Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bike racing and beer releasing!

The bike racing season and good riding weather seem to be in full swing here in Michigan, and only took a few months too long to get here. Since the last posting, it's been a split between single track riding, Ada time trials, cyclocross and some group road rides. The monday night Ada time trials have been a staple in my workout routine for the past few years and are a great way to improve the functional threshold. Jenny and i have made it out for a few rides together to work on some climbing and generally enjoy the weather. Two Sundays ago was the most recent Spring Fury Cross ride at Wilcox Park. The venue was great (and really close to my house!), and there's always a lot of fun and friendly competition. The main focus has been getting the body ready to handle seven days of racing in steep and rocky Pennsylvania single track at the Trans-Sylvania Epic. This past weekend was a good test of both endurance and technical aptitude at the Arcadia Grit and Gravel and the Yankee Springs Time Trial.

Awesome shot of the Spring Fury Cross fun by Jack Kunnen!

The Arcadia Grit and Gravel is a pretty awesome race that has a bit of something for every type of ride; there's 10 miles of plush singletrack with tight banked turns and rolling hills, miles of gravel roads with long winding climbs, a few sections of seasonal two-tracks and steep descents to test one's mettle and a bit of pavement to put the power to the pedals. I felt pretty good coming into the race and knew it would be a battle of watts from the starting lineup. The roll-out was fairly neutral with a welcome attack from the Sovis brothers to stir things up. At the first big climb it really began to heat up and it was a battle of will to the top with myself, Jorden, Ben and Alex. Things came back together on the flats and rolling terrain and i knew it would soon be time to hammer again at the climb before the singletrack. On the second climb i set a steady pace, waiting for the attacks and sure as the wind blows they came hard. Jorden and Alex came around prompting me to stand on the pedals and give it hell. They put a few seconds between myself and Ben who was right on my heels. Coming into the singletrack it was Jorden, Alex, myself and Ben in that order. As we got in further it slowly spaced out until it seemed we were all riding solo. When we peeked out onto the gravel section i could see alex about 15 seconds up and Ben about 15 seconds back. In the second section of two track i was able to bridge up closer to Alex but i took one too many risks and got into a fight with a maple in a sharp turn. Thankfully i wasn't hurt much, mostly just scraped and sore and decided from there on out it was best to just finish the race where i was at, with a lot more riding on the next week of racing. I rolled into the finish line in third position with a good ride by Alex for second and a typically-superb ride by Jorden for the win. The race folks did a swell job with food onsite and fresh beer by Stormcloud brewing. I could have stayed all day to bask in the sun, get burnt and drive home late but Yankee Springs was less than 24 hours away so i withheld.

Fun folks to race against

The Yankee Springs Time Trial is a classic spring mountain bike event in Michigan and a staple for most riders looking to see where they stack up against the usual suspects. However, the weather threw a wrench in the works this year and the race was postponed from it's traditional April time to mid-May. It was definitely a good call to delay as the weather couldn't have been better and the trail was super smooth. It was probably the nicest i've seen yankee in years and the new section was a pleasant addition. Most riders didn't seem to care for the new loop, but i was all for a nice long section to drill it and use those roadie skills! The tricky part of the TT is not knowing exactly where you stand in the pecking order when you're out on course. I stayed on the gas and tried to be as safe as possible whilst still bringing the pain. I knew there were some fast riders that started behind me, and i was mostly concerned with Dan Korienek as i have felt his wrath many times before. I finally got my sanity check when i went through the new section on the second lap and was informed that i was about 3 minutes up on second (which i came to assume was Dan). I knew he started about 2 minutes behind me so i was in the clear as long as i kept pace and didn't muck anything up. It felt good to get the first win of the year on the new Redline D880. This race really showed the advantages of having a full suspension rig with good a wide range of tuning. I was able to hammer every downhill, stay hard in the corners and soak up the rocks and roots without loosing much speed. I couldn't have been happier with the way the bike performed.

An awesome photo courtesy of Karen Brower

I assure you i was having a good time despite my expression

Now it's time for full recovery mode with the TSE starting this coming Sunday. Last night was the release of Cobble Crusher, which i have been greatly anticipating. As a result of winning the Winter Rush Fat Bike series i was awarded with the chance to brew a beer at Harmony. It was a pretty cool deal as i got to meet with the brewers, chat about what i wanted (Spicy Belgian Pale Ale), and arrange for a date to stop in and actually take part in the brewing. The beer turned out great along with the weather, and made for a fun night. Danielle was there as well as her drink's namesake, Ted Bentley! A lot of great folks stopped out to help celebrate and have a good time, and served as a great reminder of just how awesome the biking community is and how lucky i am to know so many cool people! Big thanks to all who made it!

Sweet poster designed by an even sweeter girl, Jenny Scott!

It's a celebration!

