Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Race Report & Pics: FSC 2012 #6 Markham Park

Eric G here with our race report for FSC #6 at Markham Park, our home race AND the start of the Coconut Cup Series as well! The Markham event is usually HUGE and had additional buzz going due to an excellent course designed by Richard Butler with the help of a few more guys from the excellent Markham Park Trail Crew, and some technical input from Bob McCarty. The continuation of the show between Pro Class leader McCarty, Ryan Woodall, and local strongman Alex Zambrana, who's recent form was sure to make this an amazing showdown! 

Trails were perfect for the event

Leading up to the event, the area was drenched by feeder bands of Hurricane Sandy, but minimal wind damage meant the trail was perfect for the weekend. By the time race day arrived conditions were perfect! As usual Markham brings an unrelenting course with short punch climbs, long flat windy fireroads, and not much downhill to recover on. Tight and twisting through the singletrack means racers are always on the gas. Throw in the technical Gun Range section and climbs from Jet Ski and Ted's Twisted Trail (and their tricky decents!) would have racers on edge all race. 

Eric N was in XC3 19-29 ready to go. 24 racers and a narrow start line meant a second row start for Eric. He didn't get a clean start and almost go dumped into the bushes lining up the start loop by another rider. Tried to gain some spots before the trail but it didn't work out too well and went in about mid teens. he managed to pick off a few riders through the first lap and was moving up but dropped his bottle in a moment of real need. He turned back to pickup losing a couple of spots and then continued, crossing the first lap in 16th. The hydration drama continued as confusion in the pits had him missing his bottle for the entire second lap! A bit dejected he pressed on but knew he needed to be safe with no water and a warm day. He was a little motivated passing a rider fixing a flat (Sorry Boyco!) and gave it a go again to catch another rider on the approach to Gun Range. He was back in full attack after this and tried to keep him away. Coming down the final stretch he had a decent gap, but a properly timed glance back gave him the view of a full on sprint by his chaser trying to close the gap. They hit the final turn with Eric holding a small gap and turning on a final sprint to cross the line in 14th. After missing the last 2 races with newborn baby duty, it was a tough race, but he ended up with the best result for him in the new class and held off someone for position. Good fun at the end of the day. 

XC3 30+ was back to it's normal PACKED self with 46 racers lined up to start. So busy that I got to the line 30 minutes early and front row was already locked out! I settled in to a spot and nervously protected my space as racers began crowding the start. The horn went off and I couldn't get a nice launch from row two so I patiently bided my time. It was a long flat start until the first trail so I got rolling at was sitting about 18th down the final stretch to the trail and hit it hard, weaving through riders and finally cut an inside line to roll in 7th into the trail! Good spot to be. I had to let a rider by early on and sat in 8th for rest of the lap. When I hit the exit fireroad I looked back and had about a 20 second gap! Problem was I was in no man's land. I had a long windy road by myself and a group of 6 guys from my class working together to catch me!! Coming through the finish line I still had a small gap on my chasers, but promptly butchered the warm up loop entrance (#$%&^@#$!) and lost it all. They were back on my wheel. Admittedly I felt a bit deflated and a few trails later wound up getting passed by 2 riders at once and just couldn't keep up the pace at that moment. I got myself going again though but out of the trail alone, AGAIN, I was caught by 2 more riders on the way to Gun Range. I wouldn't let them go without a fight this time and jumped on their wheel. I hung with them for a few more trails another bobble after the Jet Ski climb gave them a small gap that I just couldn't close. I hit the final fire road and I could see them just about 10 seconds away but couldn't close them down. I out sprinted someone from another class to the finish just for pride and crossed the line in 13th. Best result of the season and most competitive I've felt in awhile!

Woodall would lead early on
The Pro race was what everyone was eager to see. Of the 5 races in the series so far, McCarty & Woodall had taken 1st or 2nd place in all of them (not including one Woodall DNS) McCarty was points leader, but the "virtual" edge went to Woodall by 2 points factoring in the allowed race drop. Include Ben Talbot from 352 Racing, Super Cool Bike Shop racers Martin Cox & Shawn Smith and Alex Zambrana from Z's Bike Shop (another South Florida favorite) and there was some serious firepower at the start line! 

