Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lehigh Lovin'

That is right, Lehigh was last weekend a lot of you missed it, but a bunch of kids we don't always see did make it. It was sweet.

This race has been the opener for a couple of years and these guys manage to absolutely kill it every year. I think this race is a really really strong point on the calendar. If you missed it this year you should reconsider your life choices.

A few Big things happened.

1. Team Relay
This was a huge sucess. Numerous people remarked that this was one of the most fun events out there. It also showed which teams were really interested in the team overalls.

Most notably DII powerhouse (this year) Clarkson opted out of racing, giving there closest competition RIT a chance to put a solid chunck of point up on the board, totally uncontested.

Little Suprise that UVM, NU and UNH all posted teams for the race. UNH managed to field two teams, making them win the event overall.

The exchanges and number of riders were pretty diferent between the teams. NU chose to have DH/DS/STXC superstar Sam Mellon Rock the first three of six laps then have Maggie S. Close the final three. This strategy was preetty different than others. UNH had three riders, and would each only do one lap befor handing off. UVM also had three riders but would each do all of there laps at once.

NU prevailed and Angus of UNH had the ride of his life to hold of Chris Hamlin of UVM to give UNH the seccond place.

2. Lack of UVM Riders
The rest of the ECCC saw what it is like for UVM to be mortal. With only seven riders in attendence the Green and Gold kids, while not without success, were slaugthered. One of there lowest placings at an ECCC race in probably close to a decade. Current President Lee Peters Call all of the Kids who remained in Burlington, " a bunch of inbred Sally Wagons"

3. Flats and Mechanicals

These were the real stars of the Lehigh xc. While all of the MC and WB racers were able to finish. The second wave of starts MB, MA and WA were plagued by both of these. I think this was actually because of the super dry riding on saturday. The course was rolling a lot faster, so people were carrying a lot more speed into the rock gardens. The mens' a field was expecially depressing, as just as many people dnfd as finished.

4. NU Riders givin' it for the team.
This might have been more evident to me because of the selfishness and sloth of my old teammates (not the ones who went to the race of course). I am not sure if it has been for team or for self, but the last two weeks we have seen Sam Mellon racing out of his discipline in the stxc races and managing nothing lower than 4rth place. Definately not something that I could envision many A dh'rs doing. This weekend it was a huge boon to his NU team, pulling in a third place finish. Had he raced in the xc, Nu might have taken over the season overall lead, who is to say though.

Not only this, but the teams' president Maggie S raced five times for NU, probably a third of the points that NU scored are dirrectly linked to her. If you ask her what she thinks about beating UVM last weekend, you will get to see just how excited she is about her team. Together these two tackeled the team rellay, something that was originally designed for three people, none the less they managed to win it.

As I was officiating and scoring the end of the DH later that day it was pretty clear that both of them were tired during their dh runs. Sam only won by two secconds, much less than the thirty he won by the first race. In response to his teammates jab that he was getting closer, Sam replied, 'you didn't get third in the shortrack this morning did you, or win the TR an hour ago."

This is a really cool thing about collegiate. you will see people race out of their element and out of their skin for the teams, that they love. Something UVM used to know a thing or two about. We will see if the backlash from this weekend results in higher turnout this weekend.

Womens' Overall

This weekend we saw Maggie Sullivan of NU struggle with mechanical issues in her Xc and stxc races, preform excellently in the Cluster Huck (catching a C racer who will remain unnamed), taking a jubuliant win with Sam Mellon in the Team Relay and taking an exhausted run in the DH course. None the less with the abssene of Rose Long she was able to extend her lead to a huge margin in the overall and sneak into the lead in gravity and xc as well. Her teammate Andrea Kelchin was able to leapfrog Rose as well. If Rose wants any of the jerseys back she will have to be very very dominant and hope for bad luck for the other ladies these next two weekends.

