Friday, December 13, 2013

Specialized Demo Day December 2013

Most of last weekend I was at Santos Trails in Ocala. It was my first real opportunity to represent my new team, Whole Athlete/Specialized. On Saturday, I woke up at 7:00, got dressed, and rode over to the main Santos trail head from my house. Right when I got out of the trails, I managed to slice my back tire and 1hr 40mins into my 2hr 45min ride, I got a flat.
Me goofing around on the jumps at the Vortex
I had already made plans to help out at the Specialized demo truck from 10 am to 3 pm, so I just waited about 30 minutes until Fred, the Specialized rep, showed up. I helped set up the pit, get out the bikes, and set up the bikes so that they could be taken out and ridden. About halfway though the demo time, I mentioned that I had a flat tire during my morning training ride. The other rep (sorry, I can't remember his name) was very cool, and he went into the trailer and gave me a brand new Specialized tire, which I was able to put on my wheel. Talk about a great sponsor! For the rest of the time, I helped out with whatever was needed, and at 3:00, I helped pack up. Thanks to the awesome Specialized reps, I was able to finish my training and ride home. Overall, I had a great time hanging out with them, and it was fun seeing everybody at Santos testing out some super cool bikes!!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

True Confessions of a Slacking Blogger (Part 2)

This year, as an attempt to make training easier to schedule, my parents and I decided that homeschool would be the best option for me. Somehow, even though the purpose was to free up time during the day for training, I still seem to never have enough hours in the day. Anyway....

FSC #3

Cody, Me & Tyler on pre-ride Saturday
Before this year, the third race of the FSC has always been held at Haile's Trails in Gainesville (as long as I've been racing). This year, we were not able to race there, so GoneRiding brought the race back to Ocala at the Hardrock, a motocross park where they used to do mountain bike racing a long time ago. It was a pretty cool course, and definitely was a fitness course.

The weekend started out kind of weird. My family was in North Carolina for a wedding on Saturday, so I stayed with our friends Dave, Stephanie and Kyley for the weekend. Dave races in Cat 3, so getting to the course wasn't a problem, plus, he lives right down the street.

My parents got back into town early Sunday morning and my dad came to the course early to pre-ride. Mom came over a little later. I was really pretty excited about racing on a new track. When the whistle went off, I took the hole-shot and was first into the woods. I extended my lead significantly over the course of the first lap, and even had the fastest lap time for the whole wave of riders.

Unfortunately, I think I went out way too hard, because I bonked bad on the third lap. The rest of the guys caught me, passed me, and I just sort of soft-pedaled back to the finish. Not exactly the way I wanted to end the race and I was beginning to think my season was just not going in the right direction.

This is how I felt after 2 laps.

Tampa Riverfront CX

Lining up with Michael Danish and Ryan Woodall on Saturday for the Juniors race
The next weekend was a whole lot better! I got the opportunity to switch gears and do some cyclo-cross racing in Tampa. I had just finished building my new CX bike and was super stoked to race it.

Me leading Ryan Woodall.......briefly! LOL
On Saturday, I raced in my Juniors age group and won. Then, I raced in the Cat 4 group and blew that up, too. So, it was recommended that I apply for my Cat 3 upgrade, even though I've only done a handful of CX races ever. Also, the guys at the race suggested that I try the Pro/1/2 Open class on Sunday, just for fun. I thought that was a great idea, and so did my dad. He signed me up for it and let me race against Ryan Woodall, and some of the other pros and experts.

Sunday's race was awesome! I stayed in the top 5 for a couple of laps, but just couldn't maintain the pace for the whole 60 minutes. When Ryan Woodall came up and lapped me, I grabbed onto his wheel and rode with him for a while. I ended up finishing 8th, but had a great time.

