Saturday, December 31, 2005


Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
md science center

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Let my inspiration flow

Somewhere in France

The last part of the Col du Glandon climb

Inspiration, move me brightly
light the song with sense and color,
hold away despair
More than this I will not ask
faced with mysteries dark and vast
statements just seem vain at last
some rise, some fall, some climb
to get to Terrapin

Waterfall shadow

Waterfall shadow
Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
I was experimenting with different shutter speeds on the new camera and got this cool effect with the water pouring over the dam in Dickeyville, MD.


Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
The last shave had been Thursday, December 8 in Providence, RI. After ~3 weeks the stubble was getting to be a pain in the ass so I cleaned it up. With my next race months away there's no frickin reason to shave the legs other than the fact that it feels good and makes me feel fast while I'm doing sloooooooow base miles.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

First Christmas

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
After a few minutes of wondering what was going on Thor got into the spirit and had fun playing with the wrapping paper and his new wiffle balls. We'll bust out his new bath toys and bubbles later.

He digs his new chair, but he hasn't quite realized that if he lunges forward he'll face plant so we're staying close by until he learns that concept.

Next Christmas there should be a tricycle under the tree. Gotta start 'em young!

Joyeux Noel

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
Our 8 month old Christmas gift is enjoying himself this morning.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

The euros have a lot of big 'cross races around Christmas and New Year's. That would be cool, but I'm enjoying taking 'er easy for a while. Mel & I got out on the mtb's for a couple of hours yesterday. The trails were either dry & fast or covered in ice depending on which way they were facing. We ran low pressure on the tires and enjoyed the ride. We had to walk a few spots where there was zero traction and a crash was assured. It felt good to get back out on the bike for a mellow ride in the woods.

That's enough bike talk for now...

Eat, Drink, & Have a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Aubisque horse

Aubisque horse
Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
Here's one of the horses hanging out on the side of the road on the col d'Aubisque.

It was a foggy day meaning that you could just about smell the critters that had wandered onto the road before you could see them.

I did alright until I almost wiped out spectacularly on the valley road while taking off my rain cape. The jacket got stuck and I freaked when I saw a truck approaching on the narrow road. I came close to eating it, but somehow corrected it. That would have been the end of the trip.

Good times.

Dreaming of mountains

Aubisque shrouded in fog (2003)

This is one of the tunnels coming off the col d'Aubisque in the Pyrenees.
The road is narrow.
There are random goats and horses wandering about.
The guardrail is pretty useless.
And instead of a shoulder there's just a lot of exposure.

It's a hell of a climb and a white knuckle descent.

This is the type of image and memory that my mind drifts back to this time of year.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Natz videos and thinking about 2006

Henry Jurenka shot some fantastic video footage at 'cross natz.

Here is a link to his videos of the 35-39 race on Friday. They convey the intensity & harshness of the weather. The weather and race were epic. I'm glad that someone was there to document the event.

Thanks Henry!

I've been enjoying time off the bike and time eating and drinking a beer or two. It feels good to let the training go and relax without feeling stressed about it. I'm starting to get the itch to get back out and ride...maybe this weekend. It'll be easy, fun rides for a while with a lot of time on the SS mtb and fixie on the road.

Next season will see me more focused on the mountain bike and 'cross. I've done a handful of mtb races in the past and never gotten any decent results, but my fitness is much improved since then. I'll be doing some XC Sport races and perhaps some SS. We're also looking at doing 12 hours of Lodi Farms, 24 hours of Big Bear and either the Wilderness 101 or Shenandoah Mountain 100. All that will be for fun and pride...and the camping.

Once again cyclocross will be the focus of the racing season. I felt good this year, but my racing time was limited. I'm planning on hitting most of the MAC races next year, either in the Masters or B classes. I'll have to think about that one. The Masters race earlier, which would get me home sooner (though I enjoy hanging out at the races all day when I can). The racing will be tough and the fields large in both.

It'll be all good either way. I just enjoy riding and racing my bike. Results are nice when the happen, but the experience is rewarding enough.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

i like books

i like books
Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
I like books...they're delicious.


Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
Thor after a nice soak in the tub contemplating how much of a fuss he's going to whip up before going to bed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Natz Race Report

'Cross Nationals 35-39 Race
Friday, December 9, 2005

I don't think I can fully capture how extreme the conditions were at this race, but I'll attempt to describe the day from my perspective.

I awoke to heavy snow out the window ensuring that the course we had pre-ridden the day before would be completely different for our race. I grabbed a huge breakfast with Sean, Phil, and Chris at a diner around the corner. Blueberry pancakes, eggs, hash browns, and OJ would provide the fuel necessary to drive the engine and keep the heater going. Those guys were all doing the 30-34 race after mine, but they were cool enough to give me a ride to the park early.

Road conditions were shit and when we hit the interstate the snow changed over to rain making everything a slushy mess. Phil got us there safely and snagged a sweet parking spot just down the hill from the Alan team tent. I lugged my gear up to the tent and put on rain pants, rain cape, etc. for the warm-up. Thankfully the Gerlak's took care of my pit bike and delivered it right to the pits. That was a huge help.

After getting geared up I chugged an Extran to get a few more calories in my system since it was clear that I was going to need them. The wet and cold was sure to drain my energy quickly.

Once the 40-44 race/death march finished I hopped on the course in the blowing rain for one lap to check things out. It was a lot different from the prior day. In terms of surface there was a bit of everything: snow, ice, mud, ruts, leaves, and deep puddles. After letting more air out of my tires I started to get good traction and felt pretty comfortable on the course. Some of the short & steep ride up's from Thursday were now slippery mud run up's. That meant that there were 6 or 7 dismount and run sections per lap. This was good.

With all of the clothes on the cold was not bothering me, though my fingers were getting numb. Keeping the fingers warm and working was going to be a big challenge during the race. I opted to go with just a thin pair of full fingered gloves in hopes that I could keep enough circulation going to maintain some feeling in my digits. Thick gloves would just give me even less dexterity for shiting and braking.

I headed down to the line to begin staging. Riding around had been ok, but standing still in the cold pouring rain sucked royally. When we got the 5 minutes to go call I started to take clothes off. I would have liked to have waited until the last minute to strip down, but I had nobody to take my stuff so I had to tie it up in a grocery bag and stash it on the side of the road. With the rain pants and jacket off my core temperature dropped dramatically. I tried jumping up and down to keep warm, but it was no use in that wind and rain.

I lucked into a money spot on the front row because I was one of the first people to register. Did I belong on the front row? No...but I didn't make the rules. With 14 lanes across and a wide road there was plenty of room for racers to move up in a hurry.

The opening stretch of road was a mess as it was covered in snow, ice, and slush. There was one good line on the inside that had been cleared by the previous race. I was lined up on the outside in the slop.

Waiting for the start I was excited about the race, but nervous about the start. 100+ racers playing demolition derby on the snow and ice was not a comforting thought. Just prior to the whistle fatMarc let out a primal scream in the spirit Ric Flair. Good stuff! That broke the tension briefly and then we were off!

