Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Winter is not my favorite time of the year.  With the shorter days (they seem short when you wake up at 9am) and the colder temps I tend to spend much more time indoors than I'd like; much of it in my basement workshop tinkering with my bikes.  Currently I've got my StumpJumper taken completely apart and I'm cleaning/lubing all the pieces. 

I like getting out and messing around in the snow but in southwest Missouri we don't get that many opportunities.

I'm really looking forward to spring and the start of racing.  I participated in CXMAS a couple weeks ago and had a great time but man, was it cold.  Hopefully I'll be able to get off the waiting list for the Ouachita Challenge and can use that to kick off the summer.

The race schedules for the MWFTS and UFD have been released and I'm looking forward to seeing what AMBCS has in store.  It's going to be hard to choose between the races and a lot of it will depend on what my competition is doing.  I'll be racing expert this year so if will be much tougher, but I'm looking forward to the challenge and I hope I can continue to improve.

I've decided to join a team for next season.  I'll be racing for Revolution Cycles.  That will be a new experience for me and hopefully a positive one.  It's a new team and I'm glad Jeff invited me to be a member.  I think we will be able to work together and have some good races.

Just a few short months....

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Epic in hand

Yesterday I called A&B Cycle intending to bitch about why I didn't have my new bike yet.  When I got Pete on the line I asked "Do you know where my bike is" and he replied "Yeah, I'm looking at it".   NICE!  They were in the process of putting it together and said I could come pick it up in the afternoon.

I got the bike around 3 and after taking several photos headed out to little sac to get it dirty.  Here are some pics:
My ride was short but sweet.  I didn't have much daylight to play with and I spent most of the time tinkering with the suspension settings but the ride is amazing and I can't wait until this weekend when I'll be able to really test it out.  I'll take it out on the new I-64 on Saturday, followed by a day on the trails around St. Louis.

The shop set it up with tubes and since I rode at sac I got a thorn flat.  After I got home I converted it to tubeless and it was the easiest conversion I've ever done.  The front tire (an s-works captain 2bliss) sealed with a floor pump and the rear tire (an s-works fast trak 2bliss) sealed with a short shot from the air compressor.  The bike came with the rim strips and stems so the only thing I needed was the stans.

I still have a little adjusting to do on the suspension but it's close to perfect.  Man, I love this bike!

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Rode for a couple hours at Busiek today.  Saw lots of horses, not so many mtbrs.  I think my fitness is improving, the hills didn't seem bad today. 

On a side note I stopped by A&B on the way out to pick up some supplies and heard from an employee the owner of A&B is planning to build some new trails at Busiek.   I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Post Ride


Maybe I will have to check out this cyclocross thing if all the cool people are doing it. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Epic on order

Yesterday I pulled the trigger; I've got a 2010 S-Works Epic on order at my LBS A&B Cycle.  Estimated time of arrival is 3 weeks.

They gave me a good deal and I sold my Suzuki GSXR-1000 a couple weeks ago which is paying for most of this bike, but it was still hard to write that check for half the amount.

It's going to be a blast riding that bike and I can't wait to get it.......


Seems like a good deal.  Am I crazy?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2010 Gary Fisher Superfly 100 review

This weekend I was able to ride the new Gary Fisher Superfly 100 at Little Sac.  The Trek Factory Demo was set up with all the new Trek and GF bikes and since I'm in the market for a new mountain bike I was happy to see them.

When I arrived at the park the Superfly 100 that I wanted to ride was in use so I rode about an hour and a half on my bike to pass the time.  It's been raining quite a bit lately but the trails at Sac were in pretty good shape.  The low lying spots were muddy, but there wasn't anything that would prevent me from going fast.   

The guys from Trek were spending most of their time fixing flats.  I guess nobody warned them about the thorns at Sac.  There should be a sign that says "Go tubeless or go get a patch kit". 

Once I was finally able to ride the SF I was really happy with the way it felt.  I'm about 5'7" and 145 lbs and rode the medium.  It felt like the right size.  The riding position was very comfortable and felt very similar to how my Stumpjumper FSR is setup.  This was only the second time I've ridden a 29er and my first time on one with a full suspension.  The components were pretty good; Fox Float RP23 shock, Fox F100 FIT RLC 29er fork, X0 triggers and rear derailleur,  Truvativ Carbon Cranks and Bontrager Race X Lite wheels.   

I'm going to use my next bike primarily for racing and I want it to be quick.  On flat ground the bike felt very light.  In fact it felt almost jumpy.  When riding a 29er I feel like I'm much higher than when I ride my bike; like I'm perched.  It's really only a bit taller but the sensation takes a little while to get used to.

The first trail I rode starts with a nice long smooth gradual climb and I was able to ride it very quickly on this bike.  When I reached the twisty portion of the trail the bike was plenty nimble.  It turned very nicely and I was able to accelerate without much effort.

My only real complaint was how easily the rear tire locked up when applying the brakes.  It seemed like there wasn't much weight on the rear wheel so when I approached a sharp turn that required braking I usually ended up sliding into the corner.  The brakes overall performed very well; I went through several water crossings and they never lost power or squealed when wet.

On the rough downhills the suspension was great.  The bike never felt "twitchy" and handled all the rocks and roots very well.

I never used the lockout on either end of the bike, but I never really felt like I needed to.  When I stood to pedal there was a bit of bob but it was mainly on the front and nothing too concerning.  If I were to spend any time on fire roads I would lock them out but on the trail it's not worth messing with.

I ended up riding the bike for about an hour and my overall impression was very positive.  It's a great bike and well worth the price.  It's very fast and would make a great race bike.   I'm going to do another post that compares this bike to the s-works epic I'm considering, but as far as this review goes I would definitely recommend this bike.   

Here's a couple pictures:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Berryman Epic Recap

This weekend was the Berryman Epic mountain bike race utilizing the Berryman Trail near Steelville MO.  It's a weekend long event with a tour Saturday and race Sunday.

I arrived at Bass River Resort, the staging area for the race on Saturday afternoon as some of the first tour riders were returning from their 55 mile ride.  They were a mess and all they could talk about was how tough and wet the course was.  Luckily it was nice and warm with clear skies so everyone was optimistic that a lot of the water would drain away, the creeks would recede and the trails would be in better shape for the race.  I wasn't so sure, but seeing how it was going to be my last race of the year I was up for anything.

I slept well Saturday night in a campsite FAR away from everyone else and the pancake breakfast served at 6am had me ready to go for the 8:30am start time.  We were able to load drop bags with supplies we'd be able to access at the 20 and 37 mile marks of the race.  I loaded my bag with GU, dry socks and dry gloves.  I hoped I'd only need the GU.  I decided to ride with my camelbak for the race so I'd be able to carry more water.  I've only got one bottle cage on my bike and didn't think it would get me through to the checkpoints.

This is a very popular race and even with the less than stellar conditions there were LOTS of very good riders that turned out.  My goal at the start was for a top 20 finish, but when I asked Stephan (my Teammate at Burnin) if I had a shot at it he said "No Way!".  I think he comes from the Bobby Knight school of motivation.  To be honest I had my doubts as well.

Before the race I found out that Zdenek Palecek (my other Burnin teammate) had bought a 2010 Specialized Epic 29er and was riding it for the race.  I myself am doing everything I can think of to acquire an S-Works Epic so I was more than a little jealous.  But as they say “You gotta ride the horse that brung ya“ so me and my Stumpjumper FSR were ready to go.

