Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mudfest 2008

The rain from last weekend found it's way back to thoroughly soak the course for Sunday's Greenbrier Challenge. After a second pre-ride Thursday and a warm up ride at Patapsco Saturday I was expecting a dry fast course, that was until the biblical rains came and dumped several inches of rain overnight. I spent most of the week getting the bike ready and as of this post I'm officially ending my relationship with the Singleator. I decided to go with a gearing for the climbs but in the end the chain length to do so caused issues and pretty much ruined the day, along with my dead legs.

Two stops to repair the drivetrain and a lot of running pretty much summed up the race. I had planned a strong finish really only looking at Mayhew as the lone competition.
The highlight of the course was the final downhill, a washed out, muddy, rooty mess with a steady stream of water flowing down it with some large stone and log waterbars at the bottom to launch off of. It almost made all of the climbing worth it. I finished 10th, well of my goal. I'm boxing up all of my Singleator parts and shipping them back to Surly with a letter, hopefully my new tensioner is sitting down at Avalon Cycles.

Maddy is growing up so fast. She's trying to sit up on her own and loves her new Bumbo chair. She's such a happy baby, always smiling even when she's crying like last night when she went to bed. She started to cry but was smiling at me the whole time at me as I tried to calm her. She also loves her feet, they're probably her favorite toys. Whenever she's cranky I just take her feet out of her sleeper, whenever she has the chance they go right in her mouth.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Spring Classic

Rain, rain and more rain. That pretty much sums up Sunday's day of racing. After early morning showers the rain relented a bit as I made my way over to Gateway for the Carl Dolan race. It's so nice living 5 minutes from a bike race, almost too convenient as I was a bit late getting out the door.

I was registered for both the 30+ and the the 1/2/3 races not quite sure what kind of legs I was going to have. My only road race so far this season was Walkersville where I got shelled at the start of the 4th lap. I was coming off a decent race at Fairhill so I did have some confidence in my fitness despite the prolonged sickness.

As we lined up for the start of the 30/40 Masters race, the skies grew dark and drops of rain began to hit our faces forewarning us of the impending deluge. The first couple of laps we actually pretty mellow for some reason, that would all change. By about the 3rd or 4th lap the scattered drops of rain turned into a torrential downpour. It was so bad you couldn't see the wheel in front of you. On the fast downhill after the only turn on the course, there was a river of water an inch deep and as you made the transition to start the uphill through the start finish, a river of water was flowing down the road at you. Incredibly we were bombing 35+ mph through this inch of steadily moving water.
We had a solid 40+ squad in the race while Chip and I held up the 30+ end of things. I made a few attempts to escape and for some reason it always turned out to be Craig Snydal from LSV. The first go at it we had a small gap and were working together along the backside of the course. When we were finally caught Chip rode up and apologized for putting Ryan on the front to reel us in not knowing I was up the road. Oh well.
The rain kept pounding us and at one point it felt like needles sticking me in the face and my left hand was so numb I thought I broke my shifter off because I couldn't feel it, not even the pressure from squeezing the brakes. I ended up in another short lived move with Craig then spent the rest of the time trying to keep the pace high as Ramon and Fuentes had gotten themselves a nice gap. We never caught them so the race was on for second in both fields since Ramon had the 40+ while Dave had the 30+.

I was in decent position through the final turn and starting up the hill but with about 300m to go it happened. Just in front of me to my left I see some bozo jump right and into the handlebars of some Artemis rider. If he went down I had no where to go so I reached for the brakes. For a split second it looked like he might save it but his unweighted rear end finally gave in to the slippery pavement and fishtailed out from him, as he landed he somehow managed to skid from left to right. At that point I had to jam on the brakes as hard as I could hoping to not hit him or have to try and ride over him. I watched as he skid in front of me and then in a horrific ending to to an already bad crash, his teammate who was sprinting for something like last place rides square into him, ejecting him from his bike and apparently taking out several other riders.

Chip pulled off an impressive sprint to take 2nd in the field sprint and 3rd overall in the 30+. After waiting around an extra 45 minutes on top of the hour and a half wait between races as the EMTs scrapped up a bunch of 3/4s off the pavement from a 20+ rider crash which required a restart of the race, we finally started the 1/2/3 race. Just like the previous race, as soon as we line up the skies turned black and the rain drops start. The legs were heavy and water logged and the first couple laps hurt pretty bad. About 3 or 4 laps in I see the moto ref pull off at the officials tent, I assume to talk about whether or not they were going to call the race. I was raining almost as hard as the earlier race and a lap later as we come up the hill I see lightening in the sky, that's a definite show stopper. Next lap some juniors struggling on the climb let a huge gap open up, Chip, Ryan and I were sitting on the back snoozing and had to jump across the gap to the back of the pack. At that point I decided it wasn't worth the effort since this race was going to be called. I pulled off and headed for the warmth of a dry car. After a quick change I was already rolling out of the parking lot as the rest of the pack was riding in, the officials had called the race at the end of the next lap.