I got into the pedals cleanly and hauled ass up the road. Eventual winner Shannon Skerrit came screaming by me on the right and just lit it up. If I could have grabbed his wheel I would have, but he is at a different level. I was slipping a bit in the slop so I tried to work my way over into the clear lane. Guys were all over the place trying to move up before the turn onto the grass. My bars got hooked by somebody that gave me a body check in an effort to squeeze past. I got a foot out in time to tripod skid long enough to regain my balance and keep motoring. I didn't go down, but I lost a lot of speed and got passed by a ton of guys. Things slowed down in the first turn so I moved outside and hopped the curb.

That got me some daylight, but now I was in some deeper snow and slush in the grass, not the good line. I kept going and took the first dip into the candy bowl on the outside. It was chaos everywhere with bikes and bodies all over the place so I dismounted and hoofed it up onto the flat before remounting. Defending champ Richard Feldman was off his bike here fixing a dropped chain...bummer for him.

Onto the off-camber paralleling the start-finish it got crazy again. I took a nice shoulder from someone on the high line and was pushed to the bottom of the slope. I kept going, but lost more spots as we approached the u-turn by the pits. In the turn somebody decided to body surf the muddy snow and we came to a halt. I picked my way up against the fencing and got moving again.

Basically, my start sucked. By all rights I should have crashed at least twice in the opening minute, but I managed to stay on my bike. Plus, my fingers were numb within the first 100 meters. Once we got to the barriers things started to go my way. I passed a couple of guys over the planks and then found a clean outside line in the next dip as 4 guys came down trying to squeeze through on the inside. I got by them and kept going.

From then on I felt amazing. I was so focused on riding the course cleanly that I wasn't bothered by the cold, the wind, the ice, or the deep puddles. With each section I gained more confidence. I really felt in tune with the flow of the course and knew where I could open it up and where I needed to back it off. The tires hooked up on everything, the pedals cleared easily, and the bike handled like a dream. I was aware of the conditions and the other racers on the course, but I was really riding in a zone where all of that was far in the background.

I was riding my own race and each time I came upon another racer I would make the pass and keep going. Usually I'm looking over my shoulder, but that day I was only focused on catching and passing the next rider in front of me. I didn't have tremendous legs, but I wasn't making any mistakes and my transitions on and off the bike were smooth. My riding was efficient on a day when riding cleanly gained you a lot of time and places.

My fingers were frozen so shifting was very difficult and even holding onto the bars became a challenge, but it was all good. I kept it in a pretty big gear and only shifted a couple of times per lap. When I did shift I had to visually guide the finger to the lever and will it to move. It was an adventure.

As the conditions got worse I felt better, knowing that the weather was taking it's toll on the competition. I had visualized horrible conditions the day before and promised myself that I would keep going no matter what. I was prepared for the suffering. The weird thing is that I was actually having a freaking blast. I think I was smiling most of the second half of the race.

One part where I wasn't smiling was on the finishing road stretch. The wind and ice were pummeling me and making forward progress a real struggle. Tents were blown everywhere and the metal fencing lining the road had been knocked over by the gale force winds. The venue looked like a ghost town as most everyone had fled for shelter.

After crossing the line I started to realize how bad things had gotten. All of a sudden I realized how cold I was. My fingers wouldn't work and I was starting to shake. I made my way towards our tent, but I couldn't find our was gone courtesy of the wind. Thankfully, my teammates yelled at me from a minivan telling me to get inside. I dropped my bike and climbed into the driver's seat. Suzy and Morgan Gerlak were in there helping Auer thaw out.

Immediately my fingers were throbbing in pain as they thawed out. They assured me that the pain would subside in about 5 minutes, but that didn't help me much. I was practically screaming and on the verge of tears as the pain became worse.

As I wailed they helped me out of my soaking wet gear and into dry clothes. After a few minutes I was able to laugh, even as I continued to shiver and shake. We shared stories from the race as the blizzard raged outside coating our bikes in a thick layer of frozen muck.

157 people had registered, 115 had started, and only 68 had finished (43 on the lead lap). Kris had ridden to 11th place, just short of his goal of top 10, but still an impressive ride given the conditions. I ended up 35th...nothing too impressive, but after a horrible start I was very proud of my ride. I rode as aggressively as possible, didn't crash, and passed a lot of guys the last 3 laps. This was my first big race against a high quality national field and I learned a lot from the experience.

After I had thawed out I grabbed my frost covered bike and made my way down to Phil's car. Conditions were so bad that the final two races of the day were postponed until Saturday. Conditions were really that bad. I've heard many stories of hypothermia, frostbite, and overwhelmed medical personnel. It was rough. Phil drove us back to the hotel in horrendous traffic. The 3 mile trip took us over an hour. However, his heater was cranking and the stereo was working so we listened to tunes and shared a bag of Jelly Belly Sport Beans as we creeped along in the blizzard.

Later that evening I got the call that Thor had come down with the stomach flu that I had battled earlier in the week. I felt horrible that he was sick so I threw my crap in the suitcase and grabbed a cab for the airport. I was able to get on a 9pm flight home and walked in the door at 11. I was sorry to miss the B race and all of the festivities, but there was no way I could stay in Providence while my son was sick for the first time.

I'll be back next year with renewed confidence ready to race and party for the duration!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Natz #1

Yesterday I was able to eat 3 full meals...scratch that...I wasn't just ~able~ I was really and truly hungry. I was happy to welcome my stomach back from it's long and lonely journey.

The trip up was a breeze. I walked out of my front door at 8:15 this morning and landed in Providence at 10:15. There were 24 people on the flight so there was plenty of room to spread out.

It is cold as the proverbial miner's left nut up here. Today was sunny, but tomorrow the shit is hitting the fan. 100% chance of snow...6ish inches all coming down during the day (races). My first race (35-39) is tomorrow at 1:00pm so it should be epic.

We got over to the course a little before 2pm and saddled up. The course is pretty extreme. There are long stretches of road mixed up with very technical bits in the grass. There are two forced runs made of "stairs" thrown up on the slope and one forced run up a set of concrete stairs. There are a lot of little ups, downs, and off cambers. The snow and ice make it all treacherous.

The first lap was a little scary, but once I started trusting my tires to hook up I really started to enjoy the track. I did 6 laps checking out lines and getting a few efforts in. I started to get a good feel for the course and the flow, but tomorrow will be a lot different with fresh snow coming down and on the ground.

I'm all cleaned up now and starting to get hungry. Once everyone is washed up we're going to scout out a good dinner and then put our feet up. Tomorrow is going to be fun, but it's going to take a lot of energy, energy that I'm not sure I have after being so ill. I'll be on form mentally at least. I'm going to have to get myself super amped up to compete and give my best. This is the big show (for me at least) and the culmination of a fun season. I'm looking forward to lining up with 160! guys in my race and having some fun.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I ate breakfast today!

Hell yeah!

I ate breakfast today!

I've eaten very little since Friday and I'm down about 6 pounds.
That's great for getting ready for beach season, but it sucks the week of 'cross nationals.

So, I ate breakfast today and then not much else.
I'm going to try to eat a baked potato now even though I don't feel hungry at all.
I'm way past the whole getting ill part, but my appetite is gonzo.

