Tuesday, September 30, 2014

CCCX #4, Crushing Manzantia Park

Tom Doron getting sideways behind Chris Seymour
            This week’s race pitted me against my buddy Tom Doron, who races pro enduro, in the men’s B cross race at Manzanita Park in Prunedale, my first race at this long running CCCX venue.

            The Manzanita Park course was exhausting, looping around multiple baseball/softball fields; the start was an uphill pavement sprint into a right 170 degree u-turn across gravel into the first single barrier. The first barrier was followed by a tight left hander and a slightly off camber section preceding, a sprint around the outfield of a 2nd field, down through the infield, back around the outfield of a 3rd field, with a slight uphill into a set of barriers on either side of a left turn. A tight left off camber hairpin brought us back around the 3rd field to a climb that started on pavement fading into sand, before the track tool a right turn down a fast 45 second long section about before weave thought the infields of two more fields and a short off camber climb right before a hard flat gravel right handed, that took out multiple people in the earlier races, leading back to the start climb.

Photo By: Steven Woo
CCCX #4 start

            On the starting line Chris Neher, on his one speed, lined up on my left with Lee Slone on my right. As the start grew near I was afraid my right foot would come unclipped on the hard uphill start as on warm ups I was having a problem even after tightening the tension on the pedal, but after the whistle I started the sprint and had no problems  taking the hole shot with my co-worker Joey Stanwyck on my wheel. I mistakenly dismounted for the first barrier early and got passed by my Tom Doron as he hopped the first barrier, riding the new Santa Cruz Nomad. With a good remount I caught Tom, stayed on his wheel for a few turns as we built a gap on the first lap.

           The rest of the race was Tom and myself trading first and second while continuing to build a larger and larger gap on Lee, 3rd, and Joey, 4thTom would go on to  bunny hop all the barriers, and save some time each lap, but I would catch him on some of the straights, until the last lap when he let me go for the win after the last of set barriers.
Photo By: Lee Slone

Thursday, September 25, 2014

CCCX #3 CSUMB, BASP #1 Clark Natwick @ CandlestickPoint

This was the first double weekend of the year. On Saturday the 3rd Central Coast Cyclcocross (CCCX) race was at California State University Monterey Bay.
 The CSUMB course on Saturday was relatively flat compared to the past two weeks at Fort Ord, with only one small climb that was about 10 seconds, and a gradual gravel road climb, and one barrier in a U-turn. The rest of the course was quite pedally, with a few sandy turns and a high speed step down into a sand pit.
Photo By: Samantha Smallwood
The race field for Mens Bs was quite small, but fast. I had a decent race, went out with the lead group of four of us, until three quarters of the first lap when I dropped my chain coming out of the a high speed sandy corner and took a few pedal stokes to get it back on letting the front three break away. The rest of the race I riding by myself trying to catch the lead group, and cheering on friends as we went by on parts of the course next to each other. I finished on the forth step of the podium

Photo By: Samantha Smallwood
            The Bay Area Super Prestige held their first face of the year at Candlestick, in San Francisco this year the race was a USA cycling race in hopes of hosting a UCI race next year. When I remembered about preregistering for the race it was already closed, and had 99 racers registered, so I had to make sure to get to the race early to get a spot in the 125 rider limit field. When I got to the venue and registered I received the number #680, the 105th register rider, and being the first race of the series call ups were base on resignation order, I would start on the last row of the 100+ racer field.
            The course was again pretty flat like the CCCX race the day before, but it did have a few little climbs through out the course, and a lot loose deep dirt turns, the TRP brake zone quite long with two U-turns and five barriers, and there was also a bridge 100 yards before the start finish line.

Photo By: Mark Seymour

Knowing the field and would be slow through the turns decided to sacrifice some turning ability and run a little higher pressure for less rolling resistance on the pedaling section to pass as many people as possible. At the start of the race I was on the out side of the first few turns, passing around twenty racers before getting taken out in the third turn as the guy on my inside had his front wheel slide out in the loose dirt, I quickly got up and tried to sprint ahead in the pack, but their was a large bottle neck of people. As the race went on I slowly picked people off, mostly on the barriers, bridge, and the gravel flat section, lost a few spots from a dropped chain around the 3rd lap. 

