Sunday, October 21, 2007

Granogue: Challenging Day Sealed with a Crash

Granogue is an awesome race held at a spectacular hilly venue on the Dupont estate in Delaware horse country. The course is technical and I knew going in I needed to race it clean to have a shot at doing well. Off the line, I tucked in behind Kerry Barnholt (the one to beat), then came around to take the hole shot and lead the upper part of the course, which was a defensive move on my part given Kerry's technical prowess. Then I bobbled on the off-camber switchbacking descent (which was really silly because since I was leading I could have gone as slow as I wanted), and Kerry was gone. I drove it hard on the pavement with Mo Bruno on my wheel, wanting us to work together, but could not quite close the gap. Mo crashed and I was riding alone for a few laps, conscious of being close to my limits and that Rebecca Wellons was chasing me. I tried to get some recovery while I held the gap, but Rebecca bridged up (on the pavement!) with two-to-go and then gapped me. I was "in difficulty," said in my brother's best Phil Liggett imitation, conscious of Megan Monroe and Mo behind me, but still in the race for second. I pushed it over the top of the ride-up after the descent and put on the power on the fast downhill where I had being gaining ground all day (after losing it on the switchbacks). And I ATE IT. I have no idea what happened, but it was a pretty big crash. I was fine but shaken up and it took me a while to get back on the bike. I rode the last lap and finished, but came in 11th. Kerry won solidly, Rebecca completed her fantastic ride for 2nd, and Megan took 3rd ahead of Mo and my teammate Melanie Swartz, who is clearly finding her form. I'm not sure what the moral of the story is given that I have no idea why I crashed, but what can I do but rally and go for it today?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gloucester Day 2: Conservatism and a Result

Lyne Bessette raced with the men again, then rode the first few laps of our race at a forgiving pace so as not to tempt some of us to blow up. She was like the Pied Piper - it was actually amusing. I took the lead into the downhill corners off the start (but imagine Lyne could have if she wanted), took a few pulls but was not going to animate because clearly she was in charge and because we weren't going fast enough to have forced a selection so there was a front group of at least five and it was a windy, grass crit course. On a more technical course with fewer free riders and less advantage to group riding, or if I hadn't just had one of my worst days ever on the bike, maybe I would or should have jumped to try to force a selection. But I guess I wasn't racing for 1st because if I were I should have led through the corners into the sandpit instead on lap two Lyne just gunned it out of the sandpit like an airplane and I didn't even try to go, with people on my wheel. Worked with Natasha Elliot, who had a lot of horsepower, holding off a strong chase group, and was able to gap her coming off the run-up on the last lap and barely hold that gap to the line. I guess I raced smart, got a result which makes me happy, but I also do not plan to make a habit of racing for 2nd place. Rebecca Much is getting her cross legs back! The irreverent Chris Jones continues to inspire. Countless people were extremely supportive after my demoralizing day on Saturday - thanks. And to those who have not quite found their legs yet, they will come, be patient. Here I am with my mom.

Gloucester Day 1: KABOOM

One fast lap. Great ride Rebecca Wellons, Natasha Elliot, Megan Elliot, Megan Monroe. And of course, Lyne Bessette. Thanks Dave Drumm for the dedicated pitting even as I went backwards.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Can We Race Our Points?

A friend who comes from alpine ski racing was explaining to me the FIS ranking system. Low points are good, but it's the same concept as UCI ranking - except that the impact of a given race on your points is scaled according to the strength of the field. And he was explaining how at some early season races "rabbits" with low points are brought in, who then go out drinking the night before and race mediocrely, allowing a bunch of racers to lower their points. These races are known as "points give-aways," and result in over-ranked racers not "able to race their points." I told him my trip to Michigan was a points-grab. Not complaining about the glut of UCI races on the East Coast, but the system seems like it could be improved.

