Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Natz News

California Giant Berry Farms has signed on as the title sponsor of this year's 'Cross Natz.
They seem to be a big sponsor of cycling out on the left coast.
It's nice to see that they have stepped up to provide important sponsorship to the event.

Also, a confirmed rider list will be posted on bikereg on December 1st.
So, we'll have a couple of weeks to geek out about start positions and related conspiracies.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ik ga braken (I'm going to vomit)

Beacon 'Cross
Bridgeton, NJ

photo courtesy of Natasha Bunten. Thanks 'Tash!

Post-race interview

Me: How was your morning?
me: tranquilo...nice breakfast with the family & an easy drive. Bernie hooked me up with a good parking spot and the two of us previewed the course, figuring out the lines.

Me: Any changes to your setup?
me: An extra slathering of chamois cream & I ran the Tufos (at too high a PSI).

Me: Describe the course.
me: Fast. Hard. Not NYS.

Me: How about those stairs?
me: Screw you...First off, they're not stairs. They were brutal. Inhaling charcoal smoke at the top was helpful. Another lap and I'd have been crawling up them.

Me: How was your start?
me: I was on the 2nd row and got a decent start, but nothing special. I had to go from the far left lane and find a place to slot in after the surge went up the right side. The first two turns were a mess, but I got through without having to stop. I was top-2o, closer to the 20th.

Me: And after that?
me: I was not connected to my inner-Sven. As expected guys were going apeshit to move up. I quickly discovered that I wasn't having a good day. I was incapable of going apeshit. I couldn't close gaps and I had trouble holding wheels when guys came past me. It seemed like I had one speed and just couldn't muster up the extra gear when I needed it. I was still going pretty good and just tried to defend my position.

Me: It looked like you had some good battles out there...
me: Yup...promoter Wade Hess and I were going at it. I put him in the bushes a couple of times when he tried to pass and he ended up making the pass through the bushes. It was crazy! He had a rhododendron branch hanging from his derailleur cage. We passed and repassed each other and jockeyed for position entering the gravel descent to the beach where he shouldered me out of the way. It was awesome. We were locked in a duel of a race lap after lap. I managed to get by him on the last lap and hold it to the finish. It was really fun racing. Wade was busting out some of the moves he learned racing over in Belgium. We were laughing about it after the race ended. 8-)

Me: So, you're sprint is still MIA?
me: No kidding. I got the beat-down at Granogue and then yesterday Frank Zgoda caught me just as we hit the road finishing straight. I led it out, but he got me by a bike length. I just couldn't get that last acceleration. I think I was over-geared (or under-legged).

Me: You still got some points so the day wasn't for naught.
me: Yeah, I'm pretty happy to be in the points on a day when I didn't have good legs. I know I'm capable of a better finish in a MAC race, but at least I've been top-25 in the first 3 events and that's an improvement over last year. The guys I'm racing against are really strong and great guys taboot. Getting smacked around by them every week will make me stronger. I feel like on a good day I've got a shot at a MAC top 10...maybe Lower Allen or Reston.

Me: What will it take to get there?
me: Besides luck or a lot of guys getting flats? Hard training, good coffee, and some more intense music for the drive to the race. Listening to a guy talk about philosophy on NPR is pretty sweet, but it doesn't get one in the aggro-mode needed for going apeshit in a cyclocross race.

Me: The team looked good.
me: The killer B squad kicked ass. Morgan & JH3 are both starting to ride really well and Miles put in a big ride to move from way back to 21st. Bernie was still sick and had to dnf, but he'll be back strong at Lower Allen. The rest of the team did really well too. We have a good crew.

