Monday, October 7, 2013

MammothGravel Classic 2013

Last year I did the 70 mile version of the Mammoth Gravel classic, and it did not disappoint. I was really taken with the stark, barren nature of the river valley that is north of St Croix Falls. Its just so desolate. The Wooly crew always refers to that area as "the sand barrens", and I find this so appropriate. We were initially supposed to have the event in the spring, but the worst winter ever pushed the date back into the fall. The brothers Fisk, Dallas, Ben, The Velaski's, and the Crew from Cyclova XC plotted and connived to put together a incredible course that took us through the sand barrens up to Grantsburg, WI. Then we crossed the river (and dodged a roadkill porcupine) and started back south along Minnesota's Wild River State Park.
I suck at documenting things so I will let the images that Dallas put together tell the story if you get sick of my words.
We started out rolling north from SCF and after about 15 miles we started to hit the sand roads that blew the group up last year. Having the widest tires and being the smallest I found that I was floating over the loose sand a little better than everyone else so I just went.  After a few miles, I stopped to air down my tires, and two of the gents from Hudson made contact with me.  We exchanged pleasantries, but after a few minutes they had dropped back, and I was focusing my thoughts on staying smooth and floating over the sand double track sections.
The double track sections. Oh. the double track sections. 
I love me a some great double track, and The Woolly crew sniffed out some of the most remote winding fire lanes. It was divine.
(bumps record player) Then I almost ran over a black bear. I told you it was remote out there!
By the time I made it all the way to Grantsburg the gents from Hudson had just about caught back up with me, but they decided to keep motoring while I set my sights on slaying some gas station pizza!

I took a long break at the Holiday, and was stoked when Dallas, Mark, and Ben rolled in.
Once we got rolling again, we all took turns at the front to get us off the paved road as quickly and safely as possible.  Once we hit the gravel again the group split up so that everyone could do their own thing as the drizzle really set in. After an hour, we ran into the roaming aid station.
I had forgotten to air up my tires after deflating them for the sand section. I rode about another 40 miles with 20 psi. Thankfully there was Hamms while Frank Lundeen got me some air. Photocred: Kristen Velaski
Hamms. Sweet. Hamms.
We just kept rolling south until we hit the MMR hills that bordered Wild River State Park.  Then it was a screaming descent into Taylors Falls on MN-95. This was simply a incredible route with a type of riding that you are just not going to get in MN. Love it! the 100 is fairly flat and the most challenging sections are early.  Hopefully next spring will have better conditions, as holding a even this late in the year is a challenge with all the Cyclocross events going on.
I was also super stoked to learn that I won a sweet new pair of Almanzo tires from Challenge for being the youngest 100 mile finisher.
My delight was amplified this morning, when I found out that I got into the Filthy 50 this next weekend so will get to put these tires through the paces.
Many thanks to the Woolly Bike Club and Cyclova XC for putting on a great event!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Racing without training

After destroying my knee last fall, I decided to get serious about training this spring.  I bought the CTS Time Crunched Cyclist book, and pretty much did the whole plan on a trainer since we had the worst winter ever. As soon as things thawed and I started getting to some early season races, I was shocked at what I was capable of.  I could close gaps at will. nobody got away. and I could pretty much hang with anybody for about 90 minutes.

Photocred: Todd Bauer
On the Tuesday night races at Whitetail Ridge I consistently won by putting all the other fast guys on the rivet, then punching it to create a 5 second gap. Its a mental battle in mountain biking.  If you get a 5 second gap, you might as well have a 30 second gap, because once you get out of sight of your chaser, psychologically, you have won.
I trained my dad on a proper hand-up.
However CC is pretty adamant that you cannot maintain this high intensity level of training indefinitely. You just become too fatiuged.  So I used a training block that went through June, and then just rode whenever I felt like it.  That level of fitness tapered off noticeably in 2 weeks. I was still mid pack in the elite races in MN, but I struggled so much more trying to recover from efforts. 

Grumpy Stumpy. Photocred:Todd Bauer
The last few weeks have really been frustrating as I struggle to deal with the increased pressure from work, impacting my time and ability to get out and ride.

My parents were back from China over the 4th of July so my dad finally got to see me do a MTB race. He was shocked at how fast the WORS guys were.

