Monthly Archives: February 2013

2013 Southern Cross Race Report

Me and race promoter, ultra mtb racer Eddie O'Dea at the awards presentationMe and race promoter, ultra mtb racer Eddie O'Dea at the awards presentation

Quick summary
1st place overall! Thomas Turner dropped me about halfway up the first climb, but I ended up catching him again just before the start of the final descent (35 miles later) before he dropped me again on the descent. He had a good 20 second lead by the bottom of the descent, but I was able to catch him again on the steep rollers back on the road. I attacked on the last steep hill, got a small separation, and then drilled it as hard as I could on the final drag back to the winery. It was just enough so that I could make it through the winery and still hold onto win!

Heartrate data
Annotated heartrate/elevation/speed plot (click to enlarge)Annotated heartrate/elevation/speed plot (click to enlarge)

Heartrate zone/time/avg speed summary Heartrate zone/time/avg speed summary

Strava course segment comparison Strava course segment comparison

The heartrate/elevation/speed data above pretty much tells the race, but here is how the race played out with as many details as I can remember. It was cold at the start with temps hovering around freezing and expected to stay there all day. By the top of the first climb, there was fresh snow (just light dusting) on the dirt road with some ice and slush in some of the ditches alongside the road. One glimpse towards the top of Springer Mountain, and you could see all the trees dusted with snow and shining bright white. At about that same time, it started to snow again — just some light flakes but enough to make it epic.

But back to the start — the opening cyclocross course was more difficult this year with some slick sections that seemed to slow everybody down. Some mud and a little bit of ruts made the opening cyclocross course tricky, only Thomas Turner (Jamis) was able to ride the run-up, but even then his rear wheel was slipping so he wasn’t able to get away from the rest of us who were running. Leaving the winery, we were straight into a stiff headwind and I was able to chase onto a group of about 15-20 riders including: Thomas, Garth Prosser, Gerry Pflug (racing singlespeed this year), Michael Simonson, Jerry DuFour, James Monk, and maybe 10 other guys. I looked back just before we made the left turn off of Hightower about 3 miles into the race, and there was a second larger group of maybe 20-30 riders only a few seconds back. Once we made that left, though, Thomas drilled it and I knew that there was no worry about the second group catching back up to ours. Thomas stayed on the front the entire time with Michael, Garth, and I taking turns trying to hold his wheel through the steep rollers.

Pretty soon there was just five of us left at the front: Thomas, Garth, Michael Simonson, Jerry Dufour (from Birmingham!), and me. This probably would have been the Top 5 for the race, but Jerry double flatted. Thomas set a brutal pace whittling the group down to just me, Jerry, and Michael. Then about halfway up the climb, Thomas hit one of the steep sections hard, and in short succession Jerry, Michael, and I all came off. This made for a lonely race because we didn’t come off at the same time (maybe spaced a couple minutes apart?). I quickly lost sight of Thomas, and he had 3 minutes by the top of the climb (time split from the aid station volunteers).

Snow, ice, and mud across the top of Springer Mountain made for a tentative descent — even though the descent itself was mostly dry. I started to feel better by the Cooper Gap climb and settled into a good rhythm on the climb, which basically consisted of hard tempo on the flatter sections and then standing up and drilling the steep sections. Fortunately, it was smooth enough that I could lock out the front suspension and torque on the bars pretty good to aid the standing up sections. The farther I got up the climb, the more I was realizing that there wasn’t anybody catching me. So this gave me a lot of motivation to push it hard to the top of the climb. Going through the aid station, I drilled it again through the rollers and still felt good through the next rollers, where I have felt pretty bad in previous years.

Then at the bottom of the first steep step of the descent (see heartrate/elevation plot), I flew into the next steep climb and could see Thomas about 3/4 of the way up it — maybe less than a minute ahead!!! I drilled it up this climb and nearly blew myself up in the process as my legs were screaming by the top. Fortunately, there was a long downhill before the next steep roller, and I settled into a more reasonable rhythm on this second climb and caught Thomas at the very top. Even on his cross bike (with me on my mountain bike), he dropped me on the long descent and had a good 15-20 second lead by the time we hit the pavement. I was able to catch him again on one of the last rollers before the sharp turn, narrow road, and steep paved climb. I attacked on the steep climb knowing that I would need a good lead going into the winery if I was to have any shot at winning. I got a little bit of separation, but he was still right there (only a few seconds back) as I turned onto Hightower.

