Tag Archives: twin six

Twin Six Standard Tech Hoodie Review

I am, by nature, a person who is nearly always cold.

In the spring, until it is routinely above 50 degrees, I still have to wear some kind of light glove or my hands will be freezing.

In the summer, if it’s not above 75 degrees, I’m still wearing jeans.  Otherwise, I get cold.

In the fall, I’m the guy at the cyclocross races wearing a thermal skinsuit, embrocation and heavy gloves when some others are in short sleeves.

In the winter, I am patently miserable.  My boots cost $120, my mittens cost $130 and I am usually still cold — unless I am running or riding or skiing.  Last night I was lounging around my house in a North Face base layer and hoodie just to stay comfortable.  My office at work is heated to 72 so that I’m comfortable sitting in front of a computer for hours.

So, it is to me no small miracle that something as light as the Twin Six Standard Tech Hoodie keeps me warm.  It does not appear impressively insulated or downy.  It is made of 92% recycled polyester, not some wonder material.  Yet this morning — a blustery, snowy morning in which the air temperature was only 5 degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill well below 0 — I arrived at the office astride my bicycle  and perfectly comfortable.

I commuted by bike all of the last two winters wearing a Columbia Bugaboo Interchange jacket and was generally colder than with this amazing hoodie.  I generally think of myself as having a decent vocabulary and being a pretty serviceable writer, even with an engineering background.  But words fail me when I try to describe how wonderful this hoodie is.  From sub-zero temperatures on the bike to coaching Little League in 50 degree weather, it is my go-to jacket.

There is no doubt that it is expensive, running $195 regularly.  However, the good folks at Twin Six frequently run sales to bring that cost down.  In fact, despite being a member of the Twin Six METAL team for many years (with access to a sweet discount), I acquired mine in the first place on a clearance for $96.

Listen, if you ever ride a bike in less than optimal weather, you need one of these.  Not everything has to be plastered with logos.  With understated good looks and stellar performance, the Twin Six Standard Tech Hoodie is my absolute favorite piece of riding apparel.

2013 Keweenaw Cup

I’ve not done as much ‘cross racing this year — at least it doesn’t feel that way.  A couple of days at the Trek CXC Cup, and the very wet and muddy Sherman Cross.  I have made it out to most of the Wednesday Night Worlds practice races at least.  I’ve been sticking pretty closely to the Time-Crunched Cyclist cyclocross plan and been seeing some good progress there.

One of the weirder things has been my performance on my Raleigh/Twin Six Dark Horse singlespeed.  I went out to the trails, set up a small ‘cross course and timed myself riding my geared bike and singlespeed.  I was uniformly faster on the singlespeed, oddly.  I’ve been doing a lot more riding of the Dark Horse as a result, including a completely bonkers practice course that just went up and down a hill.  So today, I brought both the Tricross and the Dark Horse up to Copper Harbor, still not clear on which one I would ride.  A couple of practice laps later and was still seeing faster laps on the Dark Horse, so I saddled it up.

The course was largely similar to the course of previous years, with a couple of minor tweaks.  Perhaps the most significant one for me was the elimination of this old bridge:

The eliminated bridge and my riding partner for the last two years.
The eliminated bridge and my riding partner for the last two years.

It wasn’t eliminated because of a reroute but because the bridge itself had been replaced.  That was fantastic, because it was just a pinch flat waiting to happen.

Those practice laps during the Men’s B race were in the sunshine and all the extra clothing I was wearing was making me really warm.  So as we went to line up, I dropped off the jacket, hat and heavy gloves.  Simultaneously, a bunch of dark clouds started rolling in.

First lap was a big line of riders all strung out, without many gaps developing.  Separation started during the second lap and I stuck close to the wheel in front of me.  Surprisingly, a bunch of people were dropping chains, borking wheels and crashing.  This let me move up a bit.  Eventually, a group of four of us settled in for 4 laps.  At one point, I put in a little dig to create some separation and only the guy in the bridge picture up there could stay with me.

It was at this point that those foreboding clouds opened up and started dumping a ton of cold rain on us.  The grass sections were getting slippery.  The singletrack cut into the field (part of the excellent Copper Harbor Trails system) turned into rivers.  The fast turns were getting muddy to a point that even my Clement PDX tires were sliding and drifting worryingly.  The sand in the pit was sticking heavy to wheels and bikes, making my brakes sound like sandpaper.

