Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Race Reports: Rockburn Cross 11/20/11

Chad Bartlett’s Report – Cat 3/4 Men 2:00 pm



Photo: Peter Ong


Chad didn't send me a race report for the day, but here's a brief summary as seen by me (Matt). The super short story is that it went pretty well, since he ended up on the podium. From my perspective (working the pit), he pulled away from the field with a group of 3 other riders early on. All of them seemed fairly content to wait until late in the race to shake things up. With about 1 and a half laps to go, the attacks started, and the group split in two and steadily separated further as the final lap progressed. In the end, Chad grabbed 4th place for another podium this season. All of the guys at the front of this 3/4 field are pretty well matched, and as a spectator, it's definitely been a fun race to watch over the last few weeks.

OK, OK, OK. I'll take the hint and go ahead and write a more detailed race report for you Matt. First of all I was really on the fence as to whether this course would suit me or not. The pre-ride laps seemed like it was a twisty course but not the kind of cornering that I can really benefit from. I like a course that has technical corners that are still fast. This seemed a little too tight for my liking but I still felt pretty confident.

For 2 weeks in a row I had a front row starting position and in this race I really think it made a difference. I got clipped in right away and powered up the uphill start to the first set of corners. My only goal here was to stay in the top 10 and stay on two wheels through the first 5 or 6 technical corners before the sand pit. I was successful by going into the sand in 6th position and figured that the guys in front of me were going to be able to ride it clean so I stayed on my bike. It was a good decision until Pierce Schmerge (Bike Lane) who entered the sand 3 spots behind me dismounted and ran around me taking out the course tape in the process. I managed to stay on my bike but had to slow down while he ripped the tape from his bike. Now we were in the power section through the single track and the lead group was about 10 guys and we were all together with a gap to the rest of the field. As we got to the second technical part of the course, I made a mistake by going into a 180 turn followed by a short, steep, slick uphill in too large of a gear. I pulled my cleat out of my pedal and was forced to do an awkward lunge to get over the hill. I did this right in front of Chris Carraway creating a small gap between the last 4 of us in the lead group and what was now the lead 6. With one corner to go on the first lap the lead group split into two groups of 3.

So on the start/finish straightaway I sprinted across the gap to the 2nd group on the road. The 1st group was up ahead and I had to use my cornering abilities to make my way through the group I was in on the first 2 corners of the lap. Now I had some ground to make up. I just hit the corners aggressively and cleanly made my way through the sand cleanly and hammered it through the single track slowly reeling in the leaders. On the run-up, I tripped over the 1st barrier and quickly hopped back up and continued my chase. Again focusing on fast cornering to reel these guys in. It turned out that these corners were just about right for me. They seemed easier and I could really get a ton of flow going at faster speeds (Greg may disagree with me on that comment as his experience was a little different). It took half a lap but at the dismount for the 2nd set of barriers that I finally caught on. Now it was time to sit on and relax for a bit since I had just put out a pretty huge effort for half a lap. We were moving pretty well so I knew we were opening up a gap on the 5th place rider. This was just making me feel more comfortable as I tried to recover in the draft.

The next 2 laps were pretty uneventful as the 4 of us were trying to figure out who was going to make the move to try to split us up. I knew it would be Eric Krause (Antietam Velo Club) because he's a roadie that has a huge engine and loves to attack on power sections. Sure enough that's what he did and the 3 of us were unable to match his power as he shattered our little group. The rest of the race (a lap and a half) was just damage control for me. Trying to keep a good pace to slowly try to reel in the other 2 in the group while holding off the 5th place rider who has shown to have a ton of power late in the race. I managed to maintain my position and ride across the line in 4th place for the second week in a row. Next goal is to get a little higher on that podium.

It was great having Matt and Greg offering support from the pit even though they had their race right after mine.



Patrick People’s Report – Cat 3/4 Men 2:00 pm

Photo: Peter Ong


I had high hopes coming into Rockburn since it was my best race of last year. My personal goal was to shoot for a top 20 finish. I found that the course had not changed much since last year; a few new turns, a run up, and a few features were redesigned. When I got my number, I was horrified to discover that my bib number was 660, essentially putting me in the back of the field. I fretted because I know placing in the first half lap would be important once you the single track, in which passing was next to impossible. I lowered my expectations and decided to just aim for beating my usual rivals. At the start line, I had the usual pre-race jitters. I always talk about how I wish we could all skip the start and first lap, and just start at the second lap. The ref blew the whistle, and we were off. I tend to sink towards the back at the beginning of most my races and then slowly work my way up. I tried to not let that happen today. I found myself within the top twenty at the hole shot, but with such a wide course at the hole shot, holding that position was difficult. I slipped a little further back as the the pack rounded the first few turns, and there was bottle-necking once we hit the sand pit. Running through the sand pit, I fought mercilessly for positions to give myself as best advantage as possible before the next bottle-neck. I hit the off camber section, positioned somewhere in the mid-20s, not too far behind Nate C. When I hit the single track, I stayed as close to the wheel in front of me as possible, goading the rider in front of me to go faster. As we hit the stairs, I managed to gain a spot or two. What really hurt my chances of meeting my goals during this race were the amount of sloppy turns. Over this season, I've really improved my cornering abilities, but I had a hard time finding a line through a lot of the off-camber turns during this race. I forced myself to turn wide and almost go off course more than a few times.


