Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Battle of CamRock (and of pain)

A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to race at one of my favorite area trails. New to the WORS lineup this year was the Battle of CamRock at the CamRock 3 trails system nestled between Cambridge and Rockdale (hence CamRock). These trails are twisty with fun technical sections peppered in. This race turned out to be another good test of the Airborne Goblin.

One of my main concerns in making the switch to racing a 29er was it's ability to handle tight singletrack. It's taken a while to get good at it but at this point in my evolution as a rider I think I have the hang of it. I can now navigate just about anything tight and technical equally as fast on my 29er as I can on my 26 inch bikes and I can make the Goblin go really fast every everywhere else.

The race course layout had two good sized climbs right from the word go. After the two climbs there was about a mile of doubletrack before entering the singletrack which seemed to be about the perfect amount to get us somewhat sorted.

This was a little bit longer race than the races leading up to it. Now I've found that there are times in the race where it's just you and pain of pushing the pedals. It's in these times that I have read that pro's develop a strategy for dealing with this mental fatigue. What I've started to do to get over this mental obstacle is to think about how fortunate I am to on my bike at that time riding that particular trail. I mean, there are some people who cannot ride a bike and there will be a day when I can no longer ride a bike (at least not like I do now). So even though I am in physical pain, I'm learning to embrace the time on the bike and it's working great so far.

Having lost my call up from the last race, I only had a mediocre start somewhere in the top 3rd of the pack. So for the next 3 laps I had a blast catching and passing riders while working my way up to a 5th place finish in my age group.

A few thanks have to be issued for this race. Given that this was a little bit longer race and how hot it was, it was important to have some support with people handing me water/sports drink during the race. I want to thank Jeremy Drake of team Nord Lock/Safe Wheels for volunteering to help me out on that.

CORP (Capital Off Road Pathfinder) for building such an awesome trail system and putting on such a great race. As trail builders, these guys get it. The trail incorporates free ride features into the trail and makes excellent use of the available terrain to maximize the fun. From the "Rip and Ride" downhill section that makes use of a draw that swoops you from wall to wall on the natural berm to technically challenging climbs and descents of "Sidewinder," it's just and amazing ride.

And of course, thanks to Airborne for allowing me to push beyond my comfort zone and continually expand my riding experience. This makes 3 straight WORS podium finishes. Let's keep this momentum rolling :)

On the video front the new Goblin video just dropped.

I also just finished a video for Wheel and Sprocket - Delafield.

And lastly, here is a fun little piece from this weekend's race in Green Bay, WI. It features Pro Mountain Biker Brian Matter.

Brian Matter, Steelers Fan from Team WORS on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The 24 Hours of Wausau

The 24 Hours of Wausau (the race formerly know as the 24 Hours of 9 Mile (or 24-9 for short) that Granny Gear ran into the ground) was held again this year at end of July at 9 Mile Forest in Wausau, WI. I did this race last year and for those of you who know me, I pledged that I would never do another 24 hour race again. Waking up at 3 in the morning and putting on a still wet jersey and shorts while temperatures dipped into the 50's and humidity remained high was not my idea of a good time.

Then a couple months ago, something strange happened. I started thinking about how much fun the race was last year and that I might like to do it again. I could hardly believe myself. Was I really volunteering to put myself through that again? What was I thinking? But when someone came calling that they needed a 4th for there 4 man team I jumped at the chance to do it again.

I decided if nothing else it would be a good test of the Airborne Goblin's ability to handle technical terrain over an extended period of time (or maybe more rightly put, my ability to ride a hardtail through very rocky and technical trails over and extended period of time). I brought my 26 inch full squish bike thinking that at some point my body would not be able to take the pounding any more.

It was decided that I would be the last rider in our rotation and after my first lap I actually had the fastest time which was a really positive start to the event. And then the rains came. While our 2nd rider was out a thunder storm rolled in and forced a 3 hour delay in the race because of lighting. And that is why it shows up as a 3 hour 50 minute lap. He's really not that slow. The clock just never stops. Not even for weather delays.

At this point we were very grateful that our team leader had the foresight to bring out the family camper so we could take shelter, get some rest and stay dry.

After the rain I was a little concerned about the course as I was running Kenda Small Block 8's which are by no means a tire that excels in mud. On my next lap the two most technical sections might as well have been ice as far as my tires were concerned. It was faster to just hike a bike through those sections at that time. By my 3rd lap however, the entire course was ridable again.

On my first night lap, I laid down the fastest night lap for the team and after a little more rain on my second night lap I improved on that time and FINALLY cleared the whole course (which I had never done before). And what was even more awesome was my body was feeling good. I thought for sure by this point I would have been on my full suspension bike. But the 29er just kept rolling over stuff.

Just when I thought I couldn't be more amazed. I put down my fastest lap of the race on my last lap. It certainly didn't feel fast while I was doing it, but the clock doesn't lie. I don't want to discount my hard work training and conditioning, but I think that definitely says something about the capabilities of the Airborne Goblin.

As a member of Airborne Flight Crew, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to continually try other types and genres of riding. Through these opportunities I find I am continually being amazed by all the variety of awesome experiences to be had with in bicycling. Now I can add racing a hardtail 29er in a 24 hour race to that list of amazing experiences. Being a 29er skeptic at first, I am slowly coming around. Stay tuned for more race results.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Alterra Coffee Bean Classic

Coming off what I felt was a very strong week of riding, I was excited for the Alterra Coffee Bean Classic WORS race. After a strong finish in the previous race, I had moved into the top five in series points, so I was entitled to a call up. This was something entirely new to me and I really didn't know what to do with it. In the end it really didn't change anything, though.

The race started well and I had a good charge up the initial climb and was sitting in about 10th spot. Still feeling good I passed about 7 other riders in spots I identified during my preride and was looking good going into the singletrack in 2nd or 3rd place. However, on a very bumpy section just before the singletrack, my chain jumped off my sprocket and despite playing with the shifter trying to bring the chain back on, it just wasn't happening. So I pulled out of the way and threw the chain back on and waited while a line of about 15 riders flew by. Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me.

So long story short I picked my way back into the top five while crashing 3 times in the process. But I felt pretty good most of the race. I felt like no one could pull away from me. I ended up with my second straight podium finish (4th place) and finished ahead of everyone that was ahead of me in series points.

Here is where things get a little weird. Despite beating every single rider that had more points than me going into the race, I actually dropped to 6th in series points after the race. So no call up for me in CamRock. It's just one of those things, I guess.

It doesn't take away my excitement for the next race. The 24 Hours of Wausau. Look for a blog entry on the event soon.