October 2009 Archives

Bad Decision Bicyclist Halloween Special!

It was a pretty crummy day today.  Cold, with a rain snow mix, mostly leaning towards the rain side of things.  In other words, ideal conditions to test clothing setups for my upcoming Iceman entry.  

I wanted to stay close to home in case I screwed something up and needed a hot shower or shot of whiskey to ward off hypothermia so I decided to look for something I had read about a couple of months ago- the other Askel cemetery.  Yep, the blooming metropolis of Askel seems to be home to more dead people than living. 

Didn't take me too long to find it....  

All I can say is "Wow!". 

I've changed my mind. Previously it was kind of a toss up between a viking style funeral pyre or maybe a Tibetan sky funeral (do NOT click on that link if you are at all squeamish) when I kicked the bucket, but honestly- eternity in the Karki Hill Cemetery might not be so bad. 

In the grand scale of Keweenawsomeness, it only barely rates- but the fact this is sort of a forgotten little place by most makes it really, really cool.   

So, no pictures this time, or GPS coordinates.  You have to find it yourself.  And keep it a secret. 

Keweenaw Cup

| No Comments


I've been looking forward to this race for a while, crappy weather and rally duty was keeping me off the bike more than I'd like, all the crazy debauchery that comes with rally weekend wasn't  doing much good for my fitness level either, and the stress was just icing on the cake.

Finally, I got to put all that behind me, and spend a weekend up in Copper Harbor, racing bikes, hanging out with friends, and just generally having a good time.  

I knew the first race was going to be a little tough, technically- so I packed the single speed 29er.  Turned out to be an excellent choice- it really suited the rough, rooted sections and the gearing worked out OK for the hills.   Given the technical nature of the course, no real drama played out in this race.  I mostly hung with the second pack until the 2nd to the last lap when they all discovered their big rings and ditched the single speed doofus.  On the final lap, I figured "what the hell" and took a Blatz handoff from Andrew. After slamming half a can of beer, I was energized/stupid enough to close the gap in the technical section, but got ditched again on the hill.  Managed to hang in there for yet another 7th place.

Afterwards, we all kicked back at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge for dinner, music, and the toughest battle of the weekend- the race to the end of the bar's supply of Bell's Two Hearted Ale.  I'd like to think I put forth a valiant effort, but when things got fierce, I bailed in the interest of self preservation and hit the sack early.   It must have been a tough fight- several people didn't make the start line for Sunday morning's race.   

Sunday found us on a true cyclocross course- lots of places to go really fast and a couple of obstacles to really test your sprinting skills.  I figured any shot at the podium for the season was rapidly slipping out of my grasp, so I'd use the remaining races to try and hone my skills. This time, I'd try my best at getting the holeshot. Didn't work, but I was solidly in the lead pack until a tussle shortly after the start killed my momentum and knocked me back a few places.   Spent the first two laps trying to catch the lead pack and just couldn't do it, so I hung out where I was to see what developed.   Had a great race with somebody who's name I can't remember for a couple of laps- I'd sit on his wheel for an entire lap and then pass him in the sandpit just for grins. I'd back off and let him take the lead again, even more driven to drop me. About the third time I flew past him in the sand pit and pulled my crazy, almost crashing dismount, he backed off and let me go.  

Went into the final couple laps duking it out with Bill and Chris, but honestly- we were all so blown- it wasn't much of a fight. I managed to dig deep enough to pull past them for a 7th place again.

Although this puts me fourth in the championships now, I think I'm pretty firmly out of contention once people can drop their lowest score. The odds of me getting on the podium at a race aren't outside the realm of possibility, after all- I've beaten several of those who've managed to do so recently- but it would take a rather unfortunate streak of luck for any of the current top three to lose their place to me.   I think this will be a good opportunity to hone my skills a bit and try new things.   At the very least, I'll do my best to make sure the Men's Bee champions don't get a free ride from here on out.  :) 

And Chris was out with camera in tow again, with the usual damn cool results...

'Cross #3, Fit Strip

| No Comments

Still some awesome, awesome racing going on in men's bee.  

I wasn't too confident heading into this one, rally duty has kept me busy and the last time I was on a bike was at the previous weekend's race.  A couple practice laps around the course just drove that point home- plenty of opportunity to hammer to your heart's content. Unfortunately, my heart wasn't feeling up to the task. 

I was disappointed to see that Matt Danielson didn't make the race, he and I had a pretty good battle going on in the last couple races. So, I slotted in behind Nevin at the start line and figured I'd try to keep pace with whatever pack he ended up in.   

Unfortunately, it seems his mechanical woes last week lit some kind of fire under his butt for this round and he set a blistering pace at the start, the rest of the pack followed suit and the first lap was just crazy fast.   I had sort of picked out some gears and shift points ahead of time, but all that went out the window trying to keep up. 

And then we got to the second lap....  

Go ahead, take a look at the detailed results.  Notice a precipitous drop in lap times after the first lap?  Yeah, I guess we all learned we weren't "Eh" class racers.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the only tactical mistake I made, on the third lap I tried way too hard to stay ahead of somebody on a section of the course I shouldn't have. On the fourth lap, I came to my senses and looked at what I could with where I was in terms of the overall point standings and lined myself up for an awesome final lap. 