As the race entered its second lap, and the pack spread out a bit more, which is how I like it. I made a habit of dropping the hammer during the start/finish and continuing through the grass and into the first turns at full speed ahead. This allowed me to shed the racers on my wheel at the start of each lap. I continued to move up steadily, passing groups of 2 or 3. I ran into some a little trouble during the third lap, when I was stuck behind a slow rider on the single track, which allowed a group of 5 that I had dropped to catch back up. This same guy continued this habit and slowing my race through the third and fourth laps, as I would pass him at the power sections, and he would catch up at the technical sections. All this time, I was ahead of this group of 7. On the third lap, I suffered a mechanical with my rear derailleur while coming up towards the pit. I was forced to stop and readjust my chain, allowing all 7 or the riders behind me to pass. It didn't take me long to catch back up to the rear of the group, but I wasted energy in doing so. I found myself neck and neck with one of my CrossResults rivals. During the latter part of the fourth and fifth laps, we were neck and neck, yo-yoing not more than two spots from each other. As we hit the back section of the course for the final time, I was leading him, and I knew he was eager for the sprint. I rode defensively, not allowing him to pass me until we reached the road. Until the final 100 meters we were neck and neck, until he let out an unholy growl, and lifted himself out of his saddle to make it a true sprint. I had nothing left to give and was forced to let him have it uncontested.

After the race, I had a few people tell me that I looked stronger than I have been all season and they thought I placed well. Hearing that lifted my spirits about my performance. I ended up finishing 33rd. While its not anywhere near where I would like to be and where I think I could be, I'm still content. I'm gradually improving each week, and I hope to finish the season strong. If only I was a better bike mechanic.


Nathan Ong’s Report – Cat 4 Men 8:30 am


Photo: Peter Ong


So today was my second CX race and probably the last of this CX season. I was really looking for redemption from last week's race at Schooley Mill as I plagued with some bike mechanicals. Rewind to last week, i rode last two laps with horrible front brake drag (also slight rear brake drag) and handlebars pointed in a totally wrong direction. So in hope of doing "better" or at least faster [in my head] I did some much needed bike maintenance week and go the bike setup. I had also told myself that i would not repeat my somewhat woeful mount/dismounts that i performed at Schooley Mill last week, so mid week CX practice commenced in my yard. Practice makes perfect i guess and i was more confident in my jumps off and on the bike somewhat.

Lining up on the grid i was number 58 (about 6th row). One of the "new found" strategies i wanted to employ this weekend was some big ring riding especially at the start. My borrowed bike was a full sized crank set 53/39 and last week i had brought a knife to a gun fight opening the starting spring in 39/16 or something....so this week, it meant using that 53T. So the whistle blows and i immediately find my pedal with minimal glances down and start moving up in the line. Going into the first turn I was probably around top 7 and stayed top 7 for about 1/4 of the lap or so. I probably got way too excited and just wanted to keep them in my sights, but this pace was soon putting me into [more like BEYOND] the RED. About halfway through the 1st lap, i gave up trying to stay with the top 5 and started to ride at my own pace...unfortunately my pace soon allowed riders left and right to come past. The field at this point was already strung out but I desperately was trying to ride on courage in hope to not lose to many places. Surprisingly the mounts and dismounts went fairly well for me today. Not too many hiccups I can recall.

2nd lap of three, I felt more at my own rhythm and found someone to somewhat draft off of to gauge the rest of the race. We were probably top 15 at this point. In my mind the gaps were pretty large in front and behind me, so why not stick with this guy for a little and see if i can attack somewhere.... Leading into the sand pit, it got sketchy when the rider in front of me (whom i was drafting) slams on the brakes to get off the bike, causing me to awkwardly unclip, whilest sitting on my top tube, forcing me to get off the bike on the drive side. By the time we exited the sandpit the gap was about 3 bike lengths....I wasn't able to close the gap and the gap grew (end of the day finished 4 seconds behind). 3rd lap I was just trying to not let anyone pass and not let the gap go too much. I did have one "kill" on this 3rd lap so that got me boosted! To finish off the race, i sprinted to the finish , alone.... but cross is kind of a race against yourself at times so i figured it would be fitting.

In the end of the day i finished 17th/57. I was pleased, knowing that this race went by without having a major bike mechanical and having done some things "right" like some of the technical turns, not crashing, and mounting/dismounting. Kinda disappointed at my fitness level giving up so many places, but in the end (as always) it was a good learning experience! Congrats to the team, for getting me caught on the cross bug! =P

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