Syracuse Cyclocross GP Report

The Syracuse Cyclocross Grand Prix has been around for years. Since I’ve been an active member of the Onondaga Cycling Club that hosts the race I always went out to the help setup/tear down and take loads of cool pics during the race. I would always think that I should give cross a try, but leave it at “next year” which never really happened until now.

This year was my first race at the Syracuse Cyclocross Grand Prix in memory of James Konski and sponsored by etc etc. This has to be the longest name for a cyclocross race anywhere. James Konski was the founder of the Onondaga Cycling Club back in the 1970s. His great goal was to have a velodrome built in Syracuse. In fact he raised quite a bit of money for this goal. Not enough money to actually build a velodrome, but enough to buy half of a nice house.Jim Konski passed away years ago and I am not quite sure what he would think of his name being memorialized on a cyclocross which seems to be the opposite of racing on a track.

Going into the Syracuse race I am feeling that I have a general idea of what I am doing now. Which basically means that I know what kind of pain to expect during the race. I also know where to start which is at the very front.

The registration for the Syracuse race gave me only one option which was the Cat 4 race. The Masters field was limited to Cat 1-3 so I could not hop into that race. This would not be an issue, but the Cat 4 race was scheduled for only 30 minutes which felt kinda short. I’ve been able to race in Cat 3/4, Open Men and Masters fields in other races and always raced for 45 minutes at least. I felt as if I needed my full dose of pain and that 30 minutes just was not enough pain for a Sunday morning of cyclocross. I would be wrong.

At the start I was able to to line up at the front and got my game face on. I was going to have a good start for once. As the race started I darted out and kept within the top three guys. On the first turn I was almost the first guy out as the first guy took the hairpin turn too wide and got jammed in the tape. I burst onto the slight climb to the road trying to maintain my position. The air was getting colder as the sun that was out during the previous Masters race hide behind the clouds and rain started to sprinkle ever so slightly. At this point the legs are getting a little stiff front the violent effort and the cold combining to form a perfect storm of pain. I summoned my inner Jens and sent a message to my legs to quickly “SHUT UP”. The lungs however need some more counseling since they are not as forgiving when given direct orders in such a way.

The course for the Syracuse GP was changed from the classic course that was raced on for years. Ben Salibra, Bryan Blake and Dave Faso worked together to come up with some nice changes. We would ride Tuesday night cyclocross practice at the park and the new couse was unveiled earlier in the week. The one disappointment was the lack of mud at the race. The park has decent drainage and there was only one section with a slight amount of mud. After Kirkland and Ommegang I was now expecting all of my races to be glorious mud fests leaving me with legs that are caked with mud. This really was the way to complete the overall cyclocross experience of pain and mud and occasionally beer.

Luckily the soaking rain that we received for most of the week changed the course from relatively dry to another epic mudfest. Two portions really stick out. One is the giant puddle seen above. The other is the section leading up to the start finish that was only navigable by running. By the time my race started 95% of racers were running through this section. The mud was getting worse by each lap. The Cat 4 race win was contested as a running race through the mud. I saw a portion of this as I was slightly behind at that point at a point where I could hear the screams and see a bit of the finish.

As I rounded through the muddy section that I ran through for the previous laps I thought to myself that a 30 minute race was plenty on a course like this. I am not sure where I finished, but I did get compliments on my start which was a good achievement for the day. I never did look at the results. The scorers where having issues with the placings since there were quite a few racers bunched together. I don’t envy their job and thank them for going through the trouble of doing this when they could be doing pretty much anything else.

Giro di Lombardia

Great day of racing on some beautiful roads in Northern Italy. Vincenzo Nibali was on the attack for most of the race, but Leopard finally won a big race. Too bad it is the end of the season and the team is merging with Radioshack.

What the Buck

As Paul Sherwen would say, here is an old African proverb: “Watch out for that Buck!”.

A Mountain biker is flying down the trails in the middle of the African Serengeti when a buck does not yield the right of way.

I saw people post this link on Facebook and listservs with the title “You gotta see this” or “Amazing!” . I never click on links with those words in the title since they are typically spam or hacked links. So it was not until I saw the link actually goes to Youtube that I thought it was safe and legit. That is why I was late to the party on this video.

Pro tip: stop using so much hyperbole when describing links. It will make it easier for regular people to sift through the hacked links.