Photo By: Jeff Namba, fixing a dropped chain
I caught Lee Slone and a racer from Go Pro near the end of the 2nd to last lap, Lee let me pass, but the other racer tried to sprint ahead when I closing on his wheel, and took a turn in the gravel too fast, and slide his back wheel out, causing me almost crash after running over his rear wheel and steeping on his front stay up, for the rest of the lap and most of the bell lap Lee and  I worked together passing three or four racers, but I took off on back stretch and opened a 11 second gap on him, and passed four more racers in a sprint from top of the bridge to the line.
Photo By Jeff Namba, catching Lee Slone
Chainring wound from the crash on the first lap

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Catch up to the Cross Season

         Back in May a group of friends and I took a trip for to Ashland, Oregon for the Spring Thaw XC and DH races for our friend Zora’s birthday. We were all excited for everyone almost everyone else it was their first time heading to Oregon to race, while I have raced the Spring Thaw DH in the past while I was in school, I have missed it from injuries the last couple of year. We had racers in our group racing Men’s Pro, Expert, Sport, beginner, and Women’s Expert.

            The courses for the XC were pretty tough, both started with a long 7.5 mile, almost 3000 foot hot fire road climb from Lithia Park to Four corners the a nice flat and fast section before another climb where the two course split with the Pro/Expert climbing an extra 800 feet, before descending back to four corners and the downhill on Catwalk and BTI, both trails that were raced the next day in the DH, back down to Lithia Park.

From Ashland Mountain Adventures, Cat 1 course

From Ashland Mountain Adventures, Cat 2 course
            I raced the Sport XC race, on my Dad’s Highball carbon, and went off with the lead group lead out by a fast junior. I began to fall back from the group around the top of BTI but soon started to catch the expert women’s field, and beginner men passing my friends while getting cheered on gave a new found boost of energy to grind up the fire road. As I got closer to the top of the climb passing the bottom of catwalk I was gaining confidence and knew the climb ahead allowing me to use the right amount of energy and pass a few competitors before getting the flatter section of the fire road where I could push a hard gear while saving energy for last bit of climbing. Right before dropping into the first decent  I passed two more racers allowing me to have a clear view of a trail I have yet to ride, by the bottom I was just catching a rider on a 29” full suspension XC bike. As I made the turn off the decent a few friends from home and Chico were there cheering me on yelling at me to catch the guy ahead of me

Photo By: Jeff Kendall-Weed
            He was pushing hard, but I was able to pass him just as we enter catwalk a trail I knew fairly well, but I though he would be right with me as I was on the hardtail, him on the suspension bike, but little did I know I was putting time in on him and by the end of the race I was out ahead by just over a minute to take the win in Sport 19-39.
Photo By: Jason Van Horn
            While we waited for the shuttle for the DH on Sunday it began to rain making the trails muddy and slick for those of us racing later in day. When my start time came around I was pretty soaked with water and my fingers were cold enough I could barely shift, but made it down catwalk on two wheels, and was excited I committed and hit the double up top that has been freaking me out for a few years. For BTI I wasn’t as lucky and would end up having my right foot unclip while jumping into a turn leading to a nice over the bars in front of a good crowd of people, I would end up in 10th almost a miunte back from the Expert winner.

Photo By: Dennis Yuroshek
            Also racing were some of my friends from UCSC and SLO, Ashland native Cory Sullivan took 15th in the Pro XC and Pro 10th in the DH, Tom Doron DNS PRO DH. Will Curtis after deciding last minute to come get one last race in before shoulder surgry got 8th in the Pro XC, 26th in the Pro DH. Reggie Trimingham who toke a wrong turn, climbed an extra 1000 feet after breaking his saddle off, but had a blast in the Expert XC and 4th in the Sport DH. Sam Anderson-Moxley crushed the climb and decent in the Expert XC to take 4th, as well as flying down the mountain on his hardtail XC bike to a 5th in Sport DH. and Zora Thomas suffered on the expert course but came in a respectable 7th about a half our back from the winner, DNS in the DH. Ariana Altier had some bike issues and placed 5th in the Women’s Pro DH.
            The Ashland weekend wasn't all fun and racing, after the XC race we went back up for some DH practice where both Tom and Zora broke their wrists only a few turns in on catwalk, but we still celebrated Zora’s birthday in style.
A week after the Spring thaw I was out riding with some friends in Santa Cruz, and had my front wheel wash out over a root, crashed and broke my wrist, bumming me out as I would go on to miss the summer’s mountain bike season, not really riding until a week before the cyclocross season.

Having the broken wrist didn’t exactly let me train too much for the up coming cross season, but I did start to ride road bikes for the first time, and got a week trip up to whistler to ride some DH, probably no the best idea coming off an injury. Although I did make it through the week unscathed while riding a few trails and features I did not think I would ride, which gave me a huge boost in confidence going into cross, even if I’m up to speed or endurance.

