I hit them, I could feel the rim hit, but the tires held fast.

During the first half of the lap we went up and down the hill near the "top" of the park what I would say to be almost 3 times. We rode all the way to the top along the fenceline. A decent little drag with a kick to put some hurt in the legs. This is where a few of the stronger guys came around me, but also a section that I was pulling away from some of the guys behind me. I got locked into a pretty good battle with Carlos Uranga of PACC on the first day. I was keeping him about 10 seconds off me wheel but with about 2 to go he was able to reel me in and get past me. I came in for an exhausted 8th place.

The second day was almost a carbon copy of the first day, maybe a few degrees warmer. I decided to leave my Boxer Happy at home because of the forecasted temps.

Happy girl less than thrilled about spending part of Sunday at home.

Happy girl less than thrilled about spending part of Sunday at home.

With the previous days 7th place finish I was able to secure another call up to the front row. As I mentioned this was about a copy of Saturday, and that included the start. I was able to settle into about 5th into the first turn and get some clean lines to start the race. On the first trip up the hill Carlos shot right around me and it became my task for the day to try and sit on him.

The racers ahead of us opened a gap on us and I just sat on his wheel. I knew that I wasn't strong enough to come around and drop him, so I figured sitting in him would be a good place to be. It was actually fun to see his wife Lisa riding all over the course taking pictures of him and shouting out encouragement. After he finally pulled away from me and I wasn't in the pictures anymore, I shouted out to her, "Hey, I thought it was me you were trying to get pics of." We had a good laugh over that at the finish line.

Speaking of the finish, I was up one spot to 7th. So with the call ups for this weekends Knobbies and Slicks Crosstoberfest p/b Shannon Brewery, I should be on the front row again with two top 10 finishes. That's the idea, just keeping riding to the best of my ability, get stronger and stay in the top 10 and see where that puts me for the NTXCX series.

Get out out to Keller this weekend and check it out if you have time.....it is sponsored by Shannon Brewery after all!!

 

 

9, 10, 11 Down 39 To Go

Already in the 30s?

That's races left, not the temps. Far from it, dry and dusty rules the day for at least the next week or so with zero percent chance of rain in the Dallas-Fort Worth forecast.

Wednesday night it was a trip back over to Irving for some WNCX. Another fun course set up along the levees of Sam Houston Trail park. Bryan really used the levee over and over Wednesday night. Plenty of off-cambers, run-ups and tight turns. It was great to see Jeff Lucido get out and pin a number on, especially after all the hard work he did helping out up in Providence last weekend.

As far as the race itself, I am still battling the lower back and in my glute and it kicked in late in the race. But before it did, I was able to distance myself from some of the riders and was going to try and make a jump to a few guys ahead of me and try to battle it out for the last spot on the podium. It was not going to happen, the back got tight and I had to back off, even got passed by a few guys late for a 7th place finish. 

I doubled up again at Creek Cross last night. I was jut going to use the "B" race as a good solid warm up, try not to blow the back up too early in the night. I burped the rear tire going out for the second lap on a small concrete slab that sits fairly flush in the ground and lost enough air pressure to have to nurse and run the bike all the way back around to the RBM team tent. So I stopped for some air and noodled around for another lap before getting out of the way to let the leaders duke it out for the podium.

After getting that squared away, I went back around to line up for the "A" race. A small, but stacked field. Off we went with the whistle and I was sure to avoid that slab as we headed out on course. As the strong guys pulled away, I found myself in a battle with Logan DeBorde of Cadence Cyclery who also doubles up as the DJ/MC for the night. After a few laps of trading places he said something about he had had enough and pulled off, more on that later.

As I made my way along the course I could tell it was getting noisy over near the tents. Much to my surprise as I made my way around the last turn I saw a huge turnout of my Richardson Bike Mart family out in full heckle. Hector even had "Adamo" written across his chest. Hilarious. That was a shot in the arm that made me want to pedal that much harder. Nothing like a dose of heckling from your co-workers to light a fire under your ass. Huge thanks to them for making it out!

Dust was a theme for the night. Photo by  Kato Bentley

Dust was a theme for the night. Photo by Kato Bentley

I was able to catch and pass one more rider in the closing laps to slot myself in 8th place for the night only to take a peek behind me to see that pesky Logan closing back in on me. He had recovered and was coming back strong. Fortunately, there was only about a half of a lap left and I was able to hold the gap and finish 8th. 

This weekend I will head over to Ft. Worth and Buck Samson park for the 'Cross Fort Worth Event presented by Colonel's Bicyles and Smooth Operator Premium Lubricant. I have never raced over at that park, but that is where they hold the Tuesday night cross series so I am certain it will be a great course. It will also be the first races in the NTXCX series that will be taking place over the next few weeks here in North Texas. Be sure to stay tuned for some recaps early next week!

Post-race dust-encrusted legs!

Post-race dust-encrusted legs!

7 & 8 Down, 42 To Go

*This recap originally appeared on  TexasBikeRacing.com  — where you'll find all the racing news and cycling lifestyle features for bike racing in the state of Texas.

