Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cross Vegas Wrap

Last week the Gates crew jumped into planes, trains and automobiles, and headed west for good ol' Interbike. It sounds like the Gates crew had a great time at the outdoor demo, with lots of people stopping by to check out the bikes! With limited time off, I wasn't able to make the outdoor demo, and got in late the day before the show started. Jesse was traveling with me, and first thing in the morning, after a few more asprin, we were off to the show.

Overall, I was pretty dissapointed in the show. It seemed pretty much like a repeat of last year, with just a few minor additions being shown off. Though I've got to say straight away, I'm pretty much in hardcore lust with the new Raleigh SSCXWC carbon cross bike, setup with the Gates Belt!

I must have one! The smoothness of the 1,050g carbon, the new Enve cross fork, the crazy-smooth belt-drive... with some proper handbuilt tubular wheels and safe parts pick, you're looking at a ride in the 15lb. range without even trying too hard. Speaking of single speed parts... the new TRP RRL Singlespeed brake levers. They combine the Campy 11 and new Shimano style levers into one, that somehow feels even more like the original Mektronic lever. Awesome. I hope Hudz gets to work on a aftermarket hood for those!

Anyway, after a couple hours on the show floor, it was back to the hotel to prepare for the Wheeler's and Dealers Cross Vegas race! Whew... the legs were definitely feeling the hours on the show floor. I'm glad I chose to ride the bike out to the race, even though it was uphill and a hot headwind the entire way. Then it was time to meet up with the Gates crew before the race, chat, and do some pre-laps together. In town were Carlos, Derek, Brad, myself, and Peter riding with us from "The Michigan Branch".

The pre-ride confirmed my thoughts going into this race... the 99% grass course was going to be hard as hell for me. Being a smaller guys makes it tough when it's time for courses that favor absolute power. On the good side, I LOVE grassy corners that you can just rail, technical sections and ridiculously fast barrier sections. This year the course had three barriers, which definitely made me smile.

It was going to be a downright vicious start, as callups were based on registration, so plenty of fast guys would be surging to get to the front right away... and that's exactly the way it played out. Luckily for me, while in 60th place, I had Matty Pronovost directly in front of me, and Mike Robson directly behind. With the three of us, we attacked hard, winding our way through the crowd together, until I had to leave them to go on their own. Carlos absolutely drilled it and made it up to the front group... yes, with all the geared guys!

I moved up well at the start, but then mostly just held my position, moving up a bit through the race, and not getting caught in the no less than 3 crashes that were right in front of me. I was feeling good on the bike, but it was hard, hard work. Hard enough that I was actually wishing for some of those dry, loose corners that we have in Colorado, where I can make some time. The crowd was much bigger than expected, already for our race, and that definitely helped the motivation! Some vid that lets you see the course, and a couple good shots of me and Derek and some other Gates kits in there;

In the end, Matty Pronovost had an incredible ride (on his sweet 14lbs. Moots - that he's now sad isn't built with a belt!) took the single speed win, with an incredible 7th place finish overall. Gates faired quite well ourselves, with Peter in 2nd, Derek in 3rd, Carlos in 4th or 5th, and myself in 6th! After the race, all the pressure was off, and it was time to drink some beer and watch the pros go at it. I wish I would have ridden better, but if nothing else, it was a super fun race - plus Colorado riders took the SS and Overall wins! I have no doubt the entire team had a great time at the race, and I know all the Gates crew that were still in town from the Outdoor Demo, had a great time cheering us on as well - all while providing incredible support for us! The Mantis...

And for your tech update? Everyone's belt drives were incredible! Just spot on, without a single creak or issue, and everyone was completely stoked with the performance from the system. No doubt, it was super-smooth and felt great.

And then... more time out on the town in Vegas... getting back in quite late... or "early" depending on how you look at it. The next day was more time at the show, and the highlight being an autograph session with Ale-Jet himself. Awesome! That will be a good one for the collection. It was also a good chance for probably my favorite part of the weekend - watching the laugh from Pettachi when Jesse told him; "You make me so happy when you beat Cavendish".

The weekend was a bit more quiet, after a very busy week. And feeling a bit under the weather, I decided to skip the racing. That's okay, because the team absolutely CRUSHED it. Carlos won on Saturday, with Ben making his first team appearance in 5th, while on Sunday Mitch took the win, and the team went 1st thru 5th in the results! Instead, I snuck out for a mountain bike ride with Craig, in Golden. It was the first time I had been on gears in several weeks, and man... it felt like cheating. But some relaxing flow on the mountain bike did wonders for clearing the head!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Game On

In case you missed it, there was a great little press release for the Gates Carbon Drive Cyclocross Team published last week over at CXMagazine - a great site in it's own right!