Rain and my single riding partner were the status quo for another couple of laps until one of those dropped riders clawed his way back on the penultimate lap.  After we went through the sand pit, my bike started making a discomfiting noise.  My group mates started riding away from me as my bike continued to grind and complain.  The rain had passed and the sun was coming back out.  There was a lovely rainbow that appeared on the course.  Finally, the belt dropped off the rear cog after the final trip through the sand pit and I ran it in.  It was only supposed to be 45 minutes, but turned into 56.  I came in 11th and was riding in 9th until the belt started complaining.  ‘Cross is about the reliability of your equipment, so I have no regrets.

Cold, rainy, slippery and hard.  But altogether, I was pretty happy with how everything turned out and think the rest of the season is just going to get better.  I think I’ll be riding the Dark Horse a lot more too.

Trek CXC Cup

When Trek decided cyclocross was too big to ignore, they jumped in with both feet.  First, they started up the Trek Cyclocross Collective and hired Katie Compton.  Then they stepped up to save the USGP series last year.  The USGP folded this year, but Trek picked up the old Planet Bike Cup.  The twist is, they moved it to the Trek HQ in Waterloo, about 12 miles away from the old Sun Prairie location.    (As a side note, I think it’s amazing that a UCI ‘cross race used to happen 12 miles from their HQ and they had next to no involvement in the discipline.)  Anyways, I was pretty excited to check out the new course and registered pretty early to be a part.  I tried something I’d never done before, and signed up for 3 races over the course of the two days — 2 singlespeed races and 1 geared race.  The geared race was my first Cat 2/3 race, which was going to make the whole thing even more interesting.

Number pickup was a breeze with the extra bonus of getting to geek out over all the cool bikes Trek has in their atrium: Katie Compton’s bike from Louisville, Fabian Cancellara’s Roubaix bike, Jan Bakelant’s Tour de France bike… Good stuff!  It was also great that they used the same numbers if you rode in the same race both days.

So, the Saturday singlespeed race.  It was amazing to see so much Twin Six and METAL in that race.  There was even another guy riding the Raleigh Dark Horse SS frame like mine.  I actually led out the eventual winner, Craig Etheridge, for all of 100 meters before he blew by me.  I had a terrible start, like I always do.  Then I started to pick a couple of people off here an there until I settled into 15th place out of 25.  A singlespeed lady was just ahead of me for a huge chunk of the race and while I could have passed her during the last lap, I chose not to.  Her supporters were just all over the course and telling her to post up for the clean win.  So what was I supposed to do, sprint past her to screw up her victory picture?  Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen.

IMG_9453
Charging up the runup.

 

All told, I was happy.  Given that it was only my third singlespeed race ever, and that it was against such tough competition, I was completely pleased.

Tired, but happy with my effort.
Tired, but happy with my effort.

So my wife and I returned to the car, ate a sandwich and took naps.  I got ready for the next race and they lined us up.  I knew I was in trouble pretty much from the whistle.  Most people flew past me and I just wasn’t feeling it in my legs.  As the race progressed, I was slipping back and back and back.  I started wondering if I was going to get pulled.  Part of me didn’t want to get pulled — I had paid for that race!  I was trying as hard as I can!  A bigger part of me was simply thinking, “I feel awful.  I will finish this race if they let me, but I would be pretty okay if I get pulled.”  Sure enough, with 2 laps to go, the officials ushered me off.  After such a successful year last year, cleaning up in Cat 4, it was some considerable humble pie to get so completely schooled in that race.

First lap and there's already a gap developing in front of me.
First lap and there’s already a gap developing in front of me.

What went wrong? I think I was tired from the singlespeed race.  I think it was an incredibly fast field.  I think it’s possible that my brake was dragging, but that’s just me looking for some kind of excuse.  I was running my Kenda Slant Sixes at 27 psi front and 28 psi rear, which seemed pretty good.

My form here screams out, "I'm exhausted!"
My form here screams out, “I’m exhausted!”

