Monday, October 24, 2011

Regaining Perspective at DCCX

This week’s “race report” is going in a slightly more personal direction. I realized at DCCX yesterday that I’ve been burning myself out and starting not to have as much fun at races. I’ve been so busy trying to take the best pictures, write the best blog, etc. etc. that I’ve lost some of the pure enjoyment of races, and I want that back. Because let’s face it, I’m never going to be the best photographer or the best blogger. And that’s okay! That doesn’t mean I can’t try my best, but I need to put it in perspective and get back to FUN.

Needless to say, through no fault of the race, I was in a severely cranky mood most of the day at DCCX, and then dealt with that issue by getting severely shitfaced. Oops! It wasn’t all bad though, I promise! I got to spend the weekend with my two favorite cross ladies, Christine and Rachel, who are awesome and fun and kick some serious ass. Christine got second in the 3/4 race and will now be moving up to a 2 – congrats, lady! Especially well-earned since she’s a New Englander and races in the large and tough women’s fields up there.

Team-wise, Sportif had another great race; despite a poorly timed flat that lost him the win, Jon Hicks moved into first place in the series for the master’s men 3/4 35+. Allyson Tufano took third in the elite women’s race and three of the elite master’s men finished in the top 15, with Jay Morali taking 7th.

So lessons learned? Next race I’m going to return to the “old school” – walk around with the dog, cheer for my friends, ring the cowbell. Hang out in the team tent, help pin numbers, and just have fun. That’s who I am, and what races have been about for me in the past. I’m ready to get back.

But for the meantime, here’s my photoset from yesterday.

And finally, big, massive props are due to all the promoters of DCCX; the race is a true gem, right in the heart of DC. A wonderful race day environment, unique setting, tasty food, and a race course that gets better and better every year. Congrats on five years, can’t wait to see what it’s like in another five!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Fall Masterpiece – Granogue CX 2011

Another year of Steve not being able to race Granogue, boo! But always a worthwhile race to journey north for, in terms of the racers there, the quality of the course, and the sheer scope.

We got there right after the Women’s 3/4 race kicked off and I got to cheer for my favorite ladies, Rachel and Christine. Unfortunately Rachel had a mechanical early in the race and had to drop out, but Christine raced a smart and strong race and finished in the top ten. I only get to see Christine race once or twice a year since she lives in New England, but the girl always brings it.

After catching up with some friends Steve and I wandered back towards registration and the area further back near the cornfield to watch the Elite Masters Men’s race. After we watched them come by, we walked over to the run-up in the woods to watch them there. After waiting for far longer than it should have taken them to come around, we wandered back up to the main area and learned that there had been a serious crash on the starting line. When I saw the police helicopter land, my heart just sank. I was at Schooley Mill last year when a racer had a heart attack, but I have never seen a cross race completely stopped and someone medevac-ed out before. It really cast a pall over the race, but later in the day we heard that the two fellows involved in the crash should be okay.

The next race was the UCI Elite 17-18 Juniors, and I went back to the run-up in the woods for the duration of the race. I read somewhere last week that this is one of only five UCI 17-18 races in the US, so it’s pretty special to get to see these kids race. Apparently local favorite Sam O’Keefe of C3 has been having a great start to his season, but unfortunately on Saturday he was bested by the young men from the Clif and Bob’s Red Mill developmental squads.

The UCI Elite Women’s race was dominated by Laura Van Gilder, who I’m pretty sure has won this race every year I’ve been there. And Allyson from our team posted a solid mid-pack result. The UCI Elite Men’s race was a display of masterful technical ability and speed, as always. A lot of the elite New England racers made the trek down and they have a slick and speedy racing style that is fun to watch. I observed primarily from the two run-ups, the one in the woods and the main one below the iconic water tower. Many of the men in this race were able to ride one or both of them, some more easily than others. As in the women’s race, the eventual winner Justin Lindine ran away with the lead for most of the race.

