Monday, November 12, 2012

FSC #7--Lakeland, Florida (11/11/12) & Other Stuff

Ok...before I get to last weekend's racing, I have to back up a little bit and catch up on things that went on a couple of weeks before.

First, I went to Clermont with my family to compete in the Florida State Road Race Championships on Saturday morning. It was an exciting race. On the first lap, 3 kids in my group got into a wreck and one of their wheels came off and almost hit me.  I got lucky and managed to avoid that mess. I ended up winning the race, sprinting to a finish with the top 3 guys in the 13-14 year old class.

After that, we drove down to Sunrise to race the Coconut Cup Short Track race at Markham Park in the afternoon. Markham is a really cool course. Because there aren't a lot of mountains in South Florida, many of the drops, climbs and other features are man-made and Markham has some really cool ones. For the ST race though, we mostly just rode the parade lap and kids course.

Sunday morning, I lined up for the cross-country race. I got a good start off the line and except for one pass that Troy made coming around the second turn, I stayed in front. Then, I slipped on some loose gravel coming out of the single-track and went down hard. Several riders got around me and I had to spend the rest of the race catching up. The one really bad thing about Markham is the really narrow, technical single-track that makes it very hard to pass people. Lap traffic was working against me. In the end, I managed to catch up to Sam  and we sprinted to the finish. I got him just before we turned into the finish line "chute" to take second. Troy finished about 5 seconds in front of me for the win.

And now for the most recent race....Lakeland. Dad made a cool video of this race, so take a look.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mountain Bike Mike's Multisport Weekend #1

This weekend was a very busy one for bike racing. First, we drove south to Brooksville so that I could race in the Brooksville Cycling Classic Criterium. It was my first time doing a crit, and I was excited.

The start was kind of confusing for me. There was a pace car that led us out, and we didn't start out all that fast, but somehow I got boxed in after the first turn and was stuck at the very back for a while. At the first opportunity, I got to the outside and made my way up to the lead group of riders. I finished the first lap in the middle of that group.

By the end of the second lap, our group had shrunk down to 5 of us. I just kind of laid low and hung on the back of all these bigger, older guys. At one point, they caught me off guard when they attacked and it took me about half a lap to catch back up, but I wasn't worried. They rode really slow up the brick road hill, so I knew I'd catch them there.

At the half-way point, we had dropped one more rider and the four of us continued together for another 3 laps or so. With two laps to go, a couple more guys caught our group on the climbing road. Let me just say, I had to keep reminding myself what my race strategy was supposed to be, because it was driving me crazy that we were only doing 9 mph on that road climb, which allowed the other guys to catch us. It's not in my nature to sit back, follow, and go slow, but somehow I did it. 
Finally, the official rang the bell for the last lap and things started to pick up a little. My coach, Winston, had given me advice on where to be and when to attack on the last lap. Well, I kind of messed up and found myself in the wrong position when the time came. I probably attacked a little too soon also, which allowed the more experienced guys to get around me going into the final turn. It turned out ok though, because I was the only one in my age group to finish with the lead guys, and I ended up winning my first crit, which was pretty cool.
We left Brooksville after awards and then drove home, switched bikes, grabbed food and our friend Dave, and headed north to Alachua to pre-ride the course for Sunday's FSC race.
Sunday morning, we got to San Felasco early to set up and get ready for the day's races. The weather was nice and cool and I was feeling pretty pumped up to race. I got a pretty crummy start off the line because I had trouble clipping in again (gotta figure that problem out before next week) and at one point, I was in about 7th position. The first stretch of the course is a big, long grassy climb before you get to the woods. By the time we got to the single-track, I had worked myself up to the lead, and I held it, until I heard gears shifting behind me, but by the time I could react, Troy had gotten around me. I wasn't too worried though because I knew it was a long race and I was content to ride his wheel, while Sam, who was in third, rode mine.

All of a sudden (and for about the 100th time lately), my chain popped off. I tried to baby it back onto the ring, like I've done lots of times, but this time it got knotted up really bad, and just like that, I was out of the race. It was extremely disappointing!!
Soooo.... no podium for me this time, but congratulations go out to Troy (1st), Sam (2nd), Jordan (3rd), Ethan A. (4th) and Morgan (5th) for a great race. See you guys next week at Markham Park!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mountain Bike Mike Gets Coached

Not too long ago, I got invited to be coached by Winston David, a pro road racer. I wasn't really sure if it was something I'd want to do, because my dad has always been my coach and other successful adults in the cycling community have often given me great advice on how to improve in different areas. Also, I never really had a training "program".  Mostly I just rode my bike and would practice different skills whenever I (or my dad) noticed that I needed it.