I really enjoy racing in the rain, I'd prefer it to be a road race than a crit, although Dolan is technically a road race but raced like a crit. The rain washes the suffering away, makes the hurt feel good.

*Photos courtesy of Jim Wilson

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Fixx Your Singleator

So I've refused to give up on my Surley Singelator for my singlespeed chain tensioner, I have just way too time and money much invested in this stupid little part to let it overcome me since I now own three of them. I've come to the determination that this is a simple case of over engineering a simple solution. This is pretty much it for parts, minus the pulley wheel.
The Singleator relies on loading an internal spring to put tension on the chain. That task requires bolting the arm onto you derailleur hanger and using an 18mm cone wrench to pre-load the spring as you tighten the arm down. Nice idea, poor execution. The notches for the cone wrench on the aluminum sleeve are too narrow for any wrenches I have causing the cone wrench to get trapped between the arm and the hanger making it impossible to get the cone wrench out once tightened.
Problem lately with them is two fold, the spring never holds enough tension to keep the chain tight and second, the internal threads of the arm strip out for the bolt that holds the pulley assembly rendering the whole thing useless. Basically I have two stripped out arms and only one pulley wheel that hasn't been sucked through my drivetrain after the bolt loosened up while riding.

Today I finally remembered why I was running a 32x15, because it was the only gear configuration that worked to put enough tension on the chain. This all fell apart though after I put on a 17T cog to go pre-ride the Greenbrier course. As soon as we took off up the first hill, the dreaded sound of my chain skipping over the cog, slipping off the teeth. Then on the first downhill I hear what sounds like coins hitting the pavement and look back in horror at my rear wheel to see the entire pulley assembly gone. Fortunately it all landed relatively close together and I found all of the pieces. Needless to say this meant for a frustrating day. I managed one lap, at the start of the second, Sean's rear derailleur cage sheared in half so that was the end of the day since he was my ride.

When I got home I went down to Avalon Cycles since they cater a wider variety of riders and have some boutique parts in stock. Although I didn't find a Soul Craft chain tensioner or similar design that does not require a spring, I did talk to one of the shop employees who had converted the Singleator on his trials bike to not need the spring. He accomplished this by grinding down the aluminum sleeve that holds the spring in place and has the useless notches for the cone wrench.
This solves two problems, first it allows the arm to to be bolted tight against the hanger and second there's no more messing around with the cone wrench to adjust the tension. Just set the tension when tightening the arm to the hanger and you're done. I just converted mine and it works great, still need to hit the trails with it for a good dirt session but it's definitely promising. It does require carrying a 5mm with you to loosen it should you need to remove the rear wheel but at least it works.

Simple solution to a simple problem.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

ABRT in the News

It's not very often you get good press about cycling in a local news paper. Last time anyone was in the paper it was part of the Anne Arundel County police blotter for an apparent incident with a motorist at North Beach.

One of our teams newest members, Lance, is a born again cyclist. As a junior he went to the Olympic training camp and trained with the best. After quite a while away, he's refound his love for this sport and is pouring his heart into it. He was able to work with the new sports editor of The Capital, Annapolis' local newspaper, to get this article printed.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fairhill - A Day in the Dirt

Sunday was the Fairhill mountain bike race sponsored by Bikeline. I decided last minute to do this race, more becasue I just love riding the trails at Fairhill but also as a warm up for the State Champs at Greenbrier in two weeks than anything. I envy anyone who lives close to this area as they are near some of the best trail riding around. For me I just don't get there often enough, and unfortunately it's only to race.

Registered for Single Speed Expert I wasn't really confident of my fitness. Saturday I went to Davidsonville and had to sit up from the group before we even got to Rt. 258. I spent the next hour and a half riding solo back to the park and ride wondering how poorly I would do the next day and hoping it would rain enough to cancel the event so I could get my $28 back.

Sunday's weather was cool and damp, cross season weather, I like racing in this weather. I almost didn't make it to the race as I assumed it was at the same location as the summer race, fortunately I read the website one last time and realized the parking was in a completely different area. The ABRT/Latitude team was out in force representing juniors through expert class.