**Thanks to Christie Burnett for pictures from FSC #3.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

True Confessions of a Slacking Blogger

Me and my Mini-me

I know, I know, it's been three months since my last blog post and this officially qualifies me as a blogging slacker, or a slacking blogger, or something. There's really no excuse for it, because I actually did write things to post--I just didn't post them. So here's my attempt to set things right with a series of updates on what I've been up to.

FSC #1 and #2

The Florida mountain bike season is different from everybody else's season. For us, it starts in September and goes until the first week of December. The first two races of the series were frustrating for me, even though my results were pretty good.

Tallahassee is one race course that I love riding. I really enjoy the fast and flowing trails that you're met with when you go and ride there. When we arrived on Saturday, I helped my mom and dad unload the car and set up our pit with the First Place Racing team. Then after we got all done, I changed into my kit and set out to pre-ride the course with my friends. After we finished riding, I concluded that the trail was in great condition and I felt ready to go out and try to win the race. However, the cross-country race wasn't until the next day and I still had a time trial to do. So I made sure not to wear myself out and just sat under my canopy to wait for my turn to take off and crush it.

After about 1-1/2 to 2 hours of waiting, it was my turn to do the individual time trial. So I lined up and prepared to go. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!!! Off I went with a really fast start, going past the fence and into the woods. Two or three minutes into the ride, I was powering over a bunch of roots when my chain fell off. I jumped off my bike, threw my chain back on, and took off again. more than 10 feet later, my chain fell off AGAIN! So, I did the same thing as the first time and I continued down the trail.
Knowing that my dad had a time of 14:50, I tried frantically to go fast, be smooth, and brake as little as I could. Then, after looking down, right before hitting the BMX track, I saw 13:30 and thought that I had my dad beat, so I continued pushing hard and with one last attempt to beat his time, sprinted to the finish. In the end, I apparently tied my dad with a time of 14:50. However, in the final results, I was listed 16th and he was listed 17th overall, so therefore, I WON!! Also, even with the chain drops, I finished 2nd in my class, losing by only about 13 seconds to Sam Connell. It was not as bad as I thought it was going to be, but not what I wanted to get.
After finishing the ITT, we packed up and went to the hotel. I had a rough time sleeping that night because I was so excited about the upcoming race in the morning. Once I got to the park the next morning, I got ready to be the rabbit for the kids' 9-11 race. At 11:00, I got ready to race and set out for my warm up, making it back to the line for the 11:30 start.
Once everybody was lined up, Dave got ready to blow his whistle. Off I went. I got the hole-shot and sped through the fence. I felt great, but then at the end of the double track as we were getting ready to enter the woods, somebody had changed the tape and everybody turned left, instead of going straight. Once we all realized it, it was too late. We all turned around and we had to jump off a 4-foot drop-off to get back on the trail. This messed up the placement of the entire group. I was originally in 2nd before the course change, and got thrown back to 4th place. Cody Burnett got up to 1st, Tyler Mayer got up to 2nd, Adam Cohen got up to 3rd, and Sam Connell came in right behind me in 5th after being in the back of the group.
Throughout the rest of the race, I made it back up to 1st and Sam got to 2nd. We rode most of the 1st lap together until I messed up and crashed on a sugar sand turn and Sam passed and attacked me so I couldn't catch back up. I rode the rest of the first lap and the second lap alone. On lap 3, Cody caught up to me and we rode together. Half-way through the lap, Cody passed me and I rode his wheel until we reached the BMX track. We got stuck behind some people that were on the course even though they weren't racing. I took an inside line and passed Cody. I slowly started to ride away from him, but he didn't give up. He got on my wheel when we came out of the BMX track and headed for the finish. We ended up in a sprint finish, with me just barely winning to take 2nd. Sam finished first, Cody came in 3rd, Adam came in 4th, and Tyler came in 5th. It was a great weekend and I had a lot of fun!
FSC #2 in Fernandina Beach, on the other hand, was not nearly so fun. I got to be the rabbit for the kids race in the morning, and that was pretty much all the riding I was able to do that day. The start of the race is paced by Austin on the motorcycle for about 2/3 of a mile down the asphalt road to the entrance of the single-track. About half-way down the road, my chain broke at the master link and I was done for. It was extremely disappointing, especially after the chain issues I had the race before.
More to come....

