We caught up with several podium finishers at Saturday’s Schooley Mill Cross race to get their thoughts on the course … Continue reading Schooley Mill Interviews
[Ed. Note: Periodically we have guest columnists here at In The Crosshairs. One of our favorites is Jay Morali, who last penned an article for us about this time last year. Jay returns with a column about the internal battle most of us find ourselves in each week on the cyclocross course. Simply put (and I’m paraphrasing Adam Myerson, here) the battle boils down to this: is the physical pain of trying to hang on to that wheel in front of you less or greater than the mental pain you will feel later if you let it go?]
“If you ain’t first, you’re last!”
Too often in life we subscribe to Will Ferrel’s lovable character’s motto from the movie Talledega Nights and we focus solely on the “winner” or “champion” and forget about the rest of the competitors. Look at the great Laurent Fignon, who just passed away. He will be remembered more for the one memorable race he lost instead of the many he won. And it’s not just on the professional level. Just last year I came home from a race after turning myself inside and out to come in second place. I get out of my car and my neighbor, who has no idea what a tubular tire is, asked me how the race went. I proudly told him I crossed the finish line a few seconds behind the winner to claim the second spot on the podium and his response was, “Great, first loser”.
If you race cross long enough and move through the various categories you will find yourself at some point in many different positions in the race. One year you might be fighting it out each week for a podium spot and the next just trying not to come in last. I am currently facing the latter. Last year, I was getting front row call-ups, winning holeshots and picking my own lines. Now, I am five rows back and “rubbin’ paint” as we fight to get past the prologue! (my second NASCAR reference. What do you expect from a Mississippi boy?) But as we all know, unless you are lucky enough to be leading a race, it doesn’t really matter where you are because one thing is always certain in cross: there is always someone in front of you to catch and pass. This is where most of us spend 100 percent of our race.
The purpose of this article is to look into the minds of a couple of the prominent racers across the Mid Atlantic and get a sense of what they are feeling during the “chase.” Do these guys hurt like we do out there? Do they have negative thoughts and consider packing it in? I think you will enjoy their insights and may even learn something from their experiences.
Wes Schempf, a fellow C3-Athletes Serving Athletes teammate, is considered one of the best in the area. He is a former overall MABRAcross and MAC Elite title winner. Wes has had a few memorable experiences racing against pro mountain biker Jeremiah Bishop. Wes explains what it is like for him to fight it out with the former U.S. Champion in MTB short track and marathon in a cyclocross race.
“As you mentioned, Bishop and I have had some experiences,” Wes told me. He explained that his battles with Jeremiah fall into a routine script. “I know that mental preparation is almost as important as physical preparation,” Schempf said. “For some reason, Bishop has a mental voodoo blocker on me. I just can’t seem to get around the fact that he consistently beats me. This has led to a negative feedback loop where if I know he’s racing then I start to think that I’m racing for second.” Continue reading “Through the Eyes of the Chaser”
Races 1 and 2 of the North Carolina Cyclocross Winter Cup took place January 9 and 10 in Salisbury and Mooresville, North Carolina. The CXHairs.com helmet-cam was in attendance for the event. Thanks to Chris Carraway (NCVC) for strapping on the hardware for the races and giving us a good look at the NCCX series.
We also caught up with Route1Velo’s Thori Wolfe who traveled from DC to NC for the weekend’s races. Before getting to the video, here is Thori’s race report of how things played out at the front of the Masters 45+ field:
“Somewhere into the second or third week of undisciplined gluttony following Capitol Cross and the end of the ‘cross season, my R1V teammate Danny Koniowsky suggested the North Carolina Winter Cross Series. I was starting to feel like a slug, so I checked the calendar and Google map and decided to commit to at least the first weekend. I made the trek last weekend and wasn’t disappointed with the trip. Both races on Saturday and Sunday were low key, local races with relatively small fields and some very talented racers still willing to get out in the 20 degree temps when the only other ‘cross racers taking the discipline seriously live in Northern Europe and are named Nys, Albert, and Stybar. The accents were heavy Carolina. The juxtaposition of Ridley bikes, tubulars on carbon rims, and the southern accents you might otherwise expect at a NASCAR event was pretty awesome. It reminded me of surfing in Cape Cod with a bunch of dudes with heavy Massachusetts accents wave sliding on long boards. In both cases, seemingly incongruous, but it didn’t matter once they got down to what they were there to do. Continue reading “NCCX Winter ‘Cross Video (Race No. 1)”
I admit it. Of all the great ‘cross racing that takes place each week in the Mid-Atlantic, I’m a bit biased toward the masters 3/4 field. This is my race and the one that is featured in most of the videos on this site.
