Tuesday, December 19, 2006

HRS RockLobster Does Nationals

The National Championships of Cyclocross are always memorable for me. I have only made it to a handful, but the racing, comraderie and partying always leave a strong and lasting impression. As far as US racing is concerned, this is the real deal, the big day and everyone knows it. It is a weekend where there is no point in holding back. For all but a few who will go on to races in Europe, this is when you lay it all on the line.

Roger Williams Park in Providence RI is the best course I have ever seen. The conditions for the 2006 edition were superb, maybe a little sloppy early on in the weekend, but perfect during the elite race and just a touch rough on the final day. As far as courses go, this is a super fast one, with only a couple short running sections and one set of double boards. Actually, the track reminded me a lot of some of our own trails, after just the right amount of rain, where you can rail the sticky clay turns and need only dodge an occasional root or rock. But what a contrast to last year which ran the same course and was a technical and slippery challenge as snow melted to mud and conditions changed for the sloppier as the weekend wore on.

I came in to my race knowing it was likely the last of the season before I really try and heal up from my crash in Boulder. I was feeling the best I had in weeks after some chiropractic and figured it was really a matter of whether or not I had enough top speed to do my front row start justice. At the start line I looked at my competition and knew that only a couple of guys would come up from the depths of the field to contest the race and so I would just have to stick close to those around me.
Holding nothing back I launched in to the race and was in third position as we hit the first corner. I kept it pinned and tried to follow every wheel and jump out of every turn. I raced 110%, but I kept slipping back just a bit as the laps wore on. In the end I would battle for 10th place, finishing just over a minute behind the eventual winner. I suppose I should be satisfied with my result, but I must admit that I brought my podium bag with me to the start, hoping at least to match my last years result. So I finished up with a top ten at Nats. and that night I ordered a steak for dinner and had plenty of drinks to wash it down.

But there was plenty of other racing action to witness and I will comment on a few that stand out to me. Certainly Trebon and Compton had stellar and commanding wins. But in the elite race on Saturday and the Strawberry Cup on Sunday, Ben JM was holding nothing back and raced super hard to 7th and 4th respectively. In the masters races, Mark Noble was super solid amongst some heavy competition and won a 3 man sprint for the Title. But certainly best of all was our very own Shelley put down the performance of the weekend in my book. On a course that fit her own strengths wonderfully, she raced from the back rows to finish in the top ten of her first ever major cross race. Now, this result is all the more amazing as she hasn't ever done a UCI race, or a Grand Prix. Shelley overhauled and passed so many racers it was ridiculous. I was watching every bit of it and her expression never changed, if she says she was suffering then so be it, but her ability to control the pain face must be fantastic. I watched her just flying by girls on the run ups and they were all contorted and sweaty and Shelley just left them in her wake. I think a lot of these top girls were not even sure what hit them, and the announcers were just as amazed. You could tell they were reading the start list to find her name as they announced her amazing rise through the field.

Aside from racing performances, the abilities of Ryan Bontrager should be noted as well. Ryan spent his first night in RI putting back a bunch of beer before waking up hungover and tired before his first big day in the National Championship Pits. The weather conditions were very easy on the pit crew but I have no doubt that Ryan would have been up to any task. As it was, he was on hand to make sure all problems were kept at bay and of course it is super pimp to have a pro mechanic standing in the Nationals pit. Ryan also strikes an uncanny resemblance to Braveheart which is key.

Finally, it is super important to thank all our sponsors who have outfitted us with the parts and financial support which could make all this possible. Our little squad has posted some mighty fine results at the local and National level. Your support has helped us to bring Shelley into the scene and I imagine she has the potential to visit the big time of European cyclocross if she choses. Good job one and all, Simon.

A Trip to Remember

Wow, what an amazing weekend! I feel like I'm still on a cloud. I couldn't be happier right now. First and foremost, there is no way I could have gotten the result I did without the amazing support of the HRS-Rock Lobster crew that we had out there this weekend.

Rob and I arrived on the scene Saturday morning and got our first glimpse at the course by watching both the junior and U23 National Championship races. We sized up the start and all the sections of the course that needed to be figured out. Then we hit the course for a 1/2 hour while it was open before the elite men's race. The course was perfect. Absolutely perfect. Wide-open, perfect conditions, and a power course if I'd ever seen one. Immediately, I was pumped. I could write off any concerns I may have had about "handling" the technical stuff or dealing with the conditions, (which we all know is my huge weakness). I honestly wasn't nervous. I was just excited to have this opportunity to race such a perfect course against the best riders in the country.

I had unbelieveable team support. Let me explain how important it was for me on Sunday. First, I had Rob, Ryan, and Paul with me hours before the race making sure everything was fine tuned for the start. Then, Josh and I rode the course together during the open course and he made sure I knew all the secret spots to take advantage and save energy. That was key Josh, thanks.. I used a lot of your tips. When it came time to start, the nerves really started to kick in. I found myself in the very back of the field with only 2 rows behind me. Simon, Ryan, and Rob were all there with me for this most scary time, which I was also very grateful for. They kept me smiling and as relaxed as possible.