Well, I decided it was worth a try, because I might learn some new things that my dad didn't even know. I'm glad I did. Winston lives in South Carolina, so for the first couple of weeks, he would just send stuff to my dad and we would go out and do it. This past week, though, Winston came down to visit family and went out on an individual training ride with me after school. My dad went along too, which was good, because Winston and I are both very shy, and my dad kind of served as the go-between at first. I soon found out that Winston's a really nice guy, but boy, did he work me! Now I don't have any doubts that training with him will make me a stronger racer and rider.

Winston has also agreed to provide some expert training advice for Junior Cyclist Magazine, the new online magazine that my mom is putting out, so look for his column in there.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

MTBMike Gets His Skinny On at the Shannon Miller Foundation Road Race--Nocatee, Florida (9/22/12)

This weekend, my dad and I decided that since it was an off-week from the FSC series, we would sign up for the Shannon Miller Foundation Road Race in Nocatee, Florida. There are actually 3 events: the road race, an individual time trial, and a criterium (like a short-track race). We chose just to do the road race, so we could have at least a little time at home this weekend.

My dad raced in the Cat 5 group, which went off first, at about 7:30 am. His class did six 6-mile laps. Dad stayed near the front or out in front most of the race. On the 5th lap, the USAC official messed up the lap count and he got confused and thought he was done and had won. He put his arms up and yelled, until another guy in his 3-man break-away informed him that they still had one more lap. Oops! Newbie racer fail. (LOL)

Unfortunately, my dad would end up blowing up with one mile to go and got passed for an 18th place finish. Bummer for him, but as he says, "Another lesson learned."

Juniors mass start

The Junior classes started five minutes behind the Cat 5's. My class only did 12 miles, while the 13-year-old's and up did 36. When the older Juniors went off the front, I went with them. It was awesome! We were averaging 30mph, but I knew that there was no way I could maintain that pace for the whole race, so when a couple of them started pulling away, I didn't try to follow. My first lap time ended up being around 14 minutes for 6 miles because of them. After the race, I found out that one of the guys is really a Cat 4 racer, and another one is a Cat 3 and on the Garmin Development Team. And here I was, a lowly little 12-year-old in my third ever road race trying to hang with them. Even though I couldn't keep up with them for long, it made me feel good to know I kept up with them for about 5 miles while they were hammering it.

I was so happy to be way out front!!
Just before the start of the 2nd lap, a couple of the other older Juniors who were behind me caught up. I rode with them briefly, but when they wanted me to pull up front, I decided to just peel off the back and let them go. I probably should've just stayed with them, but I was tired and wanted to rest and set my own pace. I was pretty far ahead by this time, so I wasn't too worried about riding alone and getting caught.

My second lap time was much slower, but I finished with an overall time of 32 minutes for the win and almost 4 minutes ahead of 2nd place.  I also found out that the guy who came in 2nd is currently leading the series points in Florida, and currently is the #1 USAC-ranked road racer in my age group. Not too shabby for a mountain biker with an entry-level bike and stock wheels. (Some of these guys had bikes/components that cost more than my mom's car!!)

Next week, I'll be back in my natural habitat when we head to Gainesville for FSC #3. Hope to see you there!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

FSC #2--Fernandina Beach, Florida (9/16/12)

Mike the Merman (Thanks Lily and Kyley)

Last weekend we went to one of my favorite places to race, Fernandina Beach. I wish I could say it's my favorite course to race on, but that wouldn't be true. The reason FSC #2 is my favorite is because of the beach. I love the beach!! For this race, we were just a boardwalk away and I spent as much time as I could in the water (when I wasn't being buried in the sand).

But on to racing....

The course at Ft. Clinch State Park is a bit different than most we do. It starts on the asphalt in the parking lot, with all of us following a pace vehicle (Austin on the little motorcycle) for about a 1/2 mile to the woods and the start of the single-track. We pop out onto the road a couple of times during the race, including the 1/2 mile back up to the finish for scoring and then back down to the first section of single-track again. So, this course requires both off-road and road skills.

This week, I got to the woods first and Troy was third. It didn't take him long to pass Eric though, and before I knew it, he was right on my wheel and we were running a tight one and two through the course.

