Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ski Tour #1

Well, after months of anticipation and buying lots of gear, Tanner and I made it out for our first back country tour. It was all I'd hoped for and I'm hooked. We sent some quality time in Bear Trap in BCC. We found some nice, creamy snow on some fun, low angle slopes. Can't wait to get back at it.

Big thanks to Kendall for being our tour guide and answering all our stupid questions. We learned to get skins off without taking skis off from the start. Now there's only about a hundred more tricks to learn.

Kendall and Tanner heading up for lap #2.

I'll take the view.

Kendall and Tanner with Raymond and Gobbler's Knob in the background.
Christmas has been great with the family all together. Too bad it ends too soon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bend Pictures

Here's some pictures from Cross Nationals. Unlike my wife, you don't have to look at all we took.

More people than I've ever seen at a bike race.

Eric ripping it in the Elite race about ready to pass the She/Man.

Even the top dogs suffer in cross.

Tanner getting dirty.

John Burton and Tanner on the icy stairs.

Must be a cross race if the Fox is in uniform.

The Doctor made the ice look easy.

I actually managed to pass someone on the 23 steps of pain.

I managed to not fall in a tricky section for a change.

Depending on the temp, this hill was easily ridable or icy with no chance in traffic.

The Utah Compound.

Big Brother on the podium.

Tanner on the stairs yet again.

Days Inn in Burns OR. minus 12 outside, 45 inside.

Art, Trisha, Doug and Kelly taking it all in as Eric warms up to race the with the big boys.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bend #4

Day 4 of Cross Nationals had the best racing so far. The Utah crew came away with 3 more podiums with Ali, Eric and John Burton and some other solid results.

Tanner raced hard but had some bad luck. Three riders got off the front and Tanner was in the next group of 5 or 6 for the first few laps. He was feeling good but crashed pretty hard in a slick section. He crashed yet again and lost a bunch of positions but hung on to finish 14th. After the race, we discovered one of his rear brake pads was fully engaged on the rim after the 2nd crash. So he basically rode the 2nd half of the race with his brakes on. It was muddy enough that he just thought it was some mud making noise so he didn't get a bike change. Another learning experience for us. John Burton,, who won a number of UTCX single speed races this year, had a great ride to finish 5th. It's a bummer Tanner didn't have some better luck or we could have had two Utah Juniors high up. I was proud of Tanner's effort and was a nervous wreck during the race. It's much worse watching your kid than doing your own race. I'm not sure I could take it all the time. Even with bad luck he had two top 15 finishes in National Championship races this year.

Ali put on a great show in the best race of the day. He was off the front for a few laps then with a group of 3 and then 4. The group included 2 former National Champs and a top Elite racer. In the end, Jonathan Baker and Justin Robinson got by Ali who held off Brandon Dwight for 3rd. A great race and a great effort. Bo Pitkin was equally impressive turning his 108 call up spot into a 17th place finish.

Eric had a super race as well. He was solidly in the top 5 for the first half of the race then flatted coming down a steep off-camber hill. He rode the falt for about a minute to the pits and lost a number of places. After a bike change, he chased back to 5th and held off former National Champ Ryan Leech to make the podium.

Dr. Cross, got things rolling with a 22nd in the 50 - 54 this morning followed by Art and Jon G breaking the top 20 in the 40 - 45 with Art having bad luck as well. Matt Ohran finished in the top half as did Mike Kracht after starting near the back of 150+ guys. Kelly Glen was just ahead of Mike when he flatted and had to run about half a lap.

The crowds were larger and louder today and the weather warmer. The slick ice softened up to a thin layer of mud making the course much faster. Another good day to be at the races.

We're on the road tomorrow as soon as the Elite men's race is over. I'm looking forward to getting home but not looking forward to the ride.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bend #3

Today didn't go as well as yesterday for the Cottle crew. The only race on tap was my 45 - 49 National Championship race. After killing time all day waiting for my 3:30 start time, I was called up 37th and started on the 5th row. Exactly the same spot as yesterday. There was "only" about 115 starters today. As expected, the big hitters were all present and accounted for today and the pace was wicked fast. I was hoping for a top 25 finish but it would be a challenge since everyone ahead of me was a Cat 1 fast guy.

The first few laps went fairly well and I was in the mid to high 20's. Just like yesterday, the course was fast in some sections and super icy in others. With some cloud cover, it was basically dark most of my race and the temperature dropped the whole race making it icier each lap.

I actually liked the slippery conditions and kept it upright through all the difficult sections. Ironically, I managed to hit the deck on the pavement. Coming into the finish with 3 laps to go, there was gaps between all of us so you could relax a little on the pavement. As I crossed the finish line I was on the right side of the road up against the fencing. For some reason, the only guy near me tried to pass in between me and fence when he had the whole road open on the other side. There wasn't room for the pass and we both ended up in the fence and on the ground in the fastest section of the course. I wasn't hurt too bad and got going again but had to change bikes. By then I dropped back to the mid 40's and didn't get really going again until the last lap. I did finish strong to get back some places.