And finally after the sun was starting to sink in the western sky, off went the Men’s 2/3/4 race. The whole JBV crew (Eric, Brett, Chris) raced well and posted good results, but the real star was Matt Bartlett. Starting in the 13th row, he methodically worked his way back up to the front, and even the lead. An unfortunately timed crash at the top of the hill near the end of the final lap ensured a third place finish, but it was a remarkable come from behind.

As our reward for a hard day of (watching) racing, we stopped for delicious homemade ice cream with Rachel and Eric at the Woodside Creamery on our way home. Although we weren’t able to make it up for Day 2 this year, it was still another fabulous fall day spent at Granogue.

I’ll be posting the 500+ pictures I took on SmugMug over the next few days, for now, you can check out my pictures from Saturday’s UCI Elite Men’s race. Thanks!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Psycho Cross: We made a race!

At a lot of events things looks great to the attendees, but behind the scenes there is often chaos. I’m not sure how often that happens with bike races, but it definitely works like that at other work-related events I’ve been involved in. This past Saturday was Psycho Cross in Sykesville, MD, the first race put on by the Western Howard County Cycling club (WHCC) and the new Sportif Coaching Group/BPB team. Since Steve is on the team, I’m claiming the royal “we” here and saying it’s my team too. I’ve worked at the Murad road race twice in the past, but this was my first time working a cross race, and from my point of view, it was practically perfect.

The morning dawned cool and foggy, but the sun quickly rose and the warm up began. I was working registration with Emily, G’s fiancĂ©e, and we had a steady, but manageable flow of people all day. Everyone seemed excited about the course, and the races all went off very well. No major problems with results either that I could discern.

The only bad thing about working a race is that you don’t get to WATCH the races. By the time the last race went off and registration was done, I was too exhausted to even take a walk around the course. Working registration was a lot of fun though, in addition to getting to catch up with the people I already know, I got to put a lot of names and faces together; I think I may have freaked some people out by knowing who they were before they even gave me their license!

But back to my beginning point about behind the scenes chaos – there was none. The race was remarkably well run, everything was smooth and one time, and apparently the course was a gem as well. If you didn’t go this year, you should really come check it out next year. I think this has potential to be like the Winchester race: a sleeper hit the first year, and now in its third year one of the premier events in the region.

Thanks to everyone who came out, and many congratulations to the entire team, especially Mike Birner, Chris Harshman, Mike Neary, and Jon Hicks for creating and running a fabulous race. It was a pleasure to be in your employ for the day!

Monday, October 3, 2011

When did it get so darn cold? Or, 2011 Winchester Apple Cross

This was a good weekend, after being away on vacation on the west coast last weekend. I finally started to feel like I was getting my photo mojo back this weekend at Winchester. I skipped BCA because Steve was still out of town and I had other plans, but we still managed to drag ourselves out of bed and into the unseasonably cool weather of the Winchester Apple Cross.

This is definitely a great course, and always seems to be a favorite of the riders. There was one big change this year though: three “steps” were added to the Belgian Wall in the back to force a run-up. Purely from the point of view of a spectator, it made that part of the race less interesting. There are never as many people over there watching as there should be because it’s just about the complete opposite end of the course from parking, registration, and the pavilion. I’d love to see it turn into something like the back nine at Ed Sander, but as Steve astutely pointed out, unlike that race there’s just not much to see from this vantage point other than the wall. Last year we got a decent crowd going during the elite races and it was really exciting to see who would be able to ride the wall, who would try and fail and lose time, and who would just start running from the bottom. It was still a great vantage point this year, but some of that excitement was gone.

So end result was that I was only over there for the elite masters men’s race, and then spent most of the rest of the time in the main area by the pavilion. Hung out in the team tent and the new team, Sportif Coaching Group/BPB, continues to post solid results in the masters races and the elite women’s race. Plus they’re a pretty good group of people to hang out with.

Here are my pictures from the race, if you’re interested in checking them out:

Next weekend I’ll be working registration at Sykesville Psycho Cross so come for a great day of racing and say hi!