Oh well, my body is weak, but my mind is strong.
Even in my depleted state I'm fired up about my first time racing Natz.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


My plan was to race both days this weekend at Fair Hill, but at about 11:30 Friday night I started to get sick. I spent all night puking and basically peeing out of my ass with diarhhea. Man, it sucked! I was so sore and achey that I couldn't get back to sleep for more than 15 minutes at a time.

On Saturday I was pretty much in bed all day and managed to get a couple of 1-2 hour naps in with the help of a heating pad, but I still could not get comfortable. By 5pm I tried to eat something and managed 1 bite of toast and three spoonfuls of soup. That's all I could handle.

Last night I actually slept really well until about 4:30, when my back started to get sore from being in bed so much.
I'm going to try to eat something now to supplement my diet of Gatorade.

The last time I got this I turned it into a nice weight loss, but that's not what I need just days before Nationals, but I'll rally.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Reston Cross

Capital 'Cross Classic

Lake Fairfax Park
Reston, VA

My very first 'cross race was at Reston two year ago. It's always a fun course & a hard race...and that's just what I was looking for last weekend.

I like courses that emphasize bike handling ability.
There were a few technical sections mixed in with some longer power stretches.
I could have used another dismount, but I can’t complain about the course.
It was fast and flowed, but was not easy, and most definitely not a grass crit.

I did a few recon laps and practiced the trickier turns over and over. I got them pretty well dialed in and felt confident about my lines and speed.

I got a good spot in the scrum and started the race pretty well. After a few turns I found myself at the front of the group that had not made the front of the race. The gap wasn’t much and I thought about burying myself to get on the tail of the lead group, but that would have blown me up pretty quickly.

Instead I rode my own pace, pretty much at my sustainable limit, and let a handful of guys go as they jumped to bridge the gap. The first technical section strung out the field and opened more gaps.

For the next few laps I kept the effort steady and held my position, just behind a couple of guys and just in front of Dave Fahnestock and Wayne Scott. I tried to keep my focus in front of me and eventually I caught up to Montana Norvell as we headed up the road to finish a lap.

When we hit the grass I passed him and just tried to up the pace a little. I got a little gap and once we hit the next technical section it opened up even more as I focused on riding cleanly through the slick stuff.

That was the story of the rest of the race. Each lap I tried to go just a little bit harder on the power sections and kept it smooth in the technical sections. I was hurting, but my confidence was growing as I seemed to be getting stronger as the race progressed.

Starting the last lap I was getting closer to my teammate Dusty Labarr. With encouragement from Georgia Gould…who was yelling at me to catch Dusty and make him suffer 8-) I finally closed the gap just before the short & steep little muddy rise. When we hit the road I started sprinting and we went shoulder to shoulder all the way to the line. It was close, but I got him by just inches.

While it was only for 19th place it was still a lot of fun and good racing. As I’ve said before one of the beauties of ‘cross is that no matter where you are in the field you’re still doing some pretty intense racing. The encouraging thing that I took away from Reston was that I got stronger late in the race. Normally I start strong and just try to hang on, but on Sunday I saved just a little bit for the last few laps.

So that’s two 19th places in MAC races this season. Next year the plan is to do all the MAC races in order to score some early points and get call-up’s. I like the scrum and all, but it makes it a lot harder to get clear of the fray and get a result.

This weekend is the Fair Hill double. I’m looking forward to the races, but my real focus is the following weekend at Nationals. At Fair Hill I’ll look to get in a couple of solid rides, but not go too deep. I want to make sure that I get fully recovered and am fresh for Providence.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
1st thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Nationals Preview?

Originally uploaded by girl_named_fred.

Searching Flickr I found some photos of Roger Williams Park in Providence, RI where Cyclocross Nationals will take place in just over 2 weeks.

I haven't heard any details about the course so I thought it would be a good idea to get a feel for the terrain of the park. It takes some imagination, but from the looks of the photos this is a fantastic location for a 'cross.

In this photo it appears that there are enough hills to make for some decent elevation gain, as well as to design some tricky off-camber features.

It could be like this...

Originally uploaded by eepie.

There's a decent chance that this is what we'll be dealing with. Rhode Island in December. Cold, Snow, Ice, Wind. What kind of tires and pressure do you run in snow?


Originally uploaded by eepie.

This section has good potential. Cut back the brush just a bit and you have a choice...ride up the left side or run up the stairs.

yup, stairs

Originally uploaded by eepie.

Yeah, by the looks of it they'll find some stairs to run us up. Yippee!


Originally uploaded by Angus D..

I expect we'll be routed through the woods. This doesn't look flat so it should make for some fun stuff.


Roger Williams Park
Originally uploaded by gergelyd.

Dare they use these stairs?


Temple To Music - one year later
Originally uploaded by girl_named_fred.

They say the course will be fast.
Here's some pavement.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Hokies vs Hoos

So...the Hokies kicked our ass yesterday, in Charlottesville taboot.

At least some good came out of it as we collected a lot of food for the Central Virginia Food Bank.

My Dad and Brother came up with this great idea and made it happen, but I got some erroneous credit for it in a news story last year and the myth has been perpetuated.

Anyhoo, I'm just glad that some positive jonxe has been created out of a silly college football rivalry.

From The Richmond Times-Dispatch

Saturday, November 19, 2005
Ray Mcallister's "Point of View" column

Tech people are rednecks.

U.Va. people are silly snobs.

Time to settle it with the second annual "Hokies vs. Hoos for the Hungry" between fans, a game-week competition for donations to the Central Virginia Foodbank.

Virginia Tech grad (and 1-800-G0T-JUNK? franchisee) Wayne Nystrom and his sons, Tech grad Jon and Virginia grad Chris, set up the "food fight."

Food or donations can be left at any Kroger grocery store through today, the day of the big football game.

Tech fans narrowly won last year. This year, they lead 3,267 can-equivalents to 2,029 (updates at

C'mon, Cavs, let's beat'em!

C'mon, Hokies, let's beat'em!

This is terrific.

But you know, wouldn't a real food fight be great, too?

Monday, November 14, 2005

It's a boy!!!

Racing yesterday and a new Dad today!
rpcx bernie

Bernie and Tina McDonald (mostly Tina) gave birth today to Sean Oscar McDonald sometime around 2:30pm. Baby and Mom are doing well!

The numbers
6 pounds, 3.5 ounces
18.5 inches

What timing! Yesterday was Bernie's last 'Cross race of the season since Tina was due with their first child in 3 weeks time. Tina was looking great and enjoying the sunshine as she cheered us on. Melanie and Thor were giving her last minute tips on parenthood and babyhood.

Congratulations to Tina and Bernie...and welcome to Sean! They are on cloud 9 right now and I am so happy for them!

photo courtesy of John Brewer

Race Pace 'Cross Photos & Words

Race Pace 'Cross
Sykesville, MD
B race
weather: 70's and sunny

My training has been spotty so I'm really counting on the races to build some form for Nationals.
Sunday was a good power workout. There weren't a lot of places where you had to use the brakes so there weren't a lot of accelerations like we had at Lower Allen.

