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Friday, September 28, 2012

Midnight Ride of Cyclocross, Lancaster, MA (Wed, Sep 26 2012)

Midnight Ride of Cyclocross, Lancaster, MA (Wed, Sep 26 2012)12)

This is a fantastic cross race in Central Mass. The course conditions were fast and slightly tacky since we received a bit of rain the day before and day of the race. The attendance was large with 300-400 riders. My Cat 3 race started out fast with a long straight away and a hard left turn at the end. One rider in the front went down just before the first corner and wisely curled into a ball as riders whizzed by him. Luckily there was not a pile up.

The course does not have a lot of elevation gain but a lot of tight turns including a section  running through a couple livestock structures with wood chip substrate, which made for some challenging turns and required focus to stay upright. Many people fell in this area and not many people were willing to risk passing in the loose wood chips. A total of two sets of barriers were easily hurdled.

The total distance was @12 miles with riders averaging 14-19 mph and reaching speeds of 30mph on the  long straight stretch at the start finish. Total elevation gain was about 435 ft. The course was well lit and there were several vendors selling food and bike products. Adult beverages were being consumed by riders and fans since this is a privately owned parcel.

I’m looking foward to the next ride here Sunday October 14th which will also have a single speed race (part of the Zanconato single speed series) where riders can race their single speed bikes or zip tie their shifters.

Fellow bikeman riders included Steve Witkus placing a very respectable 15th, Scott Conchieri, Mike Hoover, and Kevin Buckley.

Monday, August 20, 2012

NUE Hampshire 100 2012

National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series: Hampshire 100 2012

August 19, 2012       
Lazer helmets rock.

The feeling that you get when you begin a 100 mile race and realize how far you have to go is both unnerving and joyful. One can never be sure that they will be able to do it physically, or perhaps they will have a mechanical, or even get injured but the bottom-line is that you will get to spend a lot of time on your bike and that is a very good thing. There are also many variables involved which you can control such as proper preparation through training, arriving early to get a good warm up in, and eating a nutritious breakfast for example. I did not do any of these.

There are also other variables which are unpredictable and unexpected- for instance getting pulled over by a cop at 5am on the way to the race. “Do you know how fast you were going?” Before I could answer he said “52 in a 30”. Oh boy, I think to myself...this is not promising but whatever man, just give me a ticket and let me get on my way! I have a race to get to! “I’m giving you a warning. Slow down and have a good race” Thanks officer, that was cool of you.

I arrived a bit late- missed the bag drop and the 100 mile send off but managed to get moving a few minutes later with the elite and expert 65 mile group. I’m hoping to finish the 100 miles but not too hopeful that my legs are going to hold out.

The landscape around Greenfield New Hampshire is scenic with many old farmhouses and barns, plenty of hay fields, and many orchards and cow farms. We rode by a Guy playing a Violin over PA speakers, taking several loops around the property and hearing the music for a couple of minutes. It reminded of Gaelic war songs with us as the soldiers going into battle.

The trails were pretty rocky, rooty, and rough. It was a combination of double track snowmobile trails and singletrack along with a short amount of road. There were a lot of steep grades with loose gravel that made it difficult to keep traction up the really steep stuff. I walked, or slow jogged, a lot of hills on my bike...more than I would have liked. A geared bike was able to make most of the hills. I felt for the single speed leaders such as Gerry Pflug that were undoubtedly putting forth 100% effort in order to place well. This was not a single speed friendly course and it must have been a huge effort for single speeders and geared racers alike at all out race pace. I for one was not racing, well I was going as hard as I could for the most part, but I didn’t feel competitive with my peers in any way.

I was envious of the geared full suspension bikes around me and was tempted at one point to ask another rider if I could test out his Tallboy for the rest of the race. One interesting section of the course had 3.5 feet of water to either wade through with bike overhead or ride through. The guy in front of me rode it so I went in too and made it to the other side. Most of my friends waded through it though to save their bottom brackets.

