|My team mate Brian Palin showing road technique at MFG #2|
Friday, September 26, 2014
|Matt finishing up with the fancy needlework|
We re-patterned the jacket and are now using French seams which makes it almost completely waterproof. This is it!
Monday, September 22, 2014
Fortunately I’d arrived at the kick-off Cross Revolution race at Silverlake early enough to get in three preview laps. Two words kept circling through my head as I cranked between the tape: cruel and unusual. With its sand and hills I’ve always found Silverlake challenging, but this was nuts, the course setters had managed squeeze a little more hard out of an already hard course.
My warm-up was perfect: three pre-ride laps – slow, medium and fast – fifteen minutes on the trainer and a loosen up jog. My race – Cat 4 45+ Masters – was the first of the day and being the first race of the season the call-ups were according to bib number. My number didn’t come up until the sixth or seventh round (I’ve never had good luck with these random call-ups) but I still managed to get a second row spot.
The start was a bit slow and I hit the first turn onto the grass in fifth position. I quickly moved up into fourth and then third. I was happy holding Jan’s wheel in third but on the second chicane I couldn’t help but pass on the inside. The guy in front – team Bike Masters - slowed on the climb and I passed him, now I was in the lead. Leading the first race of the day was pretty cool; I’ve never been in front before.
According to the spectators who were yelling updates it was quickly turning into a three man race: me, Bike Master and Jan. I saw Jan going the other way on some of the hairpins, so I had some gapage, but Bike Master was on my ass; I could hear him breathing. I was feeling really good on the technical portions and pushed it maybe a little harder than I normally would, but I couldn’t lose that guy.
The sand was totally ridable with the secret being hit it fast and let the bike float. Being in the lead allowed me to ride the sand how and where I wanted. Coming into the final lap Bike Master made a big move and came around. The guy was good at accelerating out of the corners, but I could get him on the hills and in the technical stuff. I stayed within one or two bike lengths trying to walk the line between gassing myself on a pass, taking a technical portion too fast and going down and gunning for the win.
The second to last turn was a hard uphill left and Bike Master went down. This was my chance, but he was too fast getting back on. I tried for a sprint but he had me by two seconds. This was my first podium and I was totally jacked. It was a hard course, I’d rode it clean, and finished well, what more could a fella ask for.
Friday, September 19, 2014
Thursday, September 18, 2014
|Make it look like it hurts - photo by Marsa Daniel|
The big Cyclocross event here in the Seattle area is Starcrossed. It’s our chance to show the East Coast guys that the cross scene here in Seattle is legit. For the past few years the race has been conducted at the Marymore Park Velodrome, not exactly a great venue, but Zack and Terry do the best with what they have.
This will be my final year as a self-seeded Cat 4, and I want to go out with a bang. I’d like to get on the podium at least once, and hey if you’re going to podium you might as well podium at the big race. Since I’d finished sixth place the week prior I was thankfully called up to the front row as the Masters 45+ Cat 4 race had 52 eager guys on the start line.
|Nice helmets on those Cycle U guys|
Right out the get go I hooked a guy’s bars and either sent him into the bushes or onto the ground, I think it was the former. I didn’t get a chance to pre-ride the course and so I took the first lap a bit cautiously, but I was in the top six or seven so I couldn’t take it too easy if I wanted to hold position. Folks were complaining about the dust and ruts but honestly I found the course less dusty and with fewer ruts than in years past.
By lap three I was comfortably in fifth place riding the wheel of a strong guy. I wasn’t feeling super strong, and so I decided to hang on the wheel for a while to see what might happen. On the second to last lap my accomplice and I passed the number three guy and from how it looked we had a fairly good gap on the rest of the field. One and two were out of reach, so now I just had to play it smart and find the right place to attack for third.
|Why we race|
Number three was not giving up easily. He gapped me coming out of every turn forcing me to burn coal to catch up. I figured that I might be able to take him on the final straight to the finish but I missed by one second. Just missing my first podium was a bit disappointing, but I raced well and in the end was beat by a guy who deserved it a little more.
Monday, September 8, 2014
Man oh man is it cross season already. I went into yesterday’s MFG season opener with more than a little apprehension. Cross is scary because cross hurts. It’s all out all of the time, there ain’t no pack in which to take a breather; it’s stay hard or get passed.
My goal for yesterday was to put myself in “call-up” position for the next MFG race. Cyclocross races are started in rows with each row being eight riders wide. The organizers typically call up the top sixteen racers in order of their standing in the series – a front row call up can make the difference between a podium spot and an “also ran” finish. At the start of the first race of the season there haven’t been any points awarded, so the call-up is random, typically according to the last digit on your bib number. My number ends in 2, and yesterday it was the last number to be called up.
The Cat 4 Masters 45+ field was sixty four racers deep, and even though I kind of pushed forward on the right outside I was still starting thirty to forty guys back.
Despite three sand pits the Sammamish GP course was flat and non-technical, combine that with forty minutes on the clock and you have what I call a “fitness” race. Even though I fretted about being out of shape the fact of the matter is that I showed up at Sammamish with thirty three road races and a one hundred mile mountain bike race under my belt. I figured if I could avoid blowing up and simply progressively move forward I’d have a pretty good chance of making my goal of a top eight (thus front row for next race) finish.
Starting forty riders back made a podium finish a nearly impossible goal. If there were four or five strong guys in front of me it would be super difficult for me to make up the time l would inevitably loose pushing my way through the field. I figured that I would go super hard at the start and gain as much ground as much as possible on the first two hundred meters of pavement, then yell and push for the first lap in order to get into a top fifteen spot. From there I could gradually pick guys off during the next four laps.
My initial strategy was to ride the first two sand pits, which I did, but that left me totally gassed as there wasn’t enough distance between the two for me to catch my breath. I came out of the second sand pit gasping for air and consequently lost any ground that I’d gained by staying on my bike. I had ridden the third sand pit during warm-up but staying on the bike during the actual race wasn’t reasonable as the tight left turn leading to the beach proved to be a major choke point.
|Riding the Sand|
My sand running sucked and a friend – Tom Platt – kept passing me on the sand which forced me to work extra hard to catch him on the bike. Tom and I were back and forth for the first two, maybe three, laps.
|Chasing a wheel|
I hit the fourth lap feeling spent but still able to ride hard so I decided to ease back a little in order to hold my position without burning up. Burning up should be reserved for the fifth, and final, lap. The strategy worked, nobody passed me and I held a consistent distance – maybe fifty yards – behind the guy in front of me. As I began the final lap, race announcer Randy Solomon, said through the PA, “Cucina Fresca rider Mike McGuffin in seventh place.” That was some good news: just hold that position and I’d be in the front row next time.
I was gaining slowly on Mr. Sixth Place, and so I decided that it was time to push. He was faster on the sand, I was faster on the bike. On the final beach section I really went to the limit high stepping though the loose sand and maybe even managed to gain a little on my nemesis. I remounted with my body yelling to slow down, and I darn well almost did, but I decided that I’d try to push a little harder, find that little something extra. I remembered what Jens Voight said about his opponents only being human just like himself, and I managed to bridge the gap. Just before the grass turn leading to the paved finish straightaway I pushed past on the left side, threw down as hard as I could to get some separation, took a risk by pedaling through the final turn and then put my head down for the sprint finish. I had no idea where the other guy was but checking out at the results I see that I beat him by one second, so I guess it’s good that I didn’t look back.
Next weekend – Starcrossed.