This track was very fast with a mix of paved paths, bumpy grass, and deep grass. The first half was crit-like --> fast, with some no-brakes turns, and one little chicane that brought you almost to a halt. The middle part of the lap came by the pits with a few fast grassy curves that you could rail. Then it was a downhill leading to a set of barriers that were spaced pretty far apart. The high speed barriers were fun, but not a distinguishing aspect of the course.

After the barriers was a fast and fun downhill into a sweeping left to an "S" turn transition onto a paved path. The path wound downhill before bending back up the slope going right into the difficult part of the course. First up was a bumpy, deep grassy uphill that eventually leveled out before a quick drop and off-camber left immediately into a short & steep hill.

rpcx steep hill kd

This was tough, but ridable as long as you didn't blow the line in the turn or crash. At the top was a seemingly long, gradual grassy climb with one short steep pitch.

Coming back by the pit the course returned to a paved path for the last 50m of the climb. This climb was very draining with a couple of steep bits to hurt you. It was hard to stay on the gas up this climb lap after lap. Once at the top it was a high speed downhill "S" curve back to the grassy finishing straight.

Laps were fast at around 6 minutes.

Based on previous MABRA races I figured that the scrum was the way to get a good starting position so I loitered near the course entrance for a good 20 minutes prior to the start time.
Sure enough, there was talk of call-up's, but none actually happened. I got a spot on the front row and got into the pedals cleanly on the whistle.

rpcx start 2

I was happy to be up front, but didn't want to go too hard and blow up pulling the whole field around the first lap. I went just hard enough to keep it single-file, but hoped that someone else would take the reins. Thankfully, FJ Hughes, rocking the sweet Duvel kit, passed me and led it out. He was pushing the pace on the straights, but slowing too much on the turns.

rpcx lap 1

I took the barriers really fast to pass him approaching the tough part of the course.

rpcx barriers 3 kd

I still didn't want to be on the front, but I also didn't want to get stuck in traffic. I hit the grassy climb at a pretty good pace and was feeling the hurt, but a handful of guys attacked and took off up the climb. I tried to be patient since it was first lap. Trying to stay with them would have blown me sky high a few minutes later.

I finished the first lap in 7th in a nice group with my Alan teammate JH3 and NCVC's Erik Leaver. Both of these guys had gotten top 10 the week prior at Highland Park so I was happy to be riding with them. My LSV teammate Mike O'Hara was way off the front setting an insane pace. He was flying.

rpcx moving up

The 3 of us settled into a good rhythm and chased after Harley's Steve Fife and HVB's Sean Mealey who were working together in 3rd and 4th. John was setting the tempo of our group and I was sitting on Erik's wheel.

rpcx leaver and me

We were gradually gaining on the 2 guys in front and a mystery rider had overtaken Mike in the lead. It really helps to ride with guys that are good bike handlers and can push the pace. It keeps you moving forward and makes it harder to ease up.

Eventually John got a gap on Erik heading to the barriers so I attempted to bridge. I came into the barriers hot and managed to get alongside Erik.

rpcx barriers 1

I jumped prior to the downhill and got a little gap on Erik. I made it up to John and got in front on the downhill path.

rpcx downhill 2

rpcx me and jh3

rpcx jh3 me leaver

We just about closed the gap to Steve and Sean on the climb. Of course, once we hit the second part of the grassy climb I found a new level of suffering and John and Erik passed me. I stayed just behind them and really should have closed the gap immediately, but I started to drift mentally.

rpcx hurting

rpcx focused

The next lap I kept drifting further away, but didn't seem to realize it at the time. That was my worst lap...I had zero focus and just wasn't pushing myself. John Brewer had been a good ways behind us a lap before, but all of a sudden he was passing me.

rpcx chasing

This woke me up and I dug a little deeper to close the gap to Brewer, who was absolutely motoring. I managed to catch and pass Mike, who had gone out a bit too hard early. 8-) On the last lap I closed the gap to J. Brewer and was ready to attack prior to the steep bit, but I just didn't have the jump. Cresting the top I was just behind him, but he sealed the deal on the next gradual uphill, pulling away from me and getting very close to catching Erik and Steve.

rpcx home stretch

I finished up 7th and aside from that one lap where I zoned out I was happy with my race. I'm better on a course that emphasizes bike handling and 'cross skills. On a course like this where it's all about putting out power I'm typically weaker. In the end I got a terrific workout and learned more about the mental side of bike racing/suffering. Congrats to JH3 for a huge 3rd place and I think Leaver held on for 5th and moved a little closer to first place in the series standings. John Brewer scored 6th. Watch out for this guy as his bike handling skills improve. He's got the motor. It was great fun racing with you guys!

Big Thanks to Kevin Dillard and John Brewer for the photos.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The beginning

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.

I went for a mtb ride early this morning over at Avalon and while on the Rockburn loop noticed that they've finally starting work where our house will be. It looks like they've cleared some of the area where the road/driveway will be and put up silt fencing.
It was nice to see some progress considering that we were supposed to be in the house by the end of this year. Now it will likely be late Spring or sometime in the Summer of '06.

Needless to say we're excited by the prospect of hitting up primo mtb and road riding right out the front door. Plus, the Park has a bunch of great facilities for Thor.

Thor's Creek looked beautiful as it was covered with a colorful array of fallen leaves.

Race Pace 'Cross tomorrow in nearby Sykesville. Sue Haywood is doing the men's B race so that should be a hoot.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


'Cross racers enjoy's a well known fact. If you're out on a training ride and the group stops for an espresso you don't have to go with the herd. You have an alternative. There is a beverage made specially for you!

is the German word for Cyclist.

Radler is also the name for a beverage made of half beer and half lemon-lime soda.

Bavarians love their beer and they also love cycling and hiking. The Radler is the compromise.

The Radler was concocted to allow a cyclist to enjoy a light, refreshing brew after climbing a long Alpine pass without getting too shitfaced to ride back down the mountain and make it home safely.

I first experienced the Radler in Bavaria back in 2001. We were having lunch (roasted chicken & potato salad, what else?) and had plans to drink a few later that evening. I didn't want to get a headstart on the festivities so I ordered a Radler. I was a little skeptical of the concept, but I loved it!

In places where the goal is to get stinking drunk (like a beer tent at Oktoberfest), you'll catch a lot of shit for ordering a Radler, but you wouldn't do that anyway.

The Radler hasn't caught on here in the States, but that's ok. A German friend taught me how to make one and it's super easy.

1/2 Pilsner-style beer, like a Bud
1/2 Sprite

The Radler is a great, refreshing drink for the summertime, or anytime you want to enjoy a brew and still be able to ride your bike.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Thinking about Nationals

'Cross Nationals are going to be crazy. From December 9-11 Providence, RI is going to be the capital of the 'Cross Nation. With riders coming from all of the country the fields are going to be jam packed. I've cut back my racing & travelling this season to make CX Natz my road trip for the year. I'm doing the Masters 35-39 and the B's.

The Masters 35-39 race is at 141 riders and counting.

