Tuesday, September 21, 2010

WORS Race Lake Geneva

2 weekends ago we decided to travel to Wisconsin to do a WORS Race, having never done one, but always hearing great things about them and it only being 3.5 hours away we went for it. Get directions and we are off, get closer and we follow some signs which lead us to the Grand Geneva Resort, I mean this is an upscale place, they have a sweet stone entrance, a whole bunch of fountains, huge resort buildings with sports complexes, golf course, and an airport. Tucked all the way in the back though is a small ski hill that would be the venue for the race. I decided to try out the Comp Class which is basically in between Cat 2 where I usually race and Cat 1, which I hope to achieve someday.

Roll up to the staging area after getting a good warm-up and look around, don't know anyone, talk to a few guys that pre-rode the day before and got some pointers on the course, and they go through the call ups for series leaders, not looking good, so the rest of us finally get up to the line and I am 3rd row. Not where I am used to starting, usually am on the front row and ready to rock out, now I would have to fight for a decent position. The way the had us staged was in 2 separate age groups lumped together, so wasn't really sure who I was racing against. The countdown to go, and we are off, now since it is a ski hill, and we are at the base of it, guess where we get to go, that's right, up, and up some more, the start is fast, short grass flat and then turn left and climb, was in a decent position by the top of the hill, maybe top 10, and once you get to the top, you have to come back down, really fast side hill singletrack downhill, into another left and climb back up, back down and then the final ascent on the frontside that would take us all the way to the top of the hill. Get up there, lost a few spots as I didn't know the course so didn't want to blow up too quickly, into the singletrack on the backside, and just hold my current position. The singletrack was a lot of fun, twisty, and rooty and rocky, my kind of course, but of course the local had the advantage, so I would end up losing a few more spots before getting to the rock garden. That was a blast, it seemed every spectator was there waiting for carnage, and you could hear the cheering from about 1/2 mile away. Small drop down, sweeping right and now you are in the rocks, thankfully there was a line established by this time from all the other riders before me and was pretty smooth, after the rocks was a set of 4 drops that dropped you back off on the fire road. Now we are about 3 miles into the 6.75 mile course, and I was doing my best to follow wheels, started to catch up to the back end of the Elite Womans field that started 3 minutes or so before us, and passing wasn't an option in most places, so you did have to wait some. One spot was a pine tree section that reminded me of Sugar Bottom for a short while, but that was quickly replaced with more tight twisty rocky, rooty singletrack. Before making it back to the lap line, you had a series of switchbacks that were just about180 degrees, and very tight making for some hard going for the 29ers, but as long as you took it wide you were good to go. One final double track climb and time to rinse and repeat 2 more times.

Feed zones was established at the top of the first climb, and was able to get my empty bottle to Salem so he could get it refilled for me before the last lap. By now the guys from the next wave were starting to catch up to us, and not knowing what class they were in I assumed they weren't with me as they were moving pretty good. Back up to the top and down into the singletrack, had 2 guys gaining on me at this point and told them I would let them pass when we got the chance, well I rode that section well and took till the next doubletrack before the catch. They go by and I try and hold their wheel the best I can, but that was a lost cause, and they were gone. Look up ahead and see a familiar jersey in front of me, and it was on the shoulders of Brittany McConnell from Iowa City. Couldn't quite catch up to her before the rock garden, went through there again with relative ease and was feeling pretty good, caught Brittany on a singletrack section, and waited till it opened up again to make the pass, exchanged a few words and kept on moving. It was pretty neat as half way through the course they had a neutral water station set up and had 12-15 people with water cups lined up handing them out to racers that wanted them, or they would splash you with it if you liked, so I would grab one at the first guy and drink that one and then grab another towards the end and throw that one on myself, was really refreshing as it was close to 85 degrees that day. End of the 2nd lap and I was starting to feel my legs just yelling at me telling me enough already, but had one more lap to go.

Start the 3rd lap and was able to get both my water bottles, so I had plenty of fluid to get me though, just didn't know if I had anything left in the legs. Climbing the 2nd hill on the frontside I actually dropped into my little ring and just sat there and spun, I think that is 1st time in an XC race the past 3 years I have used the little ring, only other time was the 24 Hour Race last year. Crested the hill for the last time and was back into the singletrack, rock garden seemed to come quicker this lap, was probably all mental but go there and flew down through the chute again, and was felling like I was ready for the race to be over. But alas there was still almost 4 miles of the race left and knew I had to keep on moving. Get to the feed zone and the 1st Place Elite racer flew by me like I wasn't moving, ok so he has made up a whole lap on me now, damn. I just keep plugging away knowing I just need to keep pedaling and not look back. The nice thing was you could tell when the Elite guys were coming because you would hear them talking to guys behind me, so about 2 minutes or so later 2nd place comes by. I did my best to stay out of their way, not sure if I ever stopped, but would get over and let them go. Final time through the switchbacks and you can hear the announcer at the finish starting to rattle off names of finishers in my race as well as the Elite's. Coming up that doubletrack for the final time was a relief, I was in pain, legs were shot, and I did all I could to not allow anyone to pass me. Finished.

