Daily Archives: 12/21/2018

Louisville Sluggin: CX Nationals 2018

Kerry: After Hendersonville’s snowed out Sunday race I was keen to get to Nats to check out the track and get a feel for it. Unfortunately, there was limited time to do that. With so many amateur races being packed into the week there was seldom at 20min open course time. Also, when there was a 20min course window it was hella crowded, but I digress. 

The track was very similar to the Pan Am champs race last year. I liked it a lot. It was super physical and had some really good off cambers to challenge the technical aspects of a rider’s quiver. With some rain in the forecast later in the week my spirits were on a high level.

I spent most of the week trying not to think about the race, and let my heart rate get away from me just sitting on the couch thinking about different race scenarios. This included spinning through Cherokee Park, hitting the local coffee shops, and hanging at the house with Sherman my beagle.

Becca: I have a new favorite Nationals. Previously it was Asheville, followed by Hartford, Boulder, Reno, and last, Austin. But Louisville was a good one. My ranking system includes weighted #feelz from course, results, venue, week leading up, afterparty, and overall experience. This weekend scored high in all categories.

Friday night the rain came in and the course slopped up. We saw the slogs and slips go to runs and slides. Our tent, perched in the grass and not in the concrete lot got flooded – the grass turned to mud and there was no way to actually use the space. Luckily, Shimano not only takes care of us with great components, wheels, and shoes, but they also let Kerry and I warm up under their nice spacious tent on Saturday for our preride!

It rained through the morning so by the time we got out on course (at noon, not 5 pm), it was a sloppy mess. I knew it would be much different on Sunday, with the rain stopping and the hint of sun poking out, but after talking with Coach McGovern we decided any course time was good course time and Kerry and I headed out, for a single lap. Yes, it was a lot of walking, but it was a really fun time, too. Knowing that the conditions would change let me enjoy the slop instead of being worried about finding the hidden ruts, deciding when to run vs ride and looking for the best lines. I just got to ride, and it was freeing. I also got to see Kerry eat it HARD on the fast descent and that, too, was freeing. 

I did my one preride lap on the day. It took 30 minutes. I knew it would be a race of riding smooth and mental fortitude. It reminded me of 2018 Worlds in Luxembourg, where our preride was fun and sloppy but the day of the race (for the women) was heavy peanut butter forcing more running than riding. Instead of the typical cyclocross effort which is 90% or 110%, a course like this was 100% all the time. You can’t let up. There is no easy. And because of that, you can’t ever really go harder.  I had no real plans or lines, except when I would pit and that I would take it on the shoulder to run to the pavement. I didn’t ask anyone about tire pressure, run choices, spike lengths, lines, or anything. This was maybe the 1st race ever where I put everything on me 100% (that said I went 19/20PSI and I should have gone MUCH lower, but there was hardly any riding, so what does it matter?). 

I didn’t have much structure to my warmup. I didn’t feel fresh so I just tried to get my HR up to 180 to flush the system and that’s all I felt I could do. I then had to head to the start line in a trek that was just like at a euro race – a battle between mud and spectator traffic – it was enthralling!

We go on the green light.

Ellen Noble does her typical 2 bike-lengths off the start in a half a second, and not too long after I find myself in second place. I mean, it didn’t last long, but this was by far my best start ever. Both off the line and through the lap. The first turn was a gradual arc with thick mud and any one spot seemed just as bad as the next, but I was to the outside and had a longer way to pedal than others and ended up into the next element near 6th place. Compton was edging to pass and I could feel her behind me. My instincts told me to shut it down but my respect and feelings on the day said just ride your line, don’t open the door but don’t be a douche. She passed.

I can’t remember too much of that first lap except knowing I was in 3rd at some point because I saw Katie and Ellen crash together as I was bombing down. I kept it upright (though likely at a slower pace than they were going before they crashed). I watched what they were doing to help me select lines, judge traction, and know when to try to run. Over halfway through my 1st lap and I knew the pace was going to take a toll later on. But I was still in 3rd so I kept trudging.