Thursday, July 25, 2013

2013 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Nationals

They say good or bad luck comes in threes, but when it came to my Mountain Bike Nationals, it seemed to come in twos.

My family got to Bear Creek Resort on Tuesday afternoon. Dad and I got to pre-ride several laps of what we thought was going to be the Juniors course (it wasn't marked yet). Everything was looking good and I was excited to start racing. On Wednesday, we picked up our packets and numbers and did a little more pre-riding. It was extremely hot and humid even compared to Florida! Thankfully the lodge was air-conditioned, so we could take a/c breaks when things got too hot and we needed to cool off, which was good because the announcers reported that the temperatures were reaching 112 degrees.

Start of the short track

The first event that I did was the short track cross-country on Thursday. This one was going to be really short at 10 minutes plus one lap. I was really excited because short track is usually one of my strengths. Unfortunately, the start was crazy and I got bumped into John Drummond and he got bumped into me. I think he might have gone down. I managed to keep the bike upright, but didn't get the hole-shot that I was hoping for. In fact, I ended up going into the first climb in 4th place. That meant that I had to change my race strategy a bit, as I worked my way back up to the front.

Matteo and me on one of the grassy climbs
For most of the race, I led, although Matteo and I switched a couple of times. We had a sizable gap on the rest of the field. On the last lap though, we got into each other twice and ended up crashing. The first time we were both to blame, but the second time, Matteo tried to pass me on a sketchy downhill. I held my line, but his bars got tangled in mine and we both went down HARD. His bike ended up mangled and he had to push it the rest of the way. I was able to get up and continue (after what seemed like forever, but was probably only 10-15 seconds), although I was all scraped up and hurting.

Picture by A.E. Landes
I was still in the lead after the crash, although the guys in 3rd-5th were catching up. On the last switchback, Nic Jenkins was able to pass me on the inside to take my lead away. When he went into celebration mode early, I made a last-ditch sprint to the finish. Unfortunately, I ran out of course, finishing in second place, about a bike-length away from my first national championship.

Check back for a video of the short track race.

I was in rough shape after the race, but the FPR team took care of me.

Short Track XC Podium

On Friday I was still sore from Thursday's crash, but I was also super ready to race the cross-country race. Even though I didn't win the short track, my performance during the race had me confident that I could win the cross-country. I got a front row call-up, which was cool, and lined up right where I wanted to be.

This time, I did get the hole-shot off the start and never really looked back. I went into the single-track first and just kept pushing my pace. After the first lap, I had about a 30-45 second lead on second and third.

Second lap feed

By the time I came around for the finish of my second lap, the gap had gotten up to a minute and I was feeling strong. Unfortunately, I had a feeling that my rear tire was going soft, and by the time I reached the woods, it had totally flatted. I kept riding it, hoping that just maybe I could make it up to the top fast enough that I could go into the descent still leading. That didn't happen. I ended up having to push up a lot of the rocky sections and got passed by a lot of riders. Most were nice when they passed me, but some were not.

I rode it in to a 16th place finish after having lost a minute lead going into the last lap. I was extremely disappointed, but at least I proved to myself that I was this year's strongest racer in the 13-14 class. Next year, my goal is to actually walk away with the Championship Jersey.

A lot of people came up to me after the race and congratulated me for a great ride, including some of the boys I raced against. That was really cool of them and I definitely appreciated it.

