Monday, July 11, 2011

The Goblin at the Chippewa Firecracker

Yesterday was my favorite races of the whole season; The WORS Chippewa Firecracker. After feeling like I got off to a slow start this year, I was really looking forward to having a great race. I had a fantastic 2 weeks of training/riding leading up to the race so I was feeling ready to break out.

Let's back up a little bit and start this story off on the 4th of July. On the 4th, I was out riding at John Muir and and performing a bit of an experiment. For awhile now I've been saying how fast the Airborne Goblin 29er feels. I wanted to see if I could prove that it actually is faster than my 26 inch race rig. So after a 20 mile warm up, I decided to take both bikes out for an orange loop at Muir. The orange loop is about a 6 mile loop that features a little bit of everything; rocks, roots, a tight bermed section, a technical climb, a fast descent and some flowy stuff, too. The idea was to ride the bikes back to back on the same loop at the same perceived effort and allowing myself enough rest in between to let my heart race come down and for my muscles to recover a bit.

First up was the Goblin. I rode the Goblin around the loop in 20:35 seconds and ended the ride feeling very good and ready to keep riding. Next up was my 26 in Jamis Dragon. I rode the orange loop on the Jamis in 20:40. I think it is worth mentioning that my Dragon at least a couple pounds lighter than the Goblin. As far as this experiment is concerned, however, the Goblin was faster, but only 5 seconds faster. I found the biggest difference was in how I felt upon completing the loop. Despite trying to give the same perceived effort on both bikes, I felt exhausted after finishing on the Dragon.

Now what happened after that is still a little hazy. Apparently, I was riding around the parking lot at the trail head (presumably just cooling down) and proceeded to ride into a car, giving myself a concussion. I really don't recall what happened leading up to the incident or what happened right afterwards. But a few minutes later I came back to reality and stopped babbling incoherent nonsense. A couple fellow bikers were good enough to take me to my local hospital so my wife didn't have to travel with our 22 month old and 4 month old very far. So thank you very much Shawn for helping a guy out.

I also would be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to the Kali Protectives crew for designing such excellent helmets. I apparently hit my head hard enough against the car to leave a dent in one of the metal pillars. And I'm assuming that must be true because the right side of my face was sore for the next couple days. Luckily there is no dent or damage to my head thanks to my Kali Avita Carbon helmet and I was back on my bike (albeit on the road) 1 day later. Even more surprising, is that there is no visible damage to my helmet. But don't worry, I've already replaced it with another helmet. My old helmet did it's job and is now going to be sent back to Kali for them to examine.

Fast forward to the Chippewa Firecracker. Despite having a little bit of an interesting run up to the race, I resolved to be aggressive from the beginning. This race starts with about a 1-1 1/2 mile lead out before entering singletrack. My goal was to go into the singletrack as close to the leaders as possible no matter how hard I had to push to do so. And that is exactly what I did. I was running in the top 3 after the first lap before settling into a more sustainable pace.

During the preride the course was bone dry and very fast. However, that morning a thunderstorm rolled through and dumped just shy of an inch of water on the course. Most of the course drained well with the exception of the freshly cut singletrack. Those sections were just a slippery mudfest the first lap, but were substantially better the 2nd lap. After starting out so fast, I found I was slowing down the 2nd lap and was passed by a couple riders in my age group.

The Goblin propelled me to a 4th place finish, which is my best finish since moving up to the Sport class and I'm very happy with it. Now I just want to keep riding and training so I can beat that guy who finished 5 seconds a head of me. Thanks to the Chippewa Off Road Bike Association for putting on such a great race. It's always been such a great experience.

Swapping out the fork on the Goblin with the Fox F29 that I won from the Subaru Cup video remix contest was a great upgrade. The overall feel of the front end was noticeably improved. Not that it was bad before, it is just so much better now. The 15mm QR axle stiffened things up and the fox fork handles like a dream. The weigh savings is always nice too. We'll see if we can't make a few more upgrades before the Alterra Coffee Bean Classic at Crystal Ridge.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Subaru Cup Pro XCT race report

How awesome is it to compete against the best in your category (or in the case of the Subaru Cup, the next category up)? You see, in the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS) Cat 2 is split into to separate groups; Sport where I race and Comp which faster guys who usually do one more lap than Sport riders. However, since the Subaru Cup is a USA Cycling event all Cat 2's raced together. No, I didn't beat single Comp rider, but it was cool to get a gauge on where I stand in relation to those guys. I mean if I didn't like competition, I wouldn't be racing, right? Plus, it's always nice to chat with the Pro's.

I chose to ride the Airborne Goblin for the XC and Short Track races. I'm not sure a hardtail 29er was the best choice for me given the technical nature of the XC course at Nordic Mountain. But at the same time the top finishers among the Pro men and women were riding hardtail 29ers, so I certainly can't blame the bike.

I actually wasn't doing too bad until about with 2 miles left on my last lap, I hit a rock hard with my rear wheel and proceeded to listen to the sound of my tire going flat with each rotation of the wheel. The stan's finally sealed the leak with what felt like about 10 lbs of pressure left in the tire. At that point it was so squirmy that I couldn't hold a line and risked damage to the wheel if I pushed through any technical sections. So I basically just road very cautiously and pretty slowly the last couple miles and hoped that no one would catch me.

I was wrong. Someone caught me on the last climb and passed me with about a 1/2 mile left. He kind of blew himself up on the last climb and I stayed with him and tried to out sprint him but could not make the last 180 degree turn up to the finish line. That was really frustrating because I know on any other day I could have out sprinted him. Next time :)

Where the Goblin really shined was in the Short Track event. The course was basically a short cyclocross track. I was able to hang mid pack for the majority of the race. Then on what I figured would be my last lap, I just went all out and passed 4-5 other racers and hoped I would get pulled. Luckily that's how it went down and I finished better than I probably would have otherwise. It was pretty intense and after initially deciding not to do the Short Track race, I'm glad I had the experience.

The last race was the Outback Super D. I pulled out my purpose built Yeti 575 for that race and man, what a hoot. I had so much fun on that bike on that course. I wish I could to the Super D as a stand alone event that wasn't proceeded by an XC and Short Track race.

You can check out the whole event in this video I produced for WORS.

The Goblin weight reduction program begins: I finally received the new Fox fork for winning the WORS Subaru Cup Video Remix Contest. I chose the F29 RLC w/15mm QR axle. It'd be going on the Goblin tomorrow and will have it's first test in the race this weekend in Eau Claire, WI. This will be nice step up in performance and step down in weight. There was nothing wrong with the Rock Shox Reba that came stock with the bike, it's just that I really like the feel of Fox forks and it's lighter.

I'll be sure to let you know how it performs and how the race goes after the weekend. In the meantime, get out and ride!!!! This weather is awesome!!!!!