Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Coyote Hill Race Report

Jesse and I went up to Fairlee Vermont for the weekend so I could race at Coyote Hill on Sunday. We left on Saturday afternoon and made some stops along the way but with some planning I had Jesse drop me off at Coyote Hill so she could run to the store to get our food supplies for the weekend. It was getting dark and I was on the bike at 7:23pm to pre ride the course.

With the dry weather the past week the conditions were next to perfect. Super fast packed trails and dry roots. After being in the car for half a day and then suddenly drop in on some downhill single track action just made me smile the whole time. I was really having a blast rolling over the roots and rocks without any trouble at all. I was really looking forward to the race being in the same condition.

Rob Stine, single speed extraordinaire, was hanging out at the campfire with Matt Green and some other top notch racers. He told me to check out the hill climb course that they raced in earlier that day. I had never done a hill climb mountain bike course before and I imagined a single track going straight up a hill to the top of the climb. It was a cool single track trail that would go up but also have some switchbacks and flat sections. It didn't take long to climb but I'm sure if you were to race up the hill you would want it to be over very fast.

The Coyote Hills course is a real mountain bike course. It will beat you senseless if you let it, or just ride it ridged and all your body parts will writhe with pain. I would describe the course as lots of roots going every direction and short steeps that only with the small gear of 34x19 you will be able to climb. Slow uphill switchback grinds and fast descents that if you are geared and have full suspension you can really fly on. And mud. Lots of slippery roots and rocks. Holes of mud, and a long section of swamp with logs laying perpendicular. Going ridged on this course is like riding a fixed gear bike on a charity ride. You feel like you are doing the right thing but wonder if there is a better way. Except I didn't raise $17,000 for kids with cancer or get a massage after the race. And the yo-yo effect of being fast on the up hill but couldn't descend worth a darn.

The start of the race is what might have costed me some time. Last week at Winsted Woods I went out hard and the course beat me up bad and I was blown out by the 5 lap. So my approach this time was to hang back on the first lap and maintain a good pace for all 4 laps. It worked but my start sucked. Usually I try to get the hole shot but I was really intimidated by the 40 pro riders all around me. When we started we wound around a grassy field and straight into a single track bottle neck. It seemed like an eternity waiting for the guys to get going. Rob was behind me and said "Just another Sunday ride!" That's how I wanted the race to go. Just another Sunday ride that goes smooth and simple. So then we started up the grassy climb and onto the dirt road where I passed some guys but up ahead the pack was way ahead.

The dirt road climb was long and it finally popped out into a down hill single track. Followed some guys and realized that passing was going to be limited. Out of all the races this was the one to be out front. Like a cross race you don't want to be in the back of the pack. Like I said before the trail was brutally rough and with a ridged bike it made it tough to get any speed on the down hills. By the last lap my hands were blistered and sore. I really could not push it too much because then I would get sloppy and go off trail. I just had to keep it smooth and keep my bike upright. Big ups to all the single speeders that were ridged. Paul Simoes and Rob Stine. Especially Rob who still finished the race with only one cleat. Nice one Rob! Thom Parsons while being a single speed demon was not ridged. Maybe that's why he's so fast. Or is it he rides 50 times more then me and has years of experience. I think that's it.

The second lap I was going up against Mike Rowell. I remembered from last year that he would catch up to me and pass me all the way back from the 40 + group. With his full suspension bike he would dominate the down hills and hammer through the rooty sections. Keeping up with him was a battle. I was able to pass him on lap 2 and 3 on the long dirt road uphill but he would catch me and I would let him go. I did pass some really good riders. A couple of IF riders and some guy with a Kona kit on. Really strong riders, but I think because I was keeping a good pace for myself I was able to out last them somehow.

I felt strong all the way to the end of the race where I would pass Matt O'keefe who was blown out and didn't even try to catch me to the line. Alot of really good riders dropped out because of the course, even with full suspension.

Overall I was happy with my race and felt like I couldn't have done any better. I got 16th out of at least 40 guys. So again somewhere in the middle.