The B field had to be split up by age as 300 riders on the course might be just a little too ridiculous...not that 150 will be much better. The B 35+ race is already at 144 riders!

Fields that size will make for complete insanity at the start. The leaders will be well onto the course before riders at the back have even clipped in.

The one thing that I have going for me is the start line seeding policy, which favors early registrants. I was lucky enough to check the race website the morning it went live so I registered right away.

For the 35-39 race it'll be the top 10 from 2004, recent from National Champions, medalists from younger category in 2004, and then by order of registration. So that will probably be about 15-20 riders called up. I'm listed as 3rd on registration order so hopefully I'll get a spot on the third row. There are a ton of strong dudes way faster than me, so I have no illusions of riding anywhere near the leaders. But, having a decent starting position should allow me to ride a decent race and maybe stay in front of the chaos until things settle down.

For the B race they say it'll be strictly by order of registration. I'm on list list at 2nd in order of reg so even if they do some discrectionary call up's I should be in the first two rows. I'll do the start like I'm trying to outrun an avalanche, because with 144+ riders it'll suck to get buried in the middle of that scrum.

I'm going to Providence to race hard, but mostly to have fun and enjoy the experience. It'll be easier to enjoy and to actually RACE if I'm not starting 100 riders deep. After racing the focus will be on pitting for teammates, ringing a cowbell, and drinking Chimay.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Lower Allen Classic 2005

Lower Allen Cross 05

Lower Allen is one of my favorite races. The course is always interesting, offering both physical and mental challenges. The venue is first class with indoor registration, flush toilets, and fantastic viewing of the entire track. Plus, this was my 1st MAC race (and second ever 'cross race) back in 2003. Mike Hebe does a phenomenal job promoting this race and I'll keep coming back for as long as he puts it on.

Usually I arrive really early and get a few slow laps on the course to figure out the lines and the appropriate speeds for the turns. This year I left the house a little later, but made great time, arriving at the Park in about 75 minutes. I registered, pinned on my number, and hopped on my bike for a quick recon prior to the start of the Masters race. I jumped on the course just after the barriers and crashed on the second turn, a tricky off-camber 180 to the left. It looked harmless enough, but I picked a crappy line and then lost it when I grabbed a bunch of rear brake...lesson learned.

That woke me up and got me focused. I did just about 2 laps on the track taking multiple passes at a few of the sections. With so many tight and tricky turns it's really important not only to figure out the line, but to determine how much speed you can carry. Too little and you're having to jump out of every turn. Too much and you're braking in the turn, losing momentum and traction. If you're screwing up the turns you're wasting a lot of energy getting back up to speed.

When the Masters race started I headed out on the road to warm up. I found a nice stretch of rolling road where I did some short efforts and sprints to prepare for the suffering to come. I made it back into the park and did another half lap on the course before heading to the starting grid extra early to get a decent scrum position. Waiting around for 30 minutes kind of undid the warm-up, but I think it was worth it to get a spot on the 3rd row.

The start was on gravel adding an extra dose of sketch to an already sketchy endeavor. The guy in front of me didn't get clipped in so I was back to mid-pack by the time I got moving. Once I got going I tried to advance a few places before the track narrowed. I got a little better position, but avoided digging too deep in the first minute of the race.

After the short prologue loop around a baseball field we dropped back onto the gravel and began our first full lap.

These guys were long gone locked in another mano-a-mano contest for the win.

I was focused on moving up one place at a time.

The first part of the sand pit was better to run.
The second pass through the sand pit had a tricky entry, but was ridable.

You could carry some good speed into the hurdles, which was nice. We've been risking injury all season long doing super high speed barriers in practice so these felt pretty comfortable.

The tufos hooked up very nicely on all the off-camber turns. I was running them in the high-30' s psi. They felt too squishy when I had to sprint at the end, but otherwise they were perfect.

The course was very twisty, but surprisingly there was still some good group racing.
There were a couple of spots where you could grab a decent draft, but for the most part it payed to lead the technical sections.


On the first lap it seemed like guys were crashing left and right either taking bad lines or carrying too much speed into turns. I was just trying to dodge the carnage and get clear so that I could pick my lines. I ended up solo for a while with a large group of about 8 guys close behind me. I didn't want to get absorbed by that group so I punched it a few times to maintain the gap. A couple of those guys ended up bridging, which was fine. One of them was my teammate Dusty.

When he made it up to me I got a second wind. He was flying and that motivated me to dig a little deeper. We worked together and picked off at least 5 guys in the last 2 laps. It felt good to get stronger toward the end of the race. Usually I start strong and then just try to hang on.

I think I have the bike dialed in. I raised the saddle a bit after Granogue and now feel like I can power the whole pedal stroke. The quick handling was really welcome with all of the turns on this course.

Thanks to all the people out there cheering on the course. Just when I was feeling bad and thinking about backing it off I'd hear someone yell my name, reminding me that people were watching. It's a lot harder to give up when there are witnesses so thanks!

Congrats to my teammates that tore it up at Highland Park on Sunday!
An injury at Lower Allen slowed Mike down, but he came back strong the next day to take 7th.
JH3 found his groove in NJ and pulled off a huge top 10.
Both of those guys are having fantastic season.

photos courtesy of Bill Deputy , Rob Campbell , and Kevin Dillard
Check out the links for many more photos.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


10-14-05 Steps
Originally uploaded by Norma Tub.

Plenty of stairs at Patterson Park.

Patterson Park - Pagoda in the Fog

08-29-05 Patterson Park - Pagoda in the Fog
Originally uploaded by Norma Tub.

Patterson Park...perfect for 'cross.


Thor's first halloween was yesterday. We dressed him in a bunny jacket, complete with rabbit ears on the hood. He was warm and curious as we sat on the front stoop awaiting the candy seekers. His eyes got wide when he saw some of the costumes, but he didn't seem scared. After an hour or so he did get tired/bored/hungry so we took him back inside for dinner. He dozed off in my lap at the end of his bottle and snoozed for about a half hour. Then it was off to his new high chair for fresh baked squash mixed in rice cereal. He loves the high chair and it looks really comfortable.

For dinner we heated up some leftover white chili and made some amazing Jiffy cornbread muffins. I completely doused the chili with Crystal Hot Siz-auce. That is some good autumn eating.

This morning I went to the gym to get an hour of zone 2 on the spin bike. The legs felt pretty good, though my calf is still tweaked from Granogue. The run-up at Lower Allen could really suck.

So while I'm on the spin bike, listening to some bluegrass on the shuffle, drinking coffee, and reading the WSJ a spin class starts all around me. It's a bit strange having all these people get their bike-aerobics on while I'm chilling and enjoying my morning. Some of the people are really working hard and sweating, but others are barely breathing. I think the instructor needed to get in their face and make 'em work or get out. That's what I'd do if I were a spin instructor. I'd also kick the shaved leg, coffee drinking, newspaper reading guy out of the room unless he got with the program! 8-)

Anyway, riding indoors pretty much sucks, but sometimes you have to do it. I think it's time to start rocking some singlespeed night rides soon.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Gwynns Falls Trail

Originally uploaded by bre.