After a good night’s sleep, we were back at it on Sunday.  I don’t think the temperatures were that much warmer on Sunday, but the sunshine made a huge difference.  I’ve always had a better race on Sunday than on Saturday.  This was no exception.  I ended up 13th and felt much better.  Everything worked really well together, though my hands were getting pretty raw from the SRAM hoods on the Dark Horse.

Feeling good on Sunday, chasing around the same girl from Saturday.
Feeling good on Sunday, chasing around the same girl from Saturday.

Trek pulled out all the stops for the kids.  Bouncy castles, face painting and even a mechanical bull.  I wouldn’t hesitate going back again.  I would however, choose just one race per day.  I just can’t handle more than that!

The fun hats that Trek gave out.  I'm still in the picture, but my kids are all looking elsewhere!
The fun hats that Trek gave out. I’m still in the picture, but my kids are all looking elsewhere!

So thanks, Trek.  Thanks for a good course, for a great experience, for putting some of your considerable resources into ‘cross.  I’ll be back — and I’ll be ready to handle that Cat 2/3 race next time!

A good ride on a beautiful day on a good course.  What more can you ask for?
A good ride on a beautiful day on a good course. What more can you ask for?

2013 Ore to Shore – The Returnening

Yes, I am completely aware that “returnening” is not a word, thanks.

However, I use it anyways, as I headed back to Marquette for the first time since 2008 to do the Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic.  After doing it three years in a row (2006–2008), I stopped going back.  Why?  For one, it was expensive.  Even if you register early, it’s $45.  Last-minute registration will cost you $70.  Another reason I didn’t go back is because it was so huge.  One thousand seven hundred thirty four (that’s 1734) riders took to the roads and trails of Marquette County for the Hard Rock and Soft Rock races — that doesn’t include the kids races.  There are lots of good races up here that don’t require two hours of driving and an overnight stay.  And to a certain extent, I felt that I was too good for the race.  I could ride Copper Harbor, so why did I need to do a 28-mile road race on a mountain bike?

But as I discussed in my post about doing the events I care about, I made a point of doing my absolute best at the Ore to Shore this year.  I did long rides on mixed gravel and paved roads on my mountain bike.  I honed nutrition to know exactly how much drink I would need and how much solid food.  I made it a priority and got down to Marquette feeling good.

The O2S is a crazy race to be a part of.  It pulls in first-time racers on platform pedals and tennis shoes who are just trying to see if they can really ride 28 miles.  It pulls in pros like Chloe Woodruff, who obviously show up with pro-level gear.  You never quite know what you’re going to see out of a rider.  Is that skinny guy over there going to drop me in his soccer shorts and t-shirt or is he as unprepared as he looks.  That carbon fiber machine looks awesome, but can its rider perform at the same level as his bike?  While standing for nearly an hour in the enormously horrible long line for packet pickup, these kinds of questions roll through your mind.

The entire summer here has been cool and wet.  Until the very last part of August (which most definitely does not include the day of the O2S), we struggled to hit 70 degrees.  There were a lot of happy Yoopers for that, but not I.  I wanted a real summer day.  And the O2S completely failed to deliver on that.  We awoke in the tent to temps around 45 degrees.  I’m okay with that for a ‘cross race, but not for a mid-August mountain bike race.  Fortunately, the campground had a hot tub, so I stuck my arms and hands in there, which did wonders for my morale.  Happily, once the sun started to rise about the treeline, things started to warm up quickly (but only up to that 70 degree mark).

Like a good kid, I used the restroom at the campground before we left, but early hydration efforts had me wanting a restroom when we got to the start, all of 10 minutes later.  I figured I’d visit one of the portapotties at the start line after I got myself pulled together.  Unfortunately, there were only two.  It is at this point that I would like to remind you, the reader, that 978 people were standing at that start line trying to use two bathrooms.  I stood in line for 15 minutes and got an absolutely terrible start position out of that.  I suppose the upside is that I didn’t embarrass myself.

Once the race started, I recalled the horrible nature of the start.  People are already looking at this as being a long, steady endurance effort (the median time for men in the 28-mile race was about 1:57) and are consequently going out slow and saving matches to burn later.  I was confident I could roll in around 1:30–1:40 and went out as hard as I could.  This requires creative passing.  I was surprised at how effortless it felt to pass dozens of people and hoped I wasn’t going to pay for the effort later.