The podium at this year’s Tacchino Ciclocross was made up of five super-strong riders. These guys went hard all day and had a great battle at the end. At least that is what I learned by doing these interviews. The last time I saw them, as illustrated in the above image, was about 200 yards into the race.
Having the top five weigh in gives us a great look at the decisive moments of the race. We not only get a peek at the winner’s strategy but how the other four reacted, and in hindsight, what they would have done differently.
Thanks for reading.
Under ideal conditions (you arrive on time, it’s not pouring down rain), how much time do you spend on the course before racing? Do you walk the course? Do any hot laps? What are you looking for during this time?
Jay Morali (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes, 1st Place): I ride the course once when I arrive. I warm up on the road and then try and ride the opening sections of the course once more before the race. I am looking for the best lines since the start is so important and chaotic.
Neal Sapp (Ben’s Performance Bikes, 2nd Place): I ride 2 laps. The 1st lap is slow just looking the course over and trying too find good passing zones and too figure out where I will be fast and sections I will be slow and what tire pressure I will use for that course. The 2nd lap is with some speed too see how it will all come together and flow.
Jeff Anderson (HPC/List, 3rd Place): I get out on the course right away and do 2-3 laps but at Tacchino I ended up doing 4. First lap is slow to ‘see’ the course and then the other laps I will go at a quick pace but not hot. I sometimes even go back and redo a section if I didn’t like the feel of it the first time through. I pay attention to not only what looks like the primary line but any secondary lines that I might be forced to take to pass or due to traffic. I also watch others ahead of me. Sometimes I ride with another rider I know too. I am glad I did a 4th lap at Tacchino as they moved the course, so I knew what the change was. After that off to registration and the trainer.
Scott Thompson (Squadra Coppi, 4th Place): With our race starting at 10am, I like getting to the venue at 8am and riding the course for a solid 30-45 minutes before the Cat 4 men start at 9am. I find this is a much more mentally pleasant way to warm up than spending the time on the trainer in the parking lot. It lets me get very comfortable with the course and warm up physically at the same time. I have been doing progressively faster laps to warm up, and I’ll usually test the key turns at speed. I’m looking for less bumpy lines, the fastest lines through turns, and also for places where back-ups may occur.
Thori Wolfe (Route1Velo/Arrow Bicycle, 5th Place): I focus on the first turn or “bottleneck” after the start; the best or most challenging lines or turns throughout the course; and points along the course where wind, power, or passing (getting passed) will be a factor. Standard stuff. With respect to arrival time and time on course, I used to arrive about 20 to 30 minutes before the start, so I guess I’ve started putting a little thought into my arrival times … about an hour and a half seems enough to keep me busy the whole time and on a timeline to include bagging a couple laps and sitting on the trainer. Continue reading “Tacchino Ciclocross: Masters 3/4 Podium”
DCCX took place October 18 at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington D.C. It may have taken a bit longer than planned to get these interviews posted, but they are by no means out of date. Lots of great stuff here by some of the fastest men and women in the Mid-Atlantic.
Thanks for reading.
How long have you been racing ‘cross? Did you come from a road or MTB background?
Joe Dombrowski (Haymarket Bicycles/Home Visit, 2nd Place Men’s Elite):This is my second season racing cyclocross. I come from a mountain bike background, but will probably split most of my time between road and ‘cross in the future.
Dave Fuentes (Battley Harley Davidson/Sonoma, 1st Place Masters Elite): I have about 17yrs of road racing under my belt. I started racing cross last year. I got my first taste at Kelly Acres in the Cat 4 race. They upgraded me to Category 1, which matched my road category, immediately after that race. This has been my first full season of cross.