The aid stations were properly set up and the volunteers were awesome as always. The NUE series always runs a top notch operation. The trails were very well marked and I didn’t get lost once or even think I was going the wrong way ever. Rare for a long distance race.

At mile 40 my legs were spent and I was having trouble making most of the hills. My bike wasn’t completely dialed, my conditioning was lacking, and I was second guessing myself. Combine this with an opportunity to bail at mile 65 and I was sold. It was a relief knowing that I didn’t have to do the full 100 which would have wrecked me and not in a good way. I’m still recovering from a back issue and my neck and shoulders were aching, likely related to poor bike fit.

My friends (all Team Bums members) did well in both the 100k and 100 Mile with
Chris Beriau of Bikeman.com placing 2nd in her class; John Modig of Zanconato/MTB Mind placing 3rd: Matt Chandler placing 3rd; Rob Paton coming in 17th. My harder than me friends who raced the 100 miles include: Paul Simoes of Bikeman placing 18th overall ; Karen Potter of mtbracenews.com/carborocket placing 3rd; and Brian Spring rode out all 100 miles. I ended up with a time of 6:54 for 65mi.

Brian coming in to the 65 mi mark.

Brian again

Matt Chandler in 3rd

John Modig and family, and Cori Paton

Winners received wind chimes

Modig places 3rd

Rob finishing up

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Annual Root 66 Hodges Village Dam Race, Oxford, MA, August 5th, 2012

I recently raced Annual Root 66 Hodges Village Dam, Oxford, MA, August 5th, 2012 in the Cat 1 SS class. The conditions were dry and fast and the temperature was in the 90’s. A far cry from years past when it was downpouring and chilly.

I knew I was in for it this race, being my first race of the year and not quite yet having race legs yet. As expected the leaders shot out and I was LAST into the woods after a long stretch of dirt road. I thought to  myself that I DO NOT want to be DFL at the finish so quickly picked up the pace.

Lap 1 and 2 were very dusty with so many people off the front. A friend of mine, Matt Myette, took a digger and was walking his bike back off the course. His face was coated in dirt, a telltale sign of a hard fall. In his words, he ended up with “Pretty good trail rash, some stitches and lots of bruising to my left leg from the knee down but it could be a lot worse..”

It forced me to back off a little since falling was a real possibility with the fast conditions and the washed out corners, not to mention the baby heads around blind corners and encroaching saplings on the singletrack seeming reaching out to grab your handlebars. Regardless, I ended up taking two good falls this race, luckily without injury.  

My carbon hardtail SS w/suspension fork ran great without any issues although this course is better suited to a full suspension in my opinion due to the rocks and roots. Going into lap 3 I was starting to feel a bit fatigued but fortunately the trail was opening up and I was able to get into a flow- keeping momentum through the corners and climbing all but one hill. I was running 37/21 or a 1.8 gear ratio and felt a bit under-geared. There were some flat stretches where I was spinning out and very little elevation gain to justify a low gear..

I ran out of water at the end of lap 3 and came across my friend Rob Paton taking some photos of the riders. I asked him if he would fill up my bottle for me and like a good friend, he took off and sure enough met me 15 minutes later with a full cold bottle of water. The conditions were HOT and I cramped up a bit and definitely could have taken in more electrolytes pre-race and during.

This is a well run race w/a clearly marked course, easy parking, and stream to cool and wash off afterwards. The volunteers from Bike Alley, Worcester do a great job of running the registration, awards, and there were burgers and drinks available for purchase post-race.