I went to meet up with Josh for a Mt bike ride last night and saw that my chain had blown 5 or 6 roundy things in the links. During the race I kept hearing a ping and thinking it was my cog out of alignment. But halfway though our ride last night the pings kept coming until I was free wheeling both ways. I guess my freewheel was on it's last legs, our pawls. So I'm happy that it lasted me the whole race. I was able to make it back home because the last pawls would hold until I freewheeled. Then it would be spin and bounce my back wheel until it cought again.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Winsted Woods Race Report

I have no excuses this time for you all. That was a tough course but I loved every moment of it. I couldn't have done any better. Monte won on a ridged single speed with the same gearing as me. So sick. He flew up the climbs! I could have gone with a lighter gear but as soon as the flatter single track hit I would be slower then molasses.

The start was insane as usual. Last year I would watch the Pros go off and Greg Carpenter would zoom off the front every time. This was no different. He's a great starter. Seamus Powell was awesome too. Up through the field and into the single track Tim Johnson was right in front of me up the first climb. I just wanted to hang with the big boys as long as I could. The first single track I was behind a guy from Bikers Edge right on his wheel while the leaders were gaping us. Down through the muddy switch back and onto the gravel road I made my move and spun like mad to pass on the down hill and power slid into the single track again. Bikers edge would pass my bonked ass later in the race.

I was feeling pretty good and tried to real in TJ and the rest but couldn't even see them. Randall Jacobs from wheel works was ahead of me now and was gaining distance. John Foley and Monte passed me before the really steep climbs. Monte wanted to pass me on the insane no brakes rocky decent but I yelled to him to hold on to prevent us from crashing into each other. That would have been bad. I was really proud of myself for descending that whole section every lap without touching my brakes once. Then we zoomed up the climb were Monte just sprinted up. Amazing! I cant wait to see him at Singlespeed-a-polooza! Him and Parsons are going to duke it out!

So now I'm just trying to pace myself and I was feeling good. On top of the course it was all roots and rocks and twists and turns. I was happy with my gear choice and was able to stand over all the rough stuff. A full sus bike would be the ideal bike for this course. Even a suspension fork would do wonders.

I got up to the field at the top of the hill just before the sick down hill section and I look back to see my team mate Josh Wilcox just coming into the field. I knew he would catch me but I was surprised that it didn't take him very long to do it. Less then half way down the mountain he was on me. I couldn't believe it. I thought I was bombing down that thing. He is so sick! So we rode together for a couple of laps and by the third one he was gone. My gear had beat me silly and my back was hurting really bad. I have yet to do a course where I stood the practically the whole time. This was it.

My 4th lap was terrible. I started to push my bike up the steep hills and felt like crap. By the end of the down hill section I was ready to quit. It was the closest to quiting that I had ever been. I just kept going. I figured as long as I was moving forward that was good. Surprisingly I was still having fun and enjoying the ride.

Winsted had beaten me. But it was a good beating!
I got 11th place out of 14 riders. How I didn't come in dead last I don't know.

I passed Tim Johnson while he was fixing his bike. I thought I would be able to beat him but he came back and passed me on my final lap as I was so damn tired. He did talk to me and said that he wants to get a rigid bike! I told him he doesn't want one. He said he would keep the gears though. Another guy in my class came spinning by me in the granny gear as I pushed my bike up the hill. He thought it was funny too (that I was pushing my bike as he spun 90 rpms up the climb). I think he said "that's what gears are for."

I was really happy to get cheered on by everyone. I guess riding a single speed automatically gives you some respect. I passed Chris Logan on his last lap and he yells to me "Single speeds rule!" Such a cool guy! I really needed that last bit of encouragement to grind it out into the wind on the field section. Other people would say "go single" as I passed them. Or "go ridged"

Respect! And Monte taking the cake on a ridged single speed for the win! So sick!

Bonesaw is my nickname! One day after seeing Spider Man I kept saying "Bonesaw!" like how Randy Macho-Man Savage says it during the Cage fight. I love that seen.
Nephew Leif Johnson (future pro mountain biker) and Bro-in-law Roger watched me go by on my bike. Thanks for coming!
Special thanks to my wife Jesse for being there to support me and filming. You are the best!