It really is amazing how much different you feel when you have that high level of fitness that allows you to do whatever you want in a race.  I totally get why training blocks work, now if I can just get the time to train.
Deer Fly Chase: unable to get into the lead group, and then fell off the back of the chase to finish 10th.
Deer Fly Chase Photocred; Noah Michelson

Friday, July 19, 2013

North Shore with the Reeds

We busted up on the north shore this week with the Reeds. 
   B-Rad and I took some time to do some route finding (read: trespassing) for the Gravel Conspiracy. We got skunked on the first day, but managed to feed some of the locals
Avoiding the traffic

If a  tree falls on a goat peeing in the woods, does it make a sound?
Eastcoast Bad Goat approved
Hey there lil buddy
The ambulatory grommets

Bringing the ruckus

Sunday, June 30, 2013

WORS Red Flint Fire Cracker

 So after missing the Wooley Race ealier this spring I thought I should get in a little XC racing while the Family was in town.  Eau Claire is now as far west as the WORS series gets in WI.......Maybe they should just call it EWORS.
I finally renewed my USAC license, just so I could ask nicely if I could do the open elite race even though I am still a Cat 2.  Not sure how that happened.  Once I got a geared bike, I just started racing in the elite class, and no one ever told me no, so I never actually got any upgrade points.
Long Story, short. Last row start. Everyone was super fast. I fell into the trap of going way too hard too early. My garmin was squaking at me constantly that my HR was too high (it was over 170 for the first lap).
I really wanted me some orange drank!
 I ended up giving up a bunch of spots as I was in damage control mode for the 2nd and 3rd laps.  On the last lap, Me and a Dude from Fond Du Lac made contact with a group of about 5. I noticed that Reece Oleson was doing all the work at the front, so I came around and told Reece to sit on, since the train of people was undoubtedly going to try to jump him once they hit the single track. Once we made it throught the totally gratuitous "bog of despair" I looked back and saw that the group had gotten a little strung out, and by the time we had hit the rock garden, I had a 5 second gap.  I tried to really make some hay then, and got a good 15 seconds at one point.  However, with less than 2 miles to go I could tell that there was some pretty serious divergence between my HR and power output.  My gap disappeared, I clipped a pedal and gave up 3 spots (I really wanted to finish 36th instead of 39th).  I even tried to sprint to the finish, and once we in the chute my leg cramped so bad I fell off the bike.
It is eye opening going to do the WI races. I was pleased with the effort but I know that I need to start getting some longer, high intensity efforts if I am going to keep playing with the big kids.

Then we got some family bike cleaning time.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Moab Man Camp: Amasa back, Captain Ahab, and The Whole Enchilada

Moab Man Camp Day 1: get to airport in DIA. Acquire luggage. John Waller tackles me from behind at the luggage carousel.. After assuring security that this is not a act of aggression, we proceed to public house to await the arrival of Josh Patterson. Once we were on I70 headed West we got caught up on everyones stories, and John Waller reaffirmed his financial backing that the first person to pee on Patterson got 20 bucks. The tone was set.

We got to Moab that evening and set up camp off of Sand Flats Rd, not too far from the worlds 2nd most scenic landfill (its says so on the map).little canyon that provided We initially tried to get a campsite down on Kane Creek Rd at the Moonflower canyon, but we arived about 10 minutes too late. I had forgotten how sandy and windy it is in the desert southwest. It was soon apperent that I would have to taylor my bushcraft to thrive in this wasteland.. At about midnight, Slater and Jeff rolled in and set up camp.
The next morning we went on the prowl to find a less wind swept campsite.
Boom. Shade at 3pm
We were able to catch a family leaving their site (Site G6) that was nestled right in a sweet little canyon that provided complete afternoon shade strting at about 3pm. If you have ever spent any time in the desert you know that this is money.
Looking through our little canyon of vice
With our now digs nailed down, we headed out to ride Amasa Back. I managed to make it about 150 feet into the ride befoe I fell and busted my knee. Turns out that moondust is not that grippy. However once we started rollling up the punchy climbs of amasa back, I started to get the hang of transitioning from sand to slickrock, and soon we we ticking off the miles. Patterson had a Cannondale Trigger 29 for me to ride this week. I was really impressed with the balance that it struck between capable trail bike and pedaling stability. I would characterize the Trigger as a bike for the “all-mountain curious”. It has a 69.5 degree HTA, and a 130mm lefty max that I found to be quite stiff. My only gripe about the Lefty Max is that the dampening cartridge is tuned for a 180 lb rider so I could never really use all of my travel (even after dropping the pressure to under 50 psi).

