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Cedar Cross

May 9th, 2012 [print] 9 comments

I only heard about the Cedar Cross race about 2 weeks before it was to take place.  I won’t go into details about the venue, since there’s much more detailed info about it on the official site:  https://cedarcross.wordpress.com/

What I will get into here is my own experience with the race.  I’ll keep it short, but try to cover the more memorable parts.  Number one: my bike.

Though this was a cyclocross race, mountain bikes were also allowed.  I have my Scrambler built up as a sort of pseudo cross bike right now, but the thought of trying to get through miles of muddy singletrack on very narrow 32c tires wasn’t very appealing.  I also knew there’d be hills, and since that bike has a standard road crank, that’d mean a 39T chainring would be a bear to push up hills.  Sure, my road bike has a 42c small ring (and 11-23 cassette), but I’d be on gravel roads, which means I couldn’t just stand and mash the pedals like I do on my road bike.

So, the mountain bike won out.  It has a shock with a remote lock-out, disc brakes, wider tires, better gearing, and more room for mud.  And speaking of the gearing, my granny chainring is a 20T.  Match that with a 32T cog, and I was able to sit and easily spin up hills that I saw many other people working much harder to get up.

The race started at 9am at the Katy Trail commuter parking lot in what used to be called Cedar City, and is now more or less just part of Jefferson City, next to highways 63 and 54.  I don’t know an official number of racers yet, but around 170 signed up, and at least 120 actually showed up.  We got a quick speech from Bob Jenkins, the sadistic a-hole who set this torture game up for us, where he basically told us we were on our own, and not to hit on his mom.  Finally, a lead vehicle showed us the way down a mile or so of paved road, to where the beginning of seemingly endless gravel roads began.

The beginning of the gravel…
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I was on my own–many stayed in teams with riding buddies, but I don’t have any friends dumb enough to do this with me–so my first plan was to find a group of people I could stick with.  Though the group changed many times throughout the race, I didn’t have to put in a whole lot of miles on my own.  My biggest worry was that we’d eventually run into a pack of 4 hateful dogs that we’d been warned many times about, so I figured if we had bigger numbers than the dogs, we’d make it through alright.  As it would end up, by the time my small group got to them, they already seemed too worn out or bored to really put up much of an aggressive front.

Singletrack:

The two sections of singletrack we had were where my bike was supposed to excel over all the cyclocross bikes on the route.  Maybe it did, maybe not.  Considering how many of us ended up having to walk most of the trails, I don’t think the shocks and fatter tires really mattered much here.  The worst part was a section called the stair climb, which was less like stairs, and more like a near-vertical cliff of thick, sticky mud.  We all had to dismount and walk our bikes up this.  All I really remember is I nearly lost a shoe in the mud, some guy everyone called "Turbo" ran right up it like it was nothing, and it basically destroyed my climbing/sprinting muscles–the ones I fall back on to make up time when my legs begin to tire from normal riding.

Inside the national forest that was home to the singletrack, it was humid, temps were in the high-80s already, and there was zero wind.  It was a miserable place to be, and I heard some riders threw up (and perhaps called it quits) because of it.  Fortunately, it made up for only a very small fraction of the overall course, so once you were out of the second section, you knew you were good to go.

Gravel and hills:

Bob purposely set this course up to keep us off of paved roads as much as possible.  As such, you rarely got to just relax and spin your pedals; instead, you were always on the look-out for potholes and tractor tire ruts.  It made drafting behind others difficult and a bit unnerving.  Still, I can deal with gravel.  What I couldn’t deal with were the gravel climbs.  As I mentioned before, I like to stand up and mash a big gear to get up hills.  It’s how I rest one group of muscles while using the other group to make quick work of any size hill.  But if you do that on gravel, you’ll lose traction and spin out.  And we all know how hard it can be to get re-started from a dead stop on an incline.

So, instead, I was forced to stay seated like everyone else, and spin a lower gear.  It meant my ass never got a rest from being in the saddle, and I was never able to distribute the burden between different muscle groups.  My only saving grace was that I put the 20T small chainring back on my bike a few days prior.

