Monday, April 21, 2008

Sea Otter (11th in XC, ~ 18th ST) - More New Gear

Sea Otter is a huge scale event. Like an outdoor Interbike with races and demos going on all around you, road, downhill, slalom, bmx, XC, etc. It was cool to visit the booths and try out new product. Our team continues to get our bikes built up with the correct parts and work out the kinks. One thing I am very happy with are the Kenda tires. I was stoked with the Dred Head in Nova and the Small Blocks at Old Pueblo, my teammates used the Short Trackers in the XC at Sea Otter (and did really well, Amanda 7th, Robert 22nd), I went with my trusted Karmas. So, I have a good selection of fast tires. If in doubt, or if there are too many things to think about, the Karma will be my tire of choice. It hooked up well in the loose corners and was fast on the paved section (In XC I went from the back of the pack to 9th on the pavement start and felt like I hadn't done any work). This week I had a new 100mm fork which (after breaking it in, in the ST) actually worked great (absolutely wonderfully in fact) in the XC. I only have one right now, they are hard to get a hold of so I swap forks every time I swap bikes. The handling is so nice now, I never lost the front end and never went down (my issues while running the 80mm fork). I raced the carbon Racer-X for the first time in the ST and the bike was awesome, it went uphill like the hardtail but soaked up the studder bumps. The rear shock was impressive. I had a great start, going straight up to the front group, but when I hit the first downhill I didn't have a rear brake, the actuator part of the handle was disengaged from the rest of the brake. I must have locked bars with someone in (or soon after) the start. I rode safe, not all out. With the XC race coming up and my motivation zapped, I spent my energy fooling around with the settings on the new fork, it acted differently on every lap, and finding gears that would work (for some reason my shifting was still a mess). Poor Todd was yelling at me to get going, not having any idea what was going on. I was out there in my own world, at first I was just mad, then I started having fun playing with a new bike, still amazed that it did the power climbs so well, especially when I went off the beaten path. I didn't get to test it on the downhills since I was trying to inch my way through the off camber, loose sections with only a front brake and the front fork was still in the "getting dialed in" process. I think I finished ~ 18th, I was pulled at 2 laps to go. Another new items this week was the Gel Bot water bottle. I highly recommend this method of gel and drink. I weighed the bottles and they are (obviously) a little heavier than a normal bottle, but so much easier than any anything else. You could easily pound the whole shot, but I just had a bit every time I took a drink. I like the liquid delivery too, big solid mouth, easy to open and close with a nice rubber area (no hard plastic to bite on). There is no slop in the valve, no dribble down my face. The grip area on the bottle makes it easy to pull out and hang on to. I really hate riding with new stuff in a big race, but I was excited that I decided to use these bottles; when other girls were fumbling with flasks and gel packets I could pass. I had a lot of passing to do after going from 9th to almost dead last 5 minutes into the XC race when my chain wrapped itself around my cassette. I worked my way back up to 12th after the first lap, but was pretty worn out from riding alone in the wind (and from all the passing) so was only able to get one more spot on the second lap. I was very happy with my start. I lined up last row. They only called up the top 10 then "all other racers", I didn't expect that. I worked my way to the front and by minute 5 I was in 9th and ready to ride there. but oh well... I think I need to go back to the long cage rear derailleur that I have always used (instead of a mid cage) if I want to be able to use the big and big gear combo and not wrap my chain when in the smallest cogs. (If anyone has any advice in this area please send it. And don't say not to use big and big, I gave it an honest try and ended up with a bent derailleur hanger and twisted chain after the first couple races).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

NMBS #2 XC, fast legs/two flats

Best race ever - Worst race ever - Great teammates.
Sunday's XC felt so good, I rode with my teammates Heather and Amanda for a while, that was a blast; it felt like we were out for a fun ride. When we passed Todd in the second tech-zone Amanda and I were riding 15th and 16th. Then I worked my way up to ~12th. I could see other riders up ahead, my legs felt fresh and strong, powering up the short steep rises was fun, I was so happy. My tubeless Dred Head Kenda tires were railing the corners and hooking up on the loose climbs. (I talked to Tinker about these tires before my race. He said not to run them because they were too heavy, but I wanted all the extra rubber protection I could get, and they were FAST.)
Almost halfway done, through the rocky section and across the wash, headed to the last section of rollers, and I hear shhhhhhhhh, I had a rear flat. I was in denial, it wasn't flat, it wasn't my tire. But it was. I struggled with getting the tire off, then tried running (too slow), I tried riding (I wrecked), then gave up and changed the tire. When I eventually got the tire off and pulled out the rim strip my teammate Heather (who was racing sick and just finishing for points) pulled up. She offered me her wheel (UCI teammates can help each other). Poor Heather, sick and left out there to put a tube in and get my wheel back together. I owe her one for that.
I worked my butt off and made up a lot of spots, enough for a halfway respectable finish, then in almost the same area, almost to the finish, a second rear flat. That one was even harder to change and took 5.5 minutes. With ~9.5 minutes in flats there was nothing I could do but spin in. I was so deflated. But at the same time I knew what my legs were capable of... Mixed feelings for sure.
I probably burped the tubeless tire, then pinch flatted (rim shaped puncture in the middle of the tread), the second flat was a pinched tube.
The team is awesome, I really like my teammates and everyone is fast. Someone always has a great race, so that excitement we all share.
Sea Otter is up next. The training is there, I just need to show up, I need my legs to show up, I need to stay on the bike and keep air in my tires!