Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cobbs Hill Cross

I raced Cobbs Hill Cross in Rochester, NY on 10/10. Rochester never has super huge fields, which makes me nervous because it can make your result fairly skewed if there are ten really strong guys in a 20 man field. This year, Cobbs Hill was categorized instead of open, and there were 41 racers in the 3/4 field. DEFINITELY a record for the course.

At the start, I got in the third row because of my excellent scrum abilities. A few jokes later the whistle blows and we're off. Around the first corner and I make a good amount of passes, elbows out, looking wide. A guy in front of me goes down on the right and causes a bottle neck, but I squeak through clean. Going past the pit, another crash that I squeeze around clean and there is a 5 man lead group that I am chasing. I catch them through the technical turns and I am in 6th going into the single track. Out of the woods and along a slight incline power stretch of gravel and one guy pops off. This year, instead of riding up to the reservoir, the promoters force a run up by placing a barrier at the bottom of a water run off that is completely eroded beyond belief. The barriers up north are not the same size as in MABRA land, and coming in hot I bonk the barrier with my wheel. Front brake is locked up, run up the hill, put chain on, can't figure out brake.... ah crap I'll unhook it. Climb up the hill and descend without a front brake, through the finish in about twelfth. Pass two on the barriers, get to the pit and grab Mitch's bike. It has SPDs, I ride Crank Brothers, but I'll make it work while Jen figures out the brake. Get about 20m out of the pit and realize the front has about 25psi and the rear has about 12-15. GREAT. Fall back a LOT on the half lap on that bike, sitting in about 30 of 41, steam coming out of the ears. An excellent pit hand off from Jen and I'm back on the Rock Lobster and chasing... hard. Coming through the finish in 21st and see 5 to go. Can't stop, won't stop.

I put out maximum effort for all five laps. Two laps of chasing and I can see the leader ahead of me coming off the hill before I was going into it I'm sitting in about 15th, and now we're starting to lap a lot of riders. Going through the finish with 1 to go, Jen says I'm in 11th, and I can see a group of five riders about 60 meters ahead. Bridge, gap. Going into the hill there are three more riders about 30m ahead. Descend without fear, because hey, I have TWO brakes now (and this is why my futurewife is better than yours). I am blacking out all lap, I can't see straight, everything hurts, and I pass all 3 riders in the last turn and out sprint them into the finish, thinking I just finished 5th-7th. I check the results and they have me in 11th.

Regardless of what my official result was, I had an amazing time. My niece and nephew were ringing cowbells for me, and my nephew and I shared a chocolate milk post race. I left everything on the course, I didn't give up when I got frustrated, and I am happy with my result, whether it is 11/41 or 5/41.

I would also like to say how much I LOVE our new kits. You go to a race where nobody knows you and nobody knows your team, and they are able to see from afar that you ride for TOMS, they yell 'COME ON TOMS!' at you. Good, clean design. I really like that people don't have to try to figure out who we are when we show up some place. Good job Adam and Jen.

I am going up to Rochester for Halloween to race at Parma Cross and hang out with my family, since there is nothing happening in PA that weekend. Anybody care to join me?

-Report by Ryan D

Editor's note: Len & Karen Sorbello at were kind enough to share these photos with us. Check out their stuff, its beautiful.

Two Days in 'Upstate' NY

I raced on Saturday and Sunday at Westwood Velo's cross weekend, held in upstate NY (sorry Ryan, anything north of the Bronx is considered "upstate"), just outside of NJ. They scheduled their races a bit differently/in-reverse with the Mens A going at 12.30, B at 1.45, and C at 2.45.

I raced in the B's both days. The fields were about 27 racers each day. The course(s) was long. I know on Sunday we only did 5 laps (9min laps!), though Saturday may have been 6 laps... Fortunately for me and my riding style, there were few twisty/windy sections (though i'm getting more proficient at those), instead there were a number of straightaways, false flats, some muddy/soggy sections, and multiple dismounts (x2 sets of barriers, x1 set of stairs, and x1 messy runnup [or on Sunday only it was a rideup but only for some of the riders]).