McCarty would grab the strong win
At the start it was a tight group, but mid way through the first lap it was clear that the trio of McCarty, Woodall and Zambrana were at another level. They came through lap one, wheel-to-wheel-to-wheel, with almost a 1 minute lead on everyone else. They would stay like this until lap 3 when McCarty would come through with a small gap over a hard charging Woodall and Zambrana a few seconds behind him. This was going to be an amazing finish! As everyone anxiously waited it was McCarty who would come out of the woods first with no sign of Woodall and Zambrana! He cruised through the finish with nearly a 90 second win over Woodall! Zambrana would be about 10 seconds back of that for a strong third place. It was truly an amazing show and sets the stage for the remaining three races of the series!

 Wanted to give a big thank you to Karina and Osmar from our sponsor Bike Tech who were out as a race sponsor for supporting us and anyone else, with food and drinks and mechanical support all day! Our next race takes us to Alva for FSC #8. Enjoy the pics below and leave a comment to let us know how your race went!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Race Report & Pics: La Rooota #7

Eric G here for a quick race report from this weekend's La Rooota event at Amelia Earhart park. With rainy weather in the area during the week, riders were itching to get on the course to see recent changes to South Florida's FASTEST trail. Conditions cleared up early enough on Saturday to leave the course in nearly perfect shape for the race. Take all the well groomed berms and combine them with perfectly damp terrain and speeds were going to be through the roof!

Down2Earth events usually begin with mass starts according to the rider category (Expert, Sport, Base) and this time would be no different. In his first race back Julio would tackle the Sport 30+ class while Eric G, Alex and Eric N would continue in Base as a prep for the upcoming FSC race.

Julio would start with Sport just before us and get a solid start and stick to his pace. His goal today was to find a steady pace he could maintain for the three laps. The plan worked out fairly well completing his first race in a few months and finishing in 5th. Not a bad return. The rest of us would start off with the Base class. With all age groups bunched together, there was about 45 people ready to race, so a clean start would be key to a good race. The horn went off and we had a decent start. I'd get into the trail 4th wheel and Eric and Alex would be close behind in the low teens, and quickly began picking of riders to move up as they could.

As the race continued I came through Lap 1 in 3rd place but 4th was chasing closely. He'd get by me and snuck a decent gap as I grabbed a water bottle. Seems I got caught snoozing here and just couldn't chase back. Midway through the second lap I'd lose another spot while recovering from the repetitive climbing sections. I gave one final chase after I recovered but took a wrong turn into a short trail that wasn't part of the race, costing me time and effectively any chance of catching them. I'd finish 5th on the day.

Eric and Alex meanwhile had a battle on their hands for most of the race. They both came through lap 1 in 3rd place in their respective classes, but each had a chaser less than 10 seconds away. Funny thing about racing against family, even though they're in different classes, bragging rights will probably push Alex (Uncle) and Eric N (Nephew) as hard as a spot on the podium. With Eric still holding a small lead over his 4th place and a little more over his uncle, he'd hammer down a faster second lap to hold on to 3rd place in class by just 8 seconds! Alex meanwhile didn't catch Eric, but also put down a faster second lap to pull away from his chaser and claim 3rd place in class as well.

Turned out to be a solid day for the team with two podiums and everyone in the top 5 of their class. Next stop for us MIGHT be a 12 Hour race this weekend back at Oleta, but if not we'll be back in action at our home FSC event at Markham at the end of the month.  If you were out at La Rooota #7 tell us how your day went in the comments section! Enjoy some of the pics below thanks to Dry Goods.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Race Report & Pics: FSC 2012 #4 - Alafia

Eric G here with race report for FSC #4! (It's a LONG ONE)

After a trip to Gainesville last weekend, the busy 2012 FSC Series continued this week in Alafia River State Park (east of Tampa, FL) Good thing about back to back race weekends is that there's not a lot of time to dwell on the bad stuff. After a tough race in Gainesville, we were looking forward to moving on and Alafia couldn't get here fast enough!.