So the whistle blows and were off. The start was a long pavement uphill section. I thought I'd be able to move up, but I wasn't going anywhere. No gaps opened up and it seemed like we were actually slowing down instead of accelerating. Meanwhile, the leaders are sprinting away. I couldn't worry about this now though, I had one thing to worry about and that was my race. So, I took positions as they opened up, sometimes gaining 5 at a time and sometimes only 1. Eventually, I was riding in the top 15. I would have had no idea what place I was in if it weren't for the people on the sidelines yelling at me. They made all the difference in the world and honestly, that's the only reason I was able to keep moving up. At every section of the course, there was an HRS-Rock Lobster member screaming at me to keep moving up. I had to keep my game face on the whole time. It felt like I was racing for everyone that was cheering for me. I didn't want to let them down. One by one, the riders came back to me until I was riding with 1 other girl and we were 9th and 10th with 1 lap to go and 8th place in sight. In the very last technical section, a run up over stairs and around a tree with lots of roots, I was able to get my handle bars just ahead of the 8th place girl and beat her to the downhill. It dumped me off onto the finishing straight, an uphill section about 50 yrds or so. I thought I had dropped the girl I just passed but I looked back just to be sure and there she was, engaged in her sprint, coming straight for me. I certainly wasn't going to give it back to her, so I started my sprint too and was able to make it to the line in 8th just seconds behind the 7th place rider.

It was truly an amazing weekend of racing. I owe so much to the people who were out there yelling for me and helping me prepare for this challenge. I was honored to represent this team at Nationals. Thanks to everyone. - Shelley

providence and submission again.....

Like I keep saying, this is the best damn team. I'll keep it as brief as I can on this report as we will no doubt get together for a meeting and relive the whole experience. Friday: My race was at 9:30 a.m. and I wasn't too keen on the early start but mercifully it was a lot warmer this year and I got to ride the course before I raced. I drew a 6th row start, not very promising but when the whistle blew I got moving and passed a lot of people in the first lap. With two laps to go a really painful cramp made me go backwards and I lost most of what I gained but still was a little ahead of where I started, finishing 49th out of 68. Evan had a first row start but had the misfortune of going through the course tape and down a hill. By the time he got back on course he was almost 70th. He fought his way back to 53rd out of about 150. Dan Harting had just as bad a starting position as I did but really flew in the first half of his race and made it all the way to 18th place out of 120-odd riders, a truly heroic ride. Simon was on the front row in his start but with his back still very painful it was anyone's guess if he would even finish. He really turned himself inside out and ended up 10th, not losing his first row position , a miracle in my opinion. Saturday: Saturday was all about Snead and his start position near the back of the field didn't make him a happy guy. Nevertheless he passed many riders and fought hard until the last lap when he sat up and figured it wasn't worth fighting for 42nd place. Sunday: Josh redeemed himself this day with a renewed attitude and with a similar starting position rode all the way up to 19th, beating many of the best in the sport and showing that when he had his race head together he can be oe of the fastest guys out there. The heroic ride award has to go the Shelley, though. We all were watching her go from the 8th row, passing riders at every opportunity.All of us were yelling at the top of our lungs as she went by, eyes always focused ahead on her next rider to pass. A top 20 finish would have been a major achievement on this day but Shelley doesn't know how to ride that slow appearantly and vaulted into the top ten , ending up 8th.The other heroe award goes to Ryan for making the trip and helping not only us, but anyone who needed his assistance. A big thanks has to go to Karen Bullard who's sponsorship fed the team ( and got us much needed post-race alcoholic pain relief ). As luck would have it, the only big loser of the weekend was Britney Spears , who's self titled c.d. was discarded on the side of the road, no doubt from someone realizing their error in purchasing such a collection of awful music.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