After a day off the bike on Saturday, I was ready to line up again to do the Super D on Sunday. For this race, the 15-year-olds were also included in our group, so I knew it would be a tough field with some Cat 1 guys like Christopher Blevins and technical riders like Adam Cohen racing against me. I figured I had nothing to lose so I just went for it. I wanted to rip off my brakes but my parents said it would be too dangerous (lol). When the dust settled, I finished 13 seconds behind Christopher Blevins for another second place finish and Adam Cohen also got on the podium for fourth. Not too bad for two kids who come from a state whose highest elevation is 200 feet above sea level.

Super D Podium the end of the week, I was happy with how I rode, but disappointed that I came so close to two national championships I could taste them, yet didn't get them. The good news is, I have one more year in this age group and a whole year to train.

Something else really funny did happen while at Nationals too. Apparently there was a rumor going around that I couldn't have improved my fitness so much since last year without doping. DOPING! Let me just say that the only way I'm doping is if Honey Nut Cheerios is on USADA's banned list. Ha! Ha!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

2013 Ocala Race Weekend/Ocala Stage Race (6/15-16/13)

This weekend I got to do some road racing close to home at the Ocala Stage Race. Two years ago, I did the race and came in 2nd overall in the Juniors 10-12 class, which was pretty exciting because it was only my 2nd time racing on the road. Last year I missed it because it conflicted with a mountain bike race and I was bummed, so this year I couldn't wait to do it.

 Friday night before the race, we went out for our usual pre-race meal of pizza. This time, though, we met up with some other juniors and adults from the RedEye Velo team from Tallahassee. I raced against the boys in the Albany criterium a few weeks ago, and my parents became Facebook friends with the adults after they saw my video, which featured several of their riders. It was a good time. Over the weekend, we got to know the team better and it made for a more fun race event.

RedEye Velo guys
On Saturday, Harrison Knight, one of my FPR teammates, did his first road race in the 10-12 class. He did great, finishing in third place. Look at him doing the fist pump at the finish.

I had a good race too, breaking away with Eric (from RedEye) and winning the first stage.

The second stage was an individual time trial. This was only my 2nd road TT. My start was sketchy for this because the officials first told me that there was a ghost rider starting in front of me, meaning I had an extra 30 seconds to wait to start. Then, out of nowhere, the one official changed his mind and said I had 15 seconds to start. I wasn't even on my bike yet, so when he called "go" I wasn't clipped in. It made my start a little slower, but I put up a decent time and won that stage for my age group also, which put me solidly in the lead after the first 2 stages.

On Sunday, I lined up again for another road race, this one a little longer than Saturday's, at 15 miles. By the time we got to the second hill, Eric, who was riding behind me, told me he couldn't keep the pace to go with me this time, and I kind of rode away from him and the group. For about 13 or 14 miles it was just me riding behind the motorcycle cop who led us out. I ended up finishing way ahead of the next closest group, winning the stage and the overall. I got to cheer for the other guys as they crossed the finish line.

Sunday's finish

Me chilling with the RedEye team after Sunday's race  (Thanks Mrs. Sciba for the pic.)

My new friend Eric took second in the overall.

Friday, May 31, 2013

My Birthday Race Weekend (5/26-27/13)

Last weekend was my 13th birthday and now I finally get to officially claim that I'm a teenager. Of course, what did I do over my birthday weekend? I raced!

The first stop was Albany, Georgia. My mom and I drove up there Friday night for the Saturday morning criterium. My dad was supposed to race too, but he was up in New York for a funeral and wasn't able to get back in time.

This was only the second time ever I've raced a crit, and I knew I needed the experience before Road Nationals in July. Doing road races feels so much different than doing mountain bike races. For one thing, I know so many people in the mountain bike community (and so many seem to know me) and I hardly know anybody in road. Also, mountain bike racing is much more casual.