I'm still trying to get a feel for my power/pain threshold, bike handling abilities, and race strategy. I've noticed that i need to work harder in the opening sprint, even if it requires burning a match or two that i may need later on; the positions i lose in the start are just too valuable. Nonetheless, on both days, i basically hold my starting position (mid-pack) going into the hole shot (compared to dangling off/near the back) and work to just pick people off in the early laps. And i think because of my very loud freewheel, a lot of people will make mistakes once i bridge up to them while i am coasting the sections they are pedaling.


Anyway, because of the relatively small field, by mid-race the gaps between racers is too large to continuously bridge up and/or work together. On Saturday, by mid-race, i found myself in no man's land and it was rather difficult to keep up a high output without a "target" in sight. So on Sunday, towards mid-race, i recognized i was in a similar situation, with the guy who finished a decent distance ahead of me the day before in front of me by a slightly smaller margin. Instead of just maintaining my position, i decided to burn a few matches and try to bridge. It took a lap or so, with me yo-yo-ing off his wheel a bit, but by my 3rd or so bridge, he basically sat up. I'm guessing each of my bridging attempts forced him to put in an acceleration that eventually tired him out. Or he may have been wanting me to pass right before the road section, so when i passed i made sure to put in a sustained acceleration to create a gap, it also helped that i passed a little before the stairs (also before the road), where i had been gaining distance (to only lose in the winde-y sections) all weekend. Anyway, bell lap comes around (remember only 5 laps) and proceed to bury myself in the power sections and run-ups (my strengths) while being rather cautious in the turns and off-camber stuff (my weaknesses), and am able to hold my position through the finish even though he definitely made up some ground towards the end.

Finished 9th on Saturday, 6th on Sunday.

–Report by Ellis Kim

Editors note: not pictured due to cropping and Ellis' head being in the way are his brand new TRP EuroX brakes. So fly.

Sunday Morning at Hyattsville CX

I started the morning out like any other: attempting to follow the car with the cross bikes strapped to the Yakima roof rack. Its just easier to assume you know where other racers are going than to keep checking Google Maps' directions on your smart phone. It seemed like the guy I was following was onto me, because he pulled into a 7-11 parking lot off of Riggs Rd to make a u-turn onto Ager, giving him enough time to lose me as I got caught at a red light.

Once there, I went through the usual routine of gearing up, checking in, and riding the course. I didn't come up with much of a strategy during my test ride with the exception of take it easy on the 180s and sweep the outside if opportunity allowed. I tried riding over the second set of barriers to no avail. Noted the uphill u-turn, spiral of death, sandpit, etc, and decided one ride-through was enough. I was disappointed at the lack of hills.

9 o'clock rolls around and I find myself fortunate enough to be on the front line. By now, I was so used starting towards the back of the field that I didn't know what to expect as soon as the whistle sounded. Within seconds of the races start I thought I had moved from the first line to the third. I stuck with my strategy of not expending all my gas in the first lap, striving to move up one spot just to lose two spots on the fourth or fifth lap. I marked a District Velocity racer and hung onto his wheel for as long as I could. As I approached the second set of barriers, which were not but around 6 or 7 inches high, but started and ended a turn, an older gentleman attempted to roll over the logs, but fell. I couldn't help but think how he probably didn't ride the course.

By the end of the first lap, the pack was completely broke up. Matt yelled that I was within the top 25 as I passed all the TOMS B crew. Due to the absence of my Garmin, I spent the entire second lap wondering how many laps we would end up doing. This might have been the reason I took a tumble as I entered the sandpit, taking out two riders behind me. I rebounded quickly. As I approached the finish line for the second time, the lap counter read "3." I was relieved, as my mouth was already parched.

By the third lap, I was feeling like a champ on the barriers. I might have a little to do with the fact that I finally dialed my SPDs, unlike the past three races. I spent the entirety of the third and fourth laps maintaing position. Gaining a spot and losing a spot. I played yo-yo with an NCVC rider for a while. As I exited the spiral of death for the fourth time, I looked back and noticed a Route 1 Velo rider on a 29er about four or five spots back. By the end of the fourth lap, this was reduced to three.