Mike, Bill, and I went into the final lap, nose to tail. No sneaky treachery tricks on my part would do any good- these guys knew what they were doing.  The next racer was too far up for us to overtake, so this was a battle between the three of us. I did manage to get a good line at the entrance to the mud pit to get into the lead and get the good line through, but after that was a lot of very fast, somewhat technical riding- Mike on the mountain bike would have the advantage, so I kind of cooled my jets in hopes that he'd overtake me and I could draft off him for a bit. 

He never actually did make the pass, so on the final stretch of open road ( where my 'cross bike had the advantage), I slowed way the heck down in hopes he'd pass and I could draft and take the final sprint.  

So I slowed down....

Then he slowed down...

Then I slowed down....

Then he slowed down...

And then we were going about 10mph..... 

And then he figured what the hell and cranked it up a bit. 

I drafted for a bit, and then just dialed it up and managed to take the final sprint, beating Mike and Bill and getting 7th place for myself.   Unfortunately, Mike still thought we had another lap to go after that one- so he was working a whole different strategy. That seems to be my best opportunity for winning these days, just making sure I know what lap I'm on when my fellow competitors don't.  :)  

There was a bit of a shakeup in the points this weekend- Steve pulled out an impressive finish for 2nd place.  Kenny took another commanding lead, but not so much that he's completely untouchable- it gives us something to chase anyway.   I'm really looking forward to the double header in two weeks up in Copper Harbor.  I'll be making my single speed 'cross debut in at least one race for sure.

Chris had healed up enough to race this weekend, but thankfully he was still out there getting great pictures of the rest of us....  




'Cross #2, Al Quaal

| 1 Comment


OK, it's not a fluke, so what the heck?  How'd I get good at this shit? Granted, I'm still hanging in Men's B, I'd have to go faster for an additional 20 minutes just to stay on the lead lap in A, but I'm still neck and neck with some legitimate competition.  Managed a 6th overall today, clicky-clicky for results.  Some of the front runners from the first race had some mechanical woes and crashes, so the overall points battle is in hot contention right now for some of us.  

This was a tough race too. I usually like to preride the course, pick lines, shift points, and braking markers. This course was just too long with too many features, I'm not smart enough to remember everything I needed to. So I picked a rear cog, and figured I'd just go high/low with the front chainrings as needed- 24 gear choices is entirely too many when no oxygen is getting to my brain.  

Anyway, I have the worst luck with cyclocross weather, it's always nice and sunny, blue skies, and everything.  I'm lucky if I have to wear arm warmers.   This time, I got some proper 'cross weather.  High forties, raining off and on, and windy.  As much as I like crappy weather for 'cross, I'm happy the course drained well- I don't mind beating the crap out of me, but I hate beating the crap out of my bike in insanely muddy conditions, bikes are expensive. 

The race was the toughest yet this season. Fast, fast, fast.  And everything became an attack point, there was no place where I could recover.   In my last entry I was talking about strategy, but for me- that requires some sections to recover on.  I was regularly duking it out with 3 or 4 different people this race, and didn't have much of a chance to just sit back and suck somebody's wheel for a spell. 

I had a couple of great battles with a few folks, and this is the kind of thing I really like cyclocross for.  Nothing like super-late apexing a corner in a super high gear, and setting yourself up to be broadsided by the guy behind you. Sometimes being a fat dude has it's privileges. I can get away with this sort of stuff not because I might win in a tangle like that, but only because we all know everybody will lose. 

I think I had a real shot at beating the two guys in front of me, mainly because they thought they were done when there was still one lap to go. I guess I'm an honest racer, if nothing else.  But the only place I could really take people down was on the first ~15% of the course, after that, all I could hope for was to hang on.   I'm pretty happy with my 6th place finish. It took some real fitness to keep up that pace, not just strategy, so I guess I have something more than treachery on my side this season.  

Chris was out, with camera in tow again, and getting some excellent pictures.  I dusted off my old video camera and shot a little footage of Men's A and Women's.  Maybe later this season, I'll have enough to put something cool together.  Gonna have to edit the soundtrack though, it's mostly Steve and I talking teleskiing, punctuated by the occasional beer belch.   


| 1 Comment

It's that time of year again....  

My favorite form of bike racing.  

One of my teammates unfortunately crashed out early in the season and injured his hand. It's kept him out of racing, but he's way faster than most of us and also a damn good photographer, so it's kinda win-win for the rest of us right now.  

He captured a great action sequence of me performing my famed "double nut crunch" remount technique at a race a few weeks back.   

A weird thing has happened though. Except for a mechanical issue last night, I've just been having a killer 'cross season.  I used to be pretty happy if I could just stay on the lead lap in B. Now I find myself nipping at the heels of the leaders.  I'm certainly not any stronger this year, I've just been employing a lot more strategy.  

See the thing with cyclocross is it's kind of a suffer fest- you're always pinned in the anaerobic death zone.   But for a lot of people in the B races, they assume that's all it is, and if they suffer just a little bit more than the next guy, they'll beat them.  Fortunately, that's not the case. I've had a lot of luck in employing some simple strategies to draft off people and use them to get ahead.  The trouble is, I don't think any of us in B are smart enough to use this to help each other out.  I've run a few people into the ground so far this season, and that's a great way to beat them- but it doesn't help me move up and overtake the next guy in the pack. I'm half tempted to make the jump to A, just so I can start playing more strategy games with the big boys. But man, that extra 15 minutes of pure, sweet hell is going to put some serious demands on my fitness level.