Speaking of being lucky, i have had the good fortune of picking up a couple new sponsors in the past couple weeks. Wolftooth Components will be stepping in to fill my drivetrain needs, and i just received my 40T Shimano giant cog for my 10 speed cassette. This should be a welcome addition just in time for the TSE and the nasty climbs that lay ahead. I have been running their chain rings on my other 1x setups and have been impressed with the durability and functionality of the narrow-wide tooth profile they have.  I'm looking forward to putting more of their products through the wringer! Also, i have had the good fortune of being sponsored by Dr. Jason Ross of Train Out Pain! Jason is a miracle worker of sorts and always finds a way to workout those kinks, knots and issues. I've been going to see him since last year, and he was a great asset to have in recovering from my shoulder injury last fall. I can't say enough good things about Jason and his practice!

The Giant Cog by Wolftooth Cycling

Friday, May 9, 2014

New sponsor, new season and new goals!

I’m definitely overdue for a blog update, and there hasn’t been a shortage of stuff going on to report about. The lingering winter weather here in Michigan definitely made riding outside the past few months difficult to say the least. I enjoy suffering in the cold and wet as much as the next cyclist, but every once in a while it’s nice to feel the sun and ride with fewer than 3 layers on! It would seem that the weather is finally beginning to cooperate and it’s nice to get out and hammer some singletrack that’s snow and mud free. The focus is shifting this year to mountain bike, and I’m happy to announce my new sponsor, Redline Bicycles! This has been in the works for a few months now, and I received my new bike just in time to put it through the paces at Mud, Sweat and Beers. I’ll still be heavily affiliated with the awesome Freewheeler Bike Shop and Race team.

Awesome photos of Mud, Sweat and Beers (Photos courtesy of Karen Brower)

So, the season is shaping up with racing already underway. The past couple years my primary focus has been road racing, and I’ve very much enjoyed pounding pavement with some of the fastest guys around. Over the winter months I entered into discussion with Redline about riding for them and racing their new D880 full suspension rig. The goal this year is to race fewer but bigger events. In the past I have raced nearly every weekend from spring to fall, which can tend to wear one out after a while. I’m looking forward to being able to focus on a more consistent training plan complete with recovery weeks and long weekend rides! Right now, the next big race in the lineup is the Trans-Sylvania Epic out in Pennsylvania. It’s a seven day stage race on some pretty gnarly terrain out east. It should be interesting to say the least with some really fast guys such as Justin Lindine (my new teammate!), Jeremy Powers, Jeremiah Bishop, etc… There are a few secondary races in between now and then with Arcadia and Yankee TT this coming weekend. They’ll serve to further test the new setup out and get things dialed in before the big show at the end of the month.
It’s taken a while to get used to riding full suspension again, but I have to say it’s been awesome! Usually after 2-3 hours of mountain biking I’m feeling it pretty good in my lower back and upper body (this also may have something to do with the fact that I pretty much only workout my legs…). The new rig has Fox shocks front and back with three firmness settings and Climb, Trail and Descend modes. All this new-fangled technology has taken some getting used to, but now that I’ve had some time to play with air pressure and settings it is feeling pretty sweet. I haven’t had a full suspension bike in over 4 years, so there have definitely been some advances. It’s nice to be able to bomb descents, power through choppy sections and soak up rocks and roots then be able to get out of the saddle and put some watts down on the steep stuff. Another thing that’s taken some getting used to is not having bottle cages on the bike and going back to a bladder system. I’ve been playing around with various hydration methods, and it is pretty nice having water at the ready as opposed to finding a chance to reach for a bottle in tight singletrack.

Happy Day!

Mad muggin'

Training has been pretty brutal with the weather being moody the way it is. Nonetheless I’ve managed to get out with the fine Freewheeler Racing crew and the Bissell Boys quite a bit. The camaraderie that comes with being on a team is hard to beat when you’re racking up miles and need to stay motivated. Two weekends ago I decided to set out for a Lumberjack training ride of equal distance/elevation gain. I’ve been primarily racing in the 2-4 hour range for the past couple years, so I knew that making the jump wouldn’t come so easy. During the ride, I was graced with the presence of my fantastic girlfriend Jenny somewhere near the halfway point. We got to ride the trails together a bit then made a quick pit stop at Grams party store up on Egypt Valley and Knapp Street for refreshments. It helps to dull the sharp edges of suffering when you have a pretty smile to look at and company for the ride. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and I was out again solo. At around the 75-80 mile mark I really began to hit the wall, and just as I was going into zombie mode, I came out in the Cannonsburg SGA parking lot to find a crew of Freewheeler teammates! It felt great to have some friends to chat with, and I had the good fortune of finding my way into trail mix and a sandwich (Thanks Sarah Jaromin!!). I made haste after consuming those tasty treats before I ended up in someone’s car getting a ride home, and once again stopped by Grams for liquid nourishment and salty snacks. I was spotted by Eric siting on the stoop of the store in full devour mode of some chips and soda… It’s rides like these that make me truly appreciate the great support crew around me in friends, family and teammates!

Grinding gravel while grinning

Urban cross

That’s about it for now; I’ll have updates coming more frequently now that things are in full swing. Look for some equipment blogs, new fancy parts write-ups, race reports, and general riding shenanigans in the coming weeks!

Some photos from a random bike packing trip with my buddy Chris!