At the road up to scoring, Troy took the lead and I followed. I should've let him just keep it until we got closer to the single-track again, but I am the type of person who can't stand riding behind others. I passed him back and picked up the pace a bit. That was a big mistake, and I knew it when I was doing it, but couldn't help it and we rode on.

When we popped out of the woods for the road section before the last section of trail, I took a drink and let my guard down. Troy decided to attack and took off. I went after him, and stayed right behind him for a while, but had nothing left in the gas tank to run him down with when he started to gap me. I had used it all up earlier. Troy got his first-ever win and I came in a few seconds later.


Even though I didn't win, it was a great race. I went all out and left it all on the course. Maybe I could've raced smarter, but I couldn't have raced any harder. I think Troy and I are going to be pushing each other to the limit all season and I look forward to the challenge.

Troy gets his first win

Podium:  Troy-1st; Me-2nd; Sam-3rd; Jordan-4th; Dustin-5th (he was at the beach during awards)

Monday, September 10, 2012

2012 FSC #1--Tallahassee, Florida (9/8-9/12)

It's the start of September, and here in Florida that means that it's the start of another fall race season. Woohoo!! Over Labor Day weekend, my dad and I raced with a lot of our friends from Brick City Bicycles at the 8 Hours of San Felasco/8 Hours of Labor. The highlight of that race was Tinker Juarez showing up to race in the Open Solo Men's division (which he won). He was a really cool guy and talked with us and took pictures with us. He ended up riding behind my dad for 2-1/2 laps and said he thought my dad rode really well, which was the highlight of Dad's day.

The Brick City gang with Tinker Juarez in the middle
My teammate, Ryan Woodall and me
This past weekend was the kick-off of the Florida State Championship series in Tallahassee and I was ready to race. Matt Donovan put together some really good teams for this season, and I got on the best team of all, because I get to claim my favorite Florida Pro racer, Ryan Woodall, as my teammate. How awesome is that?!?  By the way, check out our new black team kits. They are super-sweet!

Anyway, we got up to Tallahassee on Saturday around lunch time for a pre-ride before the individual time trial that was scheduled to start in the afternoon. I was really looking forward to comparing my lap times to the other guys. Unfortunately, a big thunder storm made Dave Berger postpone the ITT until the 3rd series race at Haile's Trail because everything was flooded. Bummer.

Waiting the storm out

Fortunately, on Sunday the weather was really nice and we were able to do the cross-country race.

My class had one of the biggest turn-outs so far, with 19 of us lining up to race. The crazy thing about this course though, is there's a fence with about a 3-foot opening that everyone has to funnel through single-file at the bottom of a hill before you cross a road and enter the woods. Well, I knew other people had hit the fence and some had gone over their handlebars already, so I wanted to make sure I got a good start off the line.

Actually, I had a little trouble clipping into my pedals at the start, but I still made it through the fence just fine, and hit the woods in third place behind Troy and Sam.

Right behind me was Dustin Zimmerman--remember Dustin from last year? It was great to be racing with him again. We've missed him hamming it up for the camera.

That's the other thing that's so cool about being back in Florida racing--seeing all my friends that I haven't seen most of the summer.

Eric and Trent


Ethan and Bryce
It turned out to be one very fast race. The pump track and BMX track were taken out of the race due to the rain, so the course was a bit shorter than usual. Troy, Sam and I rode together for a little while, until I passed Troy and Sam, and Troy came with me. The two of us rode together the whole rest of the race. Troy tried to pass me a couple of times, but when I saw him, I stepped on the gas. It was a lot of fun having him push me like that and we finished first and second, having put a gap of a couple of minutes on Sam, who finished third.

Troy finished right behind me
Tallahassee was a very exciting first race of the series and I can't wait to get to Fernandina Beach this coming weekend to do it again!
Juniors 11-14 Podium:  Me, Troy, Sam, Jordan, Ethan A.
Be sure to check out the video from the race.
**Note: For some reason, my dad's video from FSC #2 keeps popping up in the spot where my FSC #1 should be. If this happens to you, just click on the word "Playlist" at the bottom of the video, and select the right video. Sorry. :-(

Thursday, August 2, 2012

2012 Epic Family Race-cation: Nationals (Part 4)

We finally made it! After 6 months of preparation, Sun Valley, Idaho was supposed to be the high point of our Epic Family Race-cation, and in some ways it was. In others, not so much. In fact, this is probably one of the most difficult posts I've done because of the extreme roller coaster of emotions that Nationals brings up.

Me with Todd Wells

One of the really neat things that happened in Sun Valley was meeting Todd Wells at the local bike shop our first morning there. It was really funny, because my friend Adam Cohen had met him the day before and Todd remembered that he was from Florida, and when he heard that I was from Florida too, he was surprised that he came across two of us and that we were friends who raced against each other. Todd was really nice and told us about racing at Santos (my home trails). He said he liked the trails but the animals kept startling him. My mom thought this was funny because she's been known to post "critter counts" after training rides at Santos, and has had all kinds of close encounters.

I'm in an Adam sandwich.
During the day, my family did some pre-riding and in the evening, we went to the Welcome Dinner downtown in Ketchum. We had a good time hanging out with the Yackles and at the end, some of my friends from CycleYouth camp came over to our table to show off their 4th of July hats (formerly table center pieces). I thought they were cool, so I, um, recycled a center piece myself and we took pictures. 

Mom's start
The next morning, my parents had their races. Mom went off first with the Cat 3 women and rode a 20-mile course with 8.5 miles and 3200 feet of climbing. Her goal was just to finish the course (she hates climbing). She not only finished but came in 5th place and earned a spot on the podium.

Mom's podium
My dad started a couple of hours behind my mom in the Cat 2 Men's 40-44 class. They did the same course as the Cat 3 racers. He had a great jump off the line and a huge lead hitting the climb. Unfortunately, climbing is a weakness for all of us living in Florida and he couldn't hold off the stronger guys on the way up. His downhill was really fast, but he wasn't able to make up enough time to finish on the podium. He had a great sprint to the finish and ended up in 13th place.

Adam Cohen lining up
On Friday, the pro U23 and Junior XC1 classes raced in the morning. It was really exciting to watch! In the afternoon, the 14 year old and under classes raced. My friend Adam raced in the 13-14 year-old class which started before mine. It was a huge class with close to 50 racers in it!

Adam had a super good start off the line. (We Floridians may not be the best climbers, but we can kill it on the start!) He came around the first corner in 3rd place after starting on the second row.

Adam took a sweet inside line across the grass.

The course was shorter than we are used to, at less than 2 miles, but it had one 1/2 mile climb that was brutal. Adam's group had to ride it 6 times and mine had to do it 5 times. Photos can't do justice to the 20% grade and loose gravel that made it so hard. My dad coached Adam up the climb.

In the end, Adam finished with a strong 11th place against some really good kids and we were all very excited for him.

Adam and his dad after the race.
My dad created a video for Adam's race and you can see it below.

At last it was time for me to race. I started lining up about 1/2 way through Adam's race in order to get a good position. I knew I would also be starting on the second row based on call-ups, but I wanted to be in the best starting spot possible.

Adam wishes me luck

Even though my class wasn't as large as Adam's, it was still pretty big, with over 30 kids. When call-ups were done and we were allowed to move forward, I kind of got jostled and lost the spot I really wanted, although I still started on the second row.

After watching the start of Adam's race, I had really wanted to take the same inside line he'd used through the grass, but after getting shoved to the middle, my best option was to take it wide. Also, after seeing how differently kids started out west compared to in Florida, I had decided not to go all-out on the start, because the climb would kill me if I used up all my energy before I got there. So, I settled for getting into the top 5 heading around the rock garden and figured I'd make up ground on the descents and flats, which are my strengths.

Well, as expected, I got passed on the climb, but I did make up some time on the descents and more on the flats. At one point, I actually caught and passed Colton, who was running in 4th, but he took it back on the climb.

At the end of 5 grueling laps, I crossed the line in 5th place. I was so excited to have made the podium at Nationals. It wasn't the first place I wanted, but I knew I had something of a disadvantage to the kids who train on this type of course all the time, so any podium finish was awesome!

Me crossing the line
Getting congratulations after the finish by Jake and Adam

 Of course, my dad made an epic video to document the occasion.

Now, this should be the place where my awesome "official" podium picture goes, but due to circumstances I had no control over, that picture never happened the way we expected and the reason for it has made me think about not participating in future USAC Nationals events. In fact, my mom really wanted to take out space on my blog to verbally crucify the person responsible, but since we've all had almost a month to reflect on things, she decided it would be petty, and that instead we would end things as they should be.....with my well-earned 5th place finish at Nationals, complete with celebratory ice cream, official race medal (donated by Mom), and podium picture.

Besides, I have more important things to focus on right now, like finishing the US Cup East/SERC series and the US Cup East Triple Crown events this weekend.