Friday, February 28, 2014

Race Report & Pics: Coconut Cup #6 2014 - Virginia Key

The race report catch-up game continues! Back again for the SECOND time this week (some kind of record) with our race report for Round #6 of the Coconut Cup at Virginia Key. Here we go!

For the second year, the Coconut Cup returned to Virginia Key for quite possibly the most scenic course location in the series, maybe even the state. Dropped on an island just outside of the City of Miami, Virginia Key has been through many phases in it's history. From a abandoned Military site, a "Colored Only" beach from the '40s to '60s, Closed down in the 80s, then officially reopened to the public in 2008 as an ecological preserve. Under the hard work of the Virginia Key Bicycle Club, the trails first opened in 2011 at approximately 4 miles, and have grown closer to 7 miles, this beautiful location has become a host to multiple Mountain Bike, running and adventure races year round. With some of the views unlike any other in the region, it's no surprise there's been such a quick growth of the trails.

Battled this guy the whole race
(Photo by Mickey Rivera)
Between schedule conflicts and one nagging injury, I would be the only one racing on the day despite battling a stomach bug earlier in the week. After blasting off at the start of the Markham race, and probably not recovered from the stomach thing ( I lost like 4lbs, not good) I decided to go back to a conservative approach and save some energy at the start to hopefully have it left at the end. 12 of us were off at the start and a missed clip in to the pedal sent me right to the back of the group. Perfect I thought, no sense in sprinting to pass half the pack now since I'll be shot after that. I caught on to the tail end of the group and entered the trail last. The pace was solid and we were still connected to the train of riders but my HR wasn't through the roof for once, but my legs were feeling heavy due to the lack of riding leading up to the race. The first trail opens up to a bit of a "dual slalom" type section. My long time racing buddy/rival Pablo Valdevieso was up ahead of me and feeling not so hot so I decided to get around him. Another rider that I think was in my class seemed to have dropped out quick with a mechanical. Great I thought, 2 positions just like that. The next rider wasn't too far ahead and I'd catch up quickly through the trails. On the flats though this guy liked to put down some power, which I just didn't have, so I let him go and focused on catching him in the trails. We ended up playing this game for the first two laps. He'd hammer the flats, and I'd chase down in the trails. I'd pass him, he passed me. It was actually quite fun. Lap 3 came up and we were together. I decided I'd finally need to make a hard effort on a flat and keep him away. I was using a Camelbak for the first time in an XC race so I didn't have to slow in the feed area for a bottle. He did. That's when I made a hard effort and opened up a decent gap. For the rest of the lap I had my head on a swivel, constantly looking back, nervous that I'd get caught. Probably should have just focused on keeping my pace. but ultimately I stopped seeing him in the trails close by. Great I though! I even backed off on my pace in the final two trails, when suddenly, my good friend PABLO was just 3 turns behind me again! We were in the last trail so I managed to keep my lead but I was sure reminded that you can't let off the gas until the very end. End result was 9th on the day and my best finish on the season.

McCarty putting down the winning effort
Enough about me! Pro/Expert field was up and just as in the past events this would boil down to a two man battle. Bob McCarty and Allison Anjos were at their own level right from the start. To get an idea of how fast these guys are, their pace was nearly 17MPH for the day! Lap after lap, just like the previous race at Markham, McCarty and Anjos battled wheel to wheel for the entire race. Last time Allison held off Bob with a finishing kick to the finish. This time McCarty would make sure it wouldn't come down to that. With a powerful surge near the end of the final lap, Bob would put down his 2nd fastest lap of the day and lightly crack Anjos escaping by nearly 45 seconds on the final lap to take the win. Anjos would cruise in comfortably in 2nd. Alex was taking photos and caught a picture at the end and said the usually effortless looking McCarty really had the look of someone putting down a massive effort to get away.

That's it for today. Our season technically ends here however the racing continues as we now start our 2014-2015 schedule with some Endurance races. First one was actually already done as of this writing with the 12 Hours of Santos. Enjoy the pics and come back next week for our Santos report!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Race Report & Pics: Coconut Cup 2014 #5 - Markham

Where has the time gone??? Feels like it was just New Years Eve and now the Coconut Cup has ended and I'm 3 race reports behind! So here we go with Coconut Cup 2014 # 5 at Markham!!