My friends all did well:  John Modig get a 2nd place medal in Cat 1 12-18  in a blistering 2:03:35 just 2min51sec off the lead; John Beaupre was awarded the Mass state championship prize placing 4th in Cat 1 SS in ~ 2:10, but the fastest Massachusetts resident in his class; Rob Paton placed 14th in Cat 2 40-49; Steve Segenchuk put the power down placing 6th in a very competitive field of Cat 1 40-49 in 2:01:56, right behind fellow bikeman.com racer Steve Witkus who placed 5th in the same category in 2:00:38!  I finished 7th out of 12 in Cat 1 SS, in 2hr 15min with two racers in my class not finishing. See all the race results here Hodges race-results

John and Beckie Beaupre were gracious enough to invite us over post-race to their beautiful home in Sutton for beverages, swimming, and BBQ. Everything including the lobsters, clams, and sushi were delicious. The monsoon rains made the festivities interesting and we fortunately found safety in the boat house (luckily w/a stocked fridge) and avoided being struck by lightning.

Single Speed USA 2012, Stowe, VT

The annual Single Speed USA participants terrorized the quiet town of Stowe, VT on July 28, 2012. The past locations include Tennessee (2008), Georgia (2009), Arizona (2010), and Colorado (2011). It turned out to be a most memorable weekend with great trails, beers, and unending entertainment.

Fortunately, the drive from Central Mass was only 3 hours and a mix of highway and back roads to mix it up. I stayed near the center of Stowe at Gold Brook Campground, splitting the site with a fellow biker Gary. This company was a welcome surprise since I really didn’t know anyone else going up for the weekend. Gary is an avid mountain biker who has been to other Singlespeed USA events and even to SS World championship events in Ireland and Scotland and he likes Volkswagens.  

Arriving on Friday, I cracked a Magic Hat #9 w/Gary, set up my 6 person tent for one (and a bike), and then headed out to the Matterhorn for pre registration, pizza, and some Long Trail beers. The bike racks outside of the bar were jammed with single speed rigs. Everyone got to choose their number, either 69 or 666. The locals, a mix of laid back vermonters and uber wealthy trust fund vacationers with accents were a bit befuddled by our crowd. I gladly explained to a few of them that 200 single speeders from around the country (and world) were in Stowe to ride their trail system and party. I ran into a few fellow Bikeman.com riders here at the Matterhorn including Racin Rick, Paul Simoes, and Keith Reynolds.

With a late 9:45am start time, I Slept in, slapped on some Assos anti-chafe cream, and proceeded to try to find the start line. I managed to get lost following other people that were lost, but eventually asked a local where the race start line was and she said “two lefts and take a right into the cornfield”. Easy enough and we shortly arrived at the polo field starting area. The host from Bike 29, who won last year's contest and the rights to bring the event to VT, gave us a short rundown of the course, the basic cardinal rule, and made statements about how the Stowe trails are better than the Kingdom trails. Then without further ado he simply said “go”. No one bolted at the start, we just rode out as a group up a hill, a long long hill. A few riders began to push the pace halfway up including fellow #teambikeman and Team Bums member Paul Simoes, the rocket man from Rutland, MA who finished the ~25-30 miles with the fastest time of the day in ~ 2hr15min..

The three aid stations were unlike anything I had seen before. The first one was just a couple miles in at the end of the first hill, stocked with The Alchemist Heady Topper. The 2nd aid station was fully stocked by Drunk Cyclist ...complete with Whisky, oreos and cold St Ide’s 40’s. A $40 bar tab at the Rusty Nail was granted to the first three people to pound 40 oz’s of freedom - one guy in a Banana suit named “Montana” drank two for good measure- Banana drinks 40 x2.

Everything was good until my chain kept popping off, damnit! I must have bent the chain somehow and it would just not stay on. Perhaps it was because it was a 10spd chain or maybe I just ‘rolled’ it back onto the cogs too many times which twisted it beyond its limit. It must have popped off 20+ times and I ended up running a lot...good cx training I thought to myself. I had thrown my bike together the night before due to a late shipment of a frame warranty and didn’t have much of a chance to test it out. I wasn’t fazed though, after all it was just a ride and not a race. It actually allowed me to take it slow, watch people chug 40’s and shoot the breeze with other single speeders.