Sat down on the side of the hill, layed down and was convinced I would just stay there for a while. Got up about 5 minutes or so later, and talked with Kyle, Robin, Kevin, and Brittany for a few minutes, headed back to the car to change and hangout and try and eat. They are really quick about getting the results in, so walked back over and saw I was 13th in my age group, and found out later that I was 44th overall for the Comp Class, a pretty good result as it was my first time racing at that level, and hoping next year to make it back up there to do some more WORS Races.

Next up Cyclocross Season :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

8-29-10 Sugar Bottom Scramble

Been a while but finally have some down time to write this up, hopefully I can remember most of the details. Sugarbottom is the longest lap of any of the IMBCS Series races, at just over 10.5 miles of almost all singe track goodness with rocks, roots, and a fair amount of climbing it is a true test of skill and stamina. Also helps that it is a local race for us and have the ability to ride there often, and although I didn't take advantage of that as much as I should have this year, the trails mostly stayed the same from last year with the exception of a few needed reroutes. Showed up early so the kids could race in the morning, with both of them doing the youth race and placing 1st and 3rd, Salem decided he would attempt the Junior Race which was a full lap of the course, would prove to be a challenge for him thats for sure. He did great and ended up in 5th overall and 1st in his age group, awesome result for him, and got a State Championship medal.

On to my race now, knowing this start sucks I positioned myself on the front line in the center of the gravel road, looking around there was probably 30 or so of us and knew it would be a fast start. Off we go heading towards the gravel climb that is probably 1/2 mile up the road, I was clipped in and just picking up gears as quick as I could, look back and I had a 20-30 foot gap going into the climb, knowing I would fade slightly and there were some faster local guys that ride there alot I was in to just try and hit the woods in the top 10. I started counting as guys went by and entered the woods close to 8th or 9th, right where I wanted to be, and the big reward for making it into the woods up front is you now descend with some switchbacks and can for the most part recover. I sat in right on Ryan VH's wheel, right where I was hoping to be as me and him are close for the top spot in the overall, and since I knew the course pretty well I was able to give him little heads up here and there on sections coming up so we didn't lose the lead group. All is going well till we hit the one section where you drop down do a 180 turn right up a little hill, then turn 180 to the left and right back down, at this point Ryan goes down and I do my best to avoid hitting him and his bike and end up hitting a tree myself going down and losing my water bottle on the ground, so I make sure to pick that up as it was 90 degrees and knew I needed that. I do a quick run up the hill and do my best cyclocross remount and only lost 2 spots and was now riding behind Kyle Williams. Another 3/4 of a mile and we would exit out onto the gravel road, made a risky pass to get by Kyle and started to reel Ryan back in, at this point I had ran out of gears, was doing upwards of 33 mph and went by Ryan on the right, taking a couple other guys with me. We get into the next section which is a flat flowy trail that I was using to recover before starting the North side with all of it's climbing. Got onto the Northside single track and just plugged away at the ups and downs. This has the only Black Diamond trail as well as the Double Black known as "Cyclocross Hill" You could hear all the spectators on cyclocross hill as they go looking for carnage, this year though it was the most rideable as it has ever been, so was able to fly into it carry that speed most of the way up the other side and come out with a decent amount of speed still, in previous years it wasn't as fast and most would walk/shift under load and break chains. Another flat flowy section and we would be heading into lap 2.

Start of lap 2 found me getting caught by the 2 guys behind me but I had gapped Ryan by now and wasn't sure how far back he was, then it happened. I missed my feed zone and was heading out with less then a full water bottle, not good. At this point I decided I wouldn't chase the 2 guys of front of me and just sit in at a pace I could hold for the next hour. First section went pretty well for me, was able to keep the guys in front of me in sight and wasn't losing any time, still didn't know where Ryan was behind me and knew I had to keep going the best I could to stay up. I was passing water bottles on the ground and thought I would stop and grab one to drink so I had something, but not knowing what people have in their bottles I didn't want to risk it, so I continued on. This time I was able to ride the Southside cleanly and had no mishaps heading into the gravel road again, hoping my feed zone might be there, nope :( Oh well only have about 4 miles or so to make it through, and almost out of water, it would be crucial to just sit and spin up the climbs and not go all out. I made it to the top of the climb and noone else was in sight either in front of me or behind me at this point. Took a few chances on the downhills to keep my speed up and try and make up any time I lost on climbing. Got to cyclocross hill and could hear cheering before I got there so knew someone wasn't to far ahead, but not sure if I could go any harder, then it happened, climbing up the other side I started to cramp my left calf, so knew I was done with any hard riding. Thankfully it was basically flat the next mile or so to the finish, I would be able to cruise it home and retain my position. Out into the field, put it in the big ring and just went for all I had left, finished.

Sat down and drank some water, some Coke at a sandwich and just watched everyone else finish. Waited around for results and once they were posted I wondered over to find out I was 7th overall for the Cat 2 Open, good result for me and I was pleased, my second lap time suffered due to the conservative riding I had to do, but was able to retain a good finish. Waited around as they were paying 8 deep, found out it was just a table full of schwag and was a pick your prize deal, so I ended up grabbing a tubeless conversion kit of my 29er, so will get around to doing that for next year. Also they had a raffle drawing and we ended up winning a sweet New Belgium Brewing pitcher, shirt and a couple other things. Overall I was pleased with the result and kept me in contention for a top spot in the overall in the IMBCS Series.

Pics are here