The Gwynns Falls Trail has been one of my training ground of choice over the last week.
It's an interesting beast, winding through downtown Baltimore, past some blighted industrial wastelands, and shady neighborhoods, but also taking in some stunning wooded areas right in the City. The Trail is a biking/hiking path that is part of the east coast greenway.
It's not perfect, but it's a wonderful glimpse of what it would be like to have a network of bike paths covering the area. With a good bike path it's just as fast to get around town by bike...and more healthy...and a heck of a lot cheaper!

Why do I like it?
-Except for a few bits where the path becomes a bike lane on the street you don't have to worry about cars.
-It's mostly flat so you can ride tempo with a steady effort or push some intervals. Most everything else around here is made up of many short hills, which makes for a lot of brief, hard effort, followed by brief low effort descents.
-There are long stretches where you can pedal for miles without stopping.
-It's scenic. The Trail roughly follows the Gwynns Falls from the Inner Harbor out to West Baltimore. It's really a pretty, but heavily polluted, stream.
-It's perfect for the cross bike. Parts of it are dirt path and there's plenty of city debris, but mostly it's fast so cross tires are the ticket.
-I can leave from my front door and get in a good 2 hour ride with minimal time on city streets.

Another fun training ground for 'Cross is Patterson Park, site of CX Nationals in 2001 and a short ride from my house. Yesterday, Bernie and I frightened the dogwalkers as we zipped around the Park on a sweet cyclocross training loop that he and Joern devised. It had plenty of elevation gain and more than enough stairs and steep run-ups. We added a bunch of off-camber and tight twisty turns to prep for the Lower Allen race this Saturday. We had fun and got in a solid hour and a half of training. We should be going good if we can start somewhere other than the back of the scrum on Saturday.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Originally uploaded by jaybeekay.

I could really go for a Chimay right about now.


duvel is a girl's best friend
Originally uploaded by naadspagaat.

...or maybe a Duvel.


Originally uploaded by beggs.

I'm always ready for a Hoegaarden.
I've got a soft spot for Belgian beer.

Travel Bug

I want to go here, Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald, Switzerland. The wood-fired hottub would be money after a long hike in the mountains.

I heard about it listening to the podcast of Rick Steves' Travel radio show.
While there's a lot of crap in the podcast universe there are also some really good offerings & this is one of the best. You can find his show and many other podcasts on iTunes.

The past few days I've been listening to Rick's show during my walk to work.
I have a real passion for travel and Rick Steves is an excellent resource for travel ideas.
On Monday there was a discussion about gites in France, an affordable way to vacation and become immersed in the culture of France and many other areas of Europe. Yesterday, the show focused on Prague and the Czech Republic as well as an interview with the operator of the Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald.

Listening to these shows brings back memories of my own travels and inspires me to start planning the next adventure. It will take a little more planning with Thor, but I'm sure he'll get a lot out of travelling. Given Mel and I's love of adventure and exploration, I'm sure he got the ~travel gene~ too.

herd dementality

Questions that have been gnawing at my brain recently.

Why do we ignore obviously f#cked up situations and act like nothing is wrong?
Because we're afraid of confrontation?
Because we're intimidated by whoever is causing the situation?
Because we lack courage to live our beliefs and do the right thing?
Because we're so afraid of change that we're happier to suffer in silence?

Why do we refuse to implement a practical solution to a problem?
Because it would break tradition?
Because it's always been done a different way?
Do we even want to solve the problem?
WTF is that?

Why are we afraid to think originally?
Because we're afraid of breaking out of the herd?
Because we lack confidence in our ability to think?
Because we'd rather have someone else to the thinking for us?
Because we're afraid of making mistakes?
Because we're afraid of what the herd will think?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

slipping and sliding down the hill

Slippery hill lap 1

Dennis Smith snapped this shot of the first lap of the B race at Granogue. There's carnage in front and carnage behind, but I made it through cleanly. I would have my own carnage later on in the race.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Granogue B's (Ode to pain)

Granogue B's

50 minutes of pain,
and a power throw-down
Grind up a hill
Then slip and slide down

Snot slickity turns
and mud everywhere
ending up in my ears
on my face and my hair

The runup of pain
was made tougher by the rain
I needed some crampons
to get my groove on

Behind the big tower
I stubbornly tried to ride
But each time I slipped
and riders passed by

On the off-camber hill
it was such a thrill
To let go and trust
My mantra "no brakes" that day was a must

Once on the road
I thought I would die
With screaming legs of wood
And tires at 32 psi

I went round and round
without even a rest
and suffered to the finish
29th best

Saturday, October 22, 2005

muddy Granogue & 'cross ramblings

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.

So I ate it a few times today at Granogue. For the most part I rode the tricky stuff really well, but I had one nasty crash on the hill and had real trouble behind the water tower for the first 3 laps. End result...mud all over.

Granogue was an electrifying reminder of why I love 'cross so much.

The People
I met people for the first time, ran into people old friends, and got to hang out with the coolest folks.

fatmarc...first time meeting him in tha flesh. The guy can sure ride a bike and he does it in style. David Crouse and his lovely wife. David's another guy with it figured out, riding SS mtb's and racing 'cross, but I've also seen the guy throw down on the road as well. Dusty and Georgia back from their nationwide mtb tour to mix it up (quite successfully!) in the MAC 'cross scene. Meg & JD, always smiling and full of enthusiasm. Meg had her race face on and looked great riding the mud. All of the LSV and Alan Maryland crew, espcially Morgan's Mom Suzy...she is like the team manager taking care of every little detail. JH3 coming through with the speedy headset fix on the new ride!

All of the people make up such a wonderful supportive community. Even during the race the camaraderie among the B racers is a really cool thing to be part of. We're really battling out there, but there's always respect among the combatants.

The Race Courses
Every race is different, usually dramatically so. Granogue is like the Hunter S. Thompson Gonzo version of a 'cross course. Everything seems amplified & twisted...the run-up's are harder, the off-camber's more slippery, the road section more punishing. The whole thing is designed to push your limits in every way imaginable. There are times when you are barely in control and just hanging on for the ride. At the same time, part of the challenge is to figure out the best lines and come up with ways to save a few seconds here and there.

The Racing
The brutality of the course is a real gut-check. To me, it's all about constantly putting out big power and riding at the limit. Moments of recovery are very very brief. One has to constantly fight the voices begging you to back-off and end the suffering. When you're locked in a battle of pass or be passed (which is all race long in the B's and Masters monster fields) you really have to be mentally strong and willing to suffer just a little bit more. The suffering is real, but the satisfaction of laying it on the line is rewarding.

Aside from having to put out big power you have to gamble. If you ride all the technical stuff tentatively you'll lose places in a hurry. However, the penalty for making a mistake and hitting the dirt very real too.

mud in yer eye

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.