The race started with a short section of paved road, followed by a creek crossing where the organizers had set up a flatbed trailer to get the riders across.  Since I wasn't at the front of the pack I had to wait about a minute at the bottleneck to get to the other side of the water, but at least my feet were still dry.  That was followed by a mile or so of gravel road before turning onto the trail.  There was a decent sized pack ahead of me and I was near the front of the second pack.  When we turned into the woods I followed a couple other riders for a while until a hill climb where I was able to pass and move up.  Before long I found the wheel of Rock Wamsley (also on a new 29er).  He was riding a good pace so I figured we could work together and we passed a few people on our way to the first checkpoint; Brazil Creek campground about 10 miles into the race.

Here's a pic early in the race:

The descent to the Brazil Creek crossing was a sloppy muddy mess but there was a temporary bridge built across the water which was nice.  My legs were covered in mud by that point but anything that kept my toes from freezing water was appreciated.  Right before the creek we passed Zdenek who was on the side of the trail fixing a flat.  He said he didn't need any help so we kept going.

Not long after the first checkpoint Rock got bogged down on a hill so I passed and decided to try to catch a few more riders.  I rode behind a younger rider for a while until at the top of a pretty long climb he pulled to the side of the trail.  I tried to encourage him to keep going but he said he'd follow.  I didn't see him after that.  None of the hills were all that steep but many of them were several minute climbs and when you combine that with the slick conditions it starts to wear on you.

I was still feeling pretty good so I kept pushing myself on the flats and hills until I came across Bob Arnold of DRJ Racing on the side of the trail.  He had just fixed a flat and was having problems with his CO2.  I loaned him mine and then headed back down the trail.

The second check point was at the 20 mile mark and was the first bag drop where we could get to our supplies.  As I rode up I was told that only "about" 15 people had come through ahead of me.  That picked my spirits up quite a bit and made me want to get back on the trail as fast as possible.  Even though my feet were wet and cold I didn't want to take the time to change socks so I just filled my camelbak with gatorade, grabbed a few gu's and took off.  I was passed by a couple people at the checkpoint (including Bob) but I caught up with them not long after.  I rode behind Bob for awhile and was really liking his pace when I noticed my rear tire was loosing pressure.  It was a slow leak so I rode it until the back tire was starting to move around on the turns.  When I stopped to fill it Bob asked if I needed help before riding on.  I couldn't find the source of the leak and didn't want to put in a tube so decided to just add air and hope the stans sealant inside the tire would seal it.  I was passed by 2 riders as I filled the tire and they both asked if I needed anything.   When I got going again I was able to catch back up to Bob again and I rode with him for awhile, then we were passed by Mike Barro of Momentum Cycles Racing on a single speed that I rode with until just after the 3rd checkpoint where we turned on a gravel road that lead back to the drop bag site.  For some reason I struggled on that road; Mike left me and I was passed by Bob and another rider.  My tire was still loosing air and getting low again but I figured if I could make it to the next checkpoint without stopping I'd be better off.  I don't know why I thought that.

Eventually the gravel road turned into a paved road that dead ended at a highway where there were signs to turn left.  When I looked left I saw there were tracks in the ditch beside the highway so I turned into the ditch and kept going.  That ditch was horrible.  It had standing water and the weeds were so thick it felt like I had everything pushing against me as I rode.  I stayed in the ditch for about a quarter mile before the signs said to take a right on a road leading to the berryman campground.  When I looked at the highway that I'd just ridden beside I got really pissed off.  I could have ridden on the shoulder of the road and avoided the hell of the ditch!  The sign at the turn said the campground was 1 mile away, but it was pretty much 1 mile uphill.  I was passed by 2 more riders on my way up that hill.  My goal of a top 20 seemed to be slipping away.  I was feeling pretty burnt and still had over 20 miles to go.

As I pulled into the last checkpoint I was given the same "about 15 riders ahead" line which I was starting to believe they told everyone that pulled up.  Then when I asked about a pump for my tire, Jim Davis from Team Seagal came over with a pump and helped me find the leak and we were able to get the stans to seal it.  It was a small tear in the sidewall.  We left the bike laying on it's side to help it seal while I went to get more GU and gatorade.  My toes were numb from the cold but again I didn't want to spend the time changing socks.

Again, I was passed by a few people at the checkpoint and not long after getting back on the trail my front tire washed out on a switchback and I went down.  As I lay on the ground Rock came riding by asking if I was okay.  I noticed my number plate had come off in the wreck so for some reason I picked it up and put it in my pocket; like they weren't going to believe I was #56 or something.....

Not long after getting back on the bike I was able to catch up with Rock and we rode together for the next 12 miles or so.  We were both tired and sore but at the same time were able to go faster as a team than we would have alone.  I was working to keep up and Rock was working to stay ahead of me.  We both complained on every hill along the way but I'm glad he was there to push me.  On one of the flat muddy sections Zdenek passed us,  and we didn't try to keep up with him.  I don't remember what he said as he went by but I think it was something about mud.

When we popped out onto a gravel road I wasn't expecting we lined up and rode hard to catch a couple riders in front of us.  I asked one of them if he knew the course and he said the road lead all the way to the finish, but that it was still a long way.  That's all I needed to hear and I took off.  Rock wasn't feeling it and told me to go on.  I spent a couple miles going back and forth with the top Women finisher, Catherine Walberg of Team Kenda Pro Cycling until I was able to pull away from her a little, then I caught up to Larry Koester of GORC on a singlespeed and we traded places a few times.  I'd pass him going downhill (where I think he was drafting) and he'd pass me going up the next one.

It turned out the final gravel road section was about 8 miles and was the same road we'd gone out on to start the race.  Once we got to the place we'd turned to get to the trail at the start I knew how much riding was left and decided to make one last push to beat Larry.  He was able to hold me off until we got to the river crossing about a quarter mile from the finish.  Unfortunately the flatbed trailer was nowhere to be seen.  Larry hit the water a few seconds before me, got off his bike and waded through the water.  When I got off my bike and straightened my legs in the cold water they started cramping and I couldn't move for about 20 seconds.  It was extremely painful and I forgot about Larry and started looking back for Catherine.  Luckily the cramping stopped and I was able to cross the water and ride to the finish line, all the while looking over my shoulder.

I crossed the finish line after 5 hours, 30 minutes and 51 seconds of racing; in 21st place.  16 seconds away from that top 20 I was after.  Rock finished a few minutes back in 25th and Zdenek was in front of Larry in 19th.  Stephen wound up finishing in 85th; riding the last 2 hours in the rain.

Here's a picture of me right before I crossed the finish line:

Jon Schottler of CBC Race Team won with a time of 4.39.34.  Amazingly, with the muddy trails, the top 4 finishers were able to break the course record with only 13 seconds between 1st and 2nd.  There was a lot of talent on the trails that day.  Here's a link to the results.

Scott Davis and crew of Springfield Bicycle Company did an amazing job with this event.  Considering everything that went on they pulled off a wonderful weekend.  Not to mention the effort it took for them and their volunteers to prepare the course in the months leading up to the race.  Hats off to them and I'll be back in 2010 (hopefully on an s-works epic!).

Here are the photo galleries I've seen of the weekend:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Race Across The Sky

I saw the movie Race Across The Sky last night at the Hollywood Theater in downtown Springfield.  It was a one time showing of the movie and looking at the audience was like looking at a snapshot of Springfield's cycling scene.  There were a lot of people from my spin class there and all the people I normally ride with, but overall it wasn't that many people.  The theater was pretty full but not packed. 

