Saturday, January 16, 2016

CX nationals , Asheville, N.C.

Its a long way to go for a CX race-Asheville N.C. to be exact but this is the nationals. This six day event is what we save our coins for all season in hopes of some medals and some great exposure for the sponsors and the team. The fields are the largest and highest quality we will see in the 5 months that make up cyclocross . Not all the folks that had planned to come to Asheville were able to make the trip as sickness and logistics got in the way. This said, we fielded a very strong team that got on the podium as much or more than any nationals in the 10 years that this team has existed and there could have even been more.

 Arriving very ate Monday night after a delay in Chicago , our hosts Eric and  Laura were ready for us with a warm place to call home base for the next few days. Other arrivals would be put in a house down the road hosted by Josh and Jessica. These two households were extremely helpful and generous to our team and our situation in Asheville was excellent in location and comforts. From these two houses we would launch our assault on the biggest races of the year.
 First to get on the course was Kelly Chang who opted to do the 35+ women non-championship event to get used to the course at race pace. Kelly said before the race that she would just take it easy . This was not the case and she got caught up in the frenzy and rode to 9th place.
 The next day there were the Masters championship events and Ellen Sherrill didn't think much of her chances to get on the podium in the women's 35-39 race but she made it finishing in 4th place with a show of determination. Kelly Chang rode next in the women's 45-49 race and had a very respectable result finishing in 11th place.
 Next to ride was Kailin Waterman in the men's 35-39 race.The field was huge and Kailin didn't get a good call up. the traffic made it very difficult to move up and he had to settle for 31st. He would ride stronger in the coming days.
 For 2016 the nationals added a couple events. One of them was the relay, a race of four person teams. We recruited Ben Gomez-Villafane to finish the four with Campbell Steers, Max Judelson and Kailin Waterman. The team would finish 4th out of 20 teams and get the podium and medals. Early Friday morning I went down to the course with Michael Landry who rides for the team but this day he was riding for Yale in the collegiate division II race. ( He is pictured in the very first photo at the top) Michael is a graduate student at Yale but in his teens he raced on the Lobster team as a junior. After an absence of 7-8 years from the sport he decided to jump back in last summer. The result is his 6th pace in the nationals, quite a jump from being a category 5 racer just a few months ago. Next season I think that the east coast riders will take him very seriously.
 Single speed CX racing has been at the core of this team's activities for nearly a decade and the team has always excelled. In the men's event we were fortunate to have Max Judelson starting near the front but Kailin Waterman was a few rows back and Brendan Lehman was seeded near the very back of about 140 riders, the largest field of the week. All three of these riders rode really well with Max getting 5th and the podium, Brendan passing 108 riders to finish 25th and Kailin riding well on a borrowed bike to finish 28th.

In the women's single speed race we had a record of three riders and they would all ride into the top-20. Ellen Sherrill was fatigued from her race earlier but had a good starting position as she had been on the podium in single speed the three previous years. Kelly Chang was a couple rows back and Campbell Steers had to start at the back of the field. It only took a half a lap for Campbell to ride in into the top-10 and another lap to ride into 5th. She was not able to hold onto that spot-this being her first nationals she didn't have the experience to judge the length of the race . She still made it to 7th and will have a front row start next year. Ellen Sherrill suffered mightily in about 9th until she saw that Campbell had been overtaken by another rider. She found some strength to turn it up and close on 5th place. She almost got there , only 10 seconds back. Kelly Chang would have one of her best race performances at the nationals riding strong in the last lap to move up to 18th.

A newer event that was added a few years ago, the 'Industry race' culled some of the very best riders from the bicycle business. There were some elite riders in both the men's and women's races. Campbell Steers once again rode from the back but this time she kept her speed to the end getting the silver medal and second place in a huge field.
 This week away from home could have been just another day at the office-another road trip to the races not unlike many in the past-but this trip turned out to be special. The dinners at the host houses and later at the house on Joe Jenkins road that we rented were really the best. We tried to repay our hosts and supporters with great food and good times. I think that we did o.k. , carrying on a team tradition that goes back nearly a decade. Kailin , Brendan and Andrew Juiliano did excellent work in shopping, prepping and cooking these large dinners. Nobody went away hungry and we were able to do the gluten-free and vegan thing as well.
 There seems to be a tradition of dancing with a lot of the team folks who should have been way too tired to dance. This was not the case and they out-danced just about every other poor fool out there on the dance floors. Good times for sure.
 As the last few days were upon us there was one more event for the team to get ready for-the elite men's race. This year none of our women's team would ride in the elite race but we did have Max Judelson and Andrew Juiliano in the men's race. Max had ridden in two events already and it would possibly be a hindrance , along with his starting position. Andrew had fresh legs and a better starting position , although he had a 9 hour flight delay and had to sleep in the airport just two days before his race.
 In spite of being blocked after the start and being near the back Andrew rode very strong and up to the action. He was almost in the top-20 when he finished , beating most of the elite field winding up 24th. Max had a rougher go of it, initially riding up near Andrew but fading in the end. He would finish in 48th but all in all, this was both Andrew's and Max's best nationals to date.
 One thing for sure, Asheville has some great food. This photo is of the very finest bacon on the face of the earth. I am not joking.........we are all about bacon ( with the exceptions of the vegans on the team ) but this bacon set the mark for all future bacon to measure up to. This was the gold standard here.
 Here's a blurry picture of Andrew at the barriers in the elite race. As I was in the pit during his race I was not able to be much of a photographer. There's a video of the elite race at Cyclocross Magazine and you can see both Max and Andrew in action.
 For the elite race Campbell found some proper mud boots-these will no doubt find their way to the next muddy races.
The day finally came when we had to say goodbye to Joe Jenkins road, the Biltmore estates where the race had been held and of course our hosts and all the friends we made over the week. All along the course in every race we took part in there were folks we didn't know yelling "Go Rock Lobster !". Our reputation seems to have preceded us again.....good to know that we have a seriously big fan club wherever we go. I would finish a lowly 40th in the master men's 60-64 race but even on the last lap I heard people all over the course yelling "Go Rock Lobster ".

I would like to that our sponsors who make it so Rock Lobster really can "Go !" :

Voler custom sports apparel
Clif Bar
HRS- Larry and Karen Bullard
Bob's Red Mill
Chris King precision
Enve Composites
Paul Component engineering
Buckler Embrocation
Go Westy !
Jeff Traugott guitar company
Greg Foy construction

A special thanks to Bonny Doon airport, L.L.C. for hosting our race that funded this trip and others
also, thanks to all on the team that volunteered at the event to make it happen
Sarah and Matt for our unique kit design

A big thanks to our asheville hosts Eric, Laura, Josh and Jessica- Laura especially for the 'Rock Lobster mugs that she crafted herself -and to Cane Creek for letting us use the tent at the venue and for buying a ton of groceries for one of our big dinners. We will show you guys the same hospitality if and when you come west.