Monday, December 4, 2017

Congratulations to Kelton on His CX State Championship

Kelton Williams is the new Idaho State Champion in Men’s Cat 3 cyclocross following a victory yesterday at Shoshone Falls Park in Twin Falls. Kelton is still young enough to race juniors but the state of Idaho does not have any other juniors at his level. At Twin Falls, Kelton raced with intelligence and maturity, hopping barriers and riding difficult lines on a technical course which featured off-camber sections and a big run up, winning the Cat 3 race by a margin of a minute over second place. The State Championships are a USA Cycling sanctioned event so the points that Kelton earned there should help him to qualify for a better starting position at Nationals in Reno.

Ensign Peak MTB

After the Barnes Park race, there was really only one thing to do-ride some more. Thomas does a lot of mountain bike riding on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and related trail networks just north of Salt Lake City. A year or so ago, I wrote a couple of blog posts on some rides that we did there. Thomas wanted to show me a newer trail near Ensign Peak. I have included a link below to the rides in the area. None of the routes matches ours exactly, but the Ensign Peak Loop generally matches the middle part of our ride.
Thirty years or so have passed since mountain bikes became relatively ubiquitous, and in that time, people have gotten a lot better at building mountain bike specific trails. The new trail starts just north of Ensign Peak and descends along its west side through a long series of switchbacks terminating just north and west of the Utah Capitol. Most of the trail probably falls into a high intermediate range with a handful of expert sections.
The engineering quality of the trail and its numerous switchbacks is outstanding. It is insanely fun to ride. Thomas tells me that he seldom sees other riders on the trail. The reason for that is probably fairly obvious. It is a tough climb to the top. We ran into some last minute mechanical issues with Thomas' mountain bike so as plan B, he rode his Surly fat bike. Even on the fattie, he rode better and faster than me.

Wrapping Up the Cross Season at UTCX Barnes Park

The 2017 UTCX season wrapped up Saturday with a fine race at Barnes Park in Kaysville. Participation numbers were high for the final race of the season no doubt augmented by the mild weather. I have occasionally heard flat non-technical cross courses described in a pejorative way as grass criteriums. The Barnes Park race is indeed a big grass criterium with a lap distance of just under 3 km and a couple of deep sand sections. Even though this is probably not my favorite format for a cross race, every now and again, it is absolutely the best. It is very satisfying to ride a cross event with the throttle wide open for extended periods, especially as a contrast to those really slippery days in which you never really run at full power.
No cross course is perfect. Barnes Park has some problematic transitions between grass and sidewalk with a chain link fence along the sidewalk. I saw a very ugly crash into the fence. It has always featured a transition from the west side to the east side of the park via ascent and descent of short cement staircases. The worst part about the transition is a dismount on concrete. (Presumably, a top tier rider could ride the stairs without dismounting, but I did not see that guy). Logistically, the stairs might be tough to avoid, but if it were my race, there would be no dismount on a paved/cement surface, period.
Oh, and the sand. It was tough. I am not a huge fan of sand or mud, but I am realistic enough to understand their place in cross. The sand works well in the context of the Barnes Park race, making it much harder than it would be otherwise.. I feel like I was about average in the sand, but the people who could really ride it well were at a significant advantage.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving--Final Group Rides of the Season (?)

Weather is by its nature unpredictable and real winter is probably not far away, but the forecast looks good for the next few days.Please help spread the word on these three rides.
  • Road ride tomorrow (Thanksgiving) 9 a.m starting from my house.
  • Casual gravel ride-sometime Friday. Please contact me if your are interested.
  • Road Ride Saturday--9 a.m.--Sticks and Stones. This will likely be the last big group ride of the season.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

DNF at Observatory Park UTCX

Writing an honest blog sometimes means owning your failures as well as your successes. Today was not my best day on a bike, but I still rode a new cyclocross venue and I was happy to have Stephen there to provide logistical and moral support.
For many years, I have tried to make it down to Utah for at least one or two of the UTCX series races. Today’s race was at Observatory Park in Ogden which is home to some of Ogden’s permanent cyclocross features. Observatory Park is above Fort Buenaventura Park on the west. Today’s course dropped down into Buenaventura, returning by one of the most intimidating run-ups I have ever seen-long, steep, and muddy.  I have heard various explanations as to whether Observatory Park and the Ogden Cyclocross Park are two separate parks that run together or two names for the same park. Anyone who knows the answer to that question is welcome to comment.
Like both Bozeman and Boise, Observatory Park features a number of sizeable singletrack climbs and descents. But in contrast to the buttery smooth singletrack of the other venues, the Observatory Park singletrack is rough as hell. One of the guys that I started with today told me that most of the singletrack is new this year and is actually a lot smoother now than it was earlier in the season. Parts of the course were pretty muddy today with a layer of ice-over standing water-over deep mud along the bottom edge of the big hillside. After a couple of practice laps, it was all churned into a semi-solid.
I crashed out about two thirds of the way through the second lap in the wooded area shown in Stephen’s pictures. It happened on the Buenaventura side on a dropping left hand turn on wet leaves. I slid right and the rider behind came over the top of me landing on my front wheel. It was not badly damaged, but too far out of true to spin. When I go to a cross race, I generally take two wheelsets, one mounted up with mud tires, the other with dry tires. In light of yesterday’s heavy precipitation, I knew it would be muddy, so I left the second wheelset home. Even if I would have taken the extra wheelset, it is very unlikely that I would have had it in the pit area. My finishing rate for cross races is very close to 100% and I have gotten a little lazy.
I think people have a pretty good idea of how much I love my orange Kelson cross bike. It has been to hell and back through five Crushers, three Rebecca’s, a couple of Gravel Pursuits, and more cross races and local gravel rides than I can even remember. But the thing that modern bikes have that the orange bike lacks is disc brakes. Even in dry conditions, disc brakes are better, but the advantages of disc brakes over rim brakes become exponentially greater in really sloppy conditions like today. If you are considering a new cross bike, buy the model with disc brakes.
As a cyclocross venue, Observatory Park is spectator friendly and generally pretty promising. I am looking forward to returning but I will not be unhappy to have the singletrack break in a little more.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Rail Jam is Tomorrow

16th Annual Sled Shed Rail Jam - 11/11/17

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Come join in the fun! It's always a good time! Doesn't matter if you come to participate or come to spectate we promise you won't be disappointed.
Event starts at 5pm, if you intend to ride then please be there at 3pm to register and to practice. We accept riders of all ages and disciplines (skiers or snowboarders). Registration is $20 (cash only)
Redd's Grill will be there with Hamburgers, Fries, and Hot Cocoa!

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