Amasa Back
Once we saw all the sights at Amasa Back we came back down via the new trail called Captain Ahab. It was mostly lots of exposed, technical slick rock. On Ahab you were either going up or down, so it was pretty challenging since at that point it was also the heat of the day that was sapping you dry. There was some terrain on the last 3 miles of Ahab that really challenged your handling skills with blind approaches and no way of knowing what was at the bottom of each drop.
Pattersnap up to no good
The next morning we all ponied up for the Whole Enchilada Shuttle, which turned out to only take us up to the start of the Kokopelli Trail since the trail up at Burro Pass was still snowed in. We decided to start riding up towards Burro Pass to get as much of the Enchilada as we could stand.

Headed up from Hazard country

Patterson: its not much of a climber

Hello there La Sal

Jeff has a PhD in geology. We learned about rocks. Of which there are plenty in Moab

sitting there. bleeding.
It was not long going up, before we were in hero dirt, and into the aspen groves. I think that this is one of the features of the whole enchilada that makes it so unique; you go from high alpine tundra, to aspens, to high dessert slick rock, to sandy canyon bottoms.
Patterson was intent on slaying some mexican food on the whole enchilada.

The descent was simply amazing, as it constantly challenged you with more and more technical terrain. It forced you to constantly trust that your tires were going to hook up, and that if you had enough speed you would roll over everything. I only got in over my head once when I tried to roll off a 4 foot drop without keeping my front end up.
We got spit out into Negro Bill Canyon and then had to ride back into town to get the vehicles (and beer).

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Moab Man Camp: Poison Spider Mesa, Portal, Slick Rock, and Fruita

The next morning we headed to Poison Spider mesa to ride up to the Portal Tail Overlook, and then descend the portal trail. The ride up Poison Spider was our first and only time sharing the tail with jeeps and moto traffic. The jeeps drivers were very courteous, waving us thruogh whenever there was a back up and cheering us on in the tech sections.
After a few days of man camp things were starting to get pretty weird. Photo Cred: J Schroeder

Navigating around the sand on poison spider mesa

The only real bummer was the 2-3 miles of deep sand that we had to navigate through to get up to the overlook.

Finally to the top
Once we got to portal it was all business as theer was a storm brewingto the south, and portal is one of the deadliest trails in Moab due to the extreme exposure. The signs specificly tell you to dismount now, as 3 bikers have previously died on Portal.


And Patterson kept riding. Photo: J Schroeder

lots of exposure Photo: J Schroeder
After we finished portal with all aof our appendages intact, we snagged some pizza headed to our swimming hole up left hand canyon. Knowing that it was our last day in Moab we also got a twilight slick rock loop in before dinner. Slickrock is one of those trails that many folks think has played out, but it is just so incredible the first time you ride it.

The Classic: Slickrock
We rolled slickrock right at dusk, and it was perfect.  One thing that I did notice was that there were a lot of people riding slickrock that really were ill prepared for it. I really think that the real reason the slickrock trailhead/parking lot is so big is so that they can get the ambulances in more easily. 
Fruita: Horsethief
We did stop in fruita on our way back to DIA.  I got to ride a $10,000 mtb. I managed not to trash anything.
Thats not gonna buff out.
Which is more than I can say for some people.
In all seriousness Moab really is still the place for wide open technical singletrack. I would not have had near as much fun without a dropper seatpost and a 5 inch bike. When I got back on trails here in MN I found myself steering with my hips and using more body english instead of steering the Scalpel .  Moab is just one of those places that sticks with you.

Early Season Levis Trow

Butch hatched the plan that we should take a day trip to Levis Trow. This was my 4th or 5th trip so I got to play tour guide to Butch and Alvin!
It was so early that Butch had to scootch under and around all the tree fall.

Alvin powers the wee wheels. We had a 29er, a 650b, and a 26er. We don't share tubes.

Alvin Shreds the notch on Toad Road. I think that this is the most iconic part of Levis.
We had a great day, full of monstrous sandwiches, homebrew, and large DQ Blizzards on top of about 35 miles of single track.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Strada Fango 2013

Strada Fango v2.0 was this past weekend. It almost was for naught as the original course was still buried in snow.  If we had been on the original course ( and the ATV trails) I would have take the Scalpel.  But since the word on the street was that this was a "gravel" thing, I took the CX bike.
Start was fast.  Lead group was whittled down to 6 pretty quick, with Swanson and Lillie (on a SS MTB!) leading the charge.  I was able to hang in until we hit the glacier road.  4 miles of riding through either snow melt or praying that you do not break through the ice crust.  the group of 6 split, Lillie, Swanson and a Ski-haus rider were gone.  I yoyo-ed with Tim from Duluth for the next 10 miles until I shifted over cassette. He got out of sight, but would miss the next turn.  So I got to ride 40 miles by myself, which is a great when you are on soft, wet sand roads that attempt to suck you down. It was a character building ride, to say the least.

My trying to avoid swampy mud was for naught, as I would find out.
I did notice the lever throw of the disc brakes grow considerably after the swampy sections, but I never ran out of braking power. The OEM brakes that Cannondale specs uses organic pads.  I was not thrilled about this, but will look for some metallic aftermarket pads.
Bar plug down!

Photo Cred Out There

Photo Cred Out There

All thing considered, it was a great day. We had awesome weather, and I got to hang with some great people afterwards.  Big thanks to the Strada crew for putting on a great event.

Lot of Character building went on.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dairy Roubaix 2013

 So I got a wild hair this weekend to head down to southern Wisconsin for the Dairy Roubaix when I got wind that the Mammoth Gravel Classic was going to be postponed due to snow.  Drove 3 hours on Friday after work to get settled in. Awesome venue. Great people. We had a community cooler so every body got to try something new.  Plus Kevin from Red Eye Brewing in Wausau brought down a beverage cylinder of a Rye Porter that was off the hook.
Chow line in the morning. I am feeling highly caffeinated. Photo Cred Two Wheeled Maiden

Waiting to start on a beautiful WI morning.

The next morning I realized that I was the northerner amongst all the southerners. People were putting on full length tights, Jackets, fleece hats w/ ear flaps, and neoprene booties. I was in a vest, embro and arm warmers and loved every second of it. We rolled out enmass and were down the road pretty quick. The first 5 miles were pretty much down hill, as we headed for the river.  I was a little too lax and let a big gap form when bottles started flying and people started acting sketchy.  It took me a few minutes to chase it down, and I did not think I was doing that much work, but when I checked my garmin file it said I pegged my HR at 192. One match burned.
As we made the turn to come up out of the river, there were 2 guys that were already away, and up the road.  After a bit, I went to the front since it seemed like Brian Fuhrmann was doing all the work in our group of 7. By mile 17 I realized that Brian and I were the only ones doing anything. I pulled off the the side, and some club roadie actually stayed right on my wheel as I went over the the yellow line.
"you marking me, brah?"
Then it dawned on my that this guy had someone up the road. This was the first indicator of my roadie ignorance. I don't have a problem with people sitting in, but at least feign a contribution to the group. This isn't a crit, and your not Jens.
The second indication of my ignorance of roadie culture is that you can never shame a roadie into doing anything that they do not want to do. This is a mentality that I have been aware of, but have so much contempt for, that I stay away from the road scene.  In hind site, I should have just started attacking.  We were in these valleys with these long climbs, where it would have been so easy to launch a flier, OVER and OVER and OVER again.  It least then it would have been miserable for everyone, and we might have shed some dead weight. Once we hit the 27 mile mark there was a pee break stop, and guess who attacks? That ended the roadie hijinks for the day.

All of the climbs pretty much consisted of the couloirs along the Mississippi river.  It really reminded me of being back in Kentucky with all of the Karst topography and small farms. Right before we got to the finish Brian and one other guy from our group peeled off for the rest of the 107 miler (I just did 57 miles).  Then we started this gut busting climb up to the top of the river bluffs to intersect with CR X.  once we hit the top it was pretty smooth sailing. I did get jumped 100 yards from the finish line by the two guys that had just sat on my wheel for the last 6 miles. rolls eyes. I was pleased with the effort.
Average moving speed was 17.2 mph, and overall avg speed was 17.0mph.  We had about 4700 feet of climbing. I finished 5th.  It was a glorious time and many thanks go out to the folks at Wisconsin Bikes for Good. I met some great people, and finally got to see some ground that was not covered in snow.
The new bike worked awesome, and I am really impressed with what Cannondale is able to do with aluminum. The ride was never harsh, and the Ultegra worked great.  I really did not notice the brakes being good or bad. The wheels are tanks.  I bet you could knock 2 pounds off that bike with some Stans Crest wheels and some nice tires.