06 June 2017

XC race series is upon us

Wednesday 7th June 2017 is the first round of the XC race series in town. This is a 6 race series put on by the Arctic Bike Club MTB division.

As mentioned in previous blogs I have been "training" with a group of really quick riders and steadily seeing my speed increase which is nice. Although I haven't been out with them for the last couple of weeks due to scheduling conflicts, I think (hope), I will have enough carry through from the earlier training to perform better than last season.

Speaking of which. Today I did a little testing and I am still unsure of  the choice ahead of me.
My dilema is do I ride my trusty 5" travel 29er bike which is a little overkill for most of the XC races in all honesty but a lot of fun. Or do I ride my rigid fat bike with the 27.5+ wheels where I will get pretty beaten up by the end of the course especially through the rooty sections.

Using the wonderful Strava I was able to compare my times through a couple of rooty sections of the course. We did one hotter lap on Saturday when we had got to know the course and this was the times I was comparing to.

Both bikes came out around the same time for all the sections I compared to. Unfortunately I couldn't do a full lap test as one section of the course is one way on odd vs even days.

Oh well, I guess I will sleep on it and make a decision tomorrow. 

22 May 2017

Green Lake Grinder 2017 edition

The snow has all gone, well from around town at least. It's now light until way after 10pm and the mountain bike trails are deemed to be dry enough and have opened up. Before the mountain bike season kicks off into full swing, there are a number of other races that I have the option to attend. Once the dirt riding takes off though, I find myself less inclined to want to race on anything other than dirt.

One race that is quickly becoming a must do, is put on by one of the sponsors for the team I ride on.
Speedway Cycles is the primary sponsor for the only gravel race in town. The race takes place on base (JBER) which means it's in an area that I can't normally ride without a lot of preparation aka hassle.

This year the weather was definitely not as nice as for last years race. The forecast called for rain, and sure enough as we started the neutral roll out, there was a light precipitation in the air. By the time we were four miles in and the race started, the rain had ceased and the gravel was dry and dusty.
Neutral Roll out

Neutral Roll out

How did my race go... 

Very well actually, much better than last year where I bonked pretty badly around 30miles. This year I was a little better positioned once we got going after the neutral roll out which definitely helped. I was still dropped on the first climb but tried to ride smart and ending up working with a friend (Rob) from mile 9 to mile 11 to catch back onto the lead group. I was promptly dropped from this group at well before mile 14 and proceeded to ride solo until around mile 27.
Around mile 15.5 chasing the specks in the distance. 

The specks in the distance (Greg, David, Jason, Jack, Paul)

I'm all alone aside from the bears and moose.... 
This is where I did something smart for a change. I slowed down so that I could work together with a group who were following me. The group contained a few teammates (Oscar, Ryan and Brad), Rob was also in the group and a speedway rider.
Riding in a paceline again. 
Brad was pretty tired and unfortunately was dropped off the back of the paceline I think during one of my pulls on the front, sorry Brad. The remainder of the group worked well together and slowly started reeling in the group in front of us.

At around mile 34.5 Oscar took a big pull to try and get me up to the group in front who were tantalisingly close. I took my turn then Ryan took over, we were now on one of the final steep climbs and the group ahead had slowed. With the assistance from my team mates I managed to bridge the gap and actually get into the group. As we descended and made a right turn I pushed my way forward and as we started the next climb I was at the front. I pedalled steadily with Greg, Jack and Paul. Greg mentioned he didn't want the group to catch back up so we set a steady pace up the final climbs towards the finish.

Around 2/3's of the way up the bigger climb a guy in a vehicle coming the other way mentioned that there were three bears in the road up ahead. I'm sure they will be gone by the time we get there I was thinking. We rounded a couple of corners and there in the road were a mother and two baby bears. I quickly turned to Greg and questioned what we should do. "Shout and make noise lets see if we can get them off the roadway" he responded. It worked, that was a good call by Greg. We continued along the road, rounded a couple more corners and came face to face with another bear. We all started shouting at this bear and he too ran off the road, though no where near as far.

We pushed the pace up the remaining climb, descended down through the ski area and rejoined paved road. Greg was a little ahead of me by this point and I definitely didn't have the legs to catch him. Another rider in the group Jack who had silently caught onto my wheel proceeded to zip past me before the finish. All in all a great day on the bike.

I finished in 9th place which is an improvement on last years race where I finished 14th. More significantly for me I didn't have any huge debilitating cramps which I have been suffering from on many of these races. I also felt relatively fresh at the end which is a nice feeling.

Congratulations to the usual suspects for showing us what really fast people are like. Nice racing Will and Laura to take the wins.

Thanks to Greg, Tim and all who put this race on, I know it can't be easy but we all really appreciate it.