As for me, the reintroduction to "race-pace" started on Saturday, when I went down to Colorado Springs for the Pikes Peak Velo Cross race. I have to admit that they usually put on a great race, but a portion of me definitely does the drive, so that we can hit one of the extremely rare Dunkin Donuts in Colorado. This race always seems to have cold weather, but the forecast looked down right hot, and it was a gorgeous morning at the house. Though I definitely worried for a few minutes when I came over the ridge, and dropped into Boulder with 50 degree temps and drizzle, even at noon!

Colorado Springs was very hot and dry with a good bit of wind though. The course was similar to last year, but definitely rode differently, since there was a constant rain shower during the race last year.

The Single Speed race was pretty much between myself and Travis, taking off together from the start. I was a mess however, and my brain and body didn't seem to be riding for the same team. It was taking a bit to adjust to the slippy, technical riding at race-pace, not helped much by a leak in my front tire. It sealed up, happily, but I didn't have nearly enough pressure for the powdery conditions. Still finding the right gear on the Gates Drive too, it turned out I was a touch over-geared for the course. That made things tough, as I had to push really hard on the short "high-gear" section, to put time into Travis, and then push even harder, to keep the gear rolling on the steeper, slower stuff, where he was making time on me.

In the end, Travis put in a huge chase to come back, passed me into the last uphill barrier, and while we raced straight to the line, he was the faster man. Whew... that was a tough race, but at least that should kick-start the body after a month away from racing.

I hadn't really planned on racing again on Sunday, but how could I resist!? Especially with the majority of the new team coming out to play? Even worse than Saturday though, it was 96 degrees at the start of our race, and the legs were feeling rough. I had a great spot on the front row though, and figured I'd drill it from the start, not being sure how long I would even last. it was Carlos and I at the front, forcing a nice selection of riders, right from the gun. Once again Travis was flying and he had a bit of a gap on me, after Carlos had a bit of an off. Mitch came flying past though, and raced right up to Travis (pretty great having teamates), and I settled into a nice steady rhythm with Garrett on my wheel.
(Credit to SixDegreesToSlush for the great photos!)

Unfortunately though, I came around the corner and Mitch was off his bike, tending to some issues - figures, he was the only teamate NOT on his Gates bike yet.

So it was back into chase mode, hoping Mitch would fire back around soon enough. It took him a bit longer than he had hoped, but he got back up to second, after a bit too much time on the side of the trail kept him from getting all the way up to Travis. Meanwhile for me, the heat and Saturdays effort, convinced me let two riders get past at the end, finishing in 5th. It was great though, being in a single speed race (both days really) with lots of battling back and forth between riders, and close time gaps all the way up to the finish!

More than anything though, I was relieved that I hadn't forgotten how to ride my bike, and after a sketchy day on Saturday, I had no dabs on Sunday, and was much, much smoother. I tweaked my gearing a bit, and that helped, and also worked a few minor things out on the bike, so it ran bombproof all day Sunday. After two really dusty days, there would have been a lot of chainlube to go through, but the belt drive was still totally smooth and quiet yesterday - the opposite of my lungs coughing up the dust. Garrett and Carlos battled through with some issues with flats, while Derek snuck in for 7th place, just warming up after a busy weekend of his own.

I definitely think we're all looking forward to a ton more great racing in the upcoming races.

And after more than a year and a half of waiting, I'm dying to do some racing of another sort, starting tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gates Carbon Drive Cyclocross Team

Keep an eye out this cyclocross season for the new Gates Carbon Drive Cyclocross Team!

The Gates Corporation, known around the world for their amazing belts, hoses and hydraulics, and also creator of the Gates Carbon Drive bicycle system, is throwing their might into a front range cyclocross team, that I'm definitely pumped to be a part of!

Another sponsor will be Spot, who is providing the team with their awesome new Mod SS Cyclocross frames! This past week I received mine, and got it all built up, save for a few small pieces that I'll swap out. At just 16.4lbs, it's pretty impressive for a steel frame.

And is of course specifically designed to work with the Gates Carbon Drive system. With a set of slider dropouts and chain/seat stay combination that opens to allow the belt to be fit. It's a great setup, and isn't over-done with huge, bulky slider dropouts like so many other bikes out there.

On even my first ride on the bike, I was surprised by just how quiet and smooth this belt drive is! And I'm quite particular when it comes to the setup of the chain tension and chain line on my current single speeds.

Of course, the sweet "Ernie Orange" color doesn't hurt things either!

As great as the sponsors and bike are, I'll be riding with some great guys too. It will be great to ride with Derek and Carlos from my HART days, and Garrett, Ben and Mitch, all of whom I've raced against in the past.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Can I retire now?

Royalty checks should start rolling in any day now!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Almost Built

More on the cyclocross season, coming soon!