Me: What's next on the agenda?
me: I'm going to clean all the sand out of my drivetrain and maybe do the Race Pace 'Cross on Sunday, but my schedule is tight. If not, the next event will be Lower Allen. I'm doing a sprint workout in the morning to try to get my ass in gear.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


C3/ADG/Joe's Bike Shop

Team spirit at Wiss

Photo courtesy of the talented Kevin Dillard


me @ Granogue

From Kevin Dillard's RAW series
Taken at Granogue 'Cross, Saturday 10/21/06

Paying the cost

It's been pretty lonely at 'cross practice recently.
Just me and my beat up barriers stashed in the trees.
Between the weather and a fading of early season enthusiasm attendance drops off by mid-October. For me, however, 'cross is my only real racing season & I'm committed to doing it right start to finish. I think if you can fight through that mid-season burnout and get enough recovery you can come into the last races flying and with a better shot at results since attendance dips.

Yesterday I focused on gettting ready for Beacon. I set ut up the barriers out of a right-hand U-turn. I did the race two years ago and that's the way it went with a tricky approach to the hurdles. Making that tight turn mid-dismount is not easy to do smoothly, but you can make up a second or two per lap if your technique is solid. I did a lot of reps working on the dismount and I'm glad I did. The first few were really sloppy, but eventually I got a feel for doing the lean and carving the turn. I also practiced dismounting early and running the u-turn in case there's traffic early in the race.

My starts have been shaky so I did some really hard start efforts to get used to the pain. The first two were horrible...well, good for 20 seconds and then my legs could barely pedal. The rest were pretty decent as my body got used to recovering from the initial sprint.

To prepare for the long beach run I shouldered the bike and did some tempo runs the length of a football field as part of my practice loop. The running felt fine, but when I remounted the first few pedal strokes were not pleasant. I think the key for me is to NOT sprint the run, but rather to run at a tempo pace and use my longer stride to my advantage.

I'm not sure how to prepare for the amphitheatre steps. They are evil. I did a few runs up a steep hill, but I don't really think that simulates the effort of the big stairs. They are like doing one-legged squats.

Even though I was solo I still got in a decent workout and since I started early I made it home in time for dinner.

Last night was also the final night for a practice with daylight. Starting
next week I'll use the helmet mounted light and move over next to the lighted fields.
And maybe I'll bring the iPod to keep my company.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I love my chicken

Halloween costume




Wissy CX

photo courtesy of Gina Harshman

After a good night's sleep in Exton, PA I travelled a few miles north to Ludwig's Corner for the Wissahickon 'Cross. I did this race two year's ago when it was at the Belmont Plateau in Philly so this venue was new to me.

Whenever possible I arrive early and spend some quality time getting to know the track, figuring out lines, speeds, sections on which to attack, and sections on which to survive. After about 2 minutes of course preview it was clear that the start would be crucial.

There were many slow, tight, technical turns that would lead to big traffic jams early in the race. The sandpit would be ridable with one decent line, but in traffic would it be possible to stay on that line and continue moving forward? The fast, open power sections would up the speed and extend the gaps. I followed fastMarc & E-town around on the warm-up laps spying on their lines since both of them tore it up at Granogue. I was the padawan trying to learn from the jedi.

I really liked the course and enjoyed the fact that as the race progressed you could learn a little bit more and ride a little bit faster each lap, legs & lungs willing!

So it was clear that the start would be pretty important. I knew it and was ready for it. Once again I was on the 3rd row. 3rd row is hit or miss depending on what the guys in front of you do. In the first 10 seconds of the race you can either be at the front or 50 guys back.

Lined up next to me was Don Kessel. I became a Dad last year and Don will become one very soon. We talked about baby stuff as we waited for the start. It was really cool to recall those experiences and think about what he has in store. However, all of this happy baby-stuff might have cooled some of the pre-race fire and aggression that is key to a good start, but that's all good. 8-)

When the gun went off the two guys in front of me had trouble...clipping in and spinning out on the gravelly surface. I had to pedal in slow motion for several seconds waiting for room to move. In those seconds a good chunk of the field accelerated past me.

I was frustrated. I felt lonely. I wanted to get in the car and drive home. Then I realized how pissed I would be if I DNF'd so I kept going.