The movie was very good.  It's basically a documentary/highlight reel of this years Leadville Trail 100 mile mountain bike race.  It starts with a 15 minute panel interview of the race founder and top 5 race finishers,  then the movie, then more of the panel.   It's pretty impressive that the race was just a couple months ago and they were able to put out the movie so soon.

Watching the movie was pretty emotional; it's inspiring, touching and in some ways very sad.  The scenery is amazing and the quality of the production is top notch.

Hopefully the movie makes it to wide release and gets more people to try mountain biking and gets more mountain bikers to try racing.

I give it an A.

New shoes

Picked up a new pair of mountain bike shoes this week, just in time for the Berryman.  I got the Specialized BG Pro's because they are fairly light weight and come in widths.   Review after the race...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2010 Specialized S-Works Epic review

Thanks to the Specialized demo wagon, I got a chance to take a couple rides on the new 2010 S-Works Epic this weekend at the Burnin' at the Bluff race.  The first ride was just a casual lap around the 13+ mile race course, the second was one of my race laps at the relay style race.

First off I'll describe the terrain I rode.  The trail at council bluff lake recreation area is essentially a 13 mile loop (counting the extra trail used for the race) around the lake.  It has lots of dips (which were filled with water), some decent hills, some amazing rock gardens and lots of opportunities to break stuff. Here's a link to the trail map thanks to GORC.

My first impression of the bike concerns it weight.  I normally ride a 27 pound 2008 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Pro that I built up a couple years ago and when I took off on the Epic the weight difference was very noticeable.  It's amazing what a difference 5 pounds makes.  It felt very light and responsive.

My second impression was the drivetrain.  For 2010 Specialized went with the SRAM XX group on the S-Works Epic which has a 2 x 10 gear setup with Specialized own carbon cranks.  I rode the bike around the campground before hitting the trail and I couldn't believe how quickly and easily it changed gears.  It felt seamless and there was none of the normal grinding noise I'm used to on my bike.  Up and down the shifting was really fluid.

My third impression was the suspension.  Once I hit the trail and started encountering rocks and roots the suspension started to come into play.  The fork was set up stiffer than my bike so I felt more of the trail but when I got into the really rough stuff it handled it very well and when I got hard on the brakes there was no front end dive.  The rear shock was set very firm as well and there was a slight clicking sound/feeling when the brain activated the shock but it absorbed all the bumps and felt very good.  When I stood up to pedal I didn't notice any bob whatsoever.

On the downhill's I didn't go as fast as I normally do, since I was unfamiliar with the ride and wasn't quite sure how the bike would handle it, but at the speed I was traveling it never felt loose or out of control.  The suspension did a very good job of keeping the tires in contact with the trail.

The uphills are where the bike really shines.  On hills where I normally downshift, on this bike with just a little more effort it flew up the hills and I barely noticed I was climbing.  It was a blast to climb on this bike.

I generally kept the chain on the big ring in front and worked off the 10 gears in the back.  I used the small gear up front as my bailout gear when I found myself losing momentum on a steep grade.  With just a flick of my left thumb I was able to make it up the worst Council Bluff has to offer.  Speaking of shifting, the XX does really well under load.  On my bike (with an X0 rear derailleur) when I downshift with heavy pressure on the crank it makes an awful grinding noise and sounds like something is going to break.  On the XX it was just a silent, smooth shift; front and rear.  Very cool.

During the race I turned in my fastest time (by a few minutes) while on the Epic; that's with the intentional slower speeds on the technical descents.  With more time on the bike I believe I could have shaved a few minutes more.

The 2+ hours I spent on the bike sold me.  Many times I thought to myself; "they can't make a mountain bike any better than this".  I really didn't want to give it up, but I now plan to be riding one for the 2010 season.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Burnin' at the Bluff 2009 Recap

This weekend was the 6th annual Burnin' at the Bluff 12 hour mountain bike race at Council Bluff Lake Park near Potosi Mo. The event is organized by Mesa Cycles and is one of the premier mountain bike races in the midwest. This was my first Burnin'; but it won't be my last.

I signed up for the Fast class with teammates Stephen Venters and Zdenek Palecek. This is basically the equivalent of the Sport class. The race was from 9am to 9 pm and our plan was to have Zdenek do the start then switch riders each lap and shoot for a total of 10 laps over the 12 hour span. The course was just over 13 miles looping around the lake. It's a very technical trail with many dips, water crossings and huge rocks where mechanical problems are a big concern. It was going to take a good deal of luck to make it through unscathed.

I arrived at the park on Friday afternoon with Stephen showing up at our campsite a few minutes later. Walking around the campground I noticed that Specialized had set up a demo booth with a ton of 2010 S-Works bikes. I've been drooling over the new S-Works epic and was very excited to check it out in person. After setting up my tent I headed out to look over the bikes. While talking to the mechanic I asked when they were going to let us ride them and he said I could take one out then if I wanted. I immediately went and changed into my riding clothes, put on my helmet mounted light and went to get the bike. After the mechanic set up the suspension for my weight I took off; full of enthusiasm. The sun was setting and I decided to do a reconnaissance lap around the lake to see what all the recent rain had done. I'm going to save my impressions of the Epic for another post (it's worth it) but my impression of the trail that night; wet. Every ditch that drains into the lake (and there are a lot of them) had standing water. Most of them were over a foot deep and there was even a full fledged creek crossing. But aside from that the trail was in great shape. There was a tree down across the trail at about the 5.5 mile mark which required a dismount since the main part of the tree was about 3.5 feet off the ground, but the rest of the trail was clear. Right around the 8 mile mark something bad happened; my headlamp ran out of juice. Crap. I was in the middle of the woods a long way from the campground and I couldn't see ANYTHING. I didn't think there would be anyone else coming along on the trail so I started walking doing my best to stay on the trail. When I ran into something I'd back up a little and try a right turn and if that didn't work I'd go to the left. Somehow I was able to stay on the trail until the clearing at the dam. Unfortunately it was a very cloudy night so I didn't even have moonlight to help. But I knew that past the dam there was one more section of trail before the beach area where I could get to a road. So after the dam I ducked back into the woods. It took me over an hour to get the approximately 1 mile to the overflow creek near the beach. Just on the other side of the overflow was a gravel road that would get me out of there. The only problem was there was a line of brush between me and the road and I couldn't find the trail that would get me through it. I tried muscling my way through but it was too thick. So I just kept walking back and forth through the weeds until I finally crossed the trail and made it to the gravel road. I got back on the bike, rode it to the beach area then to the parking lot and on the road that would get me to the campground. There was still a problem though. It was a long road and when we drove down it earlier there was a barrier across the entrance and I didn't think I'd be able to see it in the dark. But it was too far to walk and my feet were freezing from all the water crossings, so I rode the bike straining to pick out the barrier in the darkness. Then after about 15 minutes of riding I saw a light around the next turn. I cautiously rode on and discovered it was the park rangers opening the gate. I rode up next to them, told them my light wasn't working and they offered to drive me back to the campground. Thank God! So after a chilly ride in the back of the truck I was back safe and sound at my campsite where I was greeted by a very nervous Stephen. It was right around 9:30. After calming Stephen down I rode the bike back to the race staging area where the Specialized folks had set up shop. They were very happy to see me. After telling the race officials about the downed tree I reluctantly gave the Epic back. The Spesh rep told me we could take the bikes out for a race lap the next day so I told him I'd be back in the morning, got my bike and headed back to the campsite to warm my feet.

