The day started cool and remained chilly but in the sun it was quite pleasant. That said, this time of year the sun is in short supply so for the early and late races, it got down right cool. The course had a couple of small muddy sections but was primarily dry and fast.
The 2011 edition of the Ice Weasels course was essentially the same as that of last years race save for an excellently brutal reroute on the old railroad bed section of the course. It added a a tricky down to turn to dismount to run up to sidehill to down and rideup. This feature caused blockages and was taxing as the race progressed. This was a legitimate cyclocross course and not really what you would call jungle cross. More like backyard course but not in a bad way. This made for a brutally hard and fun race. Lots of twists, lots of turns, and a couple power sections made for little respite anywhere on the course.
Yet another great turnout and some fantastic results by the Junior Development team in one of the final races of the season. One more weekend of racing cyclocross and then we start fresh for 2012. It has been a stellar season with 7 members of the team experiencing cyclocross for the first time and 6 of them fully embracing it for the entire season.
I ended up racing the 3/4 at Ice Weasels because the 4 race filled up quicker than I expected. In either case, I just had to race my race, but obviously in a 3/4 race my expectations are a lot lower. I was starter number 44 out of 85, and my goal was a top half. I had a good warmup and felt great leading up until the race. I got a great start and made up a few positions within a couple seconds. Going down the first straightaway, I went a bit off the typical line and took to a bumpy area with longer grass. My plan worked, though, and I was able to pass quite a few more people. Halfway through the first lap when we passed the spectator area for the first time I was told I was in 27th place. Quickly, the race started to spread out and people started to either pull ahead or fall off the back. I found myself in a group of about 6 guys. We started going back and forth a bit, trading positions pretty often. I eventually got to the front of the group, but then I noticed the next person up the road was at least 20 seconds away. I made the decision to not try to chase because I probably would have blown up and cost myself many, many more positions than I would have gained. I let off a bit, got passed and sat around third wheel in the group so I could conserve energy. Soon, people started to come up from behind the group, and pull away from us. I tried to stay with a pair of riders who did just that, but I realized I didn’t have it in my legs. I ended up going to the finish near many of the guys I raced the entire race with. A few had gone ahead and some fell off the back, but they were all in my general area. For the last half a lap or so, I noticed a rider sitting a couple seconds behind me, likely waiting to pounce of the final straight. He probably would have had me had he just accelerated when he caught me, but he tried to time in for the finish. Luckily for me, I was able to out-kick him at the line. If the race was 10 feet longer, he would’ve had me. I finished 33 (and 4th Cat 4) of what turned out to be 74 starters. I stayed up the whole time and felt very comfortable going around what was a pretty technical track. I think I am really starting to get the hang of cross technique but unfortunately, because I will be in college next year, next weekend will probably be my last cross race for the foreseeable future. This was a very good result, though, to take into the final race of the season.
My mom, brother, and I departed for the race at around 7. It was nice to have a race closer to home with a later start time (9:30); it gave me time to get plenty of rest. At 7:30, when we stepped out of the car, we realized that the name of the race was fitting. It was the coldest race of the season: below freezing until about 9. The venue, a small farm with a house and a barn, set a cheerful, holiday-season tone for the day. There was an NRG Bar stand, a muffin bake sale, someone grilling hot dogs, a Mexican food truck, and a pedal-powered cider mill in the spectating area. Also, the adults got beer complimentary with the registration fee. The more food and drinks, the better! There was also a set of high-speed barriers at the center of the spectating area, making Ice Weasels one of the best races to watch. I put all my warm clothes on, ate my pre-race sandwich (which consisted of numerous tasty ingredients that taste horrible when combined), and pre-rode the course. Most of the the course was very turny, but it had one or two power sections. There was a set of small barriers, a set of normal sized barriers, a flyover, and a very steep, short run up. The turns were just the kind that I had practiced in MIke and Cathy’s backyard, so I felt pretty good. At 9:30, Ethan YK, the field, and I lined up at the start of the Cat 4’s. When the whistle blew, it was a sprint over a short distance to the first left turn, before a much longer sprint to another left into the extremely turny part of the course. I got a pretty good start, entering the turny part at about 25th. The hole-shot was very