Twinloc would be handy today

Alex and I would make the trip this time, (with our WONDERFUL WIVES joining us to assist!!). This weekend was straightforward with only the XC races on Sunday so we arrived early on Saturday morning. The Alafia race has usually landed on an unbearably hot weekend, this time would be no different. While rains were usually looming in the distance, the sun was in full effect until just minutes before any passing showers. In the recent past, the Alafia FSC event has consisted of longer than normal 10-11 mile, usually technical and GRUELING loops for the racers. For reasons that I'm not aware of, race promoter Gone Riding mercifully shortened up the laps, and while they were still tough and technical, it allowed racers to pass their pit area for a refresher bottle or energy snack every 30-40 minutes or so. Additionally, the beginning "North Loop" would be cutout from the first lap, thankfully as it it often a source of tremendous bottlenecks that unfairly can ruin a racers day in the first few minutes. The start would instead consist of a half mile fireroad start before hitting the first trail, which ultimately seemed to spread out the racers on the effort alone. We took some time to setup our pit area and after a few recon laps and some lunch, we were happy with the bikes (remember only three weeks into life riding 29ers, Scott Spark FTW) we packed up early for once, beating out the rains and heading back to our hotel for a bit of poolside relaxing.

Last minute pressure check
Race day came and I had the jitters for some reason. I wasn't particularly concerned about anything, just excited for this race. Don't know if it was the long, fast start or relentless nature of the course, but the race time couldn't arrive fast enough! Start time was 11:30, and while this was announced from the beginning of the season, I'm still not used to starting late, so that could have been part of it. To top it all off, the early wave ran a little longer than usual, so our start would be delayed by 15 minutes!

Race time FINALLY arrived and we were ready to go. My XC3 30+ class was as small as I'd remember with only 21 riders at the start. I set the Twinloc on the Spark to full lock and was ready for the whistle. The next 2 minutes were the most perfect start I think I've ever had. I pushed off at the whistle and at first attempt I clipped my second foot in. It was so fast I even hesitated for a second to double check. Feeling it was in I absolutely hammered the start. My first holeshot in AGES!! Shooting to the first corner and continuing to pull the group down the fireroad. Reality set in right about here and I knew I had to back off. It was fun while it lasted and I let a handful of faster riders by just as we entered the first trail. I stuck their wheel for a bit and then had to settle into my own pace. Eventually I'd settle in and be alone for most of the first and half of the second lap.

Alex on down a North Loop drop
Alex would start in the XC3 40+ class which was as big as ever with 32 racers. He set off with a decent mid pack start and was in the low teens entering the first trail. He stayed in a close 9 man train that came through the first lap all within 1 minute of each other. On the second lap he would have a fight on his hands after getting caught up with no room to pass behind a slower rider in a tight trail for a few minutes. When he managed to get around he'd lost sight of the tight group and chased furiously to catch back on. At the end he managed to get them within view but not close enough to gain any positions at the end. In the final trail he did pull away from a chaser so it didn't come down to a sprint. Crossed the line 16th on the day.

Eric winning the sprint for position
With about half of the lap to go, my racing buddy Kirk Ivy caught me. When this happens with Kirk it's usually lights out for me, or some kind of crazy finish. What ensued then was a 20 minute cat and mouse game through the rest of the race. He passed me and I managed to hang on. He got hung up and I got by and tried to get away, and he'd catch up. Back and forth a few more times and he was in front. I tried a late inside move on a tricky corner that he covered well. I knew it would then come to the final flat section to the finish. We exited the final trail to a flat left hander and both absolutely crushed the pedals. I either timed my jump perfectly or this Twinloc is amazing, but I snapped to a quick gap and knew that I just needed to hang on to the finish tape area as it would be hard for him to pass once in there. The 1/4 mile dash was as hard as I've ridden in a race in quite some time with my heart maxing at 201!!. I managed to hold him off at the final turn and crossed the finish line in 15th. Could be better overall, but it was the best result of the season so far, and an amazing way to finish. (And a fun story to describe!)

McCarty chasing the leaders
The Pro race was another exciting show. Series co-Leader Ryan Woodall would not be in attendance so Bob McCarty had a prime opportunity for another win. At the start whistle Bob the POPPED his chain before the first corner. As the rest of the pro's sped away, he calmly repaired his chain on the trail side within 2 minutes and was off and rolling again in chase of the leaders. At the start of lap 2 Shawn Smith was in the lead followed closely by Alex Zambrana. Soon after, I'd see Smith walking back,  ALSO with a broken chain, this one he could not repair though. McCarty would still have a 2 minute gap but was continuing to chase. Fast forward to the last lap and Zambrana was still in the lead. After finishing the North Loop he still had a narrow 20 second lead on McCarty. Bob was on a mission however and would pass Zambrana and take the win by just over a minute. Brent Hall would ride a steady race and round out the podium for 3rd.