Now the only problem was that Zdenek hadn't shown up yet. The pre-race meeting was at 7am the next morning and Z had told Stephen that if he didn't come Friday evening he would drive in the morning but not having him there made us a little nervous. But on the bright side our support team had come in my absence; Stacy, Brian and Anne.

I turned in around 11pm but didn't sleep very well; I was anxious about the race and couldn't really relax but I eventually calmed down and woke up the next morning ready to go.

Zdenek showed up right on time, Brian made some of the best coffee I've ever had, we got our timing chips for the race and settled on the following order for the race; Zdenek, Stephen then me.

The race start was really cool. It was a Le Mans start and the Mesa folks put down several smoke bombs around the bikes and played Ride of the Valkyries as everyone sprinted to their bikes. Here's a picture of Z getting to his bike:

We were off to a good start.

Zdenek finished his first lap very quickly in about 1:09 and Stephen took off. After Z's lap we had about a 5 minute lead. Stephen turned in a very respectable 1:24 (his personal best) and I took off, riding the Epic. Here's a picture of me waiting for Stephen:

I felt really strong and passed several riders during the lap. The epic is an amazing bike and I was flying up the hills. My time for the lap was 1:11 and that set the tone for the day. After the first rotation we had about a 20 minute lead in our class so barring a mechanical problem we were sitting in good shape. Here's a picture of me finishing the lap:

In the time between laps I tried to eat a little and stay well hydrated. The skies were clear and when standing in the sun it was a very nice, warm day.

Zdenek finished his second lap in about 1:13 and Stephen's second lap was consistant with his first around 1:25. On my second lap I was back on my bike and had a great time. I think I descended the hills much better than the first lap; mostly because I know my bike so well and know how it's going to handle the terrain, and I think I climbed reasonably well, though not nearly as fast as I had on the Epic. I finished the lap at about 1:13.

At that point, leading to the night laps we had over a half hour lead so our main focus was not to do anything that would jeopardize it; meaning ride cautiously to avoid wrecks and mechanical's.

Z's third lap was around 1:15 and Stephen's (the first night lap) was just over 1:30. I headed out for my night lap pretty nervous about my lights. I had my handlebar mounted lights on but it was my first time using them, and I kept my helmet light on it's lowest setting since on high it didn't last the full lap the night before. I kept the handlebar light shining right in front of me and used the helmet light to look further up the trail. But with the low setting it wasn't very bright so I had to ride pretty slowly because I didn't want to wreck and ruin our chance of winning the race. It was a little hairy at places; especially in the rock outcroppings, but I was able to avoid any wrecks and felt okay. Then, leading to the last mile of the course which was mostly uphill I had a bad feeling; my legs were dead. It came on me all of a sudden and as I approached the last climb I was afraid I wasn't going to make it. So I dropped to my granny gear and started spinning. It was very painful and I just kept saying to myself, "almost there". After what felt like an eternity I made it to the top and approached the finish line about 5 minutes before 9. Zdenek was ready to go out for our 10th lap but Stephen stopped me from crossing the line. We believed that if you crossed before 9pm and didn't do another lap you would be DNF'd and since we had a big lead we didn't need to do another lap. While I was waiting to cross the line Stacy got me a bowl of pasta because I was feeling very weak. It was possibly the best pasta and meatballs I've ever had. While we were waiting a couple guys crossed the line without going out for another lap so I guess we were wrong about the DNF thing.

At 9:01 I finished our race:

We ended up winning by 36 minutes.

After the race I sat by the campfire for about 30 minutes warming my feet and recovering. It was a great feeling and I'm very proud of my teammates. We raced a great race and best of all had a great time doing it. As Stephen said afterwards; only 364 more days to Burnin VII.

The awards ceremony was very entertaining and consisted of lots of funny commentary a burning sheep ("Don't be like that burnin' ass, gas ass sheep") some good fireworks and lots of PBR:

Here's our podium shot:

Here we are again:

Here are some photo galleries from the weekend:
If you want to read a great account of this race, go here.

The folks at Mesa really know how to put on a good race. Here's a link to the official results and individual lap times.

Next up for me is my last race of the year; the BT Epic in two weeks. Then I've got to figure out how to get my hands on one of those Specialized S-Works Epic's!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Awesome day!  Details to come....

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Burnin' at the Bluff 2009

This weekend is the 6th annual Mesa Cycles Burnin' at the Bluff endurance mountain bike race at Council Bluff Lake near Potosi MO. Click here for more information.

I'm on a 3 man team with Stephen Venters and Zdenek Palecek in the Fast category; our team name is Zed's Dead.

I'm really looking forward to this race and expect a full report when it's over. If I survive.....

Monday, October 5, 2009

MWFTS - Warsaw Mountain Madness Recap

Yesterday was the final race of the 2009 Midwest Fat Tire Series. It took place at the Truman Lake Mountain Bike park in Warsaw Mo.

This race had high stakes for me going in. I was in a 3 way battle with Rock Wamsley and JP Brocket for the Sport 30-39 class championship, and I needed a top 3 finish to secure the overall win. I think I was more nervous about this race than any I've ever been in.

On Saturday I was able to pre-ride the course and I'm glad I did. The overall length was 8.2 miles and my pre-ride lap was 44 minutes so my goal for the race was 3 laps. One thing that was nice was they put mile markers on the trail so you'd know where you were at on the course. I wish they would do that at all of the races. The trails themselves were awesome; you can tell that the people that designed the course know something about mountain biking and they took full advantage of that knowledge creating a trail system that highlights the terrain and provides a challenging and fun ride. There weren't any gut busting hills but there was a lot of variety. There were 3 fairly long straightaways that provided some big gear fun and lots of tight twisty sections that made me pay attention to my lines and just had me smiling from ear to ear. My plan was a nice easy feeler ride on Saturday but it was so much fun I couldn't help but push myself to ride fast. Those trails are designed to be ridden at speed. If I had to make a comparison to other trails in the series I'd say it mostly resembles Sac River in Springfield. I like it more than the trails at Sac River and since we didn't use all the trials for the race I'll have to make the 1.5 hour drive to the park again soon to sample the rest.

When I arrived at the park Sunday morning the atmosphere was surprising. They had just started the beginner and marathon classes and they had a dj playing music, the promoter was announcing the riders as they rode by and the crowd was really into it. They even had a food stand set up. Parking wasn't a problem because they had a large field set aside so you were never very far from the start/finish area.

Before the race started Rock and I went over to check the sign-up sheet. I couldn't believe there were only 5 people that showed up for our class. It was me, JP, Rock, Ryan Lemmon and Darrin Schupp. That calmed me down a little because I was expecting to see people come out of the woodwork for this one. I don't know why the turnout was low; maybe it was because Warsaw isn't very close to the major cities, but the weather was perfect and the trails couldn't be beat. All I can say is, they missed out.

For the second week in a row Andy started us right after the experts and Rock took off with the lead with me in second and JP in third. I was a little surprised at the pace early on; Rock was tearing it up and my legs were on fire trying to keep up with him. After about a mile I decided to let him go; I just didn't think I could maintain that pace. We had dropped the other riders in the class so that left me on my own which I was cool with. As the first lap wore on I didn't completely lose contact with Rock. I couldn't see him in the woods but when we'd break out into a clearing I could still see him in the distance. That was a good feeling and I think helped me keep up the effort. I haven't seen the final times yet but I believe I finished the first lap around the 40 to 41 minute mark.