I had a taste for mud yesterday day and Granogue was like an all-you-can eat buffet of snot-slick funk. I got my fill.
I ran the Tufo tubs at ~ 38psi (pretty low for my 175lb carcass) and they hooked up like a champ. There was plenty of sliding on the off-cambers, but they always found some grip and kept me moving in the right direction. The new bike (Alan Ultral) handled beautifully. I really felt in control on a day when you didn't so much choose a line as you held on and went where the bike wanted to go. I did have some crashes, three of which were minor. I tried to ride too much of the off-camber behind the water tower and slipped down. By the last two laps I was smartly dismounting and running before I got bogged down. Those were big mental mistakes that let a bunch of riders (runners) by me at a crucial point on the course (entering the slippery sidehill). You have to know what your limits are, but I was thinking that I could ride it out. Dumb.

I did have one big crash, just after the first left coming down the hill. I had made the turn cleanly and was carrying decent speed with my left foot out and I suddenly hit the deck. My left lever/hood dug into the mud and my chest slammed the ground. That shook me up and knocked the wind out of me. I still don't know what happened, but that one hurt and knocked me off my game for a few minutes.

The only bike issue I had was on the first lap coming over the tree roots. I had made my way up from a really crappy starting position of 49th (6th or 7th row) to somewhere between 15th and 20th. I was starting to feel good and was in a strong group. I rode the roots cleanly, but somehow my rear wheel slid out of the dropouts, got crooked, and wedged against the brakes. I had to get off, adjust the wheel, and tighten it back down. This was a huge bummer as a ton of guys went by while I was fixing the result of mental blunder. Note to self...double check those wheels & QR's before the friggin race.

Despite having some bad fortune and making some mistakes I had a really fun time. That course is such a challenge, both in terms of fitness and bike handling, that you really push your limits...and that's how you get better.

My training and racing time are way down this year, but I still feel like I've improved. Last year at this race I was 38th...this year it was 29th out of 75 finishers. I didn't feel really good, but I think I could have stayed in the top 20 if I had ridden smarter. I should be able to get enough racing in to start to have some legs by the last couple of weeks of the season.

I need to recover first. Right now (9:00am on Sunday) my left calf is very sore. I pulled it on the post-barrier runup on the opening lap. Today is a family day, so I'm not racing, but I'll get out on the road for a spin to try and loosen it up this afternoon.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Urban Cross Practice

sycamore trees, federal hill
Originally uploaded by johnok.

Last night I did a solo 'cross practice in the neighborhood.

I have a couple of parks nearby that offer some nice terrain with hills, steps, and paved paths.

First up was a quick stop at Port City Java for an Espresso revive myself after a day sitting behind a desk. After a warm-up spin on the road out to Fort McHenry I cruised over to Riverside Park.

I worked on a bunch of different dismounts and carries to the amusement of the crowd watching the adjacent soccer match. I used the soft sand on the baseball diamond to try some tight turns at speed. It's a cool feeling taking your tire traction right to the edge.

Some of the local kids took a break from whatever nefarious activity they involved in to chuckle at the lycra-wearing freak jumping on and off his 10-speed. Thanks the Eminem look.

There's a nice hill that I was able to use to practice riding off-cambers and controlling rear wheel slides. That was a lot of fun and should be good prep for Granogue.

While doing this I noticed a cloud of smoke coming from the fence surrounding the pool. The neighborhood lads had created an effigy using old clothes and leaves. It was attached to the fence and lit on fire.

I was impressed by the creativity. The fire department was not. With cops and firemen rolling into the Park I decided to move on.

I made my way over to Federal Hill Park and did some loooooooong, steeeeeeep runs up the side of the hill shouldering my bike. Man, those were brutal, but with Granogue on the horizon they needed to be done.

Check out the photo for a peak at the hill. It's broken up in the middle with a ledge and sidewalk. From the bottom it's about a 30 second sprint on a steep pitch. Toe spikes are pretty much mandatory.

I have a love/hate relationship with City living, but the good mostly outweighs the bad.

Next season I'll have Rockburn Park right out my backyard. I'm planning on setting up a primo stealth cross course.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Maui Thor

Maui Thor
Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.

Thor really digs his Hawaiian shirt.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Vegas MTB ride

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
I had to go to Vegas for a quick work trip. Since I had the morning free on Thursday I rented a car and drove out to Blue Diamond, next to Red Rock Canyon. I rented a bike at McGhie's Bike Outpost and explored the network of trails. McGhie's hooked me up with a Trek Fuel 98. With the carbon frame this bike was light and climbed really well. I had brought my helmet, camelbak, shoes, and pedals so I was all set. I ended up riding for 4 hours, exploring many areas of the canyon, including the Dead Horse Loop and Badger Pass. There was a lot of climbing, but it was mostly gradual and the reward was a long, fast downhill that wound its way back down the canyon. Desert riding is a lot different than what we have around here. The climbs are longer, but not as steep and the technical difficulties are fewer in number. In spots you'll have to deal with a knarly rock section or loose sandy turns, but for the most part the trail just flows. The scenery is quite different as well. It's similar to Fruita, though the trail is a lot less technical and there is minimal exposure. With no trees the views are seemingly unlimited. You can see the trail snaking away for miles in front of you. Though the riding is different it is a complete blast and a fun experience.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Dutch Lesson

This could be useful sometime...

Yikes! Diarree!
Ik at ranzig mayonaise op mijn frites!
Waar de badkamers is?
Haast! Haast!

In English...
Yikes! Diarrhoea!
I ate rancid mayonaise on my frites!
Where are the bathrooms?
Hurry yourself! Hurry yourself!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Congrats Poz and Tracy!

On Friday we had the pleasure to attend the wedding of Tracy Griffith and Jon "Poz" Posner at The Gramercy Mansion here in Baltimore. Poz and Tracy are two of the nicest, coolest people we know and they make a wonderful couple.

The entire event was beautiful and the food was incredible. The teriyaki glazed salmon and the mashed potato-in-martini-glass bar were the two highlights. Certain individuals enjoyed the signature appletini beverages to the fullest extent, but I was doing the driving so I stuck with water.

There was a fun collection of mountain biking people in attendance, including Chris Eatough and Jeremiah Bishop. We sat at the "Joe's Bike Shop" table and swapped stories with Joe, Katie, Roger Bird, David Duval, and other assorted characters. It was nice to get out for a date night and enjoy some revelry with such good company.

Ed Sander Cross

Ed Sander Cross
Buckeystown, MD
Sunday, October 2, 2005
B Race (~50 starters)
Sunny, dry & 80+ degrees

The Course
The course was similar to that of the MABRA Championship Race last December with a few changes. For the start there was a prologue loop that went up the road before a quick right-hand drop onto the grass. There were a few twists before merging with the course proper. The main course was made up of 3 pretty distinct sections.

Section 1 - Pond Crit
First was a winding maze around the ponds with a lot of tricky turns to accelerate out of. This section began with a double set of barriers on a pretty fast grassy straight. I liked the placement as we don't see many fast barriers these days. Coming out of the ponds you came by the pit before moving on to section two.

Section 2 - Fast Gravel
This part of the course was a series of double track dirt roads that had recently been covered quite thoroughly with gravel. They were still fast, but required attentive riding due to the deep gravel. Line choice here was important in order to maintain speed. There were a couple of nice loose turns here as well that made for some wheel drifting fun. The finish of this section was a little double-track dirt & stone climb.