Cycling Cap Tuesday

Post a pic of yourself in a cycling hat to Twitter for #CyclingCapTuesday

CX at Ommegang

Mud,mud and more mud. September was a rainy month and it showed at Ommegang with plenty of the mucky stuff on hand. Driving over to Cooperstown to the Ommegang Brewery on Rt 20 would normally be a scenic drive. Sunday morning was anything but scenic with constant cold rain. Only as I reached route 28 near Cooperstown did the sun finally show. After that the weather progressively improved for some perfect cyclocross weather.

The early racers reported a wet course with mud that did not stick. Seeing some of the bikes after the Cat 4 men’s race it seemed like the course was not bad. The only thing sticking to the bikes was grass and light watery mud. After the Masters race the course started to get really mucky with one section featuring an all out mud puddle that could double as a mud wrestling pit in the 80s.

My race was the Cat 3/4 Men’s race which had a large field of 70 racers. Lining up at the start made me claustrophobic as racers jostled in close to get a good starting spot. My main concern was to not crash. But the muddy conditions would cushion any crash so I was not that worried.

As the race started total chaos ensued with a wide open starting straight leading into a tight turn. The field bottlenecked into the first turn alost forcing some to unclip or do a trackstand. I was able to stay upright and even dive into some corners gaining a few spots. The first section was all twists and turns and the large field clogged the course so picking lines was impossible. Gradually things started to spread out as the field entered muddier sections.

After the twists was the mud wrestling section where I was able to power through on most laps except one where my front wheel slid. I was able to get off my bike and run quickly. After that was a barrier and some twists leading up to a muddy climb. The lower section was a bit muddy for me as the combo of thick mud and uphill ground me to a stop. At this point I was with some really good cross racers and was hoping to stick with them. The uphill slowed me down too much so I had to sling my bike on my shoulder and run.

Next up was a muddy and slick downhill which was fun. There was a tight turn near then end with a post placed in a location that could potentially impale you if you lost control. Luckily that did not happen. Though you have to wonder about the placement of the course posts.

After that were more twists and turns followed by barriers and a turn into the main tent. After another twist you are back at the start/finish to go for more laps.

The first lap was my fastest and I gradually slowed down after that. I was battling Bob Nunnick from Corning for a few corners, but eventually could not stay with him. It was fun diving into corners going head to head in some sections. Eventually though Bob got some distance on me and stayed ahead.

At lap 3 or 4 I was really feeling the effort and had to pace myself to keep my heartrate at a manageable level. During all of my cross races my heartrate has never fallen below 170 usually staying around 180 or more for most of the race.

One feature about cross races is the close contact. There are moments when you bump up against other racers making this somewhat of a contact sport. Being muddy an on soft mud or grass makes bumping against another rider no big deal. If this was in a crit it would be expected there too. But bumping in a crit where speeds are much higher and the terrain less forgiving makes it really scary. Here if you bump someone it is no big deal. One racer bumped me on the muddy descent as he passed. he was very apologetic. But my reply was, “no biggie”. If this was on the road I probably would not be so forgiving.

In the end I placed 61st out of 70. Not great, but I was there. Greg Drumm was passing around some well timed beer tickets. If you are racing at a brewery you might as well enjoy a drink or two. The only issue with drinking beer right after a race is that the effects are tripled. I never felt a buzz so quickly after only one beer. Ommegang beers usually have a higher alcohol content anyway.

Overall it was a great day of racing out at the Ommegang Brewery. This was a race that I was looking forward to and it did not disappoint. Kudos to the Ommegang Syracuse Bicycle team for setting up the race in nasty conditions on Saturday. The weather finally turned sunny and warm in the afternoon to make it a fun day.

The Ommegang race makes this the third race so far this season. I am really getting addicted to cross that I feel like I need to race every Sunday. In fact I feel some early withdrawl symptoms since I may not be able to race at Rochester on Sunday. What do I do, I need a hit.

Checkout my numbers on Strava

Cavendish without a team for 2012

Everyone assumed the Manxman was going to sign with Sky

Pic from Code of the cog

There have been rumors swirling throughout the year that newly crowned World Champion Mark Cavendish would be riding for Team Sky in 2012. When HTC-Highroad chief Bill Stapelton announced that HTC-Highroad could not find a sponsor for 2012 media pundits, cycling fans and those-in-the-know all assumed that Cavendish would be riding alonside Bradley Wiggins in 2012.

