26 September 2015

Cyclocross round #4

This weeks race was at Taku lake, last year I really enjoyed this race as I found it technical but with enough other bits to make having a mountain bike not a sensible option, last year I was on a mountain bike and really struggled on some sections but loved other sections...
This year I can safely say I suffered a lot during my race.  I will say my legs felt empty on the ride over to the race which is never a good sign.  Then I once again fuelled badly for the race just like round two in the rain.
The course is based around Taku Lake and consists of some big flat or false flat sections inter-spaced with wet off camber grass and roots.  The sand pit this year was down to one line imho and they added a tricky turn back onto the gravel path which I totally failed to ride every stinking lap.  I also failed to ride the tricky off camber hairpin where the largest crowd was every lap aside from the last one, I guess this was just peer pressure :D.
How not to corner - photo credit George Stransky

How did my race go... pretty badly.  I was frustrated with Fiona before I even started due to her unwillingness to even attempt to ride sections of the course during her race, yes I know she is 5 and yes I am supposed to let things go but sometimes its just arrrghhhhhhhh!!!!

My race started fast as ever and I once again positioned myself badly and got held up, in previous rounds I have been able to pass people following this but alas today that just didn't happen I felt like I faded about 30min into the race, looking at my laptimes it  this was the case although I did slow a little it was not as bad as I thought, probably helped a little by getting faster on the technical sections as the race went on... I also forgot to start my GPS until lap 2 which was a bit of an ooophs.

Smile  you are on camera - Photo credit George Stransky

Once again the crowds were awesome so thanks to everyone who stood out in the rain and cheered us on, we all really appreciate it.  Finally yes I was lapped again this time by Will, Jeff and Jason.
Roll on next weekend for the double header, Goose lake where I have never raced and Kincaid park.

20 September 2015

Cyclocross round #3

Another week and another race, although this time the weather was fantastic.
Race #3 was held at Harvard Park in Mountain View.  This week we arrived early and managed to watch all the races.
See here for Race 2 and Race 1 reports.

Course description 

The course starts with a descent and then a climb followed by another descent which brought you into a small ditch crossing.  Pre ride discussion was if it was better to ride or dismount.  Thinking it could potentially end up looking something like this.

We all came to the conclusion that a dismount would be the fastest way across.
Josh proving it could be jumped on a mountain bike

Following this we descended again and took a short forced run up due to barrier placement.  We then descended again before climbing up to the flat section of the course.  After negotiating a tricky left hand bend then a switch back on roots around a couple of trees the course was a flat out grass ride to the far end of the course, aside from a quick descent on gravel with a awkward right turn at the bottom.
We climbed up then hit the pavement back to the start/finish area.  Two more hairpin turns and a pair of barriers separating us from the lap/finish line. 

The Junior race

Fiona's race went really well, the Juniors rode a modified course and seemed to have a lot of fun whilst doing it, it probably helped that It was sunny and they didn't have to negotiate any steep descents which are not really Fiona's strong points. In fact I would go as far as to say if it was slightly downhill she will be off and walking and crying at me, we may have to ride some Hillside trails to get her confidence back up.
Juniors start

Waling the descent though I think she is capable of riding this. 

Running up the descent. 
slowing down some people on their warm up lap

full speed ahead!

My race

Due to the real lap starting with a descent, when racing we negotiate the second half of the course first before we go into real laps.  I had a pretty good race, although I was stung by a bee on lap two which really put me off my game for that lap, although crunching the data afterwards it didn't really slow me down.
I also managed to land on my seat badly and knock it out of alignment (nose up) on lap two as well I think, this is not my first time with this type of seat bolt failing on me in the same way though I don't think I can do much about it aside from over-tightening it.  Its not like I have any weight left to lose.
Overall a good race and a lot less fading towards the end of the race this time, although I was still lapped.  I am again happy with my riding, still loving my bike although need to work out the seat issue. I also need to practice my remounts this week as again that extra step just won't go away, time to break out a video camera and analyse what I am doing wrong.

Here are a couple of shots of me racing thanks to Megan for taking them and looking after Fiona whilst I raced!
Full album of all the fun can be found here
leaping over the grand canyon

remounted before more descending

getting lapped by Jeff and Josh

Trying to hang on to the finish. 
And here is the Strava data, I think if you look at my heart rate you will see I was working perhaps a little to hard.

Results, if you don't like clicking on links.... I got 11th place surpassing all my expectations for this years season... still working on not getting lapped though.
And finally here is a short edit of the race put together by Christina Grande,

Arctic Cross from Christina Grande on Vimeo.

13 September 2015

Cyclocross round #2

After last nights race we all headed out this morning to APU for a fast and frantic race with the killer run walk up.  The weather would be called perfect cross weather for enthusiasts.  Normal people would describe it like this; 50F and rain or very heavy rain, probably best to stay indoors and try to avoid any potential flooding.

The course at APU is mostly flat with the exception of a Denali of a climb where you either push or shoulder your bike for the length of the climb. There are two descents on the rest of the lap are best described as sketchy, especially with the conditions we were riding in today.  This is not a course I would attempt on a single speed bike as the speed on the paved section and the rest of the flats is very high, kudos to those who did.