On the second lap my legs started feeling pretty good so I was able to speed up and in the clearings I could tell I was closing the gap with Rock. Then around the 3.5 mile mark I had a small wreck where I was making a turn in a rocky area and one of them caught my front wheel wrong and spun my handlebars. I smacked my right calf pretty hard on something but it didn't hurt and my bike was fine so I jumped back on and continued the pursuit. Somewhere around the 4 mile mark I was able to catch up with Rock. He asked if I wanted to pass and I told him we should just ride it out. The rest of that lap was really fun. I was feeling great and I love it when I'm able to watch another rider to learn how they handle the parts of the trail I struggle with. One thing I noticed is how well Rock makes the turns. He's very fluid and takes good lines. I tried to emulate what he was doing well.

When we finished the second lap it was well under the 1:30 cutoff so I asked him if he wanted me to lead that lap. He said sure so I passed him before we got to the start/finish line. When we got to the woods Rock said to go ahead so I decided to take off and see what I could do. My legs felt great and the ride overall felt pretty effortless so I went for it. One thing I think that helped was GU. I had one about 45 minutes before the race started, one right before the race then one at the end of the first and second laps. It seemed to help me keep my energy up and I never got that light headed feeling I sometimes get during races.

On my third and final lap I caught several expert riders, but instead of falling in behind them I went ahead and pushed it to the end. My final time for the 3 laps was 2 hours 2 minutes and something. Amazingly I had the fastest time overall. Granted none of the expert heavy-hitters were there but it makes me feel pretty good for next year when I'll be racing against those guys. Rock finished in 2nd about 5 minutes back and JP took 3rd. He finished his second lap before the cutoff but decided not to go back out. He did a lot of riding over the weekend so I can't say I hold that against him.

After the race we headed over to Sterrett Creek for the series end of year banquet. They served some excellent barbecue and handed out the race and series awards. Here's a picture of my race medal:

Here's a picture of the MWFTS plaque:

And here's the podium for the Sport Men 30-39 class (Rock, Me and JP):

It was a great season and it was awesome competition that had me looking forward to each race. Midwest Fat Tire Series is a class act; I look forward to seeing what they set up for next year.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Midwest Fat Tire Series - Warsaw Mountain Madness

This Sunday (10/4/09) is the last race in the 2009 Midwest Fat Tire Series.  It is race #13 and is being held at the Truman Lake Mountain Bike Park in Warsaw, MO.  Here's a link to the event details.

I haven't ridden the trails at Truman Lake yet and other than second-hand accounts (which are positive), I don't know anything about them.  I'll be pre-riding the course Saturday afternoon so hopefully I'll have a good day Sunday.  For those too lazy to click the above link here's the course from the event website:

The MWFTS end of season banquet will be held immediately following the race just up the road at Sterett Creek Campgrounds.  BBQ will be on tap.  Hopefully I can hold onto the top spot and walk away with some gold.  We'll see.......

Monday, September 28, 2009

MWFTS - Greensfelder Race Recap

Sunday was race #12 in the Midwest Fat Tire Series.  It was promoted by DRJ Racing and was held at Greensfelder Park in Eureka MO. 

I was a little nervous about the trail conditions since it rained most of the day Saturday but the dogwood trail that was used for the race apparently drains very well and was in great shape on raceday.

I arrived at the park prior to the beginner/marathon start and watched most of that race from a nice shady spot near the start/finish line.  The leaders were turning laps around the 15 minute mark which is what I expected, so I figured I'd do 6 laps.

When it was time for our race they had us start with a long hill climb up a gravel road that fed into a connector trail that lead back to the Muckerman Shelter parking lot which was were the start/finish line was.

Rock Wamsley, one of the leading racers in my class, spoke to the MWFTS guys before the race about class starting order and convinced them to start us 30-39 sport guys before the 29 and under sport class.  They stagger the start times by a minute usually in the following order: All Expert, Sport Singlespeed, Sport 29-under, Sport 30-39, Sport 40-49 and then Sport 50+.    Then a few races ago the 40-49 guys got to go before the 29 and under group which put us behind both of them.  But if you look at the race results the 30-39 is the strongest sport class; which means we end up catching the 29 and under group about halfway through the first lap and have to pass them; which takes more effort and can effect the outcome of the race since you have to be in a good passing spot.  So for this race since my class is the only one where the winner of the series is still up in the air they decided to start us before the 29-under group.  Then at the starting line the 40-49 group said we should go before them since their series winner has already been determined (John Peiffer) so we started after the sport singlespeed class with pretty much clear sailing for the start of the race.  I came into the race with a 2 point lead in the series over Rock with 2 races left.  We both needed to win.

When the race started Rock got the hole shot and was in the lead at the top of the hill with me behind him and Matthew Crews hot on my heels:

I decided to wear my camelbak again for this race because I didn't have anyone to hand me bottles and the course was technical enough I figured there wouldn't be many places I could handle a bottle.  I did set up one bottle in the cup holder of my folding chair near the starting line that I figured I could switch to if the hydration pack was bothering me.  I have to say that after racing without it lately it did feel pretty heavy on my back.

About halfway into the first lap Rock was pulling away from me and I couldn't shake Mathew.  It seemed any time I was able to get a small gap between us he'd close it on the next hill.  It was starting to feel like I was going to be battling for 2nd, not 1st. 

The trail itself was awesome.  There were a few sections that were wet but it never got nasty and slick.  I'd say the trail comes close to the Rollercoaster trail at Castlewood on the fun scale, but it has quite a few rocks and roots that keep it from being as fast (for me) as Rollercoaster.  There were parts of the trail where I'd be flying along and would just have to pull up on the front wheel and hang on hoping I'd keep control as I bounced over whatever happened to be in my way.  There were lots of quick down/up sections, some nice jumps and only a few off-camber turns.  Most of the hills on the lap were fairly short and you could use momentum to get up them, but towards the end of the lap before reaching the gravel road there was a LONG winding hill that I saw turn many racers into hikers.  It was bad because when you reached the top of the hill on the trail you had to climb the hill where they started the race.

Here's a pic of Matthew and I finishing the first lap (on right side of pic):

During the second lap I still couldn't shake Matthew and I couldn't see Rock anymore.  I was going as fast as I could but he wasn't going anywhere.  Here are a couple pictures that were taken either on the first or second lap:

When we turned onto the gravel road near the end of the second lap Matthew passed me and started to pull away.  That left me in 3rd.  I didn't feel like I could go any faster so I just focused on keeping the pedal down and holding onto 3rd.

The next couple laps I passed a few people and felt like I was riding well but Rock and Matthew were nowhere to be seen.  They both wear "Hub" jerseys so a couple times I'd come up on another Hub rider thinking it was them but each time my hope was dashed.  At the end of the 4th lap I ditched my CamelBak:

On the 5th lap an expert rider that had flatted earlier pulled up behind me.  He said he didn't want to pass, that he was just finishing the race, but I was glad he was there because it gave me a little more motivation to ride harder.  Then about halfway through the 5th lap I saw Rock on the side of the trail fixing a flat.  The look on his face said it all; he was pissed and he was pumping on his hand pump like crazy.  That put me back in 2nd and gave me all the motivation I needed to go as hard as I could go.  For all I knew he was finishing up and was back on the trail chasing me down.  He had been riding much faster than me all day but I really wanted to hold him off and I only had 1.5 laps left.