I had been psyching myself up to try and ride the final run-up, but there was a car that got in my way driving slowly down to the run-up so I didn’t have any momentum and decided to just run up it. By the top, Thomas still hadn’t reached the bottom so I felt much better about my chances to hold on. Still, I kept expecting him to come flying by at any moment so I didn’t let up until all the way up the final steep grassy climb across the ditch and then onto the pavement for the last tenth of a mile to the line! So happy to win Southern Cross … that also makes for a nice odd mathematical progression of 5th in 2011, 3rd in 2012, and 1st in 2013!

The final 30% run-up plus 100% at the bottomThe final 30% run-up plus 100% at the bottom

BBL Wrap-up plus Huntsville Climbing

This weekend was quite the kicker of a way to end the training season and dive headlong into racing season … starting next weekend with the southern cross race. Here’s a quick look at what I believe I’ll be racing the next few weeks:

Feb 16 - southern cross (mtb)
Feb 17 - gsmr training race #1
Feb 24 - gsmr training race #2
Mar 3 - gsmr training race #3
Mar 10 - rouge roubaix
Mar 16-17 - union city (crit, rr)
Mar 23 - hell of the south

Yesterday was an epic 102 mile day with BBL with four attack zones and koms, adventuresome climb up bass pro cement road (close to 35% gradient), and followed up by more climbing with Mark through Mountain Brook and Vestavia. Today, Kristine was working up in Huntsville so I tagged along to do some riding/climbing up in Huntsville.

First, the scoop on today’s ride up in Huntsville … Kristine was working her admin assistant job for the army reserve center up in Huntsville, so I decided to tag along to try to get a good long climbing ride exploring some new climbs and putting in a couple hard KOM efforts on others. I ended up falling a few seconds short on the Monte Sano climb (kudos Mark) but taking the Hawk’s Nest one. Here’s a view from the top of monte sano looking back down torwards Huntsville with the space and rocket center visible in the background (look for the tall white rocket).

View of downtown Huntsville and the Space and Rocket center from the top of Monte SanoView of downtown Huntsville and the Space and Rocket center from the top of Monte Sano (click to enlarge and read the annotations)

At this point in the ride, the temp had climbed into the mid 50s with a few clouds and even a little bit of sun. After exploring another Cat 3 climb on the Monte Sano ridge line, I headed down 431 towards Keel and the super steep Blowing Cave climb. As I approached Keel, it started to rain a bit off and on but nothing heavy or steady. By the top of the Blowing Cave climb, though, it was starting to rain a little more frequently so that by the time I had turned around and climbed Keel from the backside and then descend on the frontside it was pouring … and the temp was down into the 40s … and I had shorts and short finger gloves on. I immediately decided to cut out a huge chunk of the ride … Woodville to Skyline (Cat 2) … and trade it for an additional climb up Keel. This worked out well because the additional climbs up Keel kept me warm enough so that I wasn’t hypothermic for the descent down Blowing Cave.

That descent was insane in the heavy rain and cold. I knew I couldn’t get up too much speed because there would be no way to brake hard enough and turn without sliding out. Still, the super steep section towards the bottom (20% avg for 0.3 miles) I outran my brakes and had to negotiate some of the turns at much higher speed than I felt comfortable doing. By the bottom, I was frigid but thankful I hadn’t fallen and that I could start hammering again to try to generate body heat. Fortunately, I had a nice tailwind for a large part of the next ride so I was able to crush the 53×11 to a gas station near 4 mile post rd (east side of cecil ashburn). I spent a while warming up in the gas station drinking $1.09 ($1.18 with tax) 20 oz cappuccino before braving the cold rain again. Absolutely freezing and even with a tailwind and a Cat 3 climb, I still almost crashed coming down Cecil Ashburne with speed wobble because I was shivering so badly! Fortunately, once I made it to the bottom again, there was an awesome tailwind, a lot of open road, and a lot of green lights. I arrived back at the armory sooner than expected. As soon as I stopped riding, though, and my heartrate dropped I got so cold that I was shivering again uncontrollably for a good 5 minutes until I had warmed up in the car in the parking lot with the seat warmer on and heat blasting at 90 degF. Here’s pic of the conditions (it had been raining hard for the last 35 miles of my ride) at the armory after I had stopped shivering enough to get a picture:

Warming up in the car at the reserve center after the ride while Kristine is working. Very cold rain for the last 35 miles of the ride.Warming up in the car at the reserve center after the ride while Kristine is working. Very cold rain for the last 35 miles of the ride.

