WORS #6 “Alterra Coffee Bean Classic” pre-ride report

82 degrees at 6am this morning – great morning to head over to Franklin and check out the Crystal Ridge trails.

Once again this year the Alterra team will host the Crystal Ridge WORS race and their crew along with the Metro Mountain Bikers have made the once “fun to ride but crappy to race” course into a legit WORS course.  It’s still one of the most technical races in the series, but over the past 2 years they’ve opened a lot more passing lanes and made the course a lot more “race ready” – especially for those of us with only one gear.  The biggest change this year is the elimination of the snaky switchback climb.  It has been replaced with a “straight up the backside” climb that is longer than you think.  The Team & MMB crew will be doing some more trail grooming tomorrow too if anyone’s available to help out.

Todd Somers from the Alterra team put together this summary of the 2011 course layout:

“No prolog lap. Up the hill and around the cap. There is a drag strip on top that will suck but should help to separate the milk from the cream. Then in the woods over to Alpha then back to CR up the west side of the hill and around to O’Malley’s on the south end (open spots again) out and back to the hill. Comp will go up the hill a bit but not to the top. Pave plunge is gone, then let it rip down the hill in the small intestine and back up the starting hill.”

Unfortunately, every year I forget how much fun this course is, and how close to home it is too.  I spent the second lap this morning picking bugs out of my teeth because I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  There are still about 7 million trees that seem to jump out at you around every corner, and the rain and (finally) sun have kicked the brush growth into turbo mode.  It’s hard to see what’s around every corner, and trust me there are more corners than you can count.  This morning I saw enough wildlife to load an ark, in fact I stopped and had a staring contest with a doe who was only about 10 feet away from me.

Do yourself a favor and get over to Crystal Ridge and ride it – or better yet, race it.  You are guaranteed to have a blast!

WORS Iola report (finally)

Once again, the 1st WORS race of the year has come and gone.  I saw lots of chatter about how people were just there to have fun, see old friends, not necessarily to race.  Huh?  I think that’s an easy way to say “…if I don’t do well, I can just say I was having fun…”

I saw a lot of people racing, and a lot of people having “fun”, but I didn’t notice anyone stopping to take pictures during the race or check their email.  Despite the frigid temps, the racing was hot.  Iola is a favorite course among a majority of the WORS racers, myself included.  It has a little of everything and it’s the inaugural WORS race, so everyone comes to the line extremely amped up.

This year was no exception – when Don yelled go, we blasted up the fire road on the backside of the ski hill jockeying for position.  I immediately felt the fact that my warm-up (if you could call it that) in the cold temps did little to warm me up.  I also immediately felt the failure of my activities the entire off-season.  Last year, I hit the gym quite a bit and continued to do some cold weather riding too.  This year I just rode, 2-3 times a week, throughout the winter – avoiding the gym almost completely.  That plan worked out pretty well in the 2 early season road races I’ve done so far, but it backfired horribly once I hit the hills of Iola on my single speed.  I have zero upper body/core strength compared to last year – those hills sucked the life out of me in a hurry.  I’ve become a much better climber over the years, many times making key moves on the steepest hills, but that was not the case in Iola.  It took everything I had to make it up the steepest hill on the last lap.

Overall, I felt good and I felt like I left it all out there, despite having a much slower time than last year.  I placed a distant 3rd (last year’s finish had me 2 seconds out of 1st).  On the first lap I wanted to die and stop pedaling, by midway through the second lap I had found the groove and I used the last lap to wring out any energy I had left in me.

Unfortunately, as soon as I crossed the line my stomach started to cramp up – which turned out to be some kind of bug that kicked my ass for the next 48 hours.

Due to scheduling conflicts, my next WORS race won’t likely be until the end of July.  I’m hoping to make a few changes and add some horsepower before then.

Never say “…one last time”

“As they speed thru the finish the flags go down.
The fans get up, and get out of town.
The arena is empty except for one man,
Still driving and striving as fast as he can”

CAKE – “Going the Distance”

I guess I’ll never learn – I told myself this would probably be the last Kettles ride of the year.  I also went for a muddy ride by myself with no tools.  That was about the stupidest thing I’ve done since I started at the back of the pack in my first Crit (Superweek), thinking I would work my way up to the front.  FAIL.