Fortunately, every climb led to another descent, so I had time to rest occasionally.  I’d turn off my shock’s remote lock, get up to speed, and just coast over any rut or pothole that got in my way.  In fact, twice I hit 40mph–the fastest I’ve ever gone (or want to go) on gravel.  I heard a few others make the same comment moments after we all made it down safe.

Problems:

Whereas many others ran into plenty of equipment failures (ex.1 ex.2), I had only one:  during the second singletrack section, something apparently grabbed my rear derailer housing on the seat stay, and popped it out of the cable stop.  I didn’t know what happened at the time, but my chain quickly shifted all the way to the other end of my cassette, without the shifter moving in unison.  I adjusted it at the shifter until it sort of worked and continued on, but kept having to re-adjust every few miles.  I finally mentioned it to a guy I was riding with named Matt Grothoff, and he told me the housing looked like it was sitting funny against the frame.  So, on one of the long, never-ending climbs, I got to looking at it between my legs while I pedaled.  Turns out, the housing simply popped out, so I stopped, popped it back in, re-adjusted once more, and never had another problem.

I did see a ton of flat tires, though.  The group I was with near the end had two in the final 20 miles, and there were many others dealing with punctures throughout the race.  I give full credit to my Panaracer Flataway tire liners.

SAG:

My wife volunteered to be my support and gear team, even though I had originally envisioned just doing this alone.  But so long as she wanted to help, I sure wasn’t going to turn it down.  She kept extra food, drinks, supplies, and clothes in her car, and met up with me at 6 different locations throughout the ride.  While others had to depend on drop bags, I knew my stuff would always be there when I arrived.  The best part was being able to change my soaking wet socks after crossing a creek in the first singletrack section.  I’m glad I planned ahead for that.

By the 70mi mark, I had been riding on a seriously cramped right leg–my right quads and hamstring simultaneously cramped up on a hill climb at the 50mi mark, so badly I let out a scream and had to rest for 5 minutes–and was beginning to feel sick from over heating.  After getting refills on my water and Gatorade, I sat in the car with the A/C cranked for 5 minutes.  It gave me just enough of a refresh to feel like I could make it another 43 miles.

It was also at this stop that many racers chose to get a bite to eat inside a convenience store.  Riders who got there way before I did were still sitting around, eating sandwiches and chilling out, when I decided it was best to keep my stay short and get back on the road.  As it would turn out, no riders successfully passed me for the rest of the ride (and by successfully, I mean pass and then keep in front; I did have a couple pass me on two different occasions when I stopped with my group during flat tire repairs, but we passed them again minutes later both times).  Also, for a time being, the temperature seemed to drop by about 10°.

Final 40 miles:

The final 40 miles were the worst, not because they were difficult–because they weren’t really; it was cooler and we were done with hills–but because it just didn’t seem like it’d ever end.  Fortunately, after I left the convenience store at mile 70, I met up with a group of 3, and we more or less stayed together until the end.  I think we knew we’d all be faster together than alone, and I guess we were right.

The final descent was from the nuclear power plant south of Fulton, MO, back down to the Katy Trail, where we never had to deal with another hill.  We had about 10 miles of relatively smooth Katy Trail, then got off onto some of the worst gravel roads of the whole course.  They were so bad, we saw another guy get double flat tires, which put him (a faster rider, it seemed) far behind us.  Eventually, it led back to the Katy, then back onto more gravel roads, which finally turned to pavement near the end.  On the final corner, 3 of the 4 sprinted to the finish line.  Bob was there to throw beer in our faces as we crossed.

In all, it was over 113 miles, took close to 10 hours to complete (including refill and rest times), and left me pretty sore for the next 24 hours.  I hear there are rumors it’ll be held again next year.

Other observations:

I was really impressed with how well the race was put together.  Bob Jenkins not only put in a ton of his own time clearing the singletrack, mapping the route, getting sponsors, etc., he also dumped his own money into this race, then made it free to join.  Then, any money dontated by the racers was given to a local no-kill animal shelter.