The best part about my position was the cheers. People. Were. So. Stoked. 

Some of the next events I can’t quite remember the order of.

I went in to pit 2 during lap 1 and took a clean bike. Because the men’s preride was immediately before our race, Wilson had to stay at the tent to help Kerry and Nick was in the pits to catch my bike. I roll it to him and I take my clean bike from Doug, on my shoulder. My Kona was so light that I actually hit myself in the head with my saddle – it was at least 20lbs lighter than the one I had just plopped to Nick. 

I was still in 3rd but so close to Ellen, in 2nd. The crowd tells me she is tired, she is cracking, she is crying. I can’t go any faster but I work hard to keep crawling on. I catch her on the limestone steps but nothing inside of me will let me go faster – she looks over her shoulder at me and puts in a dig so hard I just can’t keep up. I am on her wheel going into the downhill chicane but I can’t take my lines with her in front of me, though I’m not sure why. 

I keep close at the bottom of the course and almost catch her again on the muddy downhill but again, I am not in my line and get bogged down in some thicker mud. She gets away again. And then, the nail in the coffin.

I go to get a clean bike from the pits. I see Wilson. I am running in, he waves his arms and says “NO BIKE, THERES NO BIKE DON’T COME IN”. If I go in with no bike to take I have to stop and have someone pretend to do something to my bike. I swerve out. Sunny goes in. I am bogged down and churning through the deep mud outside of the pit lane. Where is my bike? How will I do another lap on this bike? It is heavy and clogged with mud, will it even make it? I had no choice. On the section of the course with the most pavement I was damned with a bike 25 lbs too heavy and unable to roll easily due to the mud. I lose ground and soul. At the stair flyover I go to run up and physically can’t lift my bike – never had I encountered the run up with this heavy of a bike.

The effects of race brain are real, and I don’t remember when Sunny makes the pass on both Ellen and I, but after that I was battling for the last podium spot and each time I almost made it, I messed up and dropped back again. I rolled across the line in 4th. And as I have been saying, not only is this my best Nationals results but one of my best rides ever. Sure, I came in 4th, but I battled. I was up there. I didn’t just ride the whole race off the back of the leaders, I was a leader!

After the race, I asked why I couldn’t get a bike when I needed one. Pits that backed up? No, it turns out the rear derailleur on my bike had gone bad (the servo???). Lucky for me, I didn’t experience any problems before I pitted, which may mean it happened right before. It is something that could have happened just because of the grit and grime, or more likely, I shifted under load (me? Never.) and killed it. But Doug miraculously ran to the Shimano tent to get me a new unit, then back to the pits to get it on. 

A few things that could have improved my race: I spent so much time being calm that I didn’t have the mental fire to fight. It served me well for the first lap, but when my body was failing me my mind couldn’t overcome. I am still working on striking up that balance between staying calm and feeling the fire. The benefits of being calm on this course meant that I never crashed! I got tangled in the course tape trying to ride too close to the stakes, or had some sloppy dismounts, and often rode too long before deciding to run, but I never spontaneously combusted like so many times earlier this season.

Kerry: Saturday I got out for a proper course inspection. By proper, I mean that the course was finally similar to what it was going to be like when we raced on Sunday. It was not pretty. The rain was great for the racers that got the course during the rain. However, all the races that happened at the end of the week ended up tearing it to smithereens! It was super deep mud, so much mud that some of the down hills were hard to coast down. It turned the course from a hard to ride physical course to a runners course. My mood got knocked down a peg or two. I am all for a challenge but I knew I didn’t have the legs that the course was demanding. I battled Curtis earlier in the year on a similar course and he blew my doors off. I just can’t keep up with almost half the time on course spent running. The conditions below, including a little spill…

I searched for a silver lining and was still counting myself for the podium. I just had to hang on as long as I could. 

I was 3rd wheel off the start and slotted into 4th by the end of the first lap. I was smoked though.