For those of us who don’t hunt (anymore), this was the perfect day for a ride.  45 and misty, the Kettles were a virtual ghost town this morning.  Everyone was either hunting, racing Cross or has already set up their trainers in the basement.  Too bad for you, the conditions were awesome. I jumped out of my truck and felt fast – WORS fast.  Slapped on a bright yellow helmet and even clipped on a little trail bell to let all the hung over hunters know that my brown bike with the white seat was NOT a deer.  I shot out of the parking lot and flew to the first wooden bridge, where I immediately slid sideways and ate mud.  Time to take it down about 4 notches.  The roll-in and all of the piney woods with gravel and sandy soil were super fast.  The light rain stuck everything together and it felt like riding on rails.  The rest of the trails (MOST of the trails) was like riding on Vaseline covered marble.  It’s been a dry Fall and the hard-pack trails roll super fast when it’s dry, but that little bit of rain just created a sheet of slime on the cement-like surface.  I think I was going faster up the hills than down on my first Blue Loop.

A quick stop in the parking lot to shed a few layers, still not a sole in sight aside from 3 runners, and it was back on the trails.  By now the ground had soaked up a lot of the moisture and the trails were rolling pretty fast again.  Just shy of 4 miles in, I blew the chain apart.  Tools?  You bet, back in my truck in the parking lot!  Time for the walk of shame.  Still an awesome way to spend my morning.  Made it back to the parking lot around 9:45, just as a few crews of weekend warriors on their reflectorized full-suspension rigs were about to roll in.

In just 24 hours I’ll be rollin’ down the road in Tampa, I’m guessing that when I get back in December the skinny skis will have taken over the Kettles.  So long John and Emma – see you in Spring!

Crystal Ridge WORS pre-ride report…

First let me say the long sleeve jersey was overkill this morning.  I was expecting it to be much cooler.  Second, I apologize for the crappy cell-phone pix.  Third, HOLY CRAP, this is gonna be FUN!

A word to the ex-BMXers, you’re going to tear it up Sunday.  A word to the roadies – stay home.  You’re just going to hurt yourself out here.  Sure, you’ll haul ass on the new “Prologue” lap, (which will definitely give the early advantage to the Jens Voigts of the WORS world), but once you hit that single-track you might as well be on the moon.  This is a Midwest mountain biker’s course – SUPER twisty and fun, but nowhere to pass in the tight stuff.  The MMB and Alterra crew have done a fantastic job, and by Sunday the course conditions will be about as near perfect as you could hope for.

I swapped out the giant 36:15 on my SS last night, back to a “normal” 32:16.  I also had the foresight to add a little grip, so I took off the Stan’s Raven on the rear and slapped on a Nobby Nic.  Good call.  I’ll be swapping the front tire too.  The dry-looking trail is deceptively muddy and sticky.  The trails twist and turn like we have all come to know and love, but there is a BRAND NEW section of single-track that is my hands-down favorite.

Tons of 2x4s and flat rock “bridges” and a sweeping, twisted roll through the woods was a surprise for me this morning.  Sadly, I rode CR one time in Spring, but with all the rain we’ve had I’ve just taken it off the map.  Big mistake.  This is some of the most fun riding around, and despite all the crappy weather, the trails are in primo shape.  Again, can’t say enough about all the volunteers who’ve hauled rocks, lumber and shovels around those bug infested woods all summer.

Everything is clearly marked, with the exception of the Start/Finish gate, which will go up this weekend.

Same uphill start, same half climb of Garbage Hill for Sport and full climb for Comp/Expert.

My brake pads are almost completely shot, so I took it easy on the downhills – headed to Ben’s shortly to get the Home-Boy Hookup.

Make sure you tighten every bolt and have lots of brake power, there won’t be a time when you’re cruising down a nice sloping fire road recovering like Suamico.

This course will rattle your teeth out.

Good Luck to EVERYONE!!