Whitmore's Landscaping Super Cross 2

On Saturday I felt I could have taken the hole shot, and after I was irritated with myself that I didn’t. Katie and Lyne are on a different level from the rest of us right now, but we have to race them. We New Englanders are pretty lucky to race one of the world’s best every weekend, and need to make the most of it. (And let’s have some sympathy for Lyne and Katie too, who are not exactly getting practice for performance on the world stage by racing with us, so let’s get moving!) None of us wants to start so hard we blow to smitherines, but the selection in cross is made at the start, and increasingly it seems to me that we all settle in after a few laps and go pretty much the same speed. So I did get the hole shot (and then they promptly rode me off their wheels), but at least it was an assertive start. And let me tell you, the start at Cross Vegas was so crazy fast – Megan Elliot clocked the wet-cement-esque grass start at 40k an hour – we better start hard in New England! My legs Sunday were not awesome, I did not feel technically smooth, and I struggled in places, such as that sandy right corner at the top of the course. After the start that left me gasping for air in third place, Mo caught me. Barb was closing so I sat on Mo to allow Barb to catch. She did, we sat on a bit, and then Barb attacked on the pavement. Perfect – this is team racing! On this day I had an advantage over Mo on the horsepower section, especially after she had had to pull, so I attacked through the line and tried to bridge to Barb. But I had not noticed Megan Elliot. When I saw she was there I sat up, but then Megan dropped me and bridged to Barb – not good and I should not have attacked if I had no reserves. And then the whole race was me riding a short distance behind Barb and Megan just wishing I could close the gap or that Barb would sit on for a long stretch so I could catch (no hope for 2nd, and this would have improved our odds at 3rd and given us a shot at 4th). But team racing takes practice. Barb put the hammer down on the last lap and pulled off 3rd, Megan had an awesome ride for 4th, and I got 5th. Katie schooled us again.

Whitmore's Landscaping Super Cross 1

The ghost of Cross Vegas is vanquished and the season has started for real! Team racing characterized the weekend. Way back when Marianne Stover and I were part of the “Gearworks Juggernaut,” and there was one epic season when the two of us drove clear across the Northeast every weekend without second thought (Harrisburg, Camp Hill, we even drove straight from a race in New Hampshire to catch the Orient Point Ferry for Myle’s first ever Long Island race). We shared in each other’s successes but were also fiercely competitive in a way that raised the level of racing for both of us. No one can ride those ride-ups like Marianne! And although she’s based in California, I’m hoping this season that Barb Howe and I can do the same for each other. Saturday’s course was fast fast. After a good start that saw Lyne and Katie disappear off the front, Barb blasted by and I found myself battling with Mo, who was dragging somewhat due to the flu. First, let me just say that I am thrilled to be racing in such esteemed company! Mo dropped me on the steep ride-up hill, which I was riding but in slow and leg-sapping style in my 39-26, then added to the gap on the top section. But I did catch back on and when I finally was sure I could go clear without bringing Mo up to Barb, I went. I was closing pretty fast on 3rd but ran out of room. But Barb got third behind Katie and Lyne, so it was a good day.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Off to the Hamptons!

Back in beloved New England, cured for a while from complaining about New Haven. Cross Vegas filed in the scrapheap of history, left with a few vague memories like a conversation with a casino employee in which he rebuffed my suggestions of health risks of second hand smoke and the final empowering night of owning that Vegas Strip on my bike, however crazy. Packed to the gills for cross - legwarmers, armwarmers, hats - and it's going to be 80 degrees on Long Island, but one of these days that surprise snowstorm will strike, and I will be ready (provided I can find everything in that big bag). Raced a training race on Wednesday in Dayville, CT and it was old-school cross at its best - the antithesis of Cross Vegas - two barrier sets, one rooty uphill, singletrack kidney-rattling descent, sandy corners, grass u-turn, short a horsepower section, and a ride-/run-up all in a sub-3:00 lap! The Long Island weekend takes some planning as far as logistics go, but it's always a great trip given the ferry ride and surprising agricultural quality of the North Fork, plus the Hampton beaches, gorgeous even if one doesn't read the Style pages. And Vervecken is news even if he doesn't make the Times.