The juniors all started together and it was hard to tell which class people were racing in. One guy, a 17-18 racer, went off the front on about lap 3 or 4. I tried to chase him briefly, which spread the field really thin when they tried to chase me, but when I realized he wasn't in my class, I decided it wasn't worth going after him, and I slowed down and settled in at the back of the pack to rest for a lap or two. The course was really short--basically a 2-block square--and each lap lasted less than 2 minutes. This race was different from the one I did in Brooksville last year too. At that race, there were a lot of games going on, attacks being made and speed changes at different places around the course. For this one, there didn't seem to be much of that. It was just more or less straight up racing, which I liked better. I finished first in my age group and third overall, which was a great way to start my birthday weekend.

If you want to see what crit racing is like, check out the video my dad put together of the race.

2013 SB&T Bike Downtown Junior Criterium - Albany, GA from MTBMike on Vimeo.

From Albany, my mom and I drove to Jackson, Georgia to meet my dad (who was flying in from New York) and to pre-ride the course for the race on Sunday. I have to say I was not happy with the course. It seemed rutted out more than last year and I didn't have very good luck at Dauset the last 2 years, so I wasn't feeling too positive going into the race. I was confident I could do well, but it's just not my favorite place to race. If you don't know why I say that, you can go back to my old posts from 2011 and 2012.

Sitting on the line I tried to concentrate on this race. I got a great start and went into the woods first. Behind me, people were making mistakes and scrambling to catch back up, while I just continued to ride my pace. I wish I had been able to see all the action because I probably would've made more attacks and tried harder to lose them on the first lap, but I was trying to conserve energy when I could because Dauset can be a tough course, even though it's not super long.

I came through the start/finish area leading the first lap. As soon as I came out of the chute, I put the hammer down and sprinted up the starting climb into the woods. I was hoping to lose Carter, McKenly and Pierce once and for all. I think I did get away for a little while, but when I backed off to recover, they caught back up (very frustrating).

Anyway, I managed to keep Carter behind me for almost the whole last lap. Then, just when I thought I was going to be home free, (because I knew there would be nowhere else to really pass), Carter made an unexpected move and got around me just before a sharp turn the last 1/2 mile or so from the finish. I rode his wheel and tried to pass him back, but like I said, there really wasn't any safe place to do it. We sprinted to the finish, but there's no open space before the chute either, so I pretty much knew it was a lost cause. We finished 1 and 2 with McKenly only a couple of seconds behind for third. I was extremely disappointed, but I figure I will just have to make it up to Carter by beating him this weekend at Bump-n-Grind. LOL :-)

2013 US Cup East SERC#6 Dauset Trails - Jackson, GA Cat 2 15 to 18 from MTBMike on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

2013 SERC #5...or A River Runs Through It (5/19/13)

After 3 weeks off the bike and a month of no racing, I was super anxious to line up again for SERC #5. I had my last doctor visit the Thursday before the race and was told that I could go back to my regular training and racing routine and I was stoked.

The pre-ride on Saturday went well, but on Sunday morning, the storms rolled in and it poured for most of the first wave. By the time my wave went off at 11:30, some parts of the course were an inch deep in water, and a lot of places were slick with peanut butter mud and wet roots. Dave Berger shortened the course by about a couple of miles, taking out the granite section for safety reasons. It made the race shorter, less than 50 minutes, but it was still a good workout.

Even though we had to deal with crummy course conditions, this was one of the most fun races I've had in a while. Carter Anderson and I swapped positions at least 10 times and Silas stayed close. There was so much mud flying around that almost everybody had the same color jersey (brown/orange) and my prescription glasses got so caked in mud that I had to take them off and ride blind. Seriously--my vision is like 20/200 without glasses. I'm not usually one who rides wheels on the mountain bike, but for some sections of the trail I was actually relieved when Carter got in front because then I could just follow his lines until we got back out into the open.

 At the very end of the last lap, Silas, who was in third, got around me when I got sucked into some rutty mud and I just didn't have the legs to attack back. He and Carter finished a super close first and second, with me coming in right behind in third.