The first lap was a nightmare. I practically came to a stop in the first half dozen turns and got chopped in the one turn that I entered carrying any speed. When we got to the sand pit things were FUBAR, not unlike the traffic heading home on 95 South. So, 3 minutes into the race I was way back in the field and the leaders were probably a minute in front.

The second lap wasn't much better. The gaps were growing, but at least there was a little more room to pick and ride your own lines. Passing was difficult and took a lot of effort and good timing. I worked my way up to my teammate Bernie mid-race and hoped we'd be able to work together, but it only lasted for a lap. We weren't far apart, but with a bunch of chasers just behind there was no point in slowing and forming a big group.

The rest of the race I focused on picking off one rider at a time and constantly moving forward. I got a few guys by riding turns faster and then jumping past before the next turn. I made more passes in the last part of the sand pit. On the fast, open sections I latched onto the back of groups and attacked before the gravel filled right hand turn. If you could get in front entering the 'spiral of death' you could gap guys. And surprisingly I even passed a couple of dudes on the run-up. Two other passes late in the race were gifts...Don K. dropping his chain and Eric Morgan dumping it in turn a slick off-camber turn.

Overall I passed a lot more than I was passed. One guy that did get by me was Jeremy Dunn. He smoked me as we entered the 'spiral' entering the turn very hot. It was an aggressive and very smooth pass. He kept on moving up and ended the race in 14th. I'd like to say that I should have stuck to his wheel, but it wasn't happening. I was feeling good, but he was moving!

Michael Hosang and I did battle trading spots and jockeying into the turns for the last 2 laps. It was intense racing, but I got away from him on the run-up last lap. Fun stuff.

Coming up the finishing straight I was closing on Chris Harshman and my teammate Morgan Gerlak. With another lap I might have connected with them. I was happy to even get close to them as they were clearly riding well. Despite the crappy start I ended up having pretty good legs and solid focus.

I ended up 22nd, good for a handful of series points. After the first lap I thought I had no shot at the top 25 so I was happy with the result. For the remaining MAC races I really want to get a starting position on the first two rows and have a better shot at the Top 10. I'm not strong enough to make my way up there from mid-pack, but I think that with a good start and some luck I've got a shot.

Congrats to my teammates. Everyone is having a good season and our killer B squad is looking really good with JH3, Morgan, Bernie, & Miles.

'Cross is hard & humbling & painful, but the rewards from expanding one's limits are manifested in physical, emotional, and spiritual ways. Perhaps even cooler is the family that is the 'cross community. Seeing friends and making new ones is pretty damn sweet.

Monday, October 23, 2006


What a weekend. Seriously tough racing, but it was fun. The MAC cranks it up a few notches in all respects.


photo courtesy of Gina Harshman

I lined up on the 3rd row and thankfully some space opened up quickly. I was able to move up and get on the tail of the front group. With a field of 90 killa B's it was important to get in front of the inevitable log jams. I hit it hard for the first couple of laps until the gaps settled in. Then I focused on riding cleanly and dosing my efforts so that I didn't fade at the end.

The other 2 times I've done this race I've had mechanical and crash issues that have pushed me well back in the results. This year I rode really smoothly and managed to keep the power up, even as I suffered on all of the climbs.

The last half of the race I was battling with Chris Mayhew and Colin Sandberg. They put it to me on the power sections and I clawed back on the technical stuff. It was really fun racing as we jockeyed for position each lap.

The final time down the twisty off-camber hill I passed Colin and sat on Mayhew's wheel. He hit the road first and I was right on his wheel, ready (I thought) for the sprint. However, Colin unleashed a wicked jump that I had no answer for. At the same moment we were caught by two other strong dudes, Ray Ignosh & Andrew Crooks. I was outgunned and I knew it. The sprint started and mentally I had already checked out. The shock & awe overwhelmed me.

