Friday, April 24, 2015

Wide handlebars, a cracked frame, plus a ride on a Kona Precept

Yeah, this is a post about mountain bikes. They're fun- you go out in the forest and get to see cool things and the ride back is usually downhill and fun. Also your chances of getting hit by a car are low. Eaten by bears, slightly higher though.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

UM downtown crit

Last weekend the University hosted a collegiate criterium downtown, and I figured I should get into the open race. The UM team had managed to get a bunch of downtown streets closed for most of the day and created a 1 mile circuit that went around the xxxxes at the end of Higgins, up a few blocks to Pine, down Higgins in front of Charlie's and Wardens, down Spruce, and back around. Since the college races started at 8am, and the open mens wasn't until two, I decided to get all my stuff together and go down there at about 10 to watch. This is the Women's A group:

I was out of cereal at home so I went into the break to get a pastry and some coffee. That place really needs to re-work the payment and ordering system because it took way too long to just pay for a cup of coffee I poured myself. Anyhow, I was down there and noticed the course wasn't entirely blocked off from pedestrians so I went and stood on a corner to prevent people from wandering into the path of a bike race. Still had some close calls with the men's college A group. I had originally been nervous about the racing and cornering part of doing a crit (I've never raced one before), but after seeing there were only a few people signed up my concern turned towards the course control aspect. People coming out of Charlie's and the Ox (on Sunday morning...) tended not to be very aware of their surroundings and kept just walking into and across the street without looking. Luckily, no one crashed into anyone all day.

After men's A, the college kids were done racing and it was time for women's open. Unfortunately only Tamara plus two juniors showed up, so Tam did a few laps with them and it was cut short. I ate half a sandwich then went to my car to change and warm up, and realized I'd left my shoes at home. No worries, had a good 40min before the 2:15 start time. I get back just before two and some guys are like "hey, you'd better get over there, race is starting early." I ride around the corner to the start where everyone is lined up and we go immediately. So much for warming up and getting some laps around the course. Here's a picture John Seiber took during one of the first laps:

Monday, April 6, 2015

2015 Rocky Mountain Roubaix report

Last weekend was my third trip to the Rocky Mountain Roubaix, a road race out in Frenchtown, MT that covers a mix of paved roads and dirt. You never know what a dirt road is going to be like in the spring in Montana, so Friday before the race I headed out to the course with my cross bike and did a pre-ride on the rougher sections. The dirt was very hard packed and smooth, so I opted to bring my road bike again, with 23mm continental GP4ks. Since it ends on pavement with a tailwind I was more concerned about speed on the fast sections than about flat protection.

Only about 6 riders turned up for cat 4, so our race was shortened by one lap (10mi for a total of 41) and combined with the 5 field. I was ok with it because it meant a bigger field and riding with my teammates Jesse and Luke, plus a few other friends. Leaving frenchtown the pace was really relaxed and chatty, so on the climb up ninemile road I found myself on the front next to Jesse and we picked things up. I could here people grunting and breathing heavy, and cresting the hill I looked back to see a slightly smaller group. A good sign, I though, that my spring training had paid off. Then we started heading down toward the ranger station on dirt, and I felt a big rock bang off my rear rim. Sure enough, it went flat. I pulled off for the wheel car, swapped on a replacement, and was back rolling. Then I saw Jesse on the side of the road with a front flat. I waited for him to change wheels and we started rolling again. It was less than 10mi into the race and I figured we'd be able to catch back up as long as the group didn't really pick up the pace, which I wasn't expecting to happen until the second lap around.

Then, just as we started rolling again my front tire went flat. Jesse waited, I swapped on a new wheel, and then right as we get to the ranger station my rear goes flat again. I tell Jesse I'm done and he takes off on his own, now probably too far back after stopping for 3 wheel changes. Josh Tack is sitting at the intersection after double flatting, waiting for a ride back. I considered joining him, but had a tube and co2 in my back pocket so I fixed the flat and got moving. I still had a glimmer of hope of catching back up and started cranking down toward ninemile house. Along the way I noticed Myke Hermsmeyer taking pictures and found this one on facebook:

It sums up my race pretty well.

Catching the main group didn't happen, as it turns out I had lost about 6 minutes with all the flats. I did make up about 4 min so with one more lap I might have been close. I went by a few stragglers from our and other groups, and then spotted some familiar colors near the top of the last climb past the ranger station. It turns out Luke had also flatted, so not a good day for team MBW. We rode in together, at least finishing the race. I believe I ended up 4th in the cat 4 field due to two dnfs, with one of them taking a wrong turn somewhere (note to racers: learn the course ahead of time). Jesse managed to catch back up to the main field and ended up 3rd in cat 5.

So I'm pretty disappointed I didn't get to actually race against the other guys. I've gotten some good training in this spring and my legs were feeling fresh. I'm considering headed out to a similar race in eastern WA in a few weeks called Ronde Van Palouse but it is a pretty long drive. Then I have a few MTB races, then I will probably go out to Wolf Creek for the Cow Country Classic, a race I had a hard time at two years ago. Also, the UM cycling team is putting on a downtown crit Sunday 4/11, which I will be at but might not race.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Polson Speedwagon

Went to my first race of the year last weekend and it was a tough one. Every year, Matt Seeley and Wayne Sicz put on the Speedwagon Classic race outside of Polson. It covers 50 miles of dirt and gravel roads with a few sections of pavement. This was my very first race when I went two years ago, and my trusty caad9 did not cut it in the loose gravel. I skipped it last year, but now that I have a sweet cross bike I had to go again.

From my limited experience, I've discovered that tire selection is pretty important. If the gravel is fresh and things are muddy, you're going to want some pretty chunky tires. On the other hand, if it's dry and hard packed, you can get away with a faster tire. To keep things rolling quickly without completely sacrificing control and flat protection, I stuck a 28mm Maxxis refuse slick on the back, and then put a Clement LAS 33mm file tread up front. It's meant for cross racing on grass, but the high volume, low rolling resistance, and moderate side knobs seemed perfect for the speedwagon course. Most of the other riders had the same idea, although there were a number of road bikes and skinnier tires.

Friday, the weather was fantastic. 70f, sunny, no wind. But it's spring in Montana, so obviously that didn't hold out for long. Saturday brought scattered showers, with my weather app telling me Polson was experiencing 20mph winds with gusts to 40. I'm not sure they were that strong, but it definitely wasn't pleasant. That, plus a training race in Drummond thinned out the field a bit, with just under 30 riders turning up for the start. Two years ago it was closer to 60. It didn't stop most of the fastest guys in MT from showing up however, most of them in the same Cycling House van.

It looks pretty nice, but it was only 45f and I could could barely keep my hat on: