Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bakersfield II, Sidelights

We took a lot of pics during our road trip to Bakersfield, so I figured I'd share a little more.

Like I mentioned in the previous post, camping was pleasureable - as it always is in the Scamp!
Mary got this sweet early morning shot of Simon and Hallie.
The night before we had a pleasant campfire complete with yarns, guffaws and warmth.
Feral cats were everywhere. The campground was full of em. The race venue was even worse. Some were handsome, some were cute, they all mean big trouble for wildlife, especially song birds. Here's Hallie hanging out with one of them.

Mary and Hallie met these kindly albeit misguided folks who apparently come every day to feed the cats.
Apparently the tarantula population is more or less unaffected by them though!
I had to throw this one in. After all 'cross was what brought us there!
Good times!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bakersfield Cyclocross

This last weekend my wonderful wife Mary, Simon V., his gal friend Hallie, Bill O. and I headed down to Bakersfield for some "Big League" cyclocross racing. The races were part of the Southern California Prestige Series and attracted some pretty serious talent.

None of us were real excited about Bakersfield itself, but we actually enjoyed the locale quite a bit. We camped a couple of miles above the race venue at the Kern River Campground, which proved to be pleasant. Here's a pic of our camp scene. Love that Scamp!

Mary and I are early risers, so we brewed some java and headed out for a little stroll.

Once we returned, Mary went to work whippin' up French Toast and bacon. Chomp Chomp Yum Yum!
We packed up and headed down to the race area where I loosened up with some stretching while Simon performed some much needed juju on me.
I lined up with about twenty guys in the 45+ and 55+ categories. I still haven't got the hang of being aggressive and getting to the front, so I found myself too far back and going slower than I would have liked. That's me in the red, in the back, left of center.
Once the racing started I managed to move up pretty well. Here I am preparing to remount after the barriers.
The fall foliage was spectacular!
A long grassy section wound up a fairly steep slope. By the top I felt like I was riding through molasses, but it seemed to be where I was able to make up some time on the guys around me.
There were several twisty, soft, slow sections in the trees where I seemed to lose a little time. Mostly I was just trying to stay upright and not make mistakes in there.
On the third lap of five total, I passed the rider in front of me and slotted into fifth place. I could see the fourth place rider in front of me, but could not close the gap. Nonetheless I was super happy with my ride. I felt strong, didn't make any serious mistakes, and had a whole ton-o-fun!
Next up were the elite category racers which Bill and Simon raced against. I was pretty impressed with the strength of the field including Sid Taberlay (4 time Australian mountain bike champion), the father/son duo of Mark and Chance Noble and Brent Prenzlow among others.

Bill and Simon got squeezed out on the start by some squirrely dude and sadly found themselves pretty far back from the get go. Here are the leaders just after the start putting the hammer down.
This is Bill riding through the dust in one of the soft sections.
and Bill at the top of the grassy climb.
After his tough start, Bill also had a couple of bobbles in the soft stuff and a trip over the barriers which slowed him down a bit. He toughed it out to the finish though. Here he is preparing to dismount before the barriers.
Simon's day went from bad to worse when he rolled a tire on a tight turn and had to pit to change the wheel. Here he is kicking up dust and flying.
This fast downhill sweeper was one of the trickier sections of the course. You wanted to maintain some speed into the next rise, but that was easier said than done. Simon found an excellent line in the grass.
Simon gave everything he had despite his run of bad luck. Amazing.
Up front Taberlay and Gary Douville opened up a nice gap on five chasers including the Nobles and Prenzlow on the first lap and never looked back. Here they are weaving through the trees.
This is Chance Noble and Prenzlow chasing behind. Chance is one of the top Under 23 cross racers in the country and will be fun to watch as his career progresses.
Taberlay outsprinted Douville for the win while Chance managed to get away from his group and nab third place while his dad, Mark, outdueled Prenzlow for fourth.
Those guys were FAST!! We had a grand ol' time ringing our cowbells, screaming for Bill & Simon and soaking in the vibe. Bill & Simon were both pretty disappointed, but managed to have a darn good attitude about the whole thing.

I was super satisfied with my race and look forward to racing in Reno on 11/22 and then at the District Championships in San Francisco on 11/29.

Thanks to Simon for motivating me to a level of fitness I have rarely met before. I have never had more fun racing a bicycle! And thanks to Mary for being an awesome companion, cook, cheerleader, and photographer (she took all the pics of me!).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Benton Crossing Cross

This last Sunday we 'crossers gathered at Benton Crossing near Mammoth for the third installment of this year's cyclocross series. We had last raced this course in 1996 with fond memories of snow, mud, and bitter cold. We were hoping for similar conditions this time, but had to settle for perfect Indian summer weather.

Here we are just getting started. I opted for a few seconds of glory and shot out in the lead. That's me on the far right with the necktie and vest.
The course was deceptively difficult starting with a set of high speed barriers, followed by a tough runup, and long stretches of bumpy flats.

This is a picture from the top of the runup with Bill and Simon in the foreground humpin' it up the hill while me and Luke chase behind.
The views from the top were spectacular, but went largely unnoticed since the riders were focused on quickly remounting the bike and preparing for the steep descent.

Here I am desperately trying to clip in to the pedals before taking the big plunge.
This is Luke, me and Jerry O. heading down the descent.
B. Nelson took the sensible approach to the descent resplendent in his 70s stylie rayon shirt.
Here's another shot of me descending with Jerry chasing.
The vest felt more and more like a straight jacket as the raced progressed and before long I just could not get a full breath, so I ditched it.

Here I am in my more casual attire.
I'm number one!!! No actually I am just verifying there was only one more lap left. Happiness is finding out you only have one more lap of suffering to endure.
We quickly followed the suffering with bratwursts on the grill, cold beer, and tales of near crashes. Extremely satisfying!!

Thanks to Mary for all the swell pics!