And last but not least a huge thanks to Amanda for taking care of the munchkin whilst I raced, I couldn't do it without you!

Full results

Strava file in case you were wondering.

13 March 2017

If in doubt, let it out!

11th March 2017 saw the 5th running of the Trio Fat Bike World Championship. The race is put on by Backcountry Bike & Ski and Speedway Cycles. This is one of the last fatbike races of the season (the last in south central Alaska) and has a great atmosphere and after party.
This year was my 3rd time riding the event. The last time I did this event it was -17F at the start line. This year it was a pleasant 19F and quickly warmed up to over 30F once the race started. For my riding pleasure I decided it would be great idea to ride the 60mile version (three laps).

The course description

The race starts in downtown Talkeetna. It follows the road out of town for around 2 miles before joining a snow machine trail. The road section is a false flat but after joining the trails we almost immediately start to climb. After around 2 miles we rejoin the road network for a short period before taking a snow machine trail that parallels the road. This trail undulates with a climbing trend and we eventually pass a communication tower where the trail widens and continues to undulate (with a climbing trend) until the powerline trail. Here we drop down on a narrow trail (1 snow machine wide) to the river and the roughly halfway aid station at around 11.8 miles into the lap.
After the aid station we continue on a narrow trail up a couple of killer climbs but mostly enjoying an undulating trail (feels like more down than up) through the woods with great views of Denali. The final 3.5miles of this trail  have a definite descending trend back to the only two way section of the course. This is only around 200 yards though. We cross a road to enjoy around 1.5miles of singletrack before rejoining the road network at around mile 19.5. Here we complete the loop back into town and either finish our race or go out to complete more laps.

My race

I lined up on the front row along with a couple of my teammates. 
Rolling out from the start.
The pace to the first trail was relaxed, I even took the time to take a few photos. 
Behind me

Looking ahead

As we joined the snow machine trail the pace picked up a little and before long, as we started up the first climb the pace was definitely hot for me.
On the second climb I saw one of the lead riders (David Arteaga) was stopped and appeared to be struggling with a mechanical. I pulled over and assisted him in freeing his chain which had jammed between his crank arm and chainring. Soon we were back riding and it wasn't long (around 5 miles according to Strava flybys) before I caught back up with Matt and Laura who I was riding near before I stopped to help David. Unfortunately Owen, James, Nico, David, John and Jason had escaped me here and I wouldn't see them again all race.

Trail conditions can and often do vary when racing a multi lap format race. For myself and everyone the conditions did change drastically especially for the final lap. This years deterioration was due to the low temperature at which the snow fell, this meant that in spite of multiple grooming efforts the snow didn't consolidate well on certain sections of the trail.

Lap 1: The course was good however a few of the steeper climbs were not rideable but everything else was pretty solid.

Lap 2: The course was still in pretty good shape however as the temperature increased the snow became a little greasy. Airing down helped and once again the majority of the course was rideable.

Lap 3: Errrmmmm... It got significantly worse for around 3 miles. I had aired down to around 4psi by this point and even that wasn't getting me through. However once we passed the communication station the trail improved for the next 5 miles it was only my tired legs holding me back really. Into the aid station the trail was soft and it was just a case of being patient whilst passing the 20mile racers, that theme would continue to the end of the race.

Me, Laura and Matt riding on lap 2
- Photo Credit Tim Berntson

Same section of trail lap 3
The best thing about the Trio though, is how relaxed the event is. The aid station is getting to be legendary. As I was well out of the running for the top places I figured it would be rude not to stop and partake in the festivities on my final lap. I was only there for 10min but that was enough time to grab a beer and soak in the atmosphere.

Aid station, just a few bikes - Photo Credit Ryan Greeff

Floating Unicorn and fat bikes in overflow....
Photo Credit Ryan Greeff

Cheers Jordy!
After leaving the aid station I completed the course not forgetting to stop for a Denali selfie.
Huge mountain.
I finished the race in 7hrs 5min (Unofficial time and 8th place overall, 7th Man) 
Lap 1 took 1:55:14
Lap 2 took 2:15:43
Lap 3 took 2:53:26
And I am totally stoked with that.
Could I have ridden any faster? possibly.
I am still working on nutrition on these longer rides especially at higher pace. The good news is no cramps this time though I did feel a few twinges. I am sure I didn't eat enough on lap one to let me maintain my speed on lap two but this is all work in progress. Lap three could have definitely been faster on a couple of sections. Not stopping for a beer would have also cut around 10 min from my lap but I wouldn't have had as much fun out there with that attitude. One thing is for sure I am glad I stopped for a beer and chat with my friends who were working at the aid station.

Once again a huge thanks to Amanda for taking care of Fiona and Mort so that I could race. I couldn't do these silly races without your support. You are one in a million baby!