Mens' Overall
A race that is incredibly interesting. Billy of UNH in his basketball shorts and silly t=shirts.  He is one of the few folks who are really racing the overall this year.  Consistant placing in both sets of racing have pushed him into third.  Sam Mellon held the gap to chris Hamlin.  This weekends shortrack confirmed that he is pretty boss in the discipline.  If he can continue to place well in three races a week as opposed to chris Hamlin's two wins a weekend it wouldn't suprise me to see sam catch and pass chris in the next week or two.  Hamlin has continued to be undefeated in the Xc/stxc categories.  Not many chances left for people to knock him down.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thoughts on STXC and the state of endurance mtb racing

I know that a lot of the eccc racers see the stxc event as kind of a back up event. A chance for glory after a sub par xc race or they will use it as a buttress to the accolades they had gained in XC. Either way it is a second tier priority for a lot of the racers. A shame really. In many ways Short Track can be the salvation of our sport.

Okay now that you have stopped laughing think about it. It provides a few things for both the introductory and elite level that are sorely missing for the sport at this point. The young racers of our sport must either race short distance with true beginners or race full distance xc races that will routinely take them into the two hour plus range. This is hugely problematic as I have a strong belief that racing for that long precludes the development of some young racers while simultaneously burning a lot of matches in the young riders that are able to handle the distance. For kids this age that want to succeed they are forced to focus on development at distance (viz a viz their current fitness). This is a huge mistake for young riders and racers new to the sport. Why you might ask, a lot of people are stoked on riding for long times over long distances?

This is true of course, and is the reason for the enduring popularity of the xc format and the emergence of the marathon format of racing. However, from a developmental point of few. You can always learn how to ride longer. In fact the longer that you are in the sport the greater this capacity will develop through a natural process. If riders and racers do not do the shorter more intense races they will miss a crucial part in their development and golden window for growth. Racing at intensity will help develop skill of high speed cornering, obstacle clearance and line choice that don't really get a chance to emerge in the lackadaisical pace of xc races. For this reason I assert that short tracks are immensely valuable to the young and the new racers.

In the elite aspect of the sport stxc is also extremely valuable. Elite athletes race for their daily bread. In the hopes of transforming their daily bread into daily lasagna with a glass of red wine, they should be looking for ways (along with promoters) to make their sport more marketable. I refute that this is simply a problem with American cycling. Just yesterday thousands paid to watch the cyclocross race at interbike. Given that this crowd was more disposed to watch a race than most urban demographics, I think that it shows the potential for the spectator value of cycling as a sport. Really what we should be looking to do is transform cycling into a juggernaut like nascar. Don't be so skeptical. People have that same roll of the eyes when they see some dude hopped up mullet hairspray with a deep scoop v-8 (see photo at top) roll up next to them as some dingus on a 10G parlee. ( I know it isn't a parlee and it isn't a bike racer, it is one of those triathlete things, but I am sure you get the idea). If they can roll their eyes at the people who are enthusiasts, but still sit down on the couch to catch a few laps, they can do it for bike racing to.

That is why STXC is perfect, the whole course could reasonably be covered by a few sets of camera (so you could see the leaders and one or two chase packs) The trick would be to figure out the filming of technical sections to inspire awe, and to throw in some jumps (for showboating). This format is also ideal because, just like cyclocross it can happen in parks in large urban settings. This is awesome, because it is where the people are. In the norba format (an utter failure) where all of the races happen at big ski areas you guarantee that the only spectators at the venue are the people that were in other races. Again a total and inconceivable blunder for anyone who was thinking about the marketing potential of the sport. By having races in central park and any other environment that could draw spectators, that are not necessarily committed to the sport in a participatory way, you open the door to a greater dearth of marketing potential. Right now nobody (outside of the cycling industry) wants to sponsor top mtb pros, because no consumers know anything about the sport. Despite being a prolific winner, you ask anybody on the street who katie compton is, and only one in a thousand (if you are very very lucky ) will have a snowball's chance in hell of telling you. That is the central reason why so many pros struggle to actually be professionals.