Fiona again rocked the kids race which thankfully avoids the mountainous climb and consisted of riding around the soft wet grass.  This type of riding is tough on a cross bike, hard on a mountain bike and I can only imagine almost impossible on a 16" or 14" wheeled bike which some of the kids are riding.   Not only that but they have to negotiate the same barriers that we do, a 10" barrier for me is just a little step, for her its almost 1/4 of her height.
Ready to race

Barrier negotiation

Power sucking mud/wet grass
Today my race went a lot better than yesterday (round 1 report), firstly there was no light requirement so my battery was safely in my garage instead of trying to fall off my bike.  I felt fast on the climbs and aside from a few heart racing WTF moments on the descents I was very happy with my race performance.
I am a lot closer to the front of the field compared to last year.  On the other hand once again I was lapped, one of these days I will manage to complete a cross race without being lapped, though I will say compared to last year I am doing much better.   I still enjoying riding my new bike though I will have to clean it tomorrow, the brakes and drive train took a beating today.
Here are a few photos of me and others racing all taken by Paul, thanks buddy!

1st lap second set of barriers 

Slippery flat corner (one of many)

Another slippery flat turn 

how not to cross the barriers WTF was I doing?

Oscar, who was sick and having a bad race/weekend normally he is snapping at my heals or me his. 

course was wet and fast along here
Post race picture, it almost looks like I have not been racing I have so little mud on me.  Whist racing I couldn't understand why people were shouting "how is your jersey so clean?"
I can only put it down to one of two things, I drafted very few people during the race choosing to pass if I had the power or just wasn't close enough and two I think the bike is stopping a lot of the spray, it has a very wide downtube.  What ever it is I am happy :D
Team mate - photo credit Jordy
And finally, Fiona was given the choice after her race if she wanted to go and have hot chocolate with Jana and family or stay and watch, she stayed and later told me it was because she wanted to cheer on her dad.  So proud of this girl!
Awesome cheering squad one of many out there but this one is mine :D
Photo credit Jordy

12 September 2015

Cyclocross round #1

The season kicked off on Friday night, race one was the kids race who raced a modified course.
This is Fiona at the start
Photo Bomb
As always there was a great turn out for the race
Explaining the racing to the racers
The kids rocked the course with some seriously quick times.
the first big hill

Negotiating barriers

Final turn thanks to the helpers (Jeff in this case)

Following the kids race Fiona and I made the dash back across town to put Fiona to bed so that daddy could race, thanks to Savanna for coming over to watch Fiona.  Once the sitter had arrived I headed back to Kincaid for my race.  
I had a really good race after a pretty bad start.  Our race was in the dark so for me I required lights.  Because I am a special kind of special I did a really poor job of attaching my light battery to my frame, it came loose.  I ended up stopping twice during lap one to reattach the battery. Sadly this put me in DFL on lap one.  On the plus side there were lots of people to chase down. 
Here is a shot of me riding into the start/finish straight, not sure what lap but I am all alone so could have been any apart from my last lap. 
Photo Credit - Alec Cervenka

I finished my race without hearing the bell for the last lap, this means the leader passed me whilst he was on his final lap.  
The real plus for me was that I was only lapped by one person and right at the end of my race.  This is most unusual for my cross racing experience.  The bike has clearly made me faster.  Today we are racing again at a different location. Time to go and get dirty! 
Race one


04 September 2015

Here comes Cross season

As mentioned in my previous blog post (Arctic MTB Trifecta AKA climb, climb and climb) marked the end of the MTB racing season here in Anchorage, Alaska.  This can only mean one thing; here comes the cyclo cross season...

In Anchorage the cross season is put on by ArcticCross who organise a 7 race series throughout Anchorage, the venues change around from year to year but the racing is always fun and turnouts usually great and have been getting better and better in previous years.  Although they allow people to race on any bike the courses normally favour a cyclocross bike.  I have never had a cyclocross bike but this year that changed when I ordered one through work.

I built up the bike (a Giant TCX Advanced Pro 2 ) on the 21st August.  The bike is a carbon fibre cyclocross bike that comes with hydraulic disc brakes, Shimano 105 components (although I got Ultegra shifters lucky free upgrade) and through axles front and rear to stiffen up the frame.
Building the bike up
Building up bikes is a fairly routine task, however the joy of being a foreigner, and the oddity that I ride all my bikes with the brakes reversed compared to countries who drive on the "other" side of the road (compared to the UK) means I have to switch my brakes around.

In this instance it means I have to remove the perfectly wrapped bar tape and disconnect a perfectly functioning brake just to switch hoses over.  Hopefully if you are super lucky you won't have to bleed the brakes.... I only had to bleed the front brake so I'm happy with that :D
swapping over the brakes

All done except the pedals
Since getting the bike built up I have taken it riding a couple of times to #CoffeeOutside, a get together with friends before work where we visit a local park and have coffee outside. 
Coffee outside
I have also been out on the bike to practice some of the more specific aspects to riding a skinny tyred bike with drop bars off road, this includes cornering, run ups, dismounts, remounts and jumping barriers. 
informal cross practice
Link to some technique videos for cyclocross

The season kicks off next Friday and I will be there.  Although me racing the first race may not happen, its a little late for Fiona to be staying up and making race two on the Saturday, yes she races too.  I will make my decision later on during the week, once we see how Fiona is coping with no Amanda.
Until next time, ride on all :D
Finally this is what a pro can do on a bike very similar to mine... FYI this is a Downhill course