I rolled in on the back of that group to finish 17th. I was happy with the race, but I was also a bit disappointed to be that close to knocking on the door of the top 10 and lose several places in the last 200m. It was intense racing and just what I needed from a training standpoint.

Even better than racing was watching the other races. The DCC of D did an amazing job to put on a national caliber event. Even though I was racing again on Sunday I couldn't help but drink some beer, eat some tacos, and run around watching the elite races. The scene on the evil run-up was huge. It was packed with screaming, cowbell clanging cross fans urging the racers up the hill...very cool stuff.

Bike racing is cool, but 'cross is just a special experience. Beautiful venue, good people, friendly vibes...a true MAC Love-In.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Link to the "At The Back" essay in Velonews about the epic 2005 'Cross Nationals 35-39 is here.

Grote Prijs Race Video

Race.cx has video of the entire Grote Prijs Cyclocross race up on their site. Those mofo's are faaaaast!

With the proliferation of youtube, google video, etc. we're going to see a lot more race video from races in the US and Euro-land this season. Word.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

AVC Breast Cancer Awareness 'Cross

On Saturday I did the AVC Breast Cancer Awareness 'Cross in Hagerstown, MD.
Big thanks to Gina Harshman for taking the great photos!

The start was tight, but safe. We sprinted for 50 meters before slowing way down for a 180 degree turn onto the grass. Steve Fife took the hole-shot before Eric Linder accelerated into the lead.

Turn #2 was an off-camber 180 degree drop to the right. fastMarc went came in too hot and went down slip-and-slide style, but as you can see in this photo he got back up & on his bike very quickly. Despite the short laps and technical turns a large group of about 15 guys stayed pretty much together for a while. A couple of guys took early flyers before Todd Hesel just rode away...way away...from everyone.

E-town obviously knows which wheel to follow. It's not that I was riding very fast...but I did manage to get around 3 guys (fastMarc, O'Hara, & Scesney) that crashed right in front of me...skills yo! 8-)

The big front group hit the barriers pretty fast with everyone jockeying around and battling for position before the splits started.

We had a nice group chasing the front-runners just ahead. E-town set a fast pace and got us some good separation from the guys chasing us. Brian Fouche rode the technical stuff really well and used his power to find the front of the race. Rob Campbell is charging. He caught us and went right on through. Brewer looks like he's going to latch on, but he never made it.

Later in the race I attacked Fife and Nieters, but fastMarc was charging hard.
This hill was short, but very steep...just ridable. After 11 laps it really hurt.

Does this skinsuit make my ass look big???

After dropping my chain & spazzing to put it back on I was caught by Chris Mayhew. We rode together for the last two laps. We kept the pace up and had a decent gap on Marc & Jared, but with half a lap to go things got tactical and we both ate it in the sand pit. I got up pretty quickly and was on my bike before I realized that my chain was half off. Luckily it slid back on after a turn of the pedals.

Unfortunately my shifter was full of sand and not really working. I couldn't get past the 25 tooth cog. Jared caught me at the top of the steep hill and led it out. I stayed on him until we turned onto the road, but I wasn't doing much sprinting in the 25. Luckily fastMarc wasn't close enough to catch me. I ended up in 6th.

This race was a lot of fun. There was some excellent group racing and the course was relentless. If you let off the gas for a second or made a mistake you were losing places instantly. It was intense.

No racing for me this weekend. It's our 7th Anniversary and we're getting away for the weekend. Plus, it's time to recover from the first 3 races and get ready for the opening weekend of the MAC season. With two 7th's and a 6th in some deep MABRA fields I'm happy with how the season has begun. However, it's going to get a whole lot tougher beginning with Granogue. I'll need to find another gear and some mojo if I want to get anywhere close to the front of the MAC races.

Life is good


Thor hearts hummus

Our son is also our sous chef. Here he is after after helping to make a batch of one of his favorite foods, hummus.