Open up the format of racing to make it more visible, bring it to urban centers to expand the marketing value of the riders, and in time the sport will be able to become more mainstream or at least a little bit more like a professional sport. The country could use a pro stxc circuit, in fact I bet it would be more feasible to run that, even if it was in urban centers, than to run the crackpot format they have now.

So much for my original plan to report on the unh stxc race, I guess that will have to happen tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

UNH Day One racing

I have to say that this is one of the most exciting days of racing for me, that I have experienced while holding a clipboard. We saw a lot of really really good racing. While some of the top names didn't change, the order of some of the racers did and it had an interesting effect on some of the overalls.


This is maybe one of the bigger dissapointments of the weekend. I was really hoping to see a few of the racers challenge last weeks double winner a little more than they did. Last year Mike Barlett was able to power away from Hamlin in the last lap of the race. I kind of suspected that the smell of past glory in the air would awaken a killer instinct in Mike. One of our stalwarts in the Catamount Wednesday Night Worlds Series ended up appearing at the race. Noah Tautfest is a partner in the the Bicycle Express and a pretty quick racer when he is put to it. I think, if memory serves me well that he took a win or two at catamount this summer, even when Chris was in the race. I was stoked for some hot racing action, fast paced, lots of changes in who the leader is.

Some dreams have to be left unfufilled. Chris showed from the gun that he was simply in another class than the folks he was racing against. By the first time through the 4 mile circuit he had alreaddy put a sizeable gap on the rest of the field. It would be a lie to say there was a chance that he was going back towards the rest of the boys at any point, as his lead expanded each lap through.

Noah and Mike fought it out in the waning laps of the race. The Polimer Science grad student from UMASS to the runner up spot. Noah of VTC had to settle for third in his first ECCC appearance.


A pretty good show here. Last week (UMASS Opener) Rose long sent a huge message to the rest of the ECCC A Women, with three commanding victories, she was back and ready to win races. Also entering the fray this weekend was the elusive, secretive and unflappable Kate Harris of MIT.

Las year Kate had started to race in the ECCC and racked up an impressive resume in Rose's absence. All but one of the Collegiate mtb races she entered in 2008 she one. That includes a set of stars and bars in the DII short track.

Also in the hunt for top placing and points for the ECCC overall was last year's winner Maggie of NU. As well as Ashley Nichols of UVM who had notched a second place in her first A xc ever. The excitement was palbable.

After the first lap it was clear that Rose intended to power away to a dominant victory, unwilling to even let the other girls get a look at her once Joe had said go. Behind her a small and determined chase group had formed. Kate H and Maggie S hhad formed a formidable tandem for a time. In the ensuing laps they started to shut down the significant gap that Rose had built. With a lap to go a high pace was taking a toll on race leader Rose Long of UVM. She was visibly pedaling with a great deal more labor than the other times she had lapped through.

A short two minutes later Kate Harris came through the finish line. Charging, might be a better verb to describe what she was doing. The vigorous chase had proved to strenuous for Maggie and she was forced to slow. Where as Kate was just warming up. Joe and I had commented that Kate seemed to get the pacing of the races right. She seemed to build speed and strength as the race progressed. Without loosing a race in the eccc last year the odds seemed to be in her favor.

Except for the biggest factor in any race Rose enters, she is wicked f'n BA (if you aren't sure what this means, ask me). She gritted it out to maintain a margin at the finish line. Kate cruised in for seccond place, with maggie holding on for third, but loosing a fair amount of time to kate.

Most interesting for the Overall race that was hotly contested the previous weekend was a displacement factor. Kate H provided a little extra cushion in points between Rose and Maggie. Ashley N of UVM suffered from a little bit of a sub par race. While her closest competition in the overall, Andrea K of NU had a pretty solid race. There were enough girls in between them that the points spread was sizable.