The course always funnels us into some two-track and I know I lost a lot of time here.  I would have liked to be moving faster, but at least there was no crashing and I didn’t have to get off the bike.  When things opened up a bit, I took off again.  Eventually the course drops you onto a paved road with some enormous climbs.  I felt really good climbing these and generally dropped everyone who tried to grab my wheel.

For a little while, I was riding behind a fellow METAL team member from Twin Six, Andrew Schirpke.  Super positive kid, being very encouraging to the riders around him.

I don’t remember all the details of the rest of the race.  What struck me was how much more ridable the course seemed than the last time I did it.  Hills that seemed completely unridable in 2008 I just spun up.  The sand dunes during the final descent no longer seemed terrifying, but very tame.  I suppose that means I’ve matured a lot as a cyclist.

I finished up in 1:37:14.3, which I thought would be better than 90th overall (though it is 900 people riding).  The main issue seems to be my terrible starting position.  I need to be with the fast guys when we hit that first two-track if I want to place really high.  However, it’s probably time for me to move up to the “real” race, the 48-miler.  Nine years of riding and racing probably qualifies me for that.

The thing I would point out the most is that the Ore to Shore is such a unique mountain bike race that you should give it an opportunity.  No, it’s not a lot of singletrack.  It’s not technical in the least.  But it really deserves a chance.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be back next year.

I would be remiss if I didn’t credit sponsors.  The Skratch Labs hydration was perfect as always and the sticky bites are perfect for racing.  Get the recipe in the new Feed Zone Portables book.  My PowerTap PowerCal has been super helpful this year in terms of focusing my fitness and led me to the results I’ve been getting.  You really have no excuse to not train with power anymore.

Next up: The Great Deer Chase in Calumet, MI.

Sturgeon 100

If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you might remember one of my very earliest posts: a race report from the Almanzo Gentlemen’s Ride. Almost 3 years ago, I toed the fairly informal starting line of this race, which would be the first time I did a century.  Given the comments that I made in that post, it would be fair to never expect me to do another one.  Ever.  I mean, really:

Around the 4 hour mark, I was grumpy.  I wanted to go faster.  I wanted to be done.  Things got better after the 6 hour mark, but by hour 8 I was pretty sick and tired of the whole thing.  By hour 9, I wanted nothing more than to see mile 103 on my Garmin and to roll back into the parking lot.  In every race I’ve ever done, there’s always a point where you hurt from the effort and think to yourself, “Why am I doing this?  Why can’t I just be done now?”  Usually, there’s something that causes that feeling to go away — usually a sweet descent.  But I’ve never had the feelings like I had at hour 4 where I completely stopped having fun for a while.  I did not want to ride my bike one meter farther.

So when my teammate from that Gentlemen’s Ride announced he was going to put on his own gravel race around the Ottawa National Forest , why did I even send in my postcard?  Seemed kind of stupid.  However, it sounded great this year, and I registered.

I prepared maniacally.  I downloaded the GPX file and made a course on my Edge 500.  I printed out the cue sheets and mapped out the route on paper maps.  I tried to get my Continental Cyclocross Speed tires setup tubeless.  I made Feed Zone rice cakes and tried to determine exactly how many bottles of Skratch Labs Hydration mix I would need.  I mounted a cage on my third set of mounts on the underside of the downtube (I’ve had the bike for 5 or 6 years and have never even unscrewed the bolts!).  I bought extra tubes and a patch kit and tire boots…

Doing the prep so far ahead of time, I found that the Contis do not set up well tubeless.  I went out for a shakedown ride and had the front tire completely blow off the rim at 20 mph, with only 40 psi in them.  I was feeling pretty confident in everything else.

As with the Chain Drive, I obsessively checked the weather and saw projected temps range from 70 to 87 degrees.  It turned out it was around 60 degrees when we pulled out.  I put on the knee warmers but took them back off quickly.  I thought I had left my Garmin at home, but my wife found it under my bag of stuff.  I loaded up my pockets full of food, tools, arm warmers and a light jacket.  Following the leadout vehicle, I was tapping out an easy rhythm while a few people pushed the pace just a bit.  At this point a guy in a Blackrocks Brewery jersey asked me if I would be writing this race up for my Twin Six blog, as he actually reads it. Crazy.  Shout-out to the Blackrocks Brewery guy!