I saw far more singlespeeds at this race than I ever would have guessed.  You can always assume you’ll see a couple guys on them, but there were almost too many to keep track of.  Considering the number of hills, the size of the hills, and the overall distance, I was impressed by everyone who committed to riding one.  I was very happy with all 27 speeds on my own bike, though.

My whole ride, all I wanted more than anything were drop bars.  I feel so much more comfortable riding in drops, and have an easier time climbing and putting down power overall.  If I ever do something this crazy again, I think I’ll find a way to put them on my MTB and just ditch the flat bar forever.

I ordered a saddle a few days prior to the race–a used, but excellent condition San Selle Marco Aspide on eBay–that I knew would be comfortable for the length of this race.  Unfortunately, it was shipped UPS, and arrived a day after the race.  I should have specified USPS, and maybe it would have shown up on Saturday instead.  As it turned out, my Selle Italia SLR TT tore me up.  Lesson learned:  order parts further in advance.

No matter how much liquid you think you’ll need, always take more.  I had one particular hour before I met my wife for the first re-fueling, where I really wish I’d taken a Gatorade with me.  I still had enough water (barely), but that Gatorade would have been awesome.  I also noticed plenty of other riders running out of water, and heard some made it to a drop point late enough that even the truck at the drop point had run out.  I even offered to fill one guy’s bottles with water from our car, and he only took enough to fill one, not both.  Stupid.  On a day like that, it can really mean life or death, or even just finishing or having to drop out.

There was a couple there from Texas on a tandem Calfee bamboo bike.  I lost track of them before the first singletrack, and really wanted to know if they finished, and how well they did.

And finally, if you take GoPro cameras with you on a ride with a group that big, there will be plenty of people trying to get camera time.

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Categories: Racing Tags: , ,

SMSG MBT Race Rescheduled

October 30th, 2010 [print] No comments

After spending a lot of time getting my bike (and myself) tuned properly for the Show-Me State Games MTB race last July, rain hit, and the race was canceled.  I was pretty bummed about it, especially since I’d decided about a year before that I would race it this year.  In fact, it was just the night before the race that I was out on the trails, checking trail conditions, and seeing what changes were made by park officials to counter destruction due to heavy rains in the spring.  As I was 3/4 through with a lap, thunder hit, the skies went black, and I high-tailed it to my car, just in time for a massive storm to hit.

Anyway, the race was called off, and we were told we’d have to wait until July 2011.  A lot of racers were disappointed, though, and I guess there was a push to bring the race back.  I found out last Tuesday that it would be held today, but with no really prep time, and a bike that would need to basically be rebuilt after my rail-trail mods, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.  Besides, who wants to race in the cold?  It would have been over 100° in July, but today it was about half that.

Oh, well.  I’ll still be waiting until next year, and by then, I’ll have a little more angst to take out on the race track.  In the mean time, I’ll get the race results posted as soon as they’re available.

Categories: Missouri, MTB Tags: , ,

Rubens Barrichello’s Storck Electric Bike

August 28th, 2010 [print] 2 comments

Click for larger imageIt’s not often I get to combine two of my favorite things–Formula 1 and bicycles.  German builder Storck Bicycle GmbH, has partnered with F1 team Cosworth, to create a one-off electric bike to commemorate F1 driver Rubens Barrichello’s 300th Grand Prix.

Company founder Markus Storck presented the Raddar Multiroad Carbon bike to the AT&T Williams driver at the Spa racing circuit ahead of his landmark race, which he will compete in this Sunday, August 29… that’s tomorrow, folks!

As well as the custom Cosworth branding that mirrors the graphics on the Williams-Cosworth FW32 F1 car, it has a special logo created by the team to honor Barrichello’s landmark of 300 F1 races.  It’s built around a carbon fiber frame, a 250W Swiss-made electric motor, hydraulic disc brakes and ‘advanced gear shift electronics’ but, unfortunately, no flappy-paddle gearbox.

Storck founder, Markus Storck, said:  "Formula One racing is all about achieving technical precision and perfection, key elements in the DNA of Storck Bicycle GmbH.  I am honored to have been asked by Cosworth to present one of our highest performing products to one of the highest performing men in motor racing, Rubens Barrichello, as he celebrates 300 Grands Prix this weekend."