STXC later

Monday, September 21, 2009

ECCC Mountain Week 2 (brief)

As we are waiting for the results from the timing service for the dh the results haven't been posted to the website yet. Never fear, they are coming. I will right a longer report once the full results are up, but until then here is a brief round of what you might have missed this weekend.

gnartastic ds:

pretty sure that this is the longest and steepest ds that the eccccc has ever seen, dreamed, watched, much less raced on. The reception seemed to be pretty positive, despite the long run times and the killer hikes back up during practice.

In the Mens' A we nearly saw a huge upset. Dark horse Ben Estrich of NU pos
ted the second fastest qualifying time. Causing a little bit of surprise and doubt that the brackets were done correctly. Round after round Estrich kept surprising his fellow competitors with wicked fast runs down the hill. I might be wrong about this, but I am pretty sure Estrich had never had a top five in an eccc race before this weekend. This race might just have been his arrival party, without a doubt the best race he has done in the ECCC.

In the Final Ben squared off against his teammate and 2008 ECCC Gravity champion Sam Mellon. In the first run Mellon crashed, putting into place the 2 second differential rule. On the second run Ben Estrich had to keep Mellon within two seconds to get the W. In the event that both racers get the two second differential, the faster qualifier wins. A quarter of a seccond, really just a blink of an eye, was how much Estrich missed staying inside the differential by. As a result the win went to Sam Mellon of NU, and Estrich was regulated to second place.

Two teammates also ended up racing for third place. UVM racers Caldwell Clark and Antothy Santos ended up in the 3-4 race down. Despite the situation and both mens' protestations that they were going to easy style it then stuns big off the last jump. There was a whole lot of crashing in their race runs. In the first run both of the guys crashed on the big jump after the finish line. Yes after the finish they both crashed.

In the Women's race, First weekend A racer Anne Miner of Clarkson had a great run through the brackets after taking the top qualifying time. She made to the final after getting a bye in the first round. Last years Gravity Overall champion Maggie Sullivan of NU, took a somewhat conservative and sluggish qualifying run putting her almost dead center in the bracket. Despite some tough pairings as the race went one her runs improved and she too advanced to the final. Anne Minor looked to be setting up for a perfect introduction to A racing by winning the first of two races against Maggie by about half a bike length. Once the courses were switched, a clear advantaged opened up for Maggie, her win on that course was by enough of a margin to net her second win of the day following her win in the DH that morning.

That is all for now

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

ECCC Mountain: Week 1

Hi all,

As you know last weekend started the ECCC Mountain season. I have changed my perspective at races a good deal. Now I am trying to help the ECCC run as well as it can (a very high standard). I am trying to help Joe and Caitlin as much as I can. While I normally think that it is pretty boring to read other people's race reports I think I will try* to make an effor to do race highlights for the season as it proggresses. Obviously the more spectator friendly races I will be able to comment more on, but I hope to do a much scaled down version of a daily report from Cyclingnews (again high goal, shoot for low expectations)

Skills Clinic: This was the first event of the weekend and it was definately a success. Maggie Sullivan and I had about 15~16 people show up for this. A really good start to this, I think that the people who showed up took a good deal away from the clinic. The real measure of success will be the number of people who show up in the following weeks. Maggie and I designed the clinics to be a progression of skills, so that people can come each week and hopefully pick up something new each time.

This coming weekend (UNH) we are going to work on Obstacle Oblitorating. This is a skill that most folks who are progressing through the skill set of mtb find to be problematic. This is because if you get it wrong you are off the bike or jarred like you got a steel toed boot to the kiester. Hopefully folks will show up so we can really dig into teaching this.