“Everyone assumed that the Cavendish to Sky deal was done, even the accountants at Team Sky. They kept looking at the numbers and wondered why they would always have an extra $3 million for 2012. So, we decided to buy another team bus with all the extra cash. The new team bus has all of these custom features just for Cav, so we can’t return it.” – David Brailsford

“It seemed like common knowledge. I just assumed that we would have taken care of the contract by now. It is October already and most riders have signed for next year. I was too busy trying to get contracts for all the other riders I manage and forgot that we never really did sign a contract with Sky.” – Mark Cavendish’s Agent.

“This is the equivalent of throwing your arms up in the air during a sprint and getting nipped at the line by another rider. Cav thought he had the contract done cause everyone just assumed it. But no one checked to see that the contract was actually signed.” -Anonymous former sprinter with a german accent whose name rhymes with Derek Bobble

Fans and cycling journalist were puzzled as to why the announcement never came out. First it was assumed that the news would be out by September 1st when new signings could be announced. Then other wondered if the news would be announced after the World Championships, but all was still quiet.

Cavendish says he has no plans for next year, but is actively working with a new agent who will actually follow up on contracts.

“I need a guy like Ari in Entourage, but the first season Ari, not like the last season when he was all distracted and such. That show really turned to crap at the end you know?!” – Mark Cavendish.

Cavendish was last seen trying to slap some Astana riders on the back really hard so one of them would retire early opening up a spot on the roster.

“In times like these you really have to work hard to open up a roster spot.” Cav

Kirkland Cross Race

Excited before the race. All clean too.

My second ever cyclocross race is in the books and I think the cross bug has bitten me badly. First experience was the very challenging Power Cross race in Van Buren Park last November. I had no idea what I was doing and tried cross out for kicks.

This year was different. I was looking forward to the first race of the cross season at Kirkland. The Tuesday night cross training at Longbranch Park hosted by Phil McCarthy and Brian Blake helped me learn about the various nuances involved in cross.

SiDi’s before Kirkland

SiDi’s after Kirkland

Phil and Brian are super helpful in teaching about correct mounting and dismounting techniques and details such as how to hold the bike while going over the barriers and more. Those guys love cross and it rubs off with their helpful nature and encouragement mixed friendly jabs.

First race at Kirkland promised to be muddy as the area around Clinton,NY was hit with heavy rains from tropical storm Lee. Pre race pics of the Kirkland Cross course showed some soggy conditions. So I was ready for a mudfest.

My race was the 3/4 race that was the third race of the day. Conditions dried up and the MVBC did a great job setting up the course. The course was getting progressively muddier as I watched the earlier Masters race.

I did not get a chance to pre-ride the course so my race was going to start a bit slow. Race start was based on when you registered. Since I only registered a few days before the race I was closer to the back. This was not an issue since I did not want to mix it up with the large group at the start. At the start I chilled near the back of the group hoping to choose my lines as we went through and discover the course. Mud was everywhere and choosing the right line through some sections was a challenge since I had no idea what was around the corner. The course featured an infield grassy area with several sections of mud. There was a muddy and slippery descent which was fun, some up and downs through a giant puddle and large climb that can only be ascended by climbing up with your bike on your shoulder and some single tracks sections with a sand pit that was a volleyball court in non-cyclocross times.

My first lap was slow as things strung out. The second lap was a bit faster once I knew the course and was starting to reel in riders ahead of me. The slippery sections were fun and I was surprised that my bike handling skills allowed me to get sideways and drift my back wheel in a few areas. I even heard a “nice save” from a guy following me as my back wheel was sliding out on a turn. The back wheel probably had a bit too much air pressure since it was sliding out. But the added pressure helped me get through some other sections.

The sand pit effects were neutralized since the wet sand was packed more than usual and actually served to help clean some mud out.

The third lap was my last and I was feeling faster, but starting to get tired. My heartrate was pegged at 180 to 190 the whole race. There was no area to rest since there was a constant challenge.

After the race I was totally spent. That was a hard effort with the mud and hills and tree root climb. The atmosphere was fun with lots of people cheering and heckling. Cowbells rang all over the course too.

Overall this was a fun race, and the muddy conditions made it a blast. I have not seen the results, but I was not expecting to place very high since this was more about feeling things out. The cross bug has gotten to me bad and can’t wait for the next race.