Friday, April 15, 2011

The Norcross Loop

**Jimmy and Joe checking for trout this morning on the Chatahoochie.

Coming from a long and grey Columbus winter, my eyes struggled to adjust to the sparkling and blissfully clear Georgia afternoon. Here for four days thanks to Lyd's sold-out shows, I decided to bring the new Giant TCR and roam the Norcoss, Georgia area where we are staying. The home of a former elected official here in the greater Atlanta area, Neely Farm is a spectacular place to be able to call home for a few days. Reading the owners recently published work of poetry "Red Clay," one gets a much better idea of what it must have been like to grow up on an enormous dairy farm in the land of peach blossoms.

Inspecting the tire pressure before departure on my KENDA C2C's, I am happy to leave while the wife is meeting with former band mates to go over the game plan for the weekend's shows here. I'm not much of a music aficionado. I was the guy who had all the Howard Jones CD's, and still knows every word to Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance." It's best if I leave. My mind on the team out in Monterey at Sea Otter, I yell "Come on Jimmy, let's go Joe," as the dogs get worked up to tag along on the short and sketchy gravel road that exits the property.

**"Ants. Why does it always have to be ants."

History abounds here. It's hard to even leave the property without that being the apparent reality. Farm equipment that spans the last hundred and thirty years lies strewn about the property. A 1927 Rolls Royce lies hidden in the studio, it's bulbous headlamps having not seen the light of day since about 1945. Just down Frank Neely Drive there is an Antebellum era home, perched right in the middle of what is now a large tract of expensive custom homes where cattle used to graze. It is one of only about five plantation homes that General Sherman
spared on his march to the sea. It's hard not to push pedals past it and wonder what was promised in order to keep that home from being burnt to cinders.

Making a left and heading up Spalding, it's a short ascent to the left turn at Peachtree Corners Circle. Be advised..EVERY street here has the word "Peachtree" in it. This place is hell for a Fed Ex driver. The undulating nature of the roads make you wish your heart rate monitor had no zone alarm. Luckily, the TCR climbs like Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and the rollers flow under the smooth shifting Ultegra 6700 crankset. Birds of a million varieties and colors dart past your face as you steam through the quiet neighborhoods. Another left at West Jones Bridge puts you within striking distance of a new Flying Biscuit, one of the most lusted after breakfast spots in all of Atlanta.

A quick right at Jones Bridge Circle, then another right at East Jones Bridge puts you into a bit of traffic for a mile or two, but after crossing 141, you make a left on Bush Rd and just disappear. Crowded neighborhoods give way to large manor homes, and tree-lined avenues lead you to Berkeley Lake. A turn in either direction puts you on the circumnavigatory (not a word) lap around the lake, on Lakeshore Dr. After three laps of this I'm finally ready for my Flying Biscuit breakfast. Grits, biscuit, eggs, sausage, bacon and whole wheat French Toast sound REALLY good right now.

**This kitchen table sketch morphed into a beautiful painting...

...created right on the farm, and mounted in the living room.

Squeezing back into my bibs was no easy feat after that gut-buster breakfast, and I'm fairly sure I heard the Fruit Of The Loom guys snickering. I felt compelled to ride a bit further on the way back, since everyone else I know is out killing themselves for a podium spot at Sea Otter.

Arriving back at the Farm, ol' Joe and Jimmy were wriggling about in excitement at my return. Ride groups here on weekend mornings are thick, and finding a great route near your hotel or friend's house is easy via the MAP MY RIDE website. Be sure to stop by neighborhoods like L5P (Little 5 Points) and Virginia Highlands either on the bike, or after the ride while in town.

By the way..I'm in heavy negotions to get Ms. Hoffman to let me carve a stellar Short Track loop through the log-strewn property here...if I get that worked out I'll let ya know.

Charles Takes 3rd At Woodward.

First, apologies for the delay, but I seem to have contracted some sort of alien virus. Whatever I caught is so vile there is no possible way it came from this planet. I still don't have a voice, but I am feeling a little more functional today, so I finally got this cranked out.

Attached is a YouTube link with one of my practice runs from the morning before the race. I tried to record my first race run but apparently I set the camera to "photo" instead of "video" when I was in the start gate. All I got was a series of snapshots every 10 seconds.

So this weekend turned out to be quite an adventure. Instead of the usual race report I decided that faithful followers of the blog should be privy to some of the adventures from this weekend.

With about twenty miles to go on highway 58, ominous clouds started to appear on the horizon. Closing in on Tehachapi, and Woodward, snow started to fall all around me. The road became icy, and I thought to myself that this couldn’t be a good sign for the race this weekend, which is normally dry and dusty. Just a mile away from my hotel, the snow became so thick that I started to suffer from a bit of vertigo. My view turned into something reminiscent of Star Wars – wherein the Millennium Falcon jumps to hyperspace with brilliant beams of light and stars whooshing past. Of course, I was nowhere near hyperspace. I think I was closer to 12mph and trying desperately to see the lines on the road while listening to my GPS unit scream that it could no longer find a signal.

By sheer luck, or act of God, I arrived at my hotel near the top of the Woodward race course. After locating my waiting friends through the fog and snow, I stumbled into my room, clutching a tall can of Sapporo that I had picked up before rolling into town. The seal on the can lasted about twenty seconds upon entering the room, which, to say the least, was an adventure in itself. Two bunk beds were against the wall, each holding a twin size rubber mattress. Sheets were not included. A brief inspection of the bathroom delivered equally grim news – soap was also not included. The toilet seat appeared to have been submerged in water for days on end; the protective coating of paint on the seat was bubbling up in places, exposing the particle board underneath. Fortunately, I had planned ahead for such an adventure, and brought my winter sleeping bag. The bathroom situation, however, is something I would have to figure out in due time.

Day one of practice was a bit of a scramble. I had made my tire selection ahead of time, and based on previous year’s races, I spent over an hour turning one of my Kenda Excavators into a semi-slick. This was no longer a viable option for muddy, snow covered race course. I frantically threw on the spare that I brought. The course was different from years past- the start took riders around the back of the hotel, over the crest of a hill, and into a semi-blind double-jump, about 8-10ft in length, which forced riders to immediately land in a berm at high speed. This first jump alone seemed responsible for taking out about half the field in practice. Two out of my four practice runs on Saturday, I reached the lip of the jump at full speed only to hear “RIDER DOWN!” Of course, once I was in the air, it was impossible to avoid the unlucky rider laying at the bottom of the jump. I have no idea how either of those two riders lived to tell the tale. I am sure all they saw was a large “Tomac” logo flying towards their face. As a side note, I would like to remind any course marshals who might be reading this that part of their duty is to alert persons on course to a fallen rider or hazard. This alert should be given with sufficient time to AVOID a collision. Alerting me to the presence of a fallen rider while I am midflight at 25mph does NOT count as sufficient warning time.

The entire course was relatively short, and for the sake of dwindling attentions spans, I’ll let my onboard camera explain the race course for me. The footage is from my first practice run on Sunday morning. It was freezing, but the course had dried out squite a bit compared to the previous day. I had to very consistent runs on race day, pulling a 1:04 on both runs. My combined time was good enough to land me in 3rd place overall!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

US Cup Report From Vegas Bob.

Hey Cap'n!
Last Sunday was number four in the Kenda Cup West series at Sycamore Canyon in Riverside and it was a great race. I headed out to the course on Saturday evening and although not in time to pre-ride I did get to hang out with Randy and Kim in their "Master Suite on Wheels" for a while before grubbing and settling into my "World's Smallest Tent" for the night.

I was woken up early by the BBQ truck pulling in, but luckily still got some good sleep. The Cat2/3 race didn't start until 10:30 so I had plenty of time to eat, check in with Rog & Co. at the Kenda spread, and then run a pre lap of this completely new venue. Ara showed up with Big Al just in time to join me. It was chilly and overcast in the morning, but it warmed up quickly, especially on the back side of the course. And what an amazing course it was! Lots of ups and downs, lots of twisty hardpack singletrack, and a bunch of great technical rock sections!

I finished and since my race wasn't until 1:30 I had plenty more time. I sat down and helped Vanessa hand bottles to Mark and Cheyne while Kim took charge of watering Randy. I guzzled some Amino Vital and chowed a banana and before long it was time to warm up, so I hit the course again. A good thing, too, because I had missed one of the two "Pro/Cat 1 only" sections on the first go-around. More singletrack and rocks, yay! I did however have a run-in with a fairly big greenish-yellow and black snake that was starting to cruise across the trail as I came by. Luckily he didn't like me and the tick-ticking of my freewheel and he made a 180 back into the rocks. I later learned that it was King Snake and not to be feared. Ah well, better safe than sorry.

I got back just in time to grab my Gel-Bots and head to the start line. As always it was a quick start, but it was a wide track and I thought passing would be fairly easy. Not so. There was definitely a faster line that was faster because of the shorter distance, and lack of gravel or grass. Unfortunately the upcoming singletrack would soon negate any chance of passing so I had to make a choice. And I chose to ride as hard as I could through some pretty horrible lines! It paid off, though, as I jumped into third before the singletrack. 1 & 2 had a few bike lengths on me, but it was good because we could all rail the swoops without slowing down. The rest of the group was right on my bike tire, though. I couldn't hesitate for even a split second. The one time I did, for a gulp of water, I was passed. A few climbs later I was able to get back by, though. Near the end of the first lap 1 & 2 were a good chunk ahead of us, but I couldn't keep my heart rate where it was so I slowed for a breather and was passed by a group of 3. I kept them in sight, though. and the second lap was a bit easier and I could take in fluid and gels more easily. On the 3rd lap it got a little more crazy, as some of the gnarly-fast Juniors behind caught up to us, and we all started lapping the slower riders. With lots of tech and singletrack, finding a place to pass became a creative endeavor. Our sort-of group of 4 played musical chairs a bit on that lap, with our leg markings cause for inspiration when he saw it was someone in our own class making the pass. I was definitely riding at the limits of my fitness and the edge of traction. By the end of the 3rd lap I was running 6th, but right on the bumper of 5th. As we crossed the start/finish and I got my last bottle, he slowed a bit and I decided to make my move the same place as the 1st lap. I pounded around him up the first stinger and was into the single track a few bike lengths ahead. The last lap was still a grunt, though. because he was back there the entire time and I knew if I let up he would capitalize on it. The 4th lap was going mostly uneventfully, I was trying to stay ahead and not get tangled up in traffic, when I came around a corner and Mr. King's horrible cousin Mr. Rattler was waiting for me! Luckily I was going horrendously fast and his two feet or so of angry was coiled up ready to strike and rather than try to brake or swerve or bunnyhop I just plowed over his hissing head and didn't look back. I yelled "Snake!" as loudly as I could and hoped that he was either dead or scared enough of bikes that the next riders wouldn't have any trouble. Two turns later I could see them still frantically chasing me and knew that they didn't have a problem.

With my near-traumatic experience out of the way, about halfway through the lap I saw Humberto, and he was definitely a carrot-stick in front of me to catch. I had finally done it, just before the last set of big climbs, but Humberto would have none of it. He kicked in the turbo and I had zero to match! My quads were on fire and I knew if I pushed any harder I would break. I kept him in sight though, and even spotted 4th place in my class as we rocketed over the last rocky sections and into the doubletrack to the finish. But I definitely couldn't make any ground on them. I did manage to stay 30 seconds ahead of 6th, and was only 50 seconds behind 4th, so ultimately a great finish. I can't wait for the next round!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Randy's Sycamore U.S. Cup Race Report!


So after racing last weekend at Fontucky I got the itch back and being as I have never ridin at Sycamore canyon in Riverside I was defiantly in for this one and it helps that it is only an hour and a half drive from home. So Kim and I headed up on Friday night and after sitting on the 215 freeway for over an hour because of construction we rolled in around midnight. When we arrived I found the gate locked going into the parking area so we parked on the road, had a beer and hit it.

Saturday morning we woke up to the sho-air rig pulling in team big bears trailer and for anyone that hasn't been there you go threw the gate and UP a dirt road to the flats now I walked this on Friday night and didn't even think I would get my trailer up there because my truck is only two wheel drive. So the tractor trail rolls up and right at the crest he starts spinning and I'm saying shit I won't make it but he locks all four wheels and gets up there. I went over and talked to Tom from TBB and he said he would get me in, so Kim and I get the truck and get a run at it and in the same spot start spinning so they come over hook a strap up and pull us in.

We get camp all set up and Kim says unhook the truck I need it I'm rolling to the casino for the afternoon while you go out and pre-ride. The course was on the north end of the park and being as you grew up riding those trails you know what I'm talking about so I'm pre-riding thinking shit this place is fun as hell not a lot of climbing (more on that later) some really fun single track and some techy rocky downhills this place is a kick.

Race day is kick back because my start time isn't until 10:53 so I get warmed up and to the start I go. We take off and I am in the same boat as last week saying holly shit this pace is f-ing unbelievable I am going to suck!!!!!! but I settled into my slow pace again and rolled with it. As I said before didn't think there was a whole lot of climbing but in race conditions it sure felt like legs were saying WTF but it was just plain fun loved the course. I got thirteenth out of eighteen I believe but had and absolute blast and heard nothing but good reviews from everyone I talked with and I talked with Tom Speigal a little and hopefully we get to go back there again. In fact I am taking some guys from our Wednesday night group up there in a few weeks to just go riding I liked it so much.

I would like to also say a BIG thank you to my wife it was very nice to have her at a race again and she did a great job in the feed zone for me. Until the next one I'll talk to ya later.