I knew I couldn’t keep the pace. I started to fall off on lap two and settled into a group battling for 4th for the middle of the race. There were times when I thought I had it, times when I thought I didn’t, then it would come back, then I would be in 6th again. 

Finally, Drew Dillman passed me and went away, my legs were losing steam. I battled the last two laps with J-Pows before he ran away from me on the last half lap. 

I crossed the line exhausted and bummed out because I wanted to give so much more then I had. Every time I envisioned the race unfolding I always thought it was going to come down to a final 200m attack and I always pictured myself being there to contend. 

That’s the way it is though. The course was not my friend and it is obvious that I need to work on my running game. I thought I had learned this lesson last year from a race or two but apparently, I am thick headed. 

There is a takeaway, not necessarily from the race but the season. I topped the standings in the ProCX calendar points accumulation.

It wasn’t a series, simply a tabulation of points accumulated from every UCI race in the US that happened. I did enough of them and did the best at the most of them to top the leaderboard. Hopefully, next year there is a series and a little more to fight for but I am not complaining with this super cool Louisville Slugger.

So I bought a bottle of Bourbon and headed back to the Airbnb where we celebrated Rebecca’s good performance and top-notch job by our support staff. Doug Sumi and Wilson Hale killed it all weekend, spraying mud off our bikes and occasionally onto themselves. They were part of the dream team. Kerry, or Kerm, Emily’s dad also kicked in and helped with a last minute tent move to pull us out of the soggy muddy plot we were given to a cement pad that King College gave up to us. Emily’s mom, Lynn, kept all our chamois clean all week. I didn’t have to start the washer or dryer once! Nick Czerula, Becca’s boyfriend pitched in for the physical bits some but mostly hung out and took cool candid pic’s of us goofing around the house. It was a real team effort and for a program that usually runs pretty small, it was cool to have it grow for the last weekend of the season. 

It was back to NC on Monday and straight to packing. Doug had about zero days off since he came in and Tuesday spent the day, first, cleaning bikes that only had been partially cleaned after the nationals disaster. Then packed 4 bikes, and helped me set spare parts aside from the 2 months in Europe on the horizon. God, I hope he is our full-time wrench next year. 

I wrote this sitting on a bed inside “The Chain Stay” on the eve of my first CX race in Europe, Waaslandcross in Sint Niklaas. I am hoping to use it as an opener for the Namur World Cup on Sunday. I never feel great for that first effort off the plane. Cross your fingers for me folks and keep your eyes for vlogs. I’ll be publishing a few since we have 7 races in the next 10 days! Let the Chaos begin.

Catch up on the last vlog:

Bike Magazine Reviews Process CR DL 29 In Bible of Bike Tests “Fit and positioning on the Process are remarkable”

 

December has been a good month for the all-new 29″ wheeled carbon Process, with solid reviews rolling in from Pinkbike and Vital. Well Bike magazines highly anticipated Bible of Bike Tests came out today and its positive and praiseworthy review added yet another notch in the Process’s belt. We love Bike and having them rave about the bikes fit and intuitive nature is the best Christmas gift anyone could give heading into the holidays.

“The Process 153 29’s reactive, mindreading and intuitive handling created an instinctual and instantaneous feel during any line-choice moment.”

Watch the video above and then you can check out the full written review here on Bike Magazines website.

Kona Libre DL Makes Bike Rumor Editors Choice List

Zach at BikeRumor.com has had a Libre DL test rig for a while now and we’ve been waiting for his full review to drop. You can imagine how stoked we were this morning when this little tease appeared on Bike Rumors website. Zach seems to feel the same way we do about this bike and has selected it in his annual Editors Choice post. You can read what he wrote below and head to their site to see just what else made Zach’s list here.