important, as there were only a few good places to pass. I noticed that the spring tension on my left pedal was far too loose. I pulled the pedal a frustratingly large number of times before quickly becoming afraid of using my left hamstring. I did as well as I could to work around this problem, and I managed to gain some positions between corners and in the power sections. For some reason, probably having to do with my pedal, I felt like I wasn’t doing very well. But, I have had that feeling before, and I’ve learned that the worst thing to do is to let a bad feeling affect the race. So, I continued aggressively. I gained some positions up to 15th-20th, and held that general area for the rest of the race. I had a lot of fun on the course; it had been thoughtfully put together from turn to turn for maximum rider enjoyment. I crossed the finish line in 17th of 74, very happy to be in the top 25%. I put my warm stuff back on and waited for my next race, the singlespeed at 2:30. Between races, I zip-tied my shifters to create a singlespeed, and I tightened the tension on my cranky pedal. I also got some hot apple cider and a burrito. They were both delicious. During the four hours of waiting, I got a chance to experience being a spectator. Watching the pro 1/2/3 race was awesome. The leaders of that race were seriously fast. Also, observing what they did, I realized some areas I could improve on. At 2:30, it was time for the singlespeed. Aidan suddenly arrived: he had ridden his road bike to the farm to watch the race. Noah, Ethan P, Mike, the rest of the men’s field, and I lined up and waited for the whistle. I started in the third row from the back out of over 60 racers, something that I wasn’t used to. I tried to start aggressively and I made my way forward a bit in the field before the first left turn. Shortly after coming out of that turn, I tried to get even further up in the field. I tried to pass in a lane that I now realize didn’t yield enough room to safely go by. I ran into someone in front of me, and I went down. I apologize to anyone I delayed or took down. The crash was my fault. I’m very sorry for causing so many people to be at risk. I’m glad everyone is alright. Not much is worse than injuring another person in a crash they had no control over. Again, I’m very happy that nobody was hurt. Although all the humans survived without injury, my fork got wrecked while I was on the ground being run over by 100 frantic cyclists. I brought my bike to the pit, where they told me there was nothing they could do. I feel bad that I ruined a piece of club equipment, but I’m glad it is replaceable and it was in my possession, not another racer’s. I made my way back to the spectating area to cheer on my teammates. I have had very good luck this season so far, so I wasn’t going to let one crash get me too upset. However, I will take a lesson from the crash: Even if it ruins the chances of success in a race, stay calm at the start, and never do anything that seems like a bad idea. A bad race is a lot better than a destroyed bike, a broken bone, or a concussion. Or, even worse, someone else’s broken bones and wrecked bike. Part of riding is the occasional bad luck: a flat tire, unexpected bike problems, or even a crash. But, by being cautious and staying calm, it is possible to limit these incidents to as few as possible.
I had a ton of fun watching the rest of the singlespeed race with Aidan, Duane YK, and all the other club members and spectators. The “no hand-ups” rule was clearly being ignored, and the various things placed on the barriers provided everyone with plenty of laughs. Noah gave Aidan and I a ride home–or at least he tried, until we got stuck in the mud. Luckily, some people that were already helping push another car helped us. I got out and helped push in my not-so-great-for-pushing-cars cycling shoes, and soon we were on the road. Ice Weasels was a fantastic race for the end of the season. It was one of the most fun races I’ve done. Thank you to all the sponsors and people that put it together.
After racing single-speed for the first time at VeloCross and having a fun time I knew that I wanted to do another SS race this season. Looking at the registration page for Ice Weasels, I knew that I’d have to fulfill my SS goal there, because it’s Ice Weasels (party), I’d be racing SS (party) and who can refuse a double-party? Not me.
So I woke up at a pleasant 7:30 the morning of the race with a 2:30 PM start time which, after getting up at 4:30 for 8:00 starts all ‘cross season, was absolutely lovely. I left the house and got to the race at a pleasant 11:30. (I was directed to park in the muddiest corner of the parking lot – we’ll get back to that story later). I watched my teammate, Brandon, racing in the 3/4 race and I cheered him on for a little while. Then, I got my number (the guys at registration almost gave me beer tokens before saying “Hey, aren’t you a little young for beer?”) I rode the course between the 3/4 race and the Women’s 123 race and I loved it. It was well suited to me: some sweet power sections where you can pass a lot of people, tons of tight turns on the dirt and on grass, some cool-funky sections (fly-over!!) and two sets of barriers. It was going to be a good time.