All in all, I'm happy with the effort and how I rode. Without the crash, I could have challenged for a top 25 and I felt good both days. I probably had the best form of the season, so I can't complain about that. Even though the Nationals races are harder than anything I do all year, I love the atmosphere and the large fields full of the best competition. Just a little slip and you lose 2 or 3 positions. If you make a solid move through a difficult section, you pass 2 or 3 guys. Having large crowds yelling for you and giving a big cheer if you ride a difficult section is a blast.

On a more positive note, Kris Walker repeated as the 45 - 49 women's National Champion in a photo finish. Very cool and another podium for the Utah related crew. Tomorrow, Tanner races the 17-18 Juniors in the morning and Eric has the 30 - 34 in the late afternoon darkness. Just about all the other Utah crew including Ali, Art, Dr. X, Kelly, Krafty and Bo race as well. I'm looking forward to sending 8 hours just watching. The forecast is calling for snow and/or freezing rain so it should be interesting.

I've got a bunch of pictures I'll post at some point when I'm not as tired.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bend #2

Pretty good day for the Cottle's at Cross Nationals today. Doug had the National Championship race in the 60 - 64 and made the podium with a hard fought 5th! He was a stud and it was cool to watch. He made a pass late in the final lap to make the podium. He made his little brother proud with a huge effort. He rode well in tricky conditions and gave Utah it's first but hopefully not last podium.

Tanner was 6th in the under 30 "B" race. He didn't really push it hard because he was just practicing for Saturday's Junior race. He got a good feel for the course, road all the slick, icy stuff well and had a good time.

I raced the 40+ "B" race and it was crazy. They did a random number call up based on the last digit of your bib number. With 141 starters, the luck of the draw played into the results. I was the 3rd group called up and was on the 5 row of 8 riders. Kelly Glen was not so lucky and was the next to last group called up so he started back about 12 rows. However, he rode very well and passed about a 100 guys to finish 37th.

The race went well for me and I managed to move up to finish 10th. I had a good battle with the guy who lined up next to me the entire race. It was really fun and a pretty hard effort. The conditions were very difficult for my group. We started at 3:30 and the sun went below the horizon with about 15 minutes to go. The temps dropped and the course turned into an ice rink in many sections. At the same time it turned more icy, we started working through lappers. It was more than a little scary in some sections. I heard there were 4 ambulances called in to cart off those unfortunate to hit the deck hard. I managed to keep it upright but had many close calls.

Most of the locals are now here and our base camps are close to each other. Bob Walker was doing well in the 55 - 59 until a guy put him hard enough into the fence to break the post. He toughed it out a finish, but it was really unfortunate.

More fun on tap for tomorrow. I'm the only one of our crew with a race with my 45 - 49 group starting at 3:30 again. Should be another ice rink at the end only with a lot faster guys. If I go as good as I did today, I have a chance to move up a little from my 5th row start position.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bend #1

We made it to Bend for Cross Nationals without any trouble. It was almost like cheating after our drive to Kansas the last two years. No stress and or near death experiences.

We've got a pretty sweet set up here in Bend. We're sharing a condo with some of the Utah crew that's about a mile from the race venue. We were also able to stake out a prime spot for our warmup compound. We only had 9 bikes this year in the trailer. Again, much less stress.

The course is interesting and not what I expected from watching the video posted on line. It's in a pretty small area and the lap is relatively short, probably in the 7 minute range for em in today's conditions. There's lots of turns and twists and tricky sections. There's a staircase with about 20 steps build out of wood that is pretty sketchy with the snow and ice. There's about 2 - 3 inches of snow on most of the course and with temperatures below freezing, it's not going anywhere for a few days. They did clear the snow from the grass section so it's pretty open.

With no super fast, power sections the course is all I could hope for. However, with the snow, ice and tight turns, passing will be difficult. With my start positions 4 or 5 rows back, it will be next to impossible to to make a big move up. Things will come to a complete stop in many spots on the first lap. With the Cat 4's at the back of a 150+ Masters fields and a fairly short lap, guys will be getting lapped quickly. That sucks. The organizers should be required to make a long lap so racers at the back that made the effort to get here can actually make it most of the race.

Tanner, Kelly and I have the "B" race tomorrow and Doug has the 60 - 64 National Championship race. Lots to report on then.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Coming to an End

The cross season's just about over. A week from now, I'll be done. The season hasn't turned out like I wanted, but it's still been good to hang out with the best group of people in cycling. About this time of the season, I'm reminded that cross races are just plain hard. With my injuries and sickness this year, an hour at full gas has been a challenge. Even though I haven't been going as fast as I should, the suffering is on track.

The highlight of the season has been the growth of the Utah cross scene. It's great to see significant increases in the number of racers and the level of competition. It's not just one or two categories, the increases have been across the board. The Cottle family (other than me) has had a good year with Doug and Tanner making big improvements. Ali, Eric and Alex have stepped up their game so that Bart has to have a good day to win. It's good for everyone.

Bend should be a good time. Looks like we'll be racing in mud or snow. The Utah contingent should be strong with Ali, Eric, Art, Tanner, Doug and others having solid shots at the podium or the Jersey. I love the atmosphere of the Cross Nationals and like watching the racing as much as actually racing. I can't wait.

Hopefully, there will be snow when we get back. I've got lots of new backcountry ski gear screaming to be used.