There were many interesting bikes, even some full suspension with chain tensioners (YESS brand tensioner seemed to be the most popular for this setup). I particularly liked seeing the exquisitely designed bikes from smaller custom bike builders such as Black Sheep, Zanconato, and Gunnar to name a few. It was also great to chat with fellow riders about where they were from, and where they have ridden (many of the riders also ride the SingleSpeed World Championship event, SSWCs). This year the event will be held in South Africa.

The trails were absolutely fantastic. The Stowe mt bike groups do a superb job of designing, building, and maintaining the trail systems. The start and finish line were not far from downtown Stowe and the The Three Segments that we rode were connected by wide meandering country roads. Stowe is a great place for cyclists with a paved Rec Path meandering through the town and connecting shops, restaurants, bars and of course lots of singletrack. I don’t have to tell you if you have already been, but Vermont is beautiful and these trails are challenging without beating you up too much. A crew from Mountain Bike Vermont were interspersed throughout the woods snapping photos of the action. They are creating a comprehensive guide to VT mt biking- I can’t wait to see the final product.

I was enjoying the trails but was quickly growing tired of putting my chain back on so the finish line came as a relief. When I crossed the final bridge I was greeted by a rowdy crowd that were quickly draining two kegs and rehydrating with shots of whisky. I’m not sure what happened during the post race but the events were epic. It’s hard to put into words. Luckily there is plenty of video footage to sum it up which I’ll link  to later. The events consisted of a push up contest for one of two $600 gift certificates for Stans Wheels (I should have won) and mountain bike trivia for a sweet titanium fork from Black Sheep bikes  (I should have won this too). Dejay Birtch won the SS USA belt by way of a Mountain bike Derby showdown. My friend Gary was runner up, running out of room and unable to bunny hop back around to face Dejay. Wiki definition of a bike derby.

The big challenge was a contest  to determine who and where SSUSA 2013 would be held. After some whisky fueled brainstorming it was determined that the 1st person to drink a one pint glass of Maple syrup would win the hosting rights for the following year. A fellow from 29nsngl.com put the pint of syrup down like a champ. He chose Minnesota as the place for the ride in 2013. The crowd seemed to be unsure what to make of this choice but I’m sure they will be happy to see what MN has to offer in 2013. So much happened in such a short amount of time at this post race party, I was left dazed and amused. I wish I had pictures to go along w/this article but I jumped into the river with my iphone camera and it is no longer functional.

We spent Saturday night at the Rusty Nail listening to a kick ass band and knocking back some local Vermont brews. Pictures of the event were broadcasted on TV at the bar allowing the riders to relive the day and regular bar patrons to get a good laugh on our behalf. I met some great riders over the weekend including Dan, Joe, Sandie, Thom, Kim, Matt and Gary and look forward to riding with them again in the near future.

What a blast. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to do this ride, fortunate to have 1 of only 200 tickets awarded... a sort of golden ticket of sorts in my view. You have to really want it to get it and oh boy, I understand why people want these so bad. I arrived not knowing what to expect and left eagerly looking forward to next year’s event in MN.

Here is a link to some awesome Cycling Dirt videos including the derby and chugging contest. Once on the website be sure to check out the “top” videos on the left for more hilarious videos. There are also a couple of other sites below with coverage of the event.









Bikeman sponsored products used:
Assos anti-chafe cream
Motorex wet lube
Verge team bibs and jersey
Lazer helmet

Other bikeman items:
Ergon Grips w/barends
Bikeman builtVelocity Blunt SL 29er wheels w/Surly new 1x hubs, White industries freewheel and stans tire sealant. Schwalbe racing ralph/knobby nic tires.
Niner carbon bar
XO Brakes
Raceface stem
king bottle cages
rockshox xx reba w/hydroloc remote
Selle italia seat
SL-k carbon seatpost