Mark Gallagher, General Manager of Cosworth’s F1 Business Unit:  "It is an absolute pleasure for Cosworth to be a part of Rubens’ 300th Grand Prix celebrations and to present him with this unique Storck bicycle.  Cosworth and Storck Bicycles have a close relationship and this bike embodies the pursuit of technical excellence that Formula One is all about.  It is this pursuit of excellence that has also taken Rubens to an incredible 300 Grand Prix events, so we thought it a fitting gift to celebrate his impressive F1 career to date."

Photos © Cosworth
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Categories: News Tags: , ,

Show-Me State Games MTB Race Canceled

July 24th, 2010 [print] No comments

Canceled

We got hit with rain the night before the mountain bike race, so park officials have canceled the race.  It sucks for me, since I’ve been planning to have this be my first race for an entire year now.  But, it also sucks for all the racers who traveled to Columbia, MO from around the state, only to have to drive back tomorrow without having had a fun race.  I guess I’ll see you all out there next year, and maybe the weather will be a little more cooperative.

I headed out there tonight–the night before the event–to see how well the trail had been cleaned up over the previous week.  The park crew did an excellent job re-routing parts of Deer Run trail that had been damaged due to fallen trees, as well as a swelling creek that has come a little too close to the edge of the trail.  I was really impressed with the effort, since they’ve apparently worked O.T. just to get everything in order; even more so considering we’ve had triple-digit heat indexes over the same time period every single day.

In the middle of my ride, I came up on the Walt’s crew as they marked the race course, and Sarah–the race commissioner–said she hoped she wasn’t putting the markers up in vain.  Twenty minutes later, the trail went extremely dark, thunder picked up in the near distance, and an out-of-town racer and I left the rest of the crew to head to our cars.  I hopped in mine literally the second a monsoon hit, flipped on the A/C, dried off, and waited for the rain to back off enough that I could see past the nose of my car.  I finally drove home at half the posted speed limit, barely able to make out the roads, disappointed that I missed what would have been my first race, but glad that I had a thrilling final practice ride.

Categories: Cycling, Missouri, MTB, News Tags: ,

SMSG MTB Race Hanging By A Thread

July 21st, 2010 [print] No comments

Per my previous post, there’s a chance the 2010 Show-Me State Games mountain bike race won’t happen if the rain doesn’t stop.  I emailed an event organizer yesterday about whether the race might be canceled or postponed, and here’s the response she gave me:

"The park folks are supposed to let me know on Sat afternoon if they are going to cancel the race.  They are a bit more lenient because they really don’t want to have to cancel it.  If it is wet there isn’t a rain date for the race, so there just won’t be a race this year. "

Mid-Missouri was hit with a huge storm on Sunday, and then another on Monday night, into Tuesday morning.  More is expected for the weekend.  I’ve been planning this race for a year, so this pretty much sucks.

Categories: Cycling, Missouri, MTB Tags: , ,

Racing, Rain and Tires

July 19th, 2010 [print] No comments

BAH!

That’s what I have to say about Missouri’s increasingly wetter July’s.  We had a nice, dry run through the latter parts of June and early July, but now the storms are here again.  Normally, I’d just be annoyed, but this time I’m getting pissed.

The Show-Me State Games MTB race is less than a week away, and the forecast is grim for race day, with a good chance of showers.  However, if it’s dry enough to race, I doubt it’ll be called off.  What this means for me is, my proven fastest tire choice has to be tossed out, and I have to prepare for sloppy conditions.

I discovered last Fall that my fastest tire set-up happened to be a skinny 1.8" Kenda Klimax Lite in the rear, with a 2.1" Nevegal up front.  The rear spins up quickly for sprints, while the front adds extra suspension (at 25psi) and better braking.  So long as I keep my ass planted in the saddle, the rear’s excellent L3R compound gives it plenty of grip, despite a lack of tread.  However, that only helps if it’s dry… which it most likely won’t be.

