Friday, July 31, 2009

Cyclocross 2009: Who to Watch

Registration is already open for September cross events and the list of competitors in the Cat 3 field for 2009 is looking pretty strong. I used our favorite cyclocross geek's predictive tool to get a sense of what might be in store for the Cat 3 field at the first Verge race of the season.

Let's take a look at what has to say about the performance of the top 5 finishers in VT:

Todd Burns: I don't know Todd. Crossresults tells me he is going to win so I will obviously be looking out for him at the start line. I'll try to follow his wheel and see if I can upset the predictive tool. Todd, if you're out there, let us know what you've been doing this summer to prepare for your upcoming victory (no pressure though)

Pete Sullivan: I saw Pete on the road a bit this summer. He said he'd never raced road events before but he certainly knows how to get around a cross course pretty quickly. With his teammate scheduled to solo to victory, we can expect Pete to provide some excellent blocking and controlling at the front of the chasing peloton. Nantucket Velo (Really? The island has like 15 miles of roads, how can there be a Velo?) looks to be the dominant force in the Cat 3 field so far.

Cary Fridrich: Cary stepped it up in 2008 and from what I've seen in 2009, third place is the lowest we're likely to find him. Don't let his aliases fool you (it's Cary, not Gary or Carey). This season he was crushing it when we attempted the 6 gap and he's been mountain biking a lot lately, building on his handling skills for this season. If Cary avoids mechanicals and uses those newly acquired mtb handling skills, you can expect him to be a series contender as he represents for Embrocation Cycling Journal
Brian Wilichoski: I don't know this cat but looking at his results you can see he has made quick work of the Cat 4 field and many of the Cat 3 racers as well. Look at his nemeses. The only two names are a guy who regularly races UCI level and a guy who dominated the Cat 2/3 field last season. Plus, he is apparently in the minor league/development program with so we can expect the TJ and JPow skills to manifest this season.

Greg Burbridge: This guy will kill you with his unassuming appearance and calm demeanor. Every time I see him at an event I smile. He's a good guy and an even better bike rider. No skinsuits, no shaved legs, and no cocky attitude (obviously not a roadie). I always say to myself I should stick to his wheel. Next thing I know he is gone and I am in a world of hurt. He doesn't bless the New England cross season with his presence nearly often enough but when he does you can bet he will light it up at the front.

I'm sure there will be more names added to the list. I've even heard rumors of last year's series winner returning to defend his title although I would hope he has more class than that.

All around town the talk is about tubulars, non-Verge races, and embrocation. That means cyclocross season is right around the corner. I'll be hitting the trails on the cross bike regularly, perfecