National Champ and Worlds Rider
A man told me today "Racing cross in Europe is like baptism by volcano." Well, congrats @ashley_zoerner on your baptism. An early race collision left Ashley on the verge of tears and barely able to limp around postrace, much less race a bike to her full potential. But, she showed perseverance and got some great experience that will come back in spades.
Nationals and Worlds CX Racer
Today's U23 race wasn't what dreams are made of for @gchecht, but it did once again prove that this young man is tougher and more driven than most. After crashing at last weekend's World Cup and not being able to finish, Gage had his hand immobilized in a cast with what was later diagnosed as a bone chip and ligament damage. In addition, sickness ran rampant through the team and left few of the guys racing at 100%. Gage managed a relatively clean 26th place, showed some his true colors by making the best of situation, and gained more experience that will one day help him reach his goal of being a World Champion. Kudos Sir! #ontothenextone #howwedo #cantstopwontstop
Better late than never. Gage Hecht recaps his first big UCI Under 23 weekend!
I always enjoy the time that I spend competing in bike races, and this weekend was no exception. Because this was my first big UCI weekend with a U23 category in it, I spent the week before imagining what the new racing would be like.
What better way to start a trip like this off, than a road trip? On Thursday we headed across the Great Plains. Road trips are always a good opportunity to bond with teammates. As boring as seventeen hours in a car may sound, its pretty fun with this group.
After our arrival into Cincinnati, we were able to go to each course and get familiar with the features they presented. These are the days that you go out and hit one section hundreds of times until you know that you have found the line that will be the fastest. For me, it’s one of my favorite parts of racing outside of the competition itself.
After a lap or two around the Devou Park course, I realized that because of the combination of speed and extremely technical sections, the Pan-American Championships would ultimately play out to be an elimination race. A group would form and throughout the race, riders would make mistakes and be dropped from that group. Knowing this, I set a goal to stay within the top three riders with the hopes of making the podium.
The day of the race hit and the excitement had built up. We arrived at the venue early so we could watch Katie race. After a day of watching others race, it was finally my turn.
I made it through the first lap unscathed, but I continually came close to others falls. After a few laps, the race had come down to Curtis White, Spencer Petrov, and I. The remainder of the race consisted of constant attacking. By the time three laps appeared on the lap counter, I was doing all I could to hang on to the group During the final lap, Curtis left Spencer and I. It came down to a sprint, and I was barely able to pull around Spencer at the end. I was so proud be able to stand on the podium of the U23 Pan-Ams.
On Sunday, Brannan and I woke up and rode to the course. It was nice to be in a house only miles away from the course. During Katie’s race, Brannan and I cheered from the enchanted forest. While there we got to observe how the different routes behaved. Later on in the day, Ashley, Brannan, and I hit the course for the last time together. We all agreed that the race would be very fast.
I ended up having a slow first lap. A combination of bad luck with accidents and mechanicals due to hitting the ground. After finally getting rolling, I began to find my way through the riders. I eventually made it into seventh place. This stands as one of my best finishes in an Elite UCI C1.
Looking back on things, I am very satisfied with the way all the racing turned out. The points and experience I gained will pay off throughout the season and my career. I cannot wait for the next trip with the Alpha Bicycle Co./ Vista Subaru!
24 Hours of Old Pueblo
This last weekend brought us 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo down in Tuscon, AZ. We loaded up 2 rigs, 1 trailer, 10 bikes, 3 tents, food, tools, beer, and enough lights to land 747 in the middle of the desert. This year brought something different for many of the 9 riders. For some it was an annual pilgrimage that marks the start of the mountain bike season, for some first timers in was a baptism by fire in 24 hours racing, and for Nic it was to be a solo effort and that most of us will never have the ability, drive, or maybe stupidity to attempt.
We loaded up Wednesday afternoon in preparation for the 15 hour twilight haul to the outskirts of Tuscon. Not only is this a good opportunity for a few laughs, fish stories, and past race experiences, it’s your first of many nights of sleep deprivation. You see by the picture above that “24 Hour Town” as it’s called fills up really quickly with 2500 racers, support staff, vendors, volunteers and more RV’s that a NASCAR race. So it’s pedal to the floor through the night to get there early enough for a prime spot. 1st goal of the weekend achieved: We secured a great tent space on course, right at the top with a prime view. This not only provides constant entertainment, but also is key so solo racers can refuel and rest a bit without having to ride as much as a mile in each direction off course to get to your new home away from home.
The rest of Thursday is usually pretty uneventful. Try and get settled in, a lap or two around the race course to stretch the legs, one last trip into to town for some mexican food, beers, and a free birthday dessert. (even though it’s not your birthday. Thanks Patt!)
Come Friday everyone’s starting to get a bit excited. Heck, Jeff couldn’t even keep his breakfast down he was so excited! (read hungover). A full day of charging lights, dialing in equipment, a bit more riding capped off with the Drunkcyclist.com Beer Crit and a “Last Supper” of beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and a couple more beers put everyone in their happy place. A good night’s sleep (only interrupted by Jordan getting lost and arriving at 2am and a random guy crashing his bike into Donald’s tent) had us all ready for the challenge ahead.
Saturday at high Noon brings the shotgun style LeMans style start (see above) with a 1/2 mile mad scramble to find your bike and get out quickly to avoid all the inevitable traffic. Jeff got out well inside the the top 10% to give our team a great chance, while Nic came through solo right on target in an hour ten minutes, then Donald came through about 15 or 20 minutes later with his best effort to screw everything up for his teammates and put them well back in the standings. (Just kidding, Donald!) Record high temps, while a welcome change from the previous week’s sub-zero readings here in CO, took their toll on many racers early in the lap count. Dehydration was a real concern and definitely made more than one racer push their body into an unexpected red zone. Some backed off their efforts til the sun went down, some fell to the effects of Mother Nature, and for some it brought on an unforeseen result. Our own super human Nic Handy was one of those. Nic had cramps develop in his kidneys and move along the entire side of his body making riding impossible. After a stop by the massage table and some serious contemplation, Nic’s race was over after 50 miles. Better to fight again another day than do serious and permanent damage. In true Nic Handy fashion, he still had a smile on his face enjoying the experience as much as he could by playing support crew, mentor, mechanic, and jester for the rest of us. When life hands you lemons…
As the sun came up Sunday team #1 found themselves sitting just out side the top 20 (which was the goal) with about 6 hours of racing remaining. Knowing we’d get faster in the daylight and that we had our two fastest guys Jeff and Steve coming up, we felt good about our chances. 20 minutes into Jordan’s 4th lap that all changed when he broke a chain. Broken chain on a singlespeed means replacement with a field repair all but impossible. By the time Jordan got sag support back to start/finish, handed off the baton and made his way back to the tent, we had lost almost an hour and 15 minutes. Goals be damned, now it’s time to just ride. In the end we finished somewhere outside the top 30 with only 18 laps on the 16+ mile loop.
But, we made it home safe after a sleep deprived drive and managed to keep Steve’s truck under 5000 rpm (except once, Ha! Steve, you can laugh now). A bit tired, full of a few cactus holes, and smelling of campfire. Well worth it since you can’t just fabricate experiences, memories and friends like this. Kudos to all of you that participated. Can’t wait til next year!