muddy weekend

Well, I'm a crappy photographer but at least I'm on the best damn team in the west. It almost looked like we were going to have a mud-challenged season of 'cross here in California but this weekend changed that in a big way. Saturday was the deep unmoveable kind of mud that had many racers in shock. There was a ton of running through the deep stuff and it was a challenge just to finish. Simon had a 5th overall place he wanted to hold onto and with the back injury he managed to pull it off (although quite painfully) finishing in the top ten , just ahead of team mates Harting and Kereluk,. Speaking of painful, Shelley hit the deck near the end of her race and is smarting from it in a big way. Josh Snead and Dave Wyandt rode hard and finished 4th and 5th, respectively. This was no mean feat as both the Jaques-Mayne brothers and a certain Barry Wicks showed up in top condition. Dan Harting had an impressive race as bot he and Aaron Kereluk made the top 10. Ben dodge rode aggressively and scored a fine 12th place.Jeff Patton and Rob Evans finished as well on a day when finishing wasn't in the cards for many riders. Julie Brothers captured a podium spot as did Stella and Simon in the overall. On Sunday the rain came down hard in the CCCX at Fort Ord . The ground for the most part was firm but there were some wheel eating ponds that caused a lot of trips over the bars for an unlucky few. Rona Hung, Stella and Julie all placed well in thier respective events, Stella riding her single speed to an impressive 3rd in the Elites. Larry Bullard raced the earliest when the rain was the worst and finished well enough to protect his 5th overall on the G.C. Dave and Josh repeatedly attacked Justin Robinson early in the elite race only to get fould up in a muddy crash, letting Robinson loose to ride to the win. Still, two spots in the top three is outstanding at this level of racing. Ben Dodge had another great race just missing the top ten.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Back in the Saddle

Sunday marked my return to CX racing and as usual, it hurt. My back is still mad at me for attempting a front flip out in Boulder,Co. Nonetheless, I decided I would have to pin a number on this weekend or shelve the season and my ambitions for the national championships in Rhode Island. After a few weeks of very little riding, turkey day and almost no intensity, I picked the district champs race and Pilarcitos final for my first race and real test for my sore back.
It was a beautiful day at Coyote Point and most everyone was in attendance. Besides my own racing to worry about, we were in a close race for the team competition and AK was a close second to John Funke for the elite overall. I knew that finishing would help us in the overall competition and I figured I could tough it out for that if nothing else, but I had hoped to ride with AK and help him in his battle with Funke.
The racing action started up the first hill and Funke was right at the front with Ben Jacques and J. Snead. Myself, Wyandt, Justin Robinson and AK were a bit off from the leaders due to some sketchy manuevers pulled by some of the other "elites" in the field. I guess complaining about delay's by riders of lesser ability begs the question "what were you doing behind them if you're so good?". I don't know but secretley I was glad not to try and match the pace Ben was setting and it looked like Snead and later Wyandt were going to try and give the old Strapper a run for his money.
I had other things to worry about and it involved trying to work for AK and battling the Strawberrie duo of J.RO. and Chance Noble. I got a little break as I joined up with AK and then we bridged to Justin. Chance was way back at the begining and caught our trio and attacked straight away. I tried to counter and keep it together but lost contact and was joined by Justin a short time later. As you know, this is my main comp. for nationals and we have been battling all season. I tried to stay ahead of him coming into the sand run and he very politely ran past, and away from me on the beach. I had a half step on him at the beginning of the run and as he bumped my bike, barely, he apoligized and then kicked sand in my face as he stretched a 30 foot gap by the end.
I was a bit demoralized with a few to go and the big man riding away from me but a look over my shoulder told me that Troy Barry was coming up and I really didn't want to be beat by him. Troy may be a nice guy, but at last years districts, he did the stupidest move I have ever seen at a cross race. He basically flatted, then cut the course to the pits (his car?) and then took a free lap, and finally jumped onto the course right as Justin and Andy were rolling by with me at about 2 seconds and desperately trying to maintain contact. I almost crashed into him as he barged into the front of the race and I lost all momentum and all hopes of sticking with the leaders. I probably would have been dropped anyway, but it was ridiculous to have to deal with that and I will try never to be beaten by some one who would do something so stupid.
So I got back on it and kept it painfully pinned for the rest of the race and clawed back within a few seconds of Justin by the end. Troy said he needed another lap and he would have got me but I think he'll need a million laps and that might not be enough. In the end I finished a respectable 8th place.
Well that was my race but the real story was the depth of the entire team and the class of every rider on it. Paul sounded the battle horn and everyone rallied to put in the best performance they could on the day it mattered. The race for the roaring mouse trophy was a bit silly as everyone already knew we were the best team out there. Nonetheless, good job to one and all and way to make the sponsors proud.

team comp photo

HRS-Rock Lobster collecting the trophy and goods for #1 at Bay Area Super Prestige Pilarcitos team competition.

Making the Sponsors proud is our goal!

Thanks to the Pilarcitos crew for putting on yet another great year of cross racing.
Thanks to the event sponsors and the Roaring Mouse team.

Monday, December 04, 2006

running the show

I'll not waste too many words here....the team was terrific-from Simon coming back from a brutal injury to race,David Wyandt and Josh Snead riding at the front,A.K. second in the elite men overall, Shelley and Stella riding away from everyone except Rachel Lloyd, Julie Brothers on the overall podium for the womens 35+. Dan Harting 3rd overall in the mens 35+ and Loren , Chappy and the whole team racing for those much needed team points......WE DID IT ! HRS/Rock Lobster first in the team competition. It came down to the last day and we did it. Cheers, the photos will tell the rest of the story.