Jay Morali (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes, 1st Place Men’s Masters 3/4): This is my 2nd season. I have a minimal road background.
Lenore Pipes (Unattached, 3rd Place Elite Women):I started racing road and cross last year. Road is my main focus but I love cyclocross.
Keith Rohr (Adventures for the Cure, 3rd Place Masters Men 3/4): This is my third year of ‘cross and what will be my first full season of racing. The past two years I only jumped in 5 or 6 ‘cross races. I’ve dabbled in some road racing, but really enjoy mountain biking and totally love the camaraderie of ‘cross racing.
Becky Frederick (Kelly Benefits Strategies/LSV, 2nd Place Women Cat 4): I picked up cross last year once I figured out what it is. A buddy mentioned at a mountain bike race (I was new to that last year, too) that I’d like it. He wasn’t wrong.
Now that we are in the thick of the ‘cross season, what does a normal training week look like for you? Do you do any off-the-bike training during cross season?
Mike Birner (Ben’s Performance Bikes/BMC, 3rd Place Elite Masters): In the week leading up I only did a light ride on Wednesday, some hills and short motorpacing session behind public transit on Thursday and a short ride with some openers on Saturday. All of about 4 hours not including race day.
Joe Dombrowski: Less volume and more intensity than the mountain bike season; this is more true as the season progresses. Typically, I reserve Mondays and Fridays as easier spins, with intervals on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday is my longer, endurance pace ride for the week. I also incorporate core work, plyometrics, and cx skill sessions during the season.
Lenore Pipes: On Tuesdays, I run up the Philly Art Museum steps like in that film Rocky … except shouldering a bike. On Thursday nights, I race at Fifth Street Cross (formerly the coolest cyclocross ever®) where I’ve won Schick Smooth Move Rider of the Night for gracefully crashing into the barriers and I was Lantern Rouge for the entire series last year which might be partly due to the fact that I still have yet to take a PBR Shortcut.
Jay Morali: I try and get two good weekday workouts in. I try and focus on rest and recovery.
Dave Fuentes: I am fortunate to have enough time mon-fri to do 5-6 hrs if I want. I usually peak out at about 25-30 hrs a week for road racing, but after a long road season, I can get by with about 12 hrs a week for cross races. Since the races are shorter, my training is much shorter, but very specific, depending on what I want to do for the day.
Keith Rohr: Usually an easier Monday and Tuesday followed by a more aggressive Wednesday and Thursday then easier Friday and Saturday. My off the bike training usually includes some running with sprints as well as upper body weight training and core work. Continue reading “DCCX: Podium Interviews”
[ed. note.: Frequent masters category podium finisher Jay Morali was kind enough to pen the following column for ‘In The Crosshairs.’ Think you could do the same? Drop me a note at email@example.com.]
“Cyclocross is a drug! Cyclocross is addictive. It consumes you. It’s a good thing that the season is only a few months long otherwise I might not get anything accomplished around the house or at work.”
-Quote from a local cross racer
Am I crazy? Has racing cyclocross in all this mud messed up my brain? I am only in my second season of racing cross and I have already upgraded most of my equipment. I am riding the new all-carbon Blue Norcross frame with some sweet carbon Easton EC90 Aero tubular wheels. My cyclocross bike is more expensive and lighter than my road bike! Does that make any sense? Cross is a short season and we live in an area where you never really have to get off your road bike during the winter months. Yet, I still can’t get over the fact that I am only running Shimano Ultegra shifters on the cross bike. I wonder if I can convince the wife to let me upgrade to DA?