*This recap originally appeared on TexasBikeRacing.com — where you'll find all the racing news and cycling lifestyle features for bike racing in the state of Texas.

Dry, Windy & Dusty

Six Shooter p/b Capital City Racing | East Metropolitan Park, Manor TX

Day 1

I was up and on the road before down to get down to Austin for the Six Shooter.  As the pre-dawn temps were in the mid 50s, there's a good chance that fall has finally arrived and not a moment too soon. I was pre-registered for the Elite 40+ Pro/ 1/2/3 race, a new class for 2015 so I thought I would give it a go. We were to stage and start 30 seconds ahead of the regular 40+ field. It did not take long to realize that this Elite category was no joke, lining up with the likes of Eddie Martinez, Robert Kane and Eric Jordan — I knew this was gonna hurt.

A quick pre-ride of the course and gone was the single track that ran back into the disc golf area, but added in was a second sand volleyball court. If the weather in the Austin area has been anything like North Texas, it hasn’t rained in months and the course reflected just that. Tire pressure would be critical as parts of the course were hard and firm while others were loose and sandy. From the gun we kicked up a cloud of dust and we were off.

In a smaller field we get to avoid the usually chaotic first few turns, we were single-file in no time at all, hammer down. As the frontrunners lifted the pace towards the bottom half of the park, I decided that it would be in my best interest to back off and not blow up five minutes into a 55-minute race. So I settled in with a group of about four that had come unhitched.

It only took about 17 minutes to realize that I'd made two critical mistakes. Mistake Number 1, I have totally been slacking on any yoga or stretching routine and my back has been paying for that laziness. Combine that with Mistake Number 2 of running a bit too much air pressure in the rear tire and the low back was locking up before the 20 minute mark. For those who have not, you know what I am talking about. The bouncing and rattling of the bike over the harder-packed sections was taking its toll, more than once, the pain was so sharp I thought about dismounting and calling it a day.

Mistake Number 3 was not taking any fluids on the bike with me. A borrowed water bottle cage would have solved that (and did on day 2). 50 minutes is a long time to go without fluids and even though it was a beautiful day, it was still warm enough to be dripping on the bike.

As far as the race course itself great layout with plenty of challenging sections. Twin off-camber left-handers after coming up out of pond run-up were quite challenging. They started to get very loose and had to be taken with a great deal of care. The area down below the pond is tough but most, if not all of it can be ridden with a good line (which I didn’t take but once). Plenty of flat straight flat sections to put some power down, but when your back is locked up the power isn’t there. I limped across the line second to last and have never wanted off a bike so badly.

Day 2

We were to run the course backwards with a few modifications. I made a few modifications of my own: a massage Saturday afternoon and less air pressure Sunday morning. As I was doing course inspection, I was not sure how much either one would help. I could immediately tell that the track was going to flow a bit better on Sunday. Partially due to some of the grooves from the day before, but I really just felt like the lines flowed smoother.

Am I really going to do this again???? I blame T$A's Brian Leib for this, not sure why, but I do.

Am I really going to do this again???? I blame T$A's Brian Leib for this, not sure why, but I do.

I went to go line up and was not expecting much after my performance on Saturday. As the whistle sounded I clipped in and found myself near the back. Once again, a brisk start had us single file in now time. I very quickly found my own rhythm and felt fairly decent. As with day 1, I let the really fast guys go and found myself with three or four others.

The party was in full swing near the barriers and sand towards the front of the park. T$A was in full throat as was Logan with Big Mouth Announcing. He was spinning some great tunes (Rob Bass and DJ E-Z Rock anyone!?!) and that made each trip near that part of the course awesome.

The air pressure choice turned out to be ideal, I could have even let a pound or two out of the front was well. Numerous sections of the course were very fast with some fun and carve-able lines. (I don’t think that is a word but it is now) I was having much more fun than Saturday, but the back did kick in near the 35-minute mark. So I dialed it back just a bit to make it to the end. I did even have a bit of punch the last ½ lap as I looked back to see a few guys closing. One thing that folks not racing cross may not get are those long drags up the false flats in park may look easy, and if they were paved they would be. But when you are getting bounced and jarred around, they take some serious effort.

Placing was not much better than Saturday but I did feel better about how I rode. As we gathered in the shade near the finish line, race promoter Brett Kinsey rolled up and was about ready to keel over. I think for the first time ever, Brett got to race one of his own races and it hurt him. Good! We were sure to give him a bunch of crap for making us go out and race for two days.

Brian Leib and Carolyn Defoore, my host housing for the weekend, thanks for the hospitality!!

Brian Leib and Carolyn Defoore, my host housing for the weekend, thanks for the hospitality!!

I did make sure to spend some time hanging out with the gang over at the T$A tent both days. A good bunch to spend time with, get some heckling in while sharing a beer and some laughs. There was also great support from local brewing company Last Stand Brewing Company with complimentary IPA. #willraceforbeer

So, the Six Shooter: always a great time and with great people and I took away one valuable lesson: don’t wear flip flops around beer-drinking, heckling ‘cross racers still wearing MTB shoes.