My options are this:  keep the current tire set-up, have less weight in the back, but less grip and braking in the mud.  Or, put on a heavier tire, lose some speed in the flat areas due to weight, but have ridiculous climbing grip.  Light weight is worthless if I’m just spinning my tire, so I’ve gone the heavier route.

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Enter, my new set-up:  the 2.1" Nevegal in the rear, with an old and proven 2.35" Kinetics Stick-E up front.  In the past, I’ve run a pair of Kinetics Stick-Es, and nothing has ever come close to the grip they offer in slick stuff, which Rock Bridge park is full of.  The braking grip of the front tire–even with my antiquated rim brakes–will just about pop your eye sockets out.  I’ve never run the Nevegal in the rear, but it seems to have performance matching the Kinetics, only at a lighter weight.  Since I have no time to order something else, this is going to have to do.

In the mean time, I’m going to pine for the old days of dry, horribly hot Missouri summers, where we’d go for weeks without rain at times.  It makes the trails more predictable, and for my first race, I could really use that.

Categories: Cycling, Missouri, MTB Tags: , , ,

8 Days ‘Til Race Day

July 17th, 2010 [print] No comments

Show-Me State Games

The 2010 Show-Me State Games mountain bike race is next Sunday on the 25th.  I told myself last summer that I’d race this year, and now it’s getting close.

I checked out the condition of the race course a couple weeks back, and it was in really bad shape.  I think I had to dismount and climb over 5-6 trees, and there’s a really deep gully where there used to be only a small, very shallow ditch; it’s deep, and I can see riders going over their bars if they’re unprepared for it.  It’s basically hidden around a corner, and you don’t know it’s there until you’re right on top of it.  Also, where Deer Run trail runs along a creek, the trail is dangerously close to the edge in a couple spots.  Normally, people like to point at bikers for trail destruction, but this is entirely weather related.

Over the last two years, mid-Missouri has been hit with one rain storm after another, especially in Spring and Fall.  The creek is continuing to widen as the dirt gets loose, and massive trees are falling into it.

Open on Flickr Open on Flickr

In two places where the trail used to come within a couple feet of the edge, it’s now literally on the very edge, and it doesn’t help that in both spots, the trail is curved.  Racers unfamiliar with the trail could easily over-cook it and head right over the edge, which is about a 10ft drop into the creek.  To make matters worse, the hardpack top soil is gone, replaced by 2" deep sand.

I went back out this week, and noticed a lot of the fallen trees have been removed, but there’s still one that forces a dismount.  I had my loppers with me and cut off all the eye-gouging branches that jut out from it, but the tree was too large for me to remove.  There’s another broken tree on the newer trail that the Boy Scouts made back in ’08, with a huge, pointed section of tree that you have to lean sideways as you pass to avoid getting hit in the face.

Assuming the course stays relatively dry, and the hazards are cleaned up in time, I’ll be out there next Sunday ready to race.  It’s my first race, so I’ll be in the 30-39 Beginner class.  I’d like to win, but it’s really about getting over my first race that I’m focused on.  After this one, I’ll probably join the Sport class next year, and finish mid-pack or lower.  I won’t be too concerned with it, I just want to finish well this time around.  Wish me luck.

SMSG.org

Categories: Cycling, Missouri Tags: ,

2009 Show-Me State Games Mountain Biking

July 26th, 2009 [print] No comments

My wife and I headed out to the Show-Me State Games at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park today to cheer on our friends, Josh and Val.  Although Josh has raced many times before, it was Val’s first, and she finished mid-pack in the Beginner Women division, despite having an incident at the creek crossing, and stopping to help a fellow rider who ran into problems.

Lots of people were on hand, including riders, and the staff from Walt’s Bike and Fitness, who were helping organize the event.  I stood around and took photos while Val ran her race, but left before some of the longer running races were over.  Something about being surrounded by bikes made me want to get home and go for a ride of my own.

I’m also somewhat inspired to race in 2010, but that’s still up in the air.

Photos and results below:

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Show-Me State Games Mountain Biking Set on Flickr

Read more…

Categories: Cycling, Missouri Tags: , ,