Rolling out, representing Skratch Labs (jersey) and Twin Six (bibs).
Rolling out, representing Skratch Labs (jersey) and Twin Six (bibs).

We worked our way through some two-track and back onto some wider gravel roads.  Two riders pulled away, but I let them go.  We had 80 miles to go.  That wasn’t the time to dig too deep.  Instead, I chatted with a couple of guys who had come all the way up from Chicago.  Gravel grinders are great for getting to know people.  We did eventually catch that group of riders just at the Silver Mountain checkpoint (33.8 miles in) and then began a long, hard climb out of the Sturgeon River Gorge.  At that point, the group was whittled down to me, a guy on a Trek Top Fuel and one of the guys from Chicago.  That was the status for the next 65 miles.  We plugged along, chatting occasionally, drinking, eating and just absorbing the enormity of what we were doing.  There were some stellar views from the top of the Gorge and a general sense that everything was alive.  The trees were bright green, the forest floor was covered in ferns and other leafy brush.  The roads were a little muddy and slow, but nothing horrible.  And so we just kept ticking off the miles until we returned to the start area after completing about 66 miles.

Cruising through the checkpoint at mile 34.
Cruising through the checkpoint at mile 34.

The organizer had some pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw at the checkpoint, which all three of us hungrily wolfed down.  All told, we spent about 10 minutes there eating, refilling water bottles and ditching extra clothing.  Here is where I made a fatal mistake: I forgot to grab any more food.  I had three new bottles, but after bringing 10 rice bars, I left them all in the cooler.  This was a big deal.

Pulled pork as a mid-ride meal sounds horrible, but is actually quite good.
Pulled pork as a mid-ride meal sounds horrible, but is actually quite good.
Heading out for the last 34 miles.  Legs already not feeling great.
Heading out for the last 34 miles. Legs already not feeling great.

When we got started again, I knew that stopping as long as we had was a big mistake.  My legs were just not responding the way they had been earlier.  I was struggling to keep the wheel of my riding mates.  I pressed on as best as I could until there was about 10 miles to go.  That’s when the wheels fell off.  I was down in my smallest gear to climb up hills that didn’t seem that big.  My right knee was starting to hurt with a sharp pain whenever I really pedaled hard.  My companions easily rode away from me.  I learned later that our 100-mile race came down to a final sprint!  I rolled in 6 minutes later, having lost almost a minute per mile in the last 50 minutes of riding.  But I finished.

Finishing. Happy, hurting and tired.
Finishing. Happy, hurting and tired.

My Garmin recorded 114.7 miles in total.  7:21 total time on the bike.  And you know what? I definitely enjoyed it.  The last 10 miles were so hard, but I  was proud of what I accomplished.  There was still a point where all three of us in my group were ready to be done, even with 20 miles left to go.  I never stopped having fun this time.

The variety of events I’ve done so far this year makes me happy.  70 miles on a mixture of pavement and gravel.  16 miles of mountain biking.  104 miles (or so) of gravel.  Looking forward to the two-tracks and pavement of the Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic and the singletrack of Copper Harbor.

When the 2014 Sturgeon 100 rolls around, I’ll be there again.  Next time I plan to eat enough!

IMG_9216

 

Dark Horse Shakedown: Iron Cross

It was almost a year ago that Twin Six made the Dark Horse SS frame available.  I ordered one right away, include the Gates CenterTrack belt drive.  However, it languished in my basement for several months as I waited for the funds to start building it up.  You don’t need a ton of parts for a singlespeed, but enough that I had to space it out.  Here’s what I ended up getting:

And then a bunch of stuff I got used or already had on hand:

  • Roval Pavé SL Wheels
  • Continental Cyclocross Speed clinchers
  • Scott stem
  • $2 Bontrager bars
  • Easton EA50 seatpost bought 5 years ago
  • WTB Valcon saddle off my Kona

And I’m proud to say that excluding the headset, I did all the work.  There were a couple bolts that needed some additional tightening and the CenterTrack sprocket needed to be flipped around on the crank for frame clearance (I had installed more spacers, but that left the crankset too loose), but otherwise did a pretty decent job for my first bike build.  And of course, now that the bike was ready, I needed to ride it.  Fortunately, there as a UPCROSS event in Marquette, the weather was going to be beautiful and the fall colors were at their peak.  I threw both ‘cross bikes on the roof, loaded up the wife and kids and headed down.