The boy & the bubbles


Natz Schedule

*10/19/06 Update
The schedule was tweaked a bit.
I've updated it below.

A bit of info about 'Cross Natz was just released.

This is the tentative schedule of events

Friday 12/15/06
7:30 course open
8:30 master women 40+ 45+ 50+ 55+
9:30 master men 50+ 55+ 60+
10:30 master women 30+ 35+
11:30 master men 45+
12:30 open course & awards
1:00 master men 45+
2:00 master men 35+
3:00 master men 30+
4:00 course closed & awards

Saturday 12/16/06
8:30 course open
9:30 Junior men U13 U15 U17
10:30 Women U23 U13 U15 U17 U19 Collegiate
11:30 Elite Junior men
12:30 open course & awards
1:00 U23 men
2:00 Elite men
3:00 course closed & awards

Sunday 12/17/06
7:30 course open
8:30 women B
9:30 under 35 B Men
10:30 35+ B Men
11:30 Collegiate men
12:30 open course & awards
1:00 pro-elite super cup
2:00 Elite women
3:00 course closed & awards

No word yet on when Registration will open.

Monday, October 09, 2006


A race report from the weekend is on the way. Until then here's Thor eating yogurt.

Friday, October 06, 2006


When I was about 10 years old I rode a Schwinn Mag Scrambler. It was a nice bike and I rode it all the time. I was happy.

Then my brother got a new bike. All of a sudden my bike didn't look as nice and I too wanted a new bike.

A meeting was held between me, my brother Jon, and our buddies Judson & Tyler. A plan was hatched to get a new bike for me.

We climbed up onto the tall auditoreum building of the elementary school next door and hauled my bike up to the roof. We gave the bike a rolling start and launched it off the roof onto the ground below. Surely this would break the bike and I would would get a new one thanks to Schwinn's generous warranty.

We climbed down off the roof and hurried over to inspect the bike guessing how many pieces it would be in. To our surprise the tough bastard was still in one piece, albeit with bent chainstays, good for riding around in circles.

The bike had survived and suddenly I felt really bad about trying to trash my beloved bike. We scrapped the plan and ran home to get hammers. We used them to hammer the shit out of the chainstays to get the frame back in alignment.

Amazingly, the bike rode great from that day forward surviving many rickety plywood jumps and stupid stunts. Eventually I moved on to a 10-speed that I could use to explore outside of my neighborhood but that Mag Scrambler has always had a special place in my heart.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Crosstalk podcast #2

Check out Crosstalk podcast #2 from the Ed Sander 'Cross here.

Crosstalk is a video podcast about cyclocross racing in the Mid-Atlantic.

Peter Nicoll is the producer and he does a very PRO job.

To paraphrase Dickie Dunn, "He really captures the spirit of the thing."

Here's hoping Peter compiles his footage at season's end to put together a retrospective DVD.
If he does, I'll be a buyer. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I know it's barely October, but it's not too soon to start thinking about Nationals.

How will they handle registration, field limits, staging, etc. this year?

Will they make changes to the course?

I think the organizers will have things dialed in better this year...and they were great last year, even with the blizzard!

The one thing I do know is that the host hotel will be different this year. Bye bye Biltmore, hello Westin.

I have a hunch that some details will leak out this weekend at Gloucester and we'll get an official announcement on the Natz site & cyclocrossworld soon thereafter.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Getting there

Yesterday was the Ed Sander 'Cross in Buckeystown, MD. The venue is gorgeous and the promoters (NCVC) do a first class job. I always enjoy racing here.

The track is fast most of the way, with one very technical section 2/3 of the way around. There's really not a decent place to recover without losing ground. Drafting and group riding plays a big role so you cannot afford to make mistakes because they will be magnified if you lose your group.

My teammate JH3 taking a good line on the high-side
photo by Michael Kirk

I'm trying to race my way into fitness which means racing smart and measuring my effort to have something to give in the last 2 laps. Fortunately a front row starting position allowed me settle into a decent spot without having to waste a lot of energy.