“Kinda letting the cat out of the bag on this one before the final review, but the Kona Libre DL has been such a fun bike. The geometry and positioning is pretty wild compared to some of the competition, but I think that’s part of why I like it so much – it certainly meshes well with riders coming from an MTB background. While the bike sits you up fairly high, and the bars are super wide, the ride is incredibly comfortable and I realized the other day that I haven’t been getting numbness in my hands on rides which tends to happen on other bikes almost no matter what. It’s super easy to wheelie, handles mountain bike trails like a champ, and has plenty of mounts for just about anything you’d want. It’s also ridiculously fast. Faster than my current “road” bike, and this thing has 45mm knobby tires. Add in a light build that doesn’t resort to too many carbon parts, and you have a great bike for bikepacking or just gravel adventuring.”

Kona Dream Builds: Jouko’s 2012 Honky Inc Slays All Roads

We featured Jouko‘s head-turning retro Killer Kilauea a few weeks back, well he’s back at it, this time with a Kona from a completely different century! Hi Sweet Honky Inc frame was purchased via Fillarikellari in Helsinki where Jouko works. “I found out that Kona Europe still had one of these six-year-old framesets in stock, most likely all alone waiting for me in a dimly lit dusty corner of a warehouse. The frame ticked all the boxes plus the size was perfect for me so I had to get it.”

The best roads are usually the ones in the worst condition. For the last few years, my old road bike has been a permanent fixture in our living room while I’ve been riding my cyclocross bike. I wanted to build a sort of an all-road bike with best features of the two, basically a fast enough bike I could ride all day, every day. I wanted the bike to have a steel frame, preferably a carbon fiber fork, disc brakes, enough room for 32 mm tires and a road bike-ish geometry.

Derailleurs and shifters are Shimano’s bombproof 9 speed Dura Ace 7700 series with a washing line-like cable routing. Handlebars are nice and wide Salsa Cowbell 3’s with a bit of flare and plenty of flair, it’s held in place by a Pro PLT stem. Ratio Pile bar tape is thick and soft and dampens vibrations nicely. A Cane Creek 110-series headset makes steering effortless. Brakes are also a familiar safe choice, Avid BB7’s. All in all nothing too fancy, but reliable nice parts many of which I chose because, to be honest, I happened to have them already.

My favorite part of the bike, chainset, is a lovely pair of old ISIS type Middleburns with a smooth as butter SKF bottom bracket that will most likely outlive me. Gearing is more cyclocross than road with 36/48t chainrings accompanied by an 11-28t cassette, it should be perfect for small roads and hardpack gravel rides I have in mind for the bike.

For water there’s two proven Blackburn Mountain bottle cages. Frame is roomy enough to have plenty of space for a frame bag even with two large bottles.

I’m currently running a pair of 32-622 Panaracer Paselas until my sweet 34-622 WTB Exposures arrive. I prefer the comfort, lightness and relative puncture resistance of a tubeless setup. The Exposures are super light and fast tires with just enough thread for the odd stray to a path less pedaled. Wheels themselves are nothing special but they get me where I need to go, I built them with some mismatching hubs, Alexrims rims and DT Champion spokes.

The bike feels way more relaxed and stable than my cyclocross bike and is still capable to rip on occasional singletrack. It’s really just what I had in mind, a real long distance winner. I’m still kind of going through my shakedown period with the bike but everything seems spot on. I can’t wait for the epic rides I’m going to have with this one.

Frame: Kona Honky Inc ‘12, butted cromoly, 61 cm
Fork / Headset: Kona Carbon Disc Race / Cane Creek 10-series
Derailleurs / Shifters: Shimano Dura-Ace 7700 2×9
Crankset / Bottom Bracket: Middleburn, 36/48t, SKF ISIS
Cassette / Chain: Sram 11-28t / Shimano HG93
Pedals: Shimano PD-M520
Handlebars / Stem / Bar tape: Salsa Cowbell 3 46 cm / Pro PLT 110 mm / Ratio Pile
Saddle / Seatpost: Bontrager Montrose Elite / Brand-X 0-setback
Brakes: Avid BB-7
Wheels / tires: Self built with mismatching hubs, DT Champion spokes & Alexrims rims / Panaracer Pasela 32-622