Am I crazy? My daily schedule is based on the date and time registration opens for local MABRA and MAC races. My desk calendar has the season laid out and my iPhone provides the morning reminder. For an upcoming race, I actually cancelled an important business meeting just so I could be in front of my computer, ready to pull the trigger, as soon as the registration window opened. And tell me I am not the only person who has screamed at their monitor because a slow computer is costing you valuable starting positions! Continue reading “Just Because You’re Crazy Doesn’t Mean You’re Wrong”
Hyattsville CX took place October 11, 2009, at Magruder Park in Hyattsville, Maryland. The course featured fast power stretches joined together by technical bits and off-camber turns. Big engines could gap the competition on the straights, those with exceptional skills could catch back up in the technical sections. We caught up with podium finishers to see how they tackled the day. Continue reading “Hyattsville CX: Podium Interviews”
The Breast Cancer Awareness Cyclocross Challenge presented by Antietam Velo Club took place Saturday, October 3, 2009. The first race in a weekend doubleheader for the MABRA Cyclocross Series, the course featured several hairpin turns, good off-camber riding, a sand pit made unridable by strategically placed barriers, and a mean little hill. We caught up with the podium finishers in several categories to find out about their day.
Photos courtesy of Lindsey Hillesheim of The Uff Da! Chronicles. Continue reading “BCA ‘Cross: The Podium Interviews”
The 2009 edition of the Ed Sander Memorial Cyclocross was a muddy affair that rewarded smart, powerful riders. Choosing the correct lines through the muck and being able to power through without dismounting was a proven recipe for success.
Before we get to the interviews, I want to thank Jay Morali for his suggestions and input. Some of the best questions you see below, such as those on weekly training and gearing, were Jay’s ideas. Have suggestions of your own for the site? Send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or leave a comment.
I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Ryan Dudek, who came to my rescue when I was certain I had broken the Internet. He will tell you it was no big deal, but his assistance in getting the site up and running, and frankly looking a whole lot better, was huge. This, of course, also gives me the opportunity to once again show this picture from February’s Cross My Heart CX. That’s Ryan.
And now on to the interviews. Thanks for reading. Continue reading “Ed Sander Memorial Cyclocross: Podium Interviews”
We are wrapping up coverage of the 2009 Charm City Cyclocross with the traditional ‘In The Crosshairs’ podium finisher interviews. You’ve heard what the pros had to say, now let’s hear how your fellow competitors saw the day. Thanks for reading.
What was your favorite part of the course?
Michael Yozell (VisitPA.com, First place, Men Masters Elite):C3 built a great course. I’d have to say there isn’t one particular section that was a favorite but I did think the stairs in the outer field was a nice touch, very creative and much better than the old barrier placement. The course had good flow throughout.
Adam Driscoll (Adventures For the Cure, First place, Men’s 2/3/4): My favorite part of the course was definitely the natural barrier where you have to do a 180 turn around a big tree. This was a great place where we had lots of spectators.
Robert Sheffield (Squadra Coppi/IM SAAB, First place Men’s 4): The two sets of single track around the trees on the far side of the course separated by the stairs. It was fast and really smooth.
Jonathan Seibold (Family Bike Shop/DCMTB, Second Place Masters Men 3/4): The stairs and the new swoopy section right after them. I also like the planter box around the tree.
Chris Mayhew (JBV Coaching, Third place, Men’s 2/3/4): The planter box. I’m a big fan of natural obstacles. It feels a bit old school since they’re really high. And it’s such a natural focus point of the course with the pit and BBQ right there. It’s always the loudest part of the course.
Lindsey Hillesheim (Squadra Coppi, Third place Women’s 3/4): All of it. Charm City has great flow with turns that are wide enough that you don’t to brake much and enough obstacles to keep it interesting and technical.
Jay Morali (C3, Third Place Masters Men 3/4): I really liked the stairs on the back side. A nice addition to the course this year.
Jesse Leifert (Route 1 Velo/Arrow Bicycle, Third Place Men’s 4): I actually really enjoyed the whole first lap. Having never done a cross race before, the experience of riding on wet grass and dirt around trees with 125 of my fellow cyclists was a pretty cool experience. Also, having staged towards the latter third of the pack you could really see everyone getting freaked out by the proximity of everyone. I ended up following Tim Brown from Bike Rack and we passed a bunch of people for the first two laps as we tried to make our way back to the front. It was a blast. Continue reading “Charm City Cyclocross: The Droodle Pork* Races”