We came out of this race feeling a little better. Still have plenty to work on, but results keep improving. No mechanicals, no crashes. Just racing. Next up is a La Rooota Series race then a break until our home race at Markham Park for FSC #6! Short of Eric N's incoming child being born on that day, the full team will finally be together at a race this year as Julio Rodriguez will be back in action. Hope you enjoyed the read and enjoy some pics from the weekend below. Let us know how your race weekend went in the comment section!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Race Report & Pics: FSC 2012 #3 - Gainesville

This weekend took FSC racers to everyone's favorite "climbers" course, Hailes Trail. Eric G here with our race report for FSC #3.

In addition to great riding, Hailes has some nice views
With approximately 350 feet of climbing per lap, Hailes Trails is one of the toughest race courses in the State. Long enough climbs to have to pace yourself, but not enough downhills to recover. Redline here and you're in trouble. Finish the lap off with the "Islands" and you're legs are burning the entire lap! The weekend would be a busy one. Saturday was the makeup Individual Time Trial after the rain out in Tallahassee and Sunday was the main event. The course was in perfect conditions but temperatures were HOT. Racers were either out riding or hiding in the shade the whole day Saturday. By the time the ITT came around everyone was sweating at the line as if they'd just completed a lap.

Eric G fighting one of the climbs
Sunday rolled around and once the morning clouds cleared the Sun was out in full force again. My Garmin had 93 degrees at the line before the start! XC3 30+ wasn't as large as usual with 26 riders at the line. I really wanted a good start, too bad it was terrible! Missed the pedal COMPLETELY while trying to click in after the whistle and was instantly behind half the racers. Sitting somewhere mid pack at the start of the race is never a good thing. Sure enough, into the next trail, someone took a dive in front of me. I had to come to a complete stop and watch the group ride away. Got rolling again. Chased hard to close the gap and was back with the group after bombing down the first downhill. Hit the first extended climb but the quick step up to the long climb is tricky as you land right onto a heavily rutted section as you're starting the climb. The rider just in front of me got hung up a bit there forcing me to take a risky line and I failed at it. I'd have to run up half the climb before remounting, meanwhile watching what felt like the rest of my class pass me by before I hopped on the bike again. All this, in the first 7 minutes of racing....The rest of the race I was playing catch up. Managed to pick off a handful of riders but at that point it was just for pride. I chased back to 20th before not being able to gain any more ground. I had 19th in my sights but was gassed before hitting the final climbing section and had to settle for just maintaining my position. The new Scott Spark 29er was great. No mechanicals and it will definitely be a fast machine once I learn to ride it. This was only the 4th time I'd ridden the bike so I know I can be faster on it. Just need to see where the edge of the envelope is and I'll be in good shape. Gotta get on it quick though!! Still have three races in the next four weeks. Not a good time to be learning a new bike!

Alex nearing the finish
Alex would roll off in XC3 40+ for the first time in the age group. I joked that he was a rookie again! He got off to a solid start and was near the Top 10 for most of the race. His new class buddy, Ivan De Rosa and he were riding hard together back and forth through the race picking off riders and trading places for most of the two laps. Nearing the end of the race a hangup at a tricky section cost Alex a few spots however. Chasing down on him was one more rider that he'd hold off, crossing the line in 16th. Ivan finished 12th so Alex could have finished with a more solid placing at the end of the day had things gone better.

The Pros brought a show for everyone as usual. The season's top two performers went at it again. Bob McCarty and Ryan Woodall each have a win and a second place so far this season, so naturally they TIED on Saturday during the TT, posting IDENTICAL times. How's THAT for competition? Sunday would be no  different. For FIVE laps they'd battle, coming though the finish line each time wheel to wheel. Even posting the same time AGAIN on the 4th lap! On the final lap Woodall, near the last climbing sections, would finally make an attack that would stick, and would cross the line with the win, just eeking out a 10 second gap on McCarty. Shawn Smith, Reagan Woodall and Alex Zambrana would round off the Top 5 in the Pro class. It really was a great race to watch!!

McCarty leading the Pro's at the first downhill
Not a complete disaster of a weekend for us, but a lot to improve on. I started in a hole and was fighting to get out the whole day. Never a good strategy. Alex came out fighting in his new class and with a little better luck can hit the Top 10 realistically. Won't need to simmer on it too long. FSC #4 is this weekend at Alafia!! Check out some pics from the weekend below. Chime in below and let us know how your race went!! Thanks for reading and come back next week for our next report!!