 I really wanted to come back and win after my broken wrist healed, but I can't complain. I was pretty happy with my race. I rode hard and consistent and finished with a spot on the podium. The competition in the Cat 2 this year is very good, so any podium finish is a great finish. So far for the series, a different person has won every race. I hope to be the first to get a second win when I take on my nemesis course at Dauset next weekend.

Check out the video of the race below.

2013 US Cup East SERC #5 Cat2 15 to 18 from MTBMike on Vimeo.

Monday, May 6, 2013

2013 Sea Otter Classic

The wide open view during the pre-ride.

The Sea Otter Classic is an event I had been looking forward to for almost a year and my dad had spent about 6 months planning. California's not exactly a quick trip up the road in the Prius and flying with the bikes was new to both of us. Fortunately, my dad found a double bike case and we were able to pack them together and check them in without too much trouble.

After a REALLY long day traveling on the Wednesday before my race, we got our rental car (minivan) and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway. It was very pretty and totally different from anything I've seen before. On Thursday, we headed straight to the event to pick up our registration packets and pre-ride the course, so my dad would be ready for his race on Friday. We also met a few friends and hung out at the ProGold tent with Bruce Dickman and some of the other guys, including the owner. I got to work the booth and show off my mad demo skills. (lol)

When I wasn't riding the course, or promoting ProGold products, I spent a lot of time at the Kenda/Felt tent riding the mechanical bull. (Yes, I said mechanical bull.) It was so much fun! By the end of the week, I had the second longest time, only 5 seconds off the record.

During the week we spent in California, we also went to see the movie 'Single Track High' and even took a quick dip in the Pacific Ocean. Being from Florida, I thought I knew what the beach was like. I didn't expect the water to be THAT cold!

On Sunday morning, my dad and I got up early, so that we could get a good parking spot at the event. There were a lot of different kinds of events going on during the day and we knew it would be packed. Even so, our "good" spot ended up being about a mile or two away from the start/finish area.

Juniors 13-14 line up for the start
As we lined up, I noticed there were about 50 of us in the class. I am used to Florida starts, where there is no call up, so you have to line up and claim your spot early. I did that at Sea Otter too and got right where I wanted to be. I was feeling great and ready to race! The first 2 miles were on speedway track and I decided to start the race off with a long, hard sprint, try to get out front, and see who could hang with me. It worked pretty well, too. I didn't see what was going on behind, but my dad said that my class was the only one all day that was strung out single-file going around the track. Eventually, I settled in and the strong riders caught up. Then we got squeezed together going into the dirt and I got shuffled back a little. I would make some of it up on the first climb and even more on the descent. I was flying and it was so cool! I was running in the lead pack as we crested the second hill. Then, out of nowhere, another rider tried to make a pass on me and lost control of his bike. He crashed right in front of me, I ran over his wheel, and went over the handlebars. I got back up, but when I tried to get going again, there was a shooting pain in my wrist. I rode for about another 20 minutes (according to the video), but when I hit a pothole just before the single-track, I knew my race was over. The pain was awful!

By the time my dad found out what happened to me and got down to the medical station, I was all bandaged up. The EMT's thought I probably had a broken wrist, so we headed out to an urgent care place to get x-rays.

Nothing looks broken to me. :-p

The whole experience was kind of a bummer, especially since I had really high expectations for this race. Despite getting taken out in the first 10 minutes or so of the race, my dad put together a good video documenting our trip. I hope you enjoy it.

2013 Sea Otter 13 to 14 from MTBMike on Vimeo.

Once we got back, it was off to the doctor to get a second opinion, and the first cast put on. The doctor gave us better news. Instead of having to wear the cast for 8 weeks, he thought I would only need it for about 3 and would only be off the bike for about 4 weeks. That sure sounded better, although I was definitely hoping when he looked at the new x-rays that he would say "It's not really broken. Just rest for this week."  Oh well, I guess a little rest couldn't hurt. But now I'm dying to get back on my bike and race. Hopefully I'll see everyone out there soon.