The start
photo by Gina Harshman

photo by Michael Kirk

The first time around the ponds fastMarc was on the front setting a solid, but not unbearable tempo. With little room for passing and a lot of race left he was too experienced to bury himself early just to tow the lead group around.

Onto the gravel and the festivities commenced. I got passed by a couple of groups looking to get to the front. I went from top 10 to top 20 in an instant. I clawed my way back onto the wheel as we entered the technical backside of the course. Some dude lost it in a slick turn opening the gap as we squeezed past.

The run-up and subsequent difficulties really opened up that gap as the fast kids (one of which being my wunderkind teammate Morgan) decided to light it up.

Early leaders Morgan (14 years old) & Todd (eventual winner)
photo by Gina Harshman

photo by Michael Kirk

The rest of the lap was typical first lap craziness as guys freaked out to move up in the line. I didn't want to get passed, but I also didn't want to blow up either so I rode my pace and slid back a bit.

photo by Gina Harshman

The next couple of laps some guys faded from the early effort and I ended up in a nice group that included Zach Adams and Brian Fouche. These guys are strong and they crushed it on the fast parts of the course. I was determined to not let them ride away, but I had to dig to hang on.

My group on the evil U-turn runup. We rode fast & smooth to close the gap
photo by Michael Kirk

We were putting time into the chasers and bit by bit making up ground on the guys in front of us. Coming into the barriers Brian bobbled while the rest of us made it through cleanly. Zach took off while me and another guy looked at each other, hesitating to see who would lead into the headwind around the first pond.

I lost this game of chicken. Zach was riding away and I didn't want to let Brian catch back up. I put my head down and drove it into the wind and around the turn. When I looked up I could see that Zach was slowing. I got around him and put in a brief dig to get some space.

I needed to get a gap through the winding ponds before we hit the gravel again and I did. Seeing that I had a gap gave me a shot of adrenaline. I was suffering, but I was also starting to feel pretty good. This was probably my best lap and I caught up to John Brewer and Mike O'Hara with 2 to go.

Brewer put the hammer down on the gravel, gapping Mike, who in turn gapped me. On the backside we came back together and I managed to pull up alongside John after one of the steep up's. He was having none of it and immediately accelerated leaving me in his dust.

I hurt myself trying to stay with those guys as we hit the downhill, but I had to soft-pedal and grab a little recovery. Most of the last lap I was dangling behind those guys and peaking over my shoulder to see if Zach was closing. This was strictly self-preservation mode.

Cresting the last short steep ride (run) up.
photo by Michael Kirk

I got a moment of hope when O'Hara bobbled on the run-up, but I was in the process of getting around a lapped rider and couldn't quite close the gap. On the last run/ride Mike opted to run while I rode it. I passed him as he remounted and I thought he was cooked. That was definitely not the case.

He let out a yell and put in a monstrous attack up the grassy slope to quash any hope I had. That was an incredible show of sheer will...I was impressed and crushed at the same time.

I looked back to see that I still had a decent gap on Zach so I licked my wounds and rolled down to the finish in 7th for the second week in a row.

Given that I've hardly raced this season I'm pretty happy with my fitness. Hopefully I can continue to get stronger heading into the MAC season. The MABRA fields have been huge, almost like MAC fields from the past 2 seasons. These races are a lot of fun as there are so many riders around you that you're battling from start to finish. If you let up briefly or flub a section you're losing multiple places. It's intense!

The tires were amazing. This was the first time riding them in the mud and they hooked up better than the Michelin Mud2's. I was running them pretty low and they felt really fast & smooth on all the grass and gravel sections. They're not cheap, but they're worth it...best possible upgrade on a 'cross bike.

Next up is the AVC Breast Cancer Awareness 'Cross in Hagerstown this Saturday.

***Thanks to Gina Harshman & Michael Kirk for the great photos!