I started burning the last of my fuel as I entered the fifth and final lap. Passing a few riders who clearly had nothing left to give. I made it past the second barrier set, and looked back to see the rider on the 29er rolling over the barriers with ease. I jokingly yelled, "that's cheating," to which he mischievously grinned at. By the spiral, he was one spot behind me. Thinking about how devastating it would be to my self esteem to let some guy on a mountain bike beat me, I tried putting as much distance between us as I could muster, but he was too strong to make up any more time on. I split my attention between the 29er behind me and two riders about 10 yards ahead of me that I hoped to catch up to. I screwed up a turn after the sandpit, costing me a few seconds and crushing my hopes of catching the two riders ahead of me. I managed to pass one rider on a Fuji, who seemed to have completely given up, during my last trip through the baseball field. With the 29er only a few yards behind me, I went all out as soon as I hit the pavement, sprinting as hard as I could as I passed the line by myself. You would have thought I was sprinting against myself.

This was the first race that I didn't immediately collapse after. The posted results said I finished 27th out of 72 finishers. My best result yet. I ended the race with a little more confidence, despite my end goal being to not get beat by a guy on a mountain bike.

–Report by Patrick Peoples

Monday, October 11, 2010

Big Expansion in the Mid-Atlantic

Just wanted to send a note out to all of you that there have been big things happening in the Mid-Atlantic for us. Over the summer, we picked up some new riders who are currently killing it in MABRA land. Sean O'Donnell of DC is a true cat 4 cyclocross racer who currently holds the series leader jersey for the 3/4 field of MABRAcross. Additionally, we have picked up Stephen Mull of Richmond, VA who is ALSO a favorite for that field. Up north, we have added Ryan Carter of York, PA and Blake Rubin, who spends his time bouncing between DC and Philly and getting increasingly solid results in the 4's. Chad Bartlett hopped on board before the cross season, and he is getting very solid results in the 4 and 3/4 fields of MABRAcross. Karsten Walker, also of DC, has joined the squad and is looking to try his legs at 'cross, and he will be very solid competition for Patrick Peoples of Bethesda, MD, who has weaseled his way from top 50 to top 20 in the cat 4 field. Watch out for him in that 3/4 race by the end of the season! Ted Matherly is now back from the far east, so he will likely be joining that cat 4 field soon as well.

All around, this is a SOLID group of riders that I am very excited to see grow. Keep an eye on the blog for big things happening in our cross seasons.


WhirlyBird Cross Recap

Report by Ellis Kim

I arrived at the venue around 10.30am. But i still had to find my bike and clothing which traveled from Philadelphia whereas I traveled from New York City. After a few minutes, we were reunited, and after a few minutes in the visiting team's locker room, I stepped outside to find out that I missed that small window between races to pre-ride. Oh well, looks like i'll get in one lap before my race. After some road riding with old and new friends, I got my lap in, but unfortunately it wasn't at race pace. This may have proved signficant, but not in a good way. Despite my relatively good starting position, 3rd or 4th row (I can't recall) due to my early pre-reg, I lost at least a dozen spots from the start. Maybe I'm not aggressive enough, maybe it was the wedding the night before. Also, i gave a few taps of my presta valves before the gun to drop a little air from my ~40psi tires. This would prove especially significant. At the apex of the first tight, semi-off camber, my rear wheel slides. To say the least, I was having trouble holding lines all race, even more than usual!! This led to me racing very conservative through turns and the loose stuff, so for about 85% of the race, I feathered more speed going into turns more than most while also taking VERY wide lines. Fortunately, i only went down twice!! Ryan passed me relatively early on, but he went down a few times too. Next time we should make sure to work together better since I think our strengths may compliment each other well (his sarcasm with my deadpan humor, unbeatable!). Also, beyond the two sets of barriers, there was no need for running, so no chance for me to work my bread-and-butter :( Anyway, my race ended up being sloppy/slow through the turns, with strong accelerations on the straights. Unfortunately, there were a lot more turns than straights on this course.
After finishing, and moping, I went for a cooldown ride on the road. As I began inflating my tires, it turned out that my rear was at, if not below 30PSI!! I prefer to race on 40psi! A young rider from my alma mater claimed that 30 PSI is what he uses, but then again, he's 135 lbs whereas I'm 190...
Next up, Hill Billy Hustle!