Fast-forwarding to my race-start after watching the pro race (damn, they’re fast over the barriers!), I ended up being really cold on the line. I wasn’t really wearing enough for the entire afternoon and with wet feet from the muddy parking lot all of my extremities were getting numb. I took off everything but my skinsuit regardless since I figured I would be warm during the race. (I’d be a little too cold if I took my skinsuit off…) I was staged pretty well – third row on the inside – so I sat there shivering for a few moments. The 30-second anything goes start ended up being about five seconds, so before I knew it, we were off! I need to work on being a little more aggressive during starts because a bunch of people always seem to pass me – but not too aggressive – one of my teammates behind me apparently crashed spectacularly during the start and completely decimated his bike! We got through the first few corners and I was still figuring out the lines I wanted to take through them, but my legs felt pretty good and I was happy with my gear ratio. The first time going through the tall barrier section by the barn was awesome – there were tons of rowdy people screaming and cheering us on – and I’m always pretty fast through the barriers so they were a good place to pass people. I settled in and focused on moving up, successfully passing a bunch of guys every lap. Through one off-camber corner near the farmhouse, late in the race with a bunch of guys behind me, my front wheel slipped and they passed me. I got up quickly and managed to latch back on within a lap though, eventually gaining back the positions I’d lost. The last few laps were really great – I felt like I rode perfectly and my legs were responsive. I felt like I could sense when people were tired and could just ride right by them without a hitch. Through the last corner I took the outside around two guys, and I managed to get by the first but I came around the second rider too late: he and I sprinted to the finish but he crossed the line before me. I finished 27th/70ish in an open-category race, so I’m definitely pleased with my performance.
And now for the muddy parking lot story you’ve all been waiting for: as I was leaving the lot with baited breath, hoping that the FWD minivan would make it through the mud, my heart sunk as someone in a 4WD Jeep got stuck in front of us. “If they can’t get out, how can we?!” I thought. And it happened – we got stuck. After a moment of nervous wheel-spinning, we realized that it wasn’t going to happen. Fortunately for us, the ten or so (mildly inebriated) folks who helped to push the Jeep kindly helped get us out too.
Thanks to the organizers of such a cool race! I’ll definitely be back next year.
I left for the race around 1:00 with it being only 10 minutes away. I arrived to the race just at the end of the 12:30 start race. When the race was over I got a chance to get on the course and pre ride it. The fly over was slightly intimidating the first lap, having never ridden one before but after watching a few
people it went fine. After that race started, I went and registered for the single speed race. Now almost
time to line up, I went over to the staging area but really didn’t have anywhere to warm up. The start
was very crowded and disorganized, I was around the middle of the field and had a decant start. I managed to narrowly avoid the crash in the first turn, and most of the pile up by taking an outside line. The first few laps went well, except for a bad re-mount after the run up on the second lap. By the third
or fourth lap on the straights I could feel my limited gear choice catching up to me, in the sense that I found my self spinning very fast to try to maintain position. On the fourth lap I got lapped by a few people and by the last lap I had managed to pass a couple of people that I had been chasing. Overall it was a good race and single speed is always am interesting category.
I arrived there around 8:30 for a 9:30 race with the cat 4 men. I got registered and went to go ride the course. It had a lot of 180 degree turns and some 90’s mixed in there with a fly over and a short run up. The fly over and the steep down hill followed by the run up were probably the hardest part of the course. the announcer called us to staging and we had to go all the way to the back of the course to stage. I was staged toward the back in the same row as my dad. At 20 seconds to go they blew the whistle, and we were off. Luckily there wasn’t any crashes at the start that I saw. i passed some people during the first two laps and was alone for the rest of the race execpt for being lapped by the leaders. i didn’t have any promblems with my bike or the course other than the occansional clogging of the pedals. i liked the course, it was a short technical course with a few power sections mixed in.