Here I am somewhere on those last 2 laps:

On the last lap, about 3/4s of the way through I caught another glimpse of a Hub jersery ahead of me.  I didn't really think it was Matthew because of my earlier disappointments, but I figured I'd try to catch him and see.  He had 2 riders behind him and as we approached the hills I got a good look at him and it was Matthew!  As he started to climb the hills that lead to the gravel road he was going very slow, so I passed the 2nd rider behind him and fell in at his pace with one guy between us.  I don't think he knew I was there even though the guy I passed yelled out "there's the race for 2nd".  He was actually going slow enough on that last climb that I was able to use it as a breather and save my energy.  I didn't want to try to pass him there because the trail was pretty narrow and I didn't want him to know I was there.  Plus I was worried he'd be able to hold me off.  When we got to the top of the trail and turned onto the gravel road I locked out my front shock, switched to a hard gear, stood up and started hammering.  I was able to build up quite a bit of speed and I passed him pretty quickly.  I didn't look to see if he was chasing me; I just rode as hard as I could to the finish line.  Here's a picture of me pulling out onto the parking lot at the end of the race:

I couldn't believe it but I actually won!  Granted I got very lucky that Rock had the flat, but still, a win is a win.  Rock ended up finishing behind Matthew in 3rd, so that gives me a 6 point lead in the overall standings. 

I talked to Matthew and Rock after the race and Rock was pretty disappointed about the flat; it was his to win and he really wanted it.  Matthew said he was pretty exhausted on the last lap and didn't try to chase me up the hill. 

Here's a link to the final results for the race.  My overall time for the 6 laps was 1:34:06.  Here's my lap breakdown:
  1. 15:39 (was a bit longer with starting hill climb)
  2. 15.24
  3. 15:48
  4. 16:19
  5. 15:46
  6. 15:10
 Some of the best news for me was that I didn't wreck the entire race.  That's surprising considering how technical the course was and some of the speed I was carrying on the downhills but I only had one time where my front wheel started to wash out but I was able to recover and didn't have any other close calls.  Maybe that means I just need to push it harder...

Here's a picture of the podium and a close-up of the medal:

Now it all comes down to the last race in the series; Warsaw.  I can't wait.

If anybody is looking for more pictures of the race (or pictures that don't have me in them), here are the galleries I've found:
Thanks to DRJ Racing for putting on a great race and to Midwest Fat Tire series for everything they do to make it all happen.  I'm going to do everything I can to get more people from Springfield to participate next year.  I just can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Midwest Fat Tire Series - Greensfelder Classic

Sunday (9/27/2009) is the 12th race in the Midwest Fat Tire Series; the 2009 Greensfelder Classic at Greensfelder County Park in Eureka MO.

The race is going to be on the Dogwood trail on the west side of the park riding counter-clockwise.  Here's an excerpt of the GORC Greensfelder map of this trail:  

The start/finish is going to be at the Muckerman Shelter.  St. Louis has been getting a lot of rain lately but the Dogwood trail drains very well and from what I've read its in great shape and should be perfect on race day.

I've only ridden Greensfelder a few times and in my opinion Dogwood is the best trail at the park.  It's pretty narrow in most places and has lots of twists and turns along with several rocky sections that can be fairly technical.  When riding counter-clockwise there's only one extended uphill section but that part of the trail is wide enough that passing won't be a problem.

The laps are going to be short; like 15 minutes per lap.  There will be lots of passing and I imagine many riders will be lapped by the expert group.  The weather is supposed to be really nice with sunny skies and temps in the 70's.  The series is almost over and I'm looking forward to the last couple of races.  I hope there's a good turnout.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Council Bluff trail ride

With the Burnin' at the Bluff race next month and a break in my race schedule this weekend I decided to meet up with my Burnin' teammates (Stephen Venters and Zdnenek Palecek) for a ride at the site of the upcoming race; Council Bluff Lake near Potosi MO.   It was an epic day.

I invited Jesse (a regular at the Midwest Fat Tire Series events) along for the ride but he didn't commit until 10pm Saturday for the Sunday trip.  It rained all day Saturday and he wasn't looking forward to driving 3+ hours just to ride around in the mud.  I told him I'd been watching the radar and it didn't look like that area had gotten nearly as much rain so he took the plunge and we planned on leaving town by 9 am.  The plan was to meet Stephen and Zdnenk around noon and be on the trails by 1.

I'd never been to Council Bluff Lake before so I relied on Google Maps to find the place.  We took my girlfriends Honda CRV instead of my Jeep mainly because it handles much better on the Highway (doesn't struggle to maintain 70 mph) and gets 20+ mpg vs the jeeps 12.

For some reason Google doesn't mind gravel roads.  As we were driving down MO-8 between Berryman and Shirley the directions called for a right turn on Jinkerson Rd.  It wasn't a major intersection and we drove past it without even noticing it.  After a u-turn we were back on track but about a mile in Jinkerson turned from asphalt to gravel.  It was nice and wide though so it wasn't a big deal.  The directions then told us to turn left on an "unnamed road".  It was another we drove right past since the unnamed road was very steep, narrow and almost completely washed out.  It looked like lots of trails I've driven in my Jeep.  After another u-turn we took the unnamed road, somehow made it up the hill and Jessie commented that it was a good thing we weren't in his car and how do they expect the other races to be able to climb that hill.  I figured it was google just trying to save us some time and shrugged it off.  That road eventually lead us to an intersection where we turned back onto a paved road (MO-8 I believe) and I started feeling much better.  Then we turned onto another gravel road that was the worst one yet.  There were sections where the bike rack scraped the ground and I was having to get a run at some of the ruts to make it over them.   When we got to an area that was completely impassable I decided to turn around, retrace our path back to the last paved road and find another way there.  Luckily we were able to make it back to the road but unfortunately my iPhone didn't have cell service so I figured we were screwed.  I thought about giving up on Council Bluffs and going to ride the Berryman since we'd driven right past it earlier and I knew where it was.  Then we spotted a guy pulled off the road unloading a 4-wheeler and stopped to ask directions.  He pointed us in the right direction and about 10 miles later we pulled into the park.  As we were driving around looking for Stephen and Zdnenek we happened to drive past Stephen and together we headed down to the boat ramp where we found Zdnenek pulling off the trail having just completed a lap around the lake.  It was just after 12; we were right on time.

The day was starting to look much better.  The temperature was very nice and although there was lots of humidity it wasn't raining.  After talking about the course and what to expect we suited up for the ride we headed out with Zdnenek in the lead.  He rides a Specialized 29er singlespeed and flies on that thing.  When we reached the spot where the transition area will be for the race we'd only ridden about a mile (mostly uphill) and everyone but Zdnenek was already drenched in sweat and breathing very hard.  I was thinking it was going to be a long day.  After a couple minutes we headed back out to finish the lap.  The trail at Council Bluff goes around the lake and is about 12 miles long.  For most of it you are right next to the lake hugging the hillside, with lots of dips, lots of rocks and lots of exposed roots.  There are a few flat sections and a few long hill climbs but most of the time you are riding the curves of the coves and can't see much of the trail ahead of you.  There are lots of steep drops followed by steep climbs where you need all your momentum to make the top of the hill.  If you're in the wrong gear you hike-a-bike.  The hardest thing was being unfamiliar with the trail and not knowing what's ahead and trying to go fast.  It made for a nerve racking ride.  Before too long Zdnenek had pulled away from me and I had pulled away from Stephen and Jesse so I was just motoring along by myself, huffing and puffing and wondering what lay ahead.  Every once in a while Zdnenek would stop and wait for everyone to catch up and when we regrouped he'd take off again pulling away as he went.  I really liked the trail there.  There's never anywhere you can relax and turn on auto-pilot.  You have to pay attention and watch where you're going and know what gear you're in and what gear you'll need to be in for the next obstacle.