Section 3 - Techno-Fun
Section three started at the top of the little climb with a bermed right turn onto a grassy 'trail' that became the most technical part of the course. A quick downhill with an off-camber left bend at the bottom led into a short and very steep run/ride-up. In the right conditions this definitely would have been ridable, but it was so loose that riding it was a gamble. If you could ride it to the top you would save a nice chunk of time, but if you stalled part way up you would lose time. I made the decision to dismount to avoid losing big time if I got stalled. I was happy that I had installed the toe spikes that morning. Without them the scramble to the top would have been tough. At the top you immediately dropped right back down the same slope, usually before you had a chance to clip into your pedals. There were a fair number of people that actually walked down this drop.

From there it was up another slight rise and back down to a tight 180 degree turn and right back up the hill. Next was a bit of double-track downhill into a fast and fun off-camber left hand drop onto a a short stretch of bumpy grass before climbing back up to the double track and more climbingto the top of the hill. At the top it was a long, fast no brake downhill winding around before emptying out with a short ridable gravel pile that came by the pit and onto the gravel finishing straight.

Laps were roughly 9 minutes. We did 5 laps in the B race.

Bernie and Tina picked me up a bit after 8 and we hit the road. We arrived shortly after 9 and got right on our bikes to inspect the course. We did 2 slow laps to look for the best lines and practice the trickier bits. This was really important as it allowed us to race the course with confidence and avoid the pitfalls that took a lot of riders down. Quite a few riders that didn't inspect the course ended up with crashes and mechanicals. Aside from being very helpful, I really enjoy figuring out the course pre-race. It's like working on a puzzle that can be solved in a variety of ways.

The Race
We had been told that riders would be called up based on certain criteria and then would be staged based on bib number (registration order). Based on the criteria I was pretty sure that I would get a call-up and if not I had been one of the first to register. Thus, I didn't get to the line early like I usually do. For some reason there were only two call-up's (neither based on the announced criteria) and then it was a mad dash to the line. I was not in a good position, but I did everything I could to move up. Manners and decorum were out the window. When the dust settled I was in the third row in a mass of overlapping bikes and racers. This was not going to be a pretty start.

Ed Sander CX start

When we got the word to go we somehow got going without getting all tangled up and hitting the deck. Unfortunately the first two rows were flying up the road. I dug in and gave it everything to get in line about 20 back from the front. At the first twist some guys misjudged the turn and created a bottleneck, squeezing me into the course markings. I put a foot down and squeezed through before getting going again. At the barriers I didn't slow down, making a clean dismount, and passing several guys by the time I got back on.

Ed Sander CX barrier

That put me onto the back of the lead train heading to the ponds. I made a tight pass on a right-hander to move up to about 12th and settled in line. This section was like a crit first lap. We were single-file and motoring. I was just hoping that the guys in front of me would ride the corners cleanly and not open any gaps. A few guys bobbled taking bad lines, but I was able to stay on the good line and get around them.

Ed Sander CX leaders

Entering the gravel section I was in the top 10, but the guy in front of me overshot the turn and then over-corrected tangling me up. We slowed to a crawl, but luckily nobody behind could get around. I got back up to speed and closed the gap to the lead group. Riding the gravel single file was nerve racking. I knew the lines, but sitting wheel to wheel you never know what the guy in front of you is going to do in loose gravel. Some of the good lines were right on the edge of the ponds. A little bobble and you're going for a swim.

We got through the technical stuff cleanly, though it was a bit hairy doing it in a sizable group. About 7 of us were still together to start lap 2, with Wayne Scott behind solo trying to bridge. Behind him we had a decent gap already.

Ed Sander CX bridging

Going around one of the ponds the front two guys misjudged a turn and both went headfirst into the water. Good stuff. They both got back up and were back in the group surprisingly quickly. Note to self...those guys are fast.

That left me feeling a bit nervous about riding around in such a big group. I'm better on the technical stuff and not as strong at closing a lot of gaps. I wanted to get out in front to avoid the sketch and try to get some separation.

Heading up the double-track climb out of the gravel section I attacked up the middle and got the lead heading into techno-land. I got through everything cleanly and stayed on the front to finish lap 2.

Starting lap 3 I decided to stay on the front as long as possible, even knowing that the guys behind were getting some benefit from the draft. I figured I was better off setting the pace and leading through the tricky stuff. Around the ponds I rode a steady tempo and jumped out of every turn. I was trying to stretch things out and tire the guys in back.

Ed Sander CX leading

Riding the gravel/dirt roads in front was nice as I could see the lines and not have to breathe in a cloud of dust. Coming up the little climb a Greg Lindstrom attacked (he ended up winning) with Adrian Lobito (he won last week). I covered the move weakly and knew that I didn't have the power to stick if they gunned it again. A gap started to open and Anthony Von Lierop came around me to close it, creating a leading group of 3 with 2 laps to go.

Behind that it was me and Steve Fife from Rockville Harley with a super-strong Wayne Scott closing fast behind. I led it to over the barriers and to the ponds, before Wayne made a nice pass to get by me. I tried to get his wheel, but he was moving. He made it up to the leaders leaving me and Steve riding together.

I gapped Steve on the gravel and once I realized that I gave it some gas to stay away. It turns out that Steve had flatted. So I was on my own and trying to keep the pace high in hopes of re-catching the leaders and not getting caught from behind.

Ed Sander CX chasing

Starting the final lap I could see that I wasn't going to catch the leaders, but I had a solid hold on 5th with a big gap back to Nick Bax, who had worked his way up into 6th position. I just rode a time trial the final lap, taking care to take clean lines to avoid crashing and losing time.

Upon crossing the line I was happy to see Bernie close behind Nick to get 7th. Bernie had an even worse starting position and rode an incredible race to get by traffic and work his way up the field. He got 7th in the C's at this race last year so he has made a big jump this season.

Props to NCVC for putting on another great race. The course was fun and fast and the food vendor was a nice touch. I definitely dug the ice cold Coke and big plate of french fries post-race. Also, big thanks to Suzy Gerlak for the bottle hand-ups each lap. With the dust and heat of the day a quick swig of water helped out a bunch.

I was happy with my race. I had a bad starting position, but was able to make it up to the lead group pretty quickly. That took a lot of energy, but it was good experience to have to overcome a bad start. I hung with the leaders well and played my cards with the lap 2 attack. I knew I wasn't the strongest and just sitting in I'd eventually get gapped. My only shot to win was to get out in front and ride the techno stuff cleanly, hoping that the guys behind me had trouble.

My gamble didn't pay off, but at least it thinned out the lead group. My fitness isn't really there yet, but I was able to hang on for 5th place. Right now I have to lean heavily on my bike handling and cross skills to make up the time I lose on the long power sections. I'm hoping that I'll have the power to be there at the end by November.

Overall, it was another gorgeous day at the races. The 'Cross scene is a friendly as ever and it seems to be really growing this year. Pretty soon we'll be into the cold, nasty race days and slathering the legs in warming oils. I can hardly wait!