Our youngest racer, Spencer, puts on his game face for his first mountain bike race
While his mom Sue also looks to be having a good time in her first race
Sean and Doug representing in the SS Sport class, sorry Kidd, no one took your picture but we know you were there, too. All three placed well in the SS Sport race.
Dennis taking home the big DUB-YA in the Vet Sport class, still representing his Guy's team though, nice way to start the season...
I went against one of my general rules of racing and made a major equipment modification the day before by swapping my rigid fork for a suspension, only major in that I haven't ridden suspension is well over a year or two and wasn't sure of handling since I had no time to dial the thing in. I was also concerned over my gearing selection, I got my ass handed to me last year at Granogue because I ran to large of a gear. While at Race Pace Saturday picking up my bike I grabbed a16T cog thinking I had been riding on a 17T all winter and wanted something a bit smaller for what was said to be a relatively flat course. When I took my wheel off to swap the cogs I found that I had been riding a 15T, no wonder the waterbar climb was kicking my ass. So instead of making a second modification to the bike I decided if I could ride Avalon on the 32x15 I could race Fairhill.

Warming up on the gravel roads my legs were heavy and tired, not a good feeling going into a 22 1/2 mile race. The SS Expert field doubled from 13 to 26 riders with day of registrations making for a nice size field. The turn out overall was huge for the first cross country race of the MASS series. For once I had a teammate in a mountain bike race, our junior Tom Mackay.

On the start up the gravel road Tom took off for the front but it was a bit comedic as the pack took off then bunched up as no one could really go any faster than the next guy regardless of how quickly you spun the pedals. I moved up on the long gravel road down hill and hit the single track about third wheel. Two guys quickly opened up a gap and I just didn't have the legs to follow. A few more guys got around me so I was sitting top 5 with Poz on my wheel. We were ripping through the course picking off slow moving Sr Experts and just having fun on the great trails.

By the end of lap 1 we were sitting 4th and 5th, not bad for being sick all of March and feeling like shit the day before. I managed to lose my waterbottle on a bumpy log bridge and I was losing my waterbottle cage as well so I didn't bother trying to take a bottle at the end of the first lap. Lap 2 we headed into the woods but Poz opened up a gap on me by getting around some geared riders. Then, in what I can only say is what Adam Craig describes as Eye Bonk, I blew a turn and ran head on into a sapling riping me from my bike. I picked myself up as Buddy the Leg Breaker went by and started chasing.

Thanks to Dennis, Sue and Stu for hanging out for my race and handing up bottles. I grabbed one for the uphill gravel road but tossed it knowing I couldn't carry it through the woods.
I was pretty much riding solo for the better part of the third lap which sucks because it becomes too easy to back off the pace. Two guys caught me and for some reason I just couldn't chase. Entering the back half of the course I could see a small group closing in but couldn't tell if it was anyone in my class when I clipped a tree hard with my shoulder and came to a stop. Another SS'er went by me, f$%!. Chase, chase, chase. I stayed on his wheel and decided I would just take him in the sprint. As the trail opened up into the field I jumped right to try and go early but the grass just bogged me down and I ran out of real estate before the line.

8th place. Tom finished not too far behind me in 11th.
Not bad for a last minute race I hadn't been training for and a great day all around for the ABRT/Latitude team.

*Photos courtesy of Sue Estes and Dennis Smith

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Run Down

For the record, the month of March officially sucked ass. The picture says it all, the entire house was sick, even Boulder was sick. I didn't bother putting his stuff up because it was actually quite a chore since he required additional fluids with his anibiotic to prevent kidney failure so we were pumping him full of fluid though an IV each night for a week. Afterwards he looked like the hunchback of Notre Dame.
After Maddy infected me with her cold following her first week she was in daycare, a week or so later she then contracted Pink Eye which she then gave that to Gina while my cold festered into a sinus infection which was settling nicely in my chest to make matters worse. This was all a few days before my first race of the season. I figured a trip to the Dr., some antibiotics and a few days rest would get me back on my feet for Kirkwood. Nope. I just wasn't meant to race in March, or at least race well.

Yesterday was our race, The Tour of Walkersville. The race gods were smiling on us as the forecast of early rain and cooler temps were replaced with a warm, sunny and clear day albeit with some strong wind. I got a few decent rides in during the week, one on the road and two off road, even with all of the coughing and congestion, breathing hadn't seemed to be a problem so I was feeling confident of at least finishing the 30/40+ Master's race. No dice. First three laps were spent on the front either chasing breaks or trying to get in one. There was a big one forming at the end of the third lap and I busted my ass to get myself onto the tail end of it but it was my undoing. As we made the first turn the field strung out single file into the wind and I was gassed. Too many early efforts and some atrophied lungs made for a short race. I woke up this morning feeling pretty run down and after seeing that yesterday's forecast on tap for today I bagged driving to Virginia for the Tyson's Corner crit. The thought of racing in the cool, wet weather only made my lungs shrink into my chest even more. Minus a few days between the cold and the sinus infection, I've pretty much been sick for a month straight now.

I'll try to get some good training in this week as I'm looking forward to racing Fairhill on Sunday. Hopefully my new fork will be here in time to put on the SS, although racing FH on the rigid fork wouldn't be too bad, but after my Granogue experience last year, I'd much prefer the suspension.

The Bug...