That basically brings us into the start of cross season, and the first race of the year, CCCX #1 that was on September 7th, at Fort Ord. I was apprehensive coming into the face and preriding the course didn’t help much. The start of the race was an uphill sprint into a set of barriers followed by a third unevenly space, on a false flat with more climbing to the top of the course. After the climb there was a fun descent leading into a really fast, no brake rolling section that in the race was my strongest section of the track, next the track would weave near the start finish and a deep sandpit that would become the bane of some of the racers in the Elite race. The rest of the course consisted of loose tight turns and a pavement out and back sprint, and two more barriers before the start/finish.

The whole field was together for the first climb, but along started to spread out as the first lap continued, with a few single speeders out front. I settled into a case group made up of Chris Neher, Lee Slone, and myself, we rode together for about three laps, I started to lose all strength going over the three barriers at the top of the hill, and knew if I wanted to finish well I needed to make a move, So with two laps to go I started to use the fast rolling section of the course to put a gap on Chris and Lee, and try to catch up to the lead group, but I ended up just racing by myself for the last two laps and finished 3rd almost a minute back of 2nd and  20 seconds ahead of 4th after the 5 lap race.

The next weekend we went back to Fort Ord for CCCX #2, this week’s course forwent the big hill from the last week, and was all about speed with two sets of barriers on before a short run up right before the finish line, and the other after a nice flowing high speed section starting at the top of the first run up. The middle of the course was a short pavement section preceding fun, fast, flowing single track through the grass, a ~70 yard pond bed and the first run up

Photo by: Jeff Vader Stucken
For CCCX #2, Matt Garcia, Lee Slone, and myself received call ups base on our results in CCCX #1.

 Starting on the front gave me a great starting spot to test out my legs as well as everyone else's' by giving a good hard sprint for the hole shot until slowing down in the first single track, and giving the field a little yo-yo speed to spread the field and break off a lead group, unfortunately I took a turn a little too fast and wide running into a bush leading to me having to use some extra energy and got stuck behind the two person lead group with the chase group, made up of Jason Martel-Dye, Robert Stiles, and myself. I would ride in the chase group for a few laps  looking at where I was faster and could pass and put in a gap, which I found was after the pavement. With three to go I made my move got by both Jason and Robert and was putting a put  decent gap between myself and them by the middle of the next lap putting me in a solid spot for another bottom podium step. I was feeling great, legs were in the perfect spot about to start the bell lap when just before the first set of barriers my chain dropped on the outside, wedging behind the crank arm, somehow my front derailleur had turned about 30 degrees so I had to dismount  fix the chain and straighten my derailleur, only losing two spots. Got a few more turns in to the next barrier and my chain dropped again, heartbroken, I got off and fixed it one more time, again allowing one more to pass me, putting me into sixth at the start of the last lap. Knowing I had speed on the three guys ahead of me on the second half if not the last three quarters of the lap.
I went as fast as I could and caught fifth, Paul Urich, right after the pavement and tried to get him push hard to catch Jason and Robert, but he didn't have enough steam left and let me go. As I approached the pond bed, I could see them on the other side, but i wasn't sure if I the time to catch them, but gave it all I had almost catching Jason on the last barriers, ending six seconds behind him for the last stop on the podium, 5th of 18 racers, a 3rd and a 5th in two races, not a bad way to started the season.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Bicycles at Hand, Racing at Heart

My name is Chris, and racing has become my life. I’m a 2012 Mechanical Engineering graduate from California State University, Chico. Instead of pursuing a mind-numbing office job, I stuck with my passion for cycling and got a job with a bicycle manufacturer. Currently, I’m supervising a gaggle of misfits who make the wheels for Santa Cruz Bicycles.

            While working there is fun, racing is my true passion. My new endeavor is the self-inflicted pain called cyclocross (B, cat 3/4). I dabble a little in cross-country (sport), cruise the climbs and go all out downhill in the new craze of enduro (expert). I also enjoy downhill and dual slalom (both cat 2) when I can find time and/or races.

Photo by: Ian Davis
 Bend, Or 2013
Photo by: Jeff Kendall-Weed
Ashland, Or 2014

Photo By: Menso De Jong
Los Olivos, CA 

          My friends and family around the country constantly ask what I've been up to, so I decided to start a blog about my racing experiences. In this blog I will talk about my riding and racing trips, special events related to riding, and a few local rides now and again. Being a former engineering student, writing and photography aren't exactly my strong points, so I might enlist the expertise of friends and family to help with posts. Stay tuned!

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