Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Weeping Willow, Ipswich, MA, EFTA 2011

Chains of broken time...I mean times of broken chains...

A last minute family scheduling change meant I would not be able to attend Domnarski Farm this year. I was looking forward to racing it not only because it's a great climbing race, but also because last year, half way through the second lap, I broke my chain.  My hope was to try to do both laps under 2 hours. But since I had to give this race up, at the last minute I decided to make up for it by doing the Weeping Willow, EFTA race in Ipswich, MA.

I had never raced it and had no idea what to expect, but thought it should be a cake walk compared to Glocester Grind.  Got to the race on time (wtf!), and registered for one of the few remaining spots.  Limit was 400 racers and they were close to it! Our expert Vet II field was 43 deep and had heard there were quite a few roadies who had dusted off their mtbikes for this. I don't think I've ever been in a Cat 1 field that deep (granted this is only my second year as a cat 1 guy!)

The warm up pre-ride showed the course to start out w/ about 1 mile of fire roads before entering a twisty single track w/ some pretty slick roots.  I was actually surprise at how slick some of the turns were.  Also it looked like passing was going to be difficult once on the single track.  Had it not been for the wet roots, and some slick mud in the corners, the course would have been a very fast twisty short up and down non technical race.  Quite fun actually and reminded me of the Root 66 Hodges Dam course.  It was going to be critical to be close to the top 10 when entering the single track to avoid being held back.

The start went w/out a hitch and the long fire road allowed the group to be fairly well sorted out.  I found someone to draft behind all through the fire roads and when we entered the single track, it looked like I was at least in the top 15.  About a 1/2 mile into the single track I was feeling comfortable with the pace. There was a line of riders strung out through the single track, and the group was tight.  There really was no room to dab w/out being passed by the four/ five guys behind me. I needed to stay loose, and error free.  Then it started!  Every time I shifted up, the derailleur would not move to the cog picked, skip, and would take several pedal rotations before before settling in. Barrel adjustments did not seem to make a difference.  Then came a steep short climb.  Sadly at that point my concern was more w/ not giving up any spots than it was w/ my derailleur not picking a stupid cog to stay on.  While the chain was still skipping I tried to just power up the hill and was just about to crest the top, when I lost all resistance at the pedals. The chain had broken.  This was a two day old new XTR chain!  Fhack!  Now what?   I had a quick link but no chain tool to remove the mangled link.

ya know I'm concentrating hard when my tongue is sticking out

Never mind that I had driven 2 hours up, paid $40 in fees and dog knows how much on gas, to ride all of 3 miles!  The real dilemma was that I had not been on a proper training ride since the Glocester Grind race and REALLY needed to get in a good work out.  Fhack!  Out of desperation for any form of exercise I decided to just run the race as fast as I could.

After about two miles of "running", I found a guy lying on the side of the trail w/ someone else putting his bike back together.  I stopped to also offer some help and found out he had crashed and hurt his shoulder pretty badly.  After getting him walking in the right direction, and since there was no way he could ride anymore, he offered me his Sram chain (got to love those quick links). Though at least 20 minutes had gone by since breaking my chain and there would be no way to catch anyone in my group, this would give me at least the chance to finish the race, and get in a good ride!

I finished the race in 2 hours and came in dead last.  It was quite a good course actually.  Not a lot of climbing but twisty and fun and though not technical per say, it did command your attention if you did not want to wash out in the turns or on the wet roots.  I'll certainly be back for it next year! Hopefully w/ a fully functioning drive train...

Lesson learned from this race: if the chain is skipping, run...run up those damn hills!  Loosing a couple of places is better than DNFing!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Glocester Grind, RI. 2011 Edition!

In all my years of racing, I've never ended a race where I cross the finish line screaming at someone.  Of course there is a first time for everything!

Glocester Grind has some pretty technical sections when the course is dry.  Add some water, mix hard, and it gets nasty!

Though it had sprinkled the night before, the weather was still holding when I was driving down to the race (a nice easy 1/2 hour drive for a change!).  The clouds were pretty dark though and it was only a matter of time before the sky opened up!  I don't mind racing in the rain, but I find it pretty awful to be waiting at the start line while it's pouring.  Got to the race late of course, registered, found my brother (who had spend the weekend in the cape and decided to race this instead of his usual NY State series), and got a little warm up on the course to get a sense of what was coming. 

The start was a mess! Once we entered the woods, the roots, and there were lots of them criss crossing the course, were very slick.  At one point I got tangled up w/ a guy who abruptly dismounted right before a mud pit.  A couple of guys, including my brother passed me as I got untangled. It was a little tricky to pass during the first 1/3 of the course as there was pretty much one line through either the rock garden, the mud pits, or over the roots.  Eventually passed my brother again and a little group of 4 or 5 formed.  I was chasing Rich L. and was sticking to his wheel fairly comfortably until I dabbed.  By the time I got going again he had gained, and since I was not getting comfortable on the bike, he was slowly getting away.   I was now also at the back of the little pack, spending way too much time hesitating, and not clearing stuff that I really should.  My confidence was in the shitter and it was fighting the course way too much.  On lap One I dabbed at least 20 times, endoed on the first bridge crossing, had my hr hit 204 bpm after running through rock garden section w/ hill after it ( I noted to myself that I really should drop to the granny before coming to that rock garden so that I could get on the bike right after rocks instead of trying to run up that hill), and fell pretty hard carrying the bike through the last muddy rock garden.  My foot slipped and both I and my pretty carbon bike landed hard on a rock.   I knew I had caused some damage to the carbon (after the race I found a good gash on the top tube, but thankfully no crack- also found a few gashes on my body as well!), but more relevant was that the bike was no longer shifting correctly, the chain was skipping, and every time I came close to the 34 tooth cog, the chain would get stuck between the cassette and the spokes, meaning I would  have to dismount and pull the chain out.   All in all, not a good first lap at all.  Then the sky opened up and rain came... 

By lap two I had lost the gruppeto but was able to fiddle enough w/ the barrel adjustment to hold the chain in place on the bottom 1/2 of the cassette.  I was able to mentally regroup and my technical skills increased exponentially as a results.  For lap Two, I had a couple of dabs, no falls, cleared the bridge no problem, and rode most the course, besides the rock garden with the hill (though rode up the hill) and the last rock garden with the deep mud pits (in which I almost lost my shoe when I stepped into a puddle of mud that was thigh deep!).  Though the course was getting really slick from the mud and rain, I was feeling more and more confident.  By lap three, I cleaned the first rock garden section and in doing so caught and passed three riders. As I got towards the end of the lap, I caught up to a guy I knew was in my category but had to wait to pass.  As we entered the last turn out of the woods and into the clearing to the finish area, I tried to pass him by taking the inside line onto the grassy area. I sped up and was almost passed him, when he purposefully cut me off, making contact with me and sending me into the brush.  I clearly had the better legs and should have beaten him.  When I crossed the finish line, my adrenaline was pumping and I was pissed.  I was yelling at him that he was an A hole and that he knew I had him and should have let me pass.  He replied since he was in front, the inside line was his and I should not have attempted to take it. I replied that he was not in the line when I took it and was next to him when he knocked into me. He later apologized.  I did not apologize back but perhaps should have because I don't know who is actually right.  Maybe I should not have tried to cut the inside line?  I actually don't know what the etiquette is on taking the inside line from behind. Anyways, I got to feel a little like Cavendish at the beginning of this Giro, in that I too was pissing and moaning crossing the finish line...

10th place, which I was quite content with, especially being able to come back from that first lap.  My brother finished pretty close after too. Thanks to the NBX boys for bringing the beer!