Women's A XC: 7 women took the start line. Though a lot of the faces from last year were missing, this marked the return to ECCC mtb racing for Rose Long. If you didn't know Rose took an unscheduled hiatus from school, racing and riding due to a horrific hit and run accident. It was clear from watching the first lap of the race that Rose was back to her old self though. She, Maggie Sullivan and Ashley Nichols had created a substantial seperation from the rest of the field on the first lap. Each of the subsequent laps she shed on of her original companions until she took her first win of the year with a healthy lead over 2nd Place Ashley (Note. this was Ashley's first A race)

Men's A XC: This year started a lot like last year. Even on a significantly different and shorter course. Chris Hamlin managed to win by arround 10 minutes. A huge margin of victory. It appears that Chris has finally done what he has been threatening to do for years, train.

After the monument victory that Hamlin took the question on everyone's mind is will anyone show up to challenge him for the rest of the year, or will he keep winning like it was breathing?

Men's A Super D: This race experienced slightly lower turnout than originally hoped, or a race as sweet as it was deserved. This was probably due to infamiliarity with the race format and the aversion of some racers to pay lift fees twice in one weekend.

None the less the racing was certainly hot enough to merit a great deal of excitement. Daryl D (UVM), Noonan (UNH) and Melone (UNH) all came into the last section of woods together. Word on the street was that a whole bunch of risky racing was going on. This is of course the whole thrill of Super D and other great american pastimes (see pastime on Right-------------------------------->>>>)

Women's A Super D: Even though the field was only 4 ladies deep, it was composed of the top 4 women from that morning's xc event. It looks like from those registrations that the ECCC Women's Overall is going to be hotly contested this year. Once again Rose Long of UVM posted a win. One of the other competitors attributed her victory to her meticulous preperation viz a viz the other racers (not only did she take a practice run, she took two) Maggie Sullivan and Ashley Nichols reversed their order from that morning. Maggie in second and Ashley N. in second.

Omnium update--> At this point Rose Long was undefeated, totalling 160pts. Maggie and Ashley were trailing with 133 pts each.

Mens' A STXC: If there was any question that Hamlin had asserted himself as the xc rider to beat the day before, they were quickly squashed in the critically acclaimed stxc race. Despite missing a pedal at the start, by lap two Hamlin had gaped the field. Though Mike Barlett of UMass made a valiant effort to keep him in sight, each lap Hamlin was able t use his powerful riding style to crush through o roots faster and summit speedier than his puruers.

The battle for third place was really the one that was hotly contested. Alex Cox, Lee Peters and Nathan Pepin were all within about 20 seconds for the whole race. It appeared that each of these racers were powerless to distance themselves from the others. The separation that had occurred in the early laps was not to be undone.

Women's A STXC: This might have been the most exciting race of the weekend. It saw last year's DH and Overall Champion Maggie Sullivan and the 2008 road overall champion Rose Long battle it out. It was very clear at the end of the first lap that these two were in a class of their own in this race. The separation had been immediate and substantial. The rhythm of the race was fairly balanced between the two riders. Maggie would open a small gap on the downhill single track, over coursing roots and off camber turns. Only to have the gap shut down on the fast rolling carriage gradual climb back to the top of the singletrack.

This pattern seemed to break down arround lap three or four, when Maggie began to get to the single track slightly before Rose. With three laps to go, Maggie had a maximum advantage of 10~13 second. As soon as Rose saw the lap cards, it was as though she was a bloodhound that had just picked up the scent. She could smell the win and wasn't about to let it go that quickly.

Within a lap she had cut the gap to maggie in half. The next time around (1 to go) Rose made her pass, taking the lead downt the singletrack for the first time in the race. This proved to be a very astute tactical move. Already being the stronger climber, she took the reigns and dictated the pace on the way down as well. Once they got to the fire road it was a clear and convincing win for Rose, once again.

Omnium update Rose 240, Maggie 203, Ashley 190

Mens' A DH:

Sam Mellon, enough said.