Beautiful day for a ride on a sweet new bike.

This was the first of two days called Iron Cross.  (The story here is that there are a lot of iron ore deposits around Ishpeming, the city that hosts the event along with all the other “iron crosses” you can think of.)  The plan was simple: Ride the Dark Horse in the B race and then really race my Tricross in the A race.  The rationale was that I had never even ridden a singlespeed before, let alone raced one.  Who knew how fast I could go?  So I would mess around on it for a half-hour and then really race on the geared bike.  The best laid plans of mice and men…

I’m not exactly hustling up this run-up.

So I lined up in the B race.  The organizer said we were going to do 40 minutes plus a lap, which is a lot longer than B’s normally race.  Okay, whatever.  Off we went and I was keeping it pretty light.  I basically walked up the steep and loose run-up.  I was in no hurry.  I was out for a ride on a beautiful day.

This is me not going easy anymore.

Right.  I should know myself better than that.  After riding easy for about a lap, the part of me that chases down random people when I’m commuting by bike woke up and I started racing.  Riders started falling back.  I started breathing hard.  I wasn’t just making it up the hills, I was hammering up them.  Since I didn’t put a mount for my Garmin on the Dark Horse, I had no idea how long we had been riding or how hard I was going.  I was just riding as hard as I could and realizing that I would not, in fact, have the legs left to ride the A race.

Nope. Definitely not riding easy.

When I crossed the finish line, I was 3rd of 16.  My easy ride had turned into a podium chase.  I felt somewhat embarrassed, since I am not so desperate for wins that I will sandbag and race a class down to do it.  And I’m not out there to prove I’m better than other riders by beating them on a singlespeed when they’re riding geared bikes.  I just had a new toy, really wanted to ride it and had no idea how competitive I would be on it.

It is nice to know that when I go ride the singlespeed class at some other races (like Swamp Thing II, part of the Stomach of Anger CX series), I will be competitive.  But I think I’ll just keep racing the Tricross for the most part.

The last thing I want to point out is just how good I think the Conti Cyclocross Speed tires are.  From the pictures, you would think they’re just another file-tread tire, but they’re definitely not.  Each of those little bumps is really a tiny knob and they can squirm around and bite into the dirt.  When you’re on the pavement, they roll really fast.  The cornering knobs on the shoulder are really confidence-inspiring as well.  If your ‘cross course is usually dry, you really owe it to yourself to try these out.

Racing Wrap-Up: Stomach of Anger CX and Bloomer Park CX

When we headed downstate for Thanksgiving week, I squeezed in two ‘cross races.  Boatloads of fun.  Here are the rundowns.

Stomach of Anger CX

I did this race with my wife as the only spectator, since the kids were hanging out with grandma and grandpa back at the Farm. We found the course largely by accident, since we decided spur of the moment to hit up the Lansing Chipotle.  As we got off the highway, I saw the sign for Red Cedar Park and saw a bunch of folks out on the course.  That was a lucky break.  We got our burritos and went back to check in.  I got my number (61 — sooo close to being twin sixes, as I raced in my Twin Six kit) and hung out in the car until it was time to get dressed and warm up.

Almost a "Twin Six" race number.

The Red Cedar course strikes me as the ideal singlespeed course.  It’s mostly flat with a few very short kickers (and by “short” I mean 3 or 4 pedal strokes).  I spent the whole race in one of three gears.  The course gently wanders around the park, down by the river and back.  There’s nothing amazing or particularly memorable about the course — it’s just a solid pedaling effort.  I was a little disappointed by that, since I tend to pick up a little time when running.  In a perfect world, I think it would be a great big ring course too, but this would be the first time I turned the pedals in anger since Baycross and the intervening time had been spent recovering from crashes and a serious chest cold.

If you were to graph my effort (at least perceived effort) over time during a ‘cross race, it would be bell-shaped.  I try not to go out too hard, ramp it up in the middle and then run out of gas near the end.  That basically happened here too.  I made some solid passes (including one of the “rubbin’ is racin'” variety), got passed by a couple folks and just generally enjoyed the day.  There was a couple of 6×6 pieces of lumber that served as “barriers” of a sort that I really feel I should have been bunny hopping, but I got off the bike every time.  I rode the last lap pretty much by myself, without anybody that I could catch or that could catch me.  I don’t think I have ever rode so casually across a finish line.  13/20 in a mixed 2/3/4 field.  Not too shabby for feeling as out-of-shape as I did.