Here’s the iBike data from the ride and from some of the popular Huntsville climbs…

Summary of all climbs listed below
                                  Dist     Avg% Max%  Gain
Bankhead 4-way stop (Monte Sano)  3.63 mi  4.98 12.0  990 ft
Big Cove - Governor's Bend        2.07 mi  6.57 23.3  786 ft
Blowing Cave Wall (Keel Mtn)      0.30 mi 19.91 26.8  309 ft
Blowing Cave Complete (Keel Mtn)  3.83 mi  4.49 26.8 1050 ft
Keel Backside (north) (Keel Mtn)  1.55 mi 11.20 17.4  895 ft
Keel Frontside (south) (Keel Mtn) 1.88 mi  9.39 25.2  897 ft
Cecil Ashburne (east)             2.02 mi  5.47 12.6  582 ft
Bankhead from 4-way stop (Monte Sano)
Dist:        3.63 mi (0:15:38)
Climbing:     990 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power      46  326.4   684  W
Speed     9.5   14.0  27.4  mi/h
Slope    -4.0   4.98  12.0  %
HR        142  170.0   182  bpm
NP:332W IF:1.13 TSS:33 VI:1.02
168 lbs; 2/10/2013 7:59 AM
48 degF; 990 mbar
Big Cove - Governor's Bend (Monte Sano)
Dist:        2.07 mi (0:14:21)
Climbing:     786 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  243.1   420  W
Speed     3.9    8.7  23.6  mi/h
Slope    -6.0   6.57  23.3  %
HR        119  139.1   150  bpm
NP:261W IF:0.88 TSS:19 VI:1.07
168 lbs; 2/10/2013 8:52 AM
50 degF; 990 mbar
Blowing Cave Wall (Keel Mtn)
Dist:        0.30 mi (0:04:11)
Climbing:     309 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power     187  304.0   409  W
Speed     3.1    4.4   8.6  mi/h
Slope     8.6  19.91  26.8  %
HR        141  148.9   155  bpm
NP:311W IF:1.05 TSS:8 VI:1.02
168 lbs; 2/10/2013 10:03 AM
51 degF; 990 mbar
Blowing Cave Complete (Keel Mtn)
Dist:        3.83 mi (0:19:59)
Climbing:    1050 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  256.1   496  W
Speed     3.1   11.5  35.1  mi/h
Slope   -10.7   4.49  26.8  %
HR        126  141.7   155  bpm
NP:273W IF:0.92 TSS:28 VI:1.07
168 lbs; 2/10/2013 10:02 AM
51 degF; 990 mbar
Keel Backside (Keel Mtn - North)
Dist:        1.55 mi (0:14:57)
Climbing:     895 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  254.0   427  W
Speed     4.6    6.2  21.3  mi/h
Slope     1.7  11.20  17.4  %
HR        121  137.0   142  bpm
NP:257W IF:0.87 TSS:19 VI:1.01
168 lbs; 2/10/2013 10:27 AM
52 degF; 990 mbar
Keel Frontside (Keel Mtn - South)
Dist:        1.88 mi (0:16:00)
Climbing:     897 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  248.6   449  W
Speed     3.9    7.1  23.4  mi/h
Slope    -4.2   9.39  25.2  %
HR        123  134.0   142  bpm
NP:253W IF:0.85 TSS:19 VI:1.02
168 lbs; 2/10/2013 11:05 AM
45 degF; 990 mbar
Cecil Ashburne from Hwy 431 (east side)
Dist:        2.02 mi (0:10:47)
Climbing:     582 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  276.4   604  W
Speed     0.0   11.3  24.1  mi/h
Slope    -0.6   5.47  12.6  %
HR        111  138.5   146  bpm
NP:287W IF:0.97 TSS:17 VI:1.04
168 lbs; 2/10/2013 12:25 PM
44 degF; 990 mbar

Now, the BBL videos from the attack zones and the climbs – in reverse order starting with the Bass Pro climb.

Mark and Kyle at the bottom of the bass pro climb (click to view the annotations)Mark and Kyle at the bottom of the bass pro climb (click to view the annotations)

Bass pro climb
Dist:        0.22 mi (0:02:31)
Climbing:     218 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power     124  349.7   582  W
Gravity   100  316.0   448  W
Speed     3.4    5.4  11.2  mi/h
Slope     3.1  18.05  33.2  %
Cadence    32   49.1   102  rpm
HR        133  164.7   178  bpm
NP:374W IF:1.27 TSS:7 VI:1.07
168 lbs; 2/9/2013 12:11 PM
58 degF; 990 mbar