Ryan's Charm City Dirt Stache

As Chad said in a previous post, I got a pretty wicked dirt stache at Charm City thanks to a 77th place starting position and super dry conditions. Photographic evidence thanks to Bill Schieken of In the Crosshairs.

dirt stache

dirt stache

Race Report for Charm City Cross

Report by Chad Bartlett

Day 1:
This being my first cross race, I didn't exactly know what to expect. I made my 1st mistake early by showing up to the start area with less than a minute before the start so I had the pleasure of starting in the last row of the group. Considering my starting position, I was happy with the prologue. I was able to work my way past about 1/5 of the field by pushing it on the sprint up the pavement and staying upright through the chaos in the first few corners. For the 1st lap, the field was pretty grouped together so I had to pick my time to pass but was generally able to pass 4-5 people at a time on straight aways and pick off people in some select corners just by braking late and accelerating hard. The second lap was more of the same but the field had stretched out a little more so passing became a little easier. By the 3rd lap I had almost made my way into the top 30 and finally had some room to take the good lines through the corners. By this time I was basically only passing riders in select areas of the course. The sand, the fast but bumpy area in the field turning behind the backstop, the stairs, the straightaway leading up to the really off camber corner by the road, and tarmac section on the finishing straight were all areas I could pick off riders. By the 4th lap I had moved close to the top 20. I maintained a strong pace but tried to keep something in the tank for the last lap. I passed a few more riders and by the time I started the final lap I was right at 20th position. I continued trying to move up and picked off a handful of other riders. I put a big effort in leading up to the stairs to close a gap to 2 riders and pass them. I was now in 16th position and those two riders were right on my wheel for the 2nd half of the last lap. As we came out of the grass and onto the tarmac, I really pushed it hard up the hill to try to put a little separation between us so they couldn't draft on the straight away. I was successful but I had my only mechanical problem as we turned on the the finishing straight. My front derailleur struggled to shift into the big chainring and as we approached the finish line the two other riders caught my wheel and slingshot themselves around me as I finished in 18th place out of a field of 107 riders. I was happy with my first cross race and felt like I learned a lot in those 40 minutes.

Day 2:
After my poor starting position on Day 1, I made sure I arrived at the start area with plenty of time to be called up. On Day 2, I was number 355, so I still was not at the front of the group, but I was in better position than the day before. On the start, I sprinted past some people but mainly focused on getting into a good position on the right side of the road to set up the my passes in the first few corners. This prologue was a bit more chaotic than Day 1. A lot more rubbing wheels and people crashing around me. I think my crit racing experience helped me avoid some of the chaos and stay upright. As we made our way through the prologue, I found myself about 30-40 positions from the front in a dense group of people. I picked off riders one at a time through the corners by just picking my line, staying in a small gear, and punching it a little coming out of the corners. Twice in the 1st half of the 1st lap, one rider tried passing me by braking extremely late into a corner. Both times it ended with him on the ground and me riding around him smiling. A few corners later one of his teammates tried the same move, with the same results. This time I got around him as he was crashing but he took out a few people behind me. I quickly realized that my plan for passing was superior to that rider's plan. His unsuccessful move did help in creating a small break in the pack which took away any pressure from behind me, making it easier for me to move forward. So, thanks guy. I continued moving forward through the 1st and 2nd lap. Just as I entered the big turn around the tree approaching the stairs on the 2nd lap, I was passed by someone who was going into the corner way too hot. He went through the ribbon and soaring off the course cursing. I chuckled to myself because he was surprisingly wearing the same kit as the previous guy. By the middle of the 3rd lap, I knew I was getting closer to the front because there were large gaps between small groups of riders. I decided to push it hard to catch a group, sit on them and recover for a few seconds and then pass and push it hard up to the next group. This plan worked and I made my way into the top 10 by the end of the 3rd lap. At this point the leaders were pretty well spread out and I just had to settle into my pace and try to catch them without blowing up before the last lap. At the beginning of the final lap, I caught the 5th place rider and waited for my opportunity to pass. I finally got it when we got into the open field and the straight away before the stairs. I put in a hard effort to pass him, and managed to stay ahead of him up the stairs and through the technical part after the stairs. He passed me back as we climbed up towards the large barriers and I had nothing left to try to pass him again. I finished in 6th place. Ryan told me he was horribly disappointed in me for not making the podium. I told him he is a jerk and I didn't tell him about his dirt-stash (photo proof to come) which looked terrible.

Overall it was a good weekend and I learned a lot. I was happy with my races and I managed to stay upright the entire time. Maybe that means I wasn't pushing it hard enough but I like to think that it means I raced smart. I can't wait for Ed Sander this weekend to try to improve again.