The barriers I should have been bunny hopping.

The biggest disappointment was finding my rear tubular was trashed.  The rubber on the sidewalls was just peeling away, revealing the polyester stitching and even the red latex tube.  I felt lucky that after dragging my wheel bag to 7 races and at least that many practice races, I actually had a replacement rear wheel.  This was critical since there was no way I could get another tubular glued in time for the race the next day.  I have no idea what caused the tire to fail, because the Red Cedar course is pretty smooth and gentle.

What I will remember the most about this race was the friendliness, cheerfulness and helpfulness of the volunteers and organizers.  They let us know that in a few places the course wasn’t quite wide enough for standards, but they would give us our money back if we wanted.  They also told us there wouldn’t be any feeds and asked if that was going to be okay with everybody.  Even the registration people were really pleasant and knowledgeable.  I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to do another Stomach of Anger event, but I’d like to try.  (And patronize their goods!  The JPOW t-shirt and Flanders hoodie are on my wishlist.)

So it was home to get the bike and body prepped for the next day’s race:

Bloomer Park CX

I was coming into the Bloomer race with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder.  I had done one other Tailwind race this year: the unfortunate Stony Creek Marathon.  I wanted redemption.  The pre-ride of the course showed it was very different from the Stomach of Anger course.  There were a lot more places that even I could put in my 50-tooth big ring, places that required some serious braking and short, but intense, climbs.  There were still no places to run the bike.  The course started on some pavement, wound around some grassy sections before heading down a gravel path.  You got to a really, loose and sketchy downhill with a 90° right turn at the bottom and then climbed right back up the same hill.  Bloomer Park has a velodrome that we rode behind and then up the grassy hill on the outside of one of the banked corners.  A little more grass, a trip around a one-way parking lot loop and back to the start.

Climbing the bank of the velodrome.
By the last lap, I was in my smallest gear going up this thing.

My biggest problem was tire pressure in my front tubular.  The second problem was the dramatically unequal braking.  I figured my front tire would have held its pressure overnight, but it was really low.  Scary low.  Every time I hit pavement or if I tried to stand up and pedal, it would squirm and roll over and threaten to throw me off the bike.  Given that we were transitioning onto pavement 6 times per lap, this became quite a handicap.  The braking was just an annoyance, comparatively.  The Neuvation rims are considerably narrower than my Roval clincher rims, so my left hand was squeezing the lever practically to the bars while my right hand barely had to squeeze.

Settling in.

Again in a mixed 2/3/4 field, I quickly settled into a group of 4 that was swapping positions constantly during the race.  After the barriers I would pull ahead and stay there through the S-turns.  Once we hit the straightaway gravel path, one or two guys would pass me.  One more might pull ahead in the parking lot, but I would pass them all again after the second set of barriers.  Eventually it got down to just two of us, with me leading into the penultimate lap.  He really laid it down through the parking lot and I didn’t really respond, figuring I would just catch up to him at the barriers again.  I did.  But after the S-turns he attacked again and I didn’t have the legs to respond.  I rode the last half of the lap alone and nearly got pipped at the line by one of the guys we had dropped.  He had been so far behind during that last lap I hadn’t been thinking about him much.  As I approached the finish line, I looked back and saw him charging.  I grabbed a couple extra gears, put in a good sprint and kept my position.  18/25 on that day on a tough course with a squirmy tire.  Not what I was hoping for, but good enough.

Just barely hanging on for 18th.

My favorite part of this race was the guy who eventually beat me saw me after the race and declared my Twin Six METAL skinsuit to be the coolest kit he’d even seen.  Oh yeah.

The "coolest kit ever" and the guy who spent all but the last lap staring at it.

Looking Forward

Now what?  I have a tubular rim lacking a tire (yet still covered in a lot of glue).  There’s about a month until CX Nationals.  Travel plans and work schedules are not going to make a lot of December friendly for training.  I don’t feel like I’m done  yet though.  I need to decide soon in any case.