After some dreary weather home races, the day was perfect for a race. The Markham Park Trail Builders had laid out another unique route as they've been recently doing, which kept racers on their toes, just different enough to ruin the muscle memory, but still making it a great Markham course. Boyco, Eric N and myself would be participating in this one with Alex still dealing with a wrist issue.

Eric G grabs the holeshot
Having been mired at the tail end of the Sport class all season, it's been tough. I can say after figuring out my back issues, the form was slightly improving and I was at least fighting it out for some position instead of dangling solo for most of the race. I was feeling particularly spy this weekend and decided it was time for me to take a flyer. Instead of racing smart, I was going to see what my body really had in it. Lined up with my 14 closest race buddies, I waited for that starting whistle. The next minute was somewhat of a blur, but after clipping in quickly and giving a few cranks I was off the line and pulling hard. Unwise? Probably. Fun?? Absolutely! Said it before and will say it again. Scott Spark + Twinlock locked out = FAST. I was ripping down the start stretch with a gap that I couldn't believe. I peered back to the whole group about 3 lengths away. I just kept at it till realizing that realistically, I was going to have to get out of the way pretty soon. Fun as I was having, I didn't want slow these guys up once we hit the trail. I managed to let two series leaders by me just as we entered the trail. I kept a harder than usual pace going for some time, but still let riders pass me as I needed. Everyone gave me kudos for the great start, but I was happy to let them by without holding them up. I'll admit, it hurt. I probably shot my race right there, but it was fun to go for it a little bit after this tough season. I was pretty cooked after just my first lap and settled in to a steady pace. At the end of the day I wound up 11th. Best result on the season, but admittedly had lady luck on my side with a few mechanicals knocking out two riders in my class. But hey, that's racin' and I'll take it!
The Boyco grabs 4th for the podium

Boyco was up in the way too fast Sport 19-29 class. Thankfully he rode a smarter race and after a brief stint with the race leaders he settled in to his own pace. The usually technically savvy Boyco however had a couple of tumbles and lost some time to the 2nd level of riders. Despite the troubles his pace was good enough to land him in 4th place on the day and on the podium. The new guy made us proud and brought home a medal at his second race since joining us.
Eric Norris was up next in XC3 30+. For once it was a manageable size field at 24 riders however he got shuffled at the start and wound up in the low teens heading into the trail. Since his change to 650B wheels, I will say his riding seems generally more comfortable. As we chased him around looking for pics it definitley looked that way as he was slowly picking off riders throughout lap 1, coming through in 14th. By now the field had spread, but he continued to press on and reeled in 2 more riders on his second lap. Coming out of the final trail he was just seconds away from another rider in his class. The long flat to the finish would give him the opportunity to lay chase, but the chasee had the same in mind. Eric would just miss out on catching him before the finish section, but still ended up in 12th place for the day.

Tom Mutch would race well for 3rd
The Pro/Expert Field was a small group but provided some exciting battles. From lap on Bob McCarty and Allison Anjos would separate themselves from the field as the guys to beat on this day. Not too far behind though was a small group of chasers in Tom Mutch, Bret Whitman, and Bala Almeida, all of which have been on the podium this season. Any slip by Bob or Allison and they'd have some company. Lap two came around and McCarty and Anjos had no intention of slowing down. Their chasers meanwhile began to fight attrition, with Mutch and Almeida separating themselves from Whitman. Lap after lap though McCarty and Anjos were locked on each others wheels. Pulling away from the field but not being able to shake the other away. Lap three though would make a difference for Mutch where he would hold a pace that Almeida just couldn't match, coming though on lap 3 with nearly a minute lead for third. The leaders would bring it down to the wire with Anjos entering the finishing tape section first and holding off McCarty to take the win. Mutch would continue his excellent pace and finish 3rd on the day.

Trying out something new so check out the pics below, from our Facebook Page