Monday, May 31, 2010

Bellingham Olympics!

Memorial day weekend in Bellingham. That means Ski to Sea! For those of you who don't know, Ski to Sea is a 7-leg relay race starting at the Mt Baker Ski area and finishing on the beach in Fairhaven. The race has gained popularity over the years and become more than just a big local event.

For the third time, I raced for Whatcom County Open team When I raced the event in '07 and '08 I raced the road bike portion. This year I was happy to race the mountain bike leg. The 14 mile mountain bike course is actually more like a cyclocross course, featuring a mix of wet bumpy grass, gravel, cement, mud and even railroad tracks! A great course considering the lack of terrain available to work with in the floodplain between Ferndale and Bellingham.

I must have been excited to race off-road after all the recent road racing, because I ended up posting the fastest time of the day! Team captain/friend, Jim, let me borrow his carbon 29er for the event and it definitely helped me go fast! As a team, we were 2nd from Whatcom County and 8th overall. My teammates, Steve George, Jim Clevenger, Sam Alexander, Phil Elsasser, Jesse Allen, Peter Scherrer, and Joost Zeegers all did amazing!

Beer and Top-Gun trophy!
Photo: Suzanne Marie

After the race, we celebrated at the shop. Let me just say, it was a fun night! I already look forward to Ski to Sea weekend 2011!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Nationals - part two

I failed to mention in my previous post the awesome evening we had on Friday. My teammate, Ryan's family had all of us over for dinner. We drank beer and wine, ate lots of good food, including fresh Wisconsin cheese curds, and met many of Ryan's awesome family members. Totally refreshing after living off of peanut butter, bananas, and sandwiches!

Another thing that I meant to bring up earlier is the amazing support we had while at nationals. Former WWU rider, Joe and current B team rider Joey, aka "The Joes," drove Ben's van all the way to and from Madison! They missed school and work so they could drive a total of over 60 continuous hours in order to transport our bikes and gear. Totally amazing! This trip could not have happened without them!

Despite what the weather report had predicted, it was still cold, windy, and rainy on Saturday. We were pretty worried about our races because we knew the course had very slick pavement, with a lot of slippery white traffic lines. Luckily, however, by the time Courtenay raced at 3, the rain had subsided and the course had dried out. She had a great race, looked strong, and finished mid-pack.

The course itself was a four corner square surrounding the Wisconsin capitol building. One corner of the square was about 30 feet lower than the opposite corner and all the turns were fast and rounded. Not a technical course like I would prefer, but a very cool setting, nontheless!

In the men's race, I started and followed a few moves, but was always brought back. It was clear that nobody was going to let a break get away after what had happened in the road race. The fast, non-technical nature of the course may have also acted as a breakaway deterrent. With 5 laps to go, Mesa State took control of the front. Ian Crane and I sat just behind their leadout, but a lot of riders were fighting for the same position. After some sketchiness and near-wrecks on the last lap, the lead-out lost its organization and I lost my good spot coming out of turn 3. I fought hard, but the damage was done. 10th place for me. Ian had a slightly better finish, coming in 7th.

Saturday night we attended the awards banquet. Ian and I thought we may have been top-5 for the individual omnium, but it turns out we were 6th and 7th. He wasn't happy to see that I edged him out by only 1 point, which was from a prime in the crit. Better luck next year!

The next morning, we awoke to sunshine and warmer temps for the team time trial. The race was an 18 mile out-and-back starting and finishing at the Trek headquarters in Waterloo. Ben, Ryan, Steve, and I rode smoothly and efficiently to second place behind Mesa State. Whitman rode very well to 3rd, only 4 seconds behind us.

Afterwards, all the teams crowded into the Trek building for the second awards banquet. We ate Qdoba-hosted tacos and checked out Lance Armstrong's Tour-winning bikes. Pretty cool! We recieved our medals for the time trial and also for being 5th in the team omnium. Go Vikings!

To sum it up, I had a great time racing and experiencing a part of our country that i've never known a lot about. Despite the weather, Wisconsin was a really cool place. Good riding, food, and culture. I'll admit, not what I expected.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Collegiate Road Nats Road Race

I guess I can't complain much since I am "used to riding in this kind of weather," being from Bellingham and all, but that was definitely some of the nastiest weather I've raced in.

We rolled out of our hotel in Madison, WI to the location of the road race course, Blue Mound State Park. The park itself is a big wooded hill, apparently the highest point in southern Wisconsin. Getting kitted and ready proved challenging with eight people piled in the van trying to stay warm and dry. 42 degrees, windy, pissing rain. Fantastic.

The race started with a long, fast, snaking downhill which was a little scary with 80 riders jockeying for position in the pouring rain at 50mph. The next couple miles, now on rolling terrain, saw a few attacks and a 4 man break formed, which included Colin Gibson from Whitman. We all thought at the time that there was no way a break that early in that tough of a race would ever stay away. We were wrong.

The course had a couple short but very steep (10-15%) climbs and one long climb (1.5 miles at 8-10%) with the finish being after an additional mile of steep climbing. Colin and the other three riders gained as much as 4 minutes on the peloton throughout the day. On lap 4 of 5 my teammate Ben followed an attack from a Furman rider and the two of them worked on bridging up to the break. Consequently, at the same time, another teammate, Steve, flatted and had to chase back to the pack for a few miles. Nice work catching back on Steve!

When we hit the big climb the last lap, the pack had been beaten down to only 25 riders. Good news for WWU though because Ryan, Steve, and I were all still there with Ben still up the road! Nice. We started climbing and Steve put a good dig in that hurt a lot of people. I kept the pace high and rode clear of any followers. I caught Ben near the feed zone and we worked together for a bit. He was still riding strong despite having been off the front the last 20 miles.

The final half mile to the finish hurt pretty bad. Felt steeper than it looked. I rolled through the finish in 6th place. Ian Crane from Whatcom CC came in shortly after in 8th, Ben held off most of the pack for 12th, Steve was 15th, and Ryan 25th. Colin from Whitman stayed strong after being off the front all day and finished 5th. In the women's race, Courtenay rode super tough to 11th place. These results put our team in 2nd place in the team points omnium after the first event. Go team!

Next up is the crit. As of now(1pm Saturday afternoon), it's still cold and windy, with occasional rain and hail showers. Could be a wild one!