He might not have opted to race the Super D, cause he didn't want to pay the lift ticket. Once he got a ticket to the top of the mountain he sure road down like he stole it. A huge display of dominance, winning by almost 30 seconds would have been unheard of last year. That sort of difference means no matter where you were on the coulse you could tell that he was riding faster than any one else.

Last year Sam Mellon was almost the first gravity racer to win the overall, due to his consistant excellence. Only to have it robbed by chris Scannel's win at the NU dh course. We will see if he can make the next step up on the podium.

Womens' A DH: Andrea Kling showed why she was the top ECCC female at nationals last year (10th place, in her 4rth A dh). With a pretty sustantial margin she relegated the other overall hopefulls to the bleachers while her skills took center stage.

General thoughts with no Category: Clarkson came out in a big way. Last year they ended up 7th in D2. This year they took a powerful lead in the hunt for the crown. I will give them a hint to help them make it happen. There is a kid who goes to school there called colby jesset. He was a JR. Ex superstar. In fact I still say (knowing him at 14) he is the most talented person I have ever ridden with or arround. If they get him in a set of that smashing yellow uniforms, they will be able to light the world up.

I am not sure if it was because of low attendance or just the acceleration of some riders proggressions, but this past weekend saw what right now appears to be the final word in both the Gravity and Endurance omniums. I am not sure I would call it just yet, but it will take a combination of bad luck and fast proggression for other riders to touch Sam or Chris.

I think that the Womens' overall might be the most exciting for years. I think that as of right now there are four very tallented and motivated ladies who are vieing for it. What will make this so exciting is the diversity of their talents. While we only saw two winners this weekend. I would be suprised if we don't see a least one new winner next weekend.

and that is all

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


MTB Skillz Clinics

All right now. From my limited experience rolling around the courses of the ECCC, I have noticed some really superb riding and some immensely terrible riding. There are folks in every category who are missing some of the components of riding mechanics that are fundamental and relatively easy to pick up. Do people lack these skills because they are stupid or lazy? In some cases yes, however most folks simply have never been told or fully thought about what they need to do to make their bike go fast, or even get through a section of trail.

Mountain Biking is a sport that mixes the strength of your muscles with the finesse that separates the bumbling from the brilliant. A good friend of mine once told me that being strong will only get you close to the podium, great skills will get you the rest of the way. Someone with really good skills rides through a technical section of trail as though they were liquid velvet. They don’t bounce; they absorb and dance on their bike. This isn’t easy and it can be only so intuitive; that is why we are starting to do the skillz clinics.

Skills on a bike will come if you ride enough, but you are going to have to make mistakes. Smoke corners, plow into rocks and logs, skid sideways into trees and a variety of other unpleasant outcomes. What we are trying to do is offer an alternative, to cut out part of the trail and error. While better skills won’t make you pedal harder, they will let you go faster with less effort

I have spent nearly a decade teaching folks, from eight to eighty how to ride mtb. It is a total blast. Over that time and from the experience of others I have together a set of lessons that will cover all* of the basic that you need for both riding and racing. Unlike road season the clinics will cover a progression of skills. The clinics are NOT attached to any race, so all categories of riders are encouraged to attend the clinics.

This is a basic overview of what we are going to cover:

-Umass (shifting, breaking-Umass (shifting, breaking and hovering(body stance for obstacles, rough terrain loose cornering))

-UNH (Obstacles) {usually I teach this as the evolution of obstacle clearance, from hovering->weight shifts->Front wheel lift-> Front then rear lift-> bunny hop->j-hop)

-Lehigh (anticipation) this is an on trail clinic, it is almost entirely focused on maximizing your vision to set up to carry speed of clear sections of trail. This is also a 'choosing your line lesson'

-NU (Climbing and descending) skills, body positioning-> incorporating other skills to make this most successful.

-UVM (cornering) High speed low speed-> discuss body positioning for optimal traction and speed

Please pass this along to teammates who are newer to riding or who want to ride better. It is a good way to make there season more successful