After crossing the dam which is near the end of the lap I stopped and waited for Stephen and Jesse.  The trail crosses over to a short section on a gravel road and then through a swimming area and I wasn't sure where to go.  From there on Stephen led most of the way since he's been to the park several times and knew where to go.  The first lap felt like it took forever but was actually only 1:24 of riding time.  When we made it back to the cars Zdnenek had changed into a dry shirt and looked like he'd been waiting for awhile.

He asked if we were ready for another lap.  Stephen and i said yes but Jesse said no.  After spending some time refilling our bottles and eating a bit and talking about the race Jesse was feeling better and decided to head back out.

On that lap I wanted to get a better idea of what to expect as far as lap times for the race so I took off in the lead and rode pretty hard.  After about 20 minutes I let Zdnenek pass me since I felt like I was running from him and not riding at a sustainable pace.  He pulled away and I just worked on learning the trail and finding the lines that would allow me to keep my feet off the trail.  That lap was much more fun than the first one and seemed much shorter.  About 2/3 of the way around the lake there's several sections where large rocks cover the trail.  You have to really work to get good lines and time your pedaling so you don't smack your feet on the rocks while still maintaining your forward momentum.  It's challenging and a lot of fun.  About a 1/2 mile from the end of the lap I met Zdnenek heading the other direction.  He was going to ride out and meet up with Stephen and Jesse.  I just kept going.

I finished that lap in about 1:14.  I know I could have done it faster but I figure that will be about my average on race day when fatigue starts setting in and the evening laps start.

I waited about 1/2 an hour for everyone else to make it back to the parking lot.  It turns out Stephen wrecked and banged his knee pretty hard at the beginning of the second lap.  His front wheel slipped out and he went down pretty hard.  After that he wrecked a few more times so they took it pretty easy.

By then it was getting late so we decided to call it a day.  After cleaning up and deciding on a name for our team (Zed's Dead) we mapped out a route home that would keep us on pavement.  It sounded pretty straight forward so we packed up and hit the road a little before 6.  Before long Jesse and I were starving and looking for some place to eat.  It took a while but when we pulled into Salem the first place we saw was a small Chinese restaurant so we stopped.  I ordered the pork lo mein with an egg roll and it was delicious.  I ate until I couldn't eat anymore and we headed out.  Turns out Salem is a pretty big town and if we had waited a few minutes more we would have had lots of options for dinner.  But we were hungry and the food was good so I didn't have any regrets.

After stopping for gas we headed out of town and about 30 minutes later I realized that we missed a turn that would have taken us to Rolla where we could take I-44 home.  We decided to soldier on.  Eventually we made it to Licking so we took 63 down to Willow Springs and headed east on 60 towards Springfield.  We pulled into town at 9:45.

All in all it was a pretty good day and I think Jesse is glad he came.  I'm looking forward to the race at Council Bluff, but I've got 2 more MWFTS races between now and then.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2010 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR and Specialized Trail Crew

Over the last couple days since I heard about the Specialized Trail Crew contest I've been thinking about it a lot.  I made a post as an application to join said crew, but they'll have LOTS of people vying for the privilege which makes my chances of being selected pretty remote.  Still, the idea is intriguing and makes me giddy as a schoolgirl.  What I've been thinking about is basically twofold; the bike and the crew.

I'll start with the bike.  Although I'm not really in the market right now for a new bike, almost every day I scour the internet looking at the latest offerings from bike/component manufactures and running lots of "what if" scenarios through my head.   At the top of my wish list has been a 2010 S-Works Epic.  It's Spech's top of the line race bike and since I love racing I'd like to ride the best.  But if I were to acquire the epic I'd probably not ride it every day and save it for the races.  The majority of my time on a bike are spent on regular trail rides; not racing.  Not that the epic wouldn't excel as a daily rider, but truth be told, I like comfort on my regular rides and I'm not sure the suspension of the epic lends itself to comfort.  It's designed for speed.  Plus I'm pretty rough on my equipment (and my body) and I'd be worried about breaking my $8,800 investment.

The new Stumpjumper is a whole other animal.  It's designed to be more of a trail bike.  It's 140mm suspension would soak up everything I could throw at it and is probably more comfortable than my couch.  Plus it's front shock is adjustable and can be lowered to 115mm which is more in line with the epic and would make it more "race like".   The more I look at the new Stumpjumper the more it moves to the top of my list.  I'll never have a stable of high-end bikes.  I just can't afford that.  So I need to spend my money wisely and make my purchase fill as many needs as possible.  Basically I would need a bike that could comfortably take the abuse of my regular trail rides and help me go faster on race day.  Of everything I've read the new Stumpy fits that bill.

Now for the crew.  The idea of the Specialized Trail Crew is a good one.  Having a group of regular joes outfitted with the best Spech has to offer, out there spreading the word and giving them exposure is ground level marketing at it's finest.  The Crew members benefit from the great bike/gear and Specialized sponsored group rides and Specialized benefits by getting their stuff out in the public eye, having people like me lust over the idea of being in the Crew and probably spurring sales in their target market.

Speaking of their target market, who are they trying to reach.  Since the top of the line S-Works bikes are several thousand dollars, they have to be targeting people with the desire and cash to plunk down their hard earned bucks on a new bike.   Obviously the general public thinks spending that much on a "toy" is crazy.  Hell, the general public thinks the whole concept of mountain biking is crazy.  But the Crew has the potential to change some minds.  As I've said many times, I don't understand why mountain biking isn't more popular.  The way I see it the trails should be so overflowing with people.  Mountain biking offers the best of everything in an "outdoor" lifestyle.

It starts with fitness.  Regardless of how fast or how far you ride, getting out there on the trails requires physical effort.  The act of riding a mountain bike makes you healthier.  It pushes you to and makes you stronger.

Next is weight loss.  When you start getting into mountain biking you start thinking about weight.  Hills will do that to you.  The more you weigh the harder it is to climb so seriously start thinking of ways to get your weight down if for nothing else then to make the hill climbs that much easier.  Every time I start to overeat I think about riding my bike.  Then I stop eating.

Then you've got piece of mind.  When I go out for a run I sometimes find myself getting angry.  It's not at a specific thing really; just at things hindering me.  Maybe it's because running doesn't really require focus, it just requires you to keep going.  So my thoughts are all over the place thinking of all the ways I've been wronged or whatever.  I never get that feeling when I'm on the trails.  When I'm out in nature riding my bike I tend to focus on the task at hand much more.  I have to; otherwise I'll end up on the ground.  Sometimes I end a ride in pain (usually when I wasn't paying attention) but most of the time I finish refreshed.  It's a good feeling.

Also you've got the opportunity to test your abilities at the numerous mountain bike races held all over the country with classes for all skill levels.  Entry fees are low and many of them are like large parties where there happens to be a race going on.  You arrive with a few butterflies in your stomach and you leave with new friends and the satisfaction that you did all you could do that day.  Sometimes you even leave with some nice swag.

Finally you've got the fun factor.  I haven't found many activities that are more fun than mountain biking.  I like flying down hills on the descents, I like jumping logs, I like navigating tricky parts of the trail and sometimes I like climbing hills; especially when I'm in shape and full of power.  I like spending time with other mountain bikers.   They will bend over backward to help someone in need and I've just found that as a group they are great to be around.

If I was charged with picking the Crew I know exactly the type of people I'd choose.  I'd go after a mix of males and females (an underrepresented group on the trails), covering the various generations that are passionate about the sport and are willing/able to put themselves in the public eye and spread the gospel of the MTB'r lifestyle.  Sounds a lot like the criteria they laid out on the specializedriders website.  I guess the Crew is in good hands.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Specialized Trail Crew

Do I want a 2010 S-Works Stumpjumper FSR?  YES!

I've been riding and racing a 2008 Stumpy FSR Pro for almost 2 years and love it.  Here's a picture of my baby:


That bike rocks; it's proven to me time and time again that I am the weak link in our relationship, but it inspires me and gives me confidence to ride harder and farther and faster than I used to think I was capable of.

BUT, Specialized has taken the Stumpy in a new direction.  From what I've read there's a lot to love about the new design.  The bike is lighter yet has more travel and comes with a significant component upgrade.  Would I forsake my current bike for the new one?  I don't know.  I think I'd ride both.  Granted my old Rockhopper hasn't seen the trails since I got my Stumpjumper (other than when I take someone with me), but until I have a chance to ride the new one I don't know how it would handle the trails I often ride.  Which one would be better at Sac, Busiek, Chubb, or Castlewood?  I can't say.

I do know I'd race the new ride though.  Everything points to it being a screamer and I'd love to find out.

So, people of Specialized; if you're reading my humble blog please feel free to look around and check out my other posts.  Would I pimp the new Stumpy?  Yes.  Would there be anything wrong with that?  No.  Am I a tool?  Possibly.

I hope you pick me.

If anybody is confused by this post, see here for details.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

MWFTS - ICCC Castlewood Blue Ribbon Recap

Saturday was race #11 in the Midwest Fat Tire Series.  It took place on the back side of Castlewood State Park using the Cedar Bluff and Stinging Nettle trails.  Before the race I'd only ridden Stinging Nettle a few times and didn't even know Cedar Bluff existed.  Now I know.

I arrived at the race at 10:30 and pre-rode the course.  Cedar Bluff was definitely the more difficult part of the course.  It was rocky, had lots of roots and a couple pretty good hills.  The course started on the Stinging Nettle side with a nice wide trail to start with, then it went into a 4 foot tunnel under some railroad tracks to get to the Cedar Bluff trails.  Then after the Cedar Bluff lap before entering the tunnel to return to Stinging Nettle there was a "mandatory" dismount where there were some rocky steps.  The Stinging Nettle trail was winding but very flat and very fast.

I don't think it was a very spectator friendly event because we had to park about a half mile from the course and ride in on the Al Foster trail.  There were a few non-racing people there but not nearly as many as I've seen at other races.  The organizers set up a table at the finish line for water bottles which I utilized and think is a great idea; hopefully they keep that up.  Speaking of the organizers, they did a very good job overall.  Hopefully they'll promote more events in the future.

When the race started I was in the front row.  I had a small issue clipping in when we took off so I was the forth rider as we approached the single track.  Soon after the start the guy behind me called out to pass me on the left as we were riding about 20mph.  I didn't want to go off the trail into the grass and kill my momentum so I just moved over to the right side of the trail  The trail in that section was a few feet wide.  As he pulled up to pass me his handlebar hit mine and it caused him to lose control and go down.  He fell off his bike to the left of the trail and his front tire turned to the right and crossed into my path.  It happened very quickly and my instinct was to back off my seat and ride it out.  I ended up jumping his front wheel.  In hindsight I think I should have stopped to make sure he was okay, but I didn't; I kept going.  I spoke with the rider after the race.  He was scratched up from the fall and his front tire was a little wobbly but he said he rode back to the starting line, fixed his bike the best he could and rode the race.  He ended up in 5th place.  I apologized for my part in the wreck and feel pretty bad about it.  I don't know if he has any hard feelings about the incident but I didn't wreck him on purpose.  I've been in many wrecks myself and they aren't fun; especially when you hurt yourself or your bike, but that comes with the territory.  If you're going to race mountain bikes you're going to wreck.  Kudos to him for continuing the race and I hope he doesn't have to replace the front wheel.

The rest of the first lap was the hardest part of the race for me.  I don't know if I warmed up to early but the hills on the Cedar Bluff side seemed much harder than they should have been.  About halfway through the lap on the Cedar Bluff side I passed Rock Wamsley.  He was standing on the side of the trail working on his bike.  A little later I passed JP Brocket so I figured I was in second place.  When we got to the Stinging Nettle part of the course Rock came up behind me and we rode for awhile together.  We came up on a couple other riders and after a minute or so I saw some expert riders coming the other way on the trail yelling "You're going the wrong way!".  For some reason we kept going.....  Soon after I realized that I didn't recognize the trail from my pre-ride and called out I think we missed a turn but we still kept going.  I started hoping that we would pop out near the starting line somewhere.  When some more expert riders passed us going the other way I decided to turn around.  Rock and the others I was with kept going.  When I turned around I got in behind Wes Biermann, a good expert open rider.  I spent the rest of the race trying to stay on his wheel.  Turns out he had gotten a flat on the first lap which made him lose contact with the leaders and he went pretty far on the wrong turn.

When we made it back to where we missed the turn one of the organizers had shown up; I guess one of the early expert riders alerted them about the problem.  He was pointing riders in the right direction and replacing the tape.  I don't know who took the tape down but I saw a few non-race riders on the trail earlier in the lap and I guess they could have ridden through it not knowing we were counting on the tape being there.

The time for my first lap was 27:56.  The rest of the race was pretty smooth.  I lost contact with Wes a couple times but was able to reel him back in on the hills.  Staying on his wheel was really cool.  I was able to watch his lines and I think it pushed me on the downhills and flats.  I don't get to ride with better riders very often so I'm grateful he didn't try to drop me and let me tag along.

The times for my 2nd through 4th laps were: 26:20, 26:25 and 26:13.  That's pretty darn consistent!

There were a couple of people taking pictures during the race.  Here's the links to the sets:
Here's one of me going downhill.  I like how it's blurry; it feels that way.


Here's a picture of me on the first lap at the steps before entering the tunnel on the cedar bluff side.

Here's a good picture of the tunnel from the stinging nettle side.

This is a cool dip on the stinging nettle trail.

Here are 2 of me how I spent most of the race; chasing Wes.  I got some good air on that jump but there's no proof I guess.



On the last lap as we headed to the finish we passed Rock.  He was running alongside his bike.  I spoke with him after the race and he had quite a story.  The first time he stopped was because he dropped his chain, then he bent his rear derailleur but was able to continue riding.  Then he broke a spoke on his rear wheel and finally his chain broke.  He ran his bike a couple miles in order to finish the race and ended up in 8th.  I bet he thinks his new bike can't arrive soon enough.  I was able to finish in 2nd place about 3 1/2 minutes behind Justin Bowen the winner in the 30-39 sport class.  JP took third.  Here's a link to the results.

With Rock's mechanical issues it put's an interesting spin on who's going to win the overall series.  As it stands I'm in first with 130 points, JP is in second with 129 points and Rock is in third with 128 points.  There are 2 races left so it's anybody's game.  If Rock beats me both races then he'll win, if I can win one of them and finish within one place of Rock for the other I'll win.  JP has been struggling with his endurance lately but if he pulls it together he could wind up on top.  It's going to be interesting.....

The next MWFTS race is in 2 weeks at Greensfelder park next to 6 Flags in Eureka MO.  On the way home from St. Louis today I stopped at the park and rode the trails a little bit.  It's going to be a tough race.  If there are as many horses there as there were today it's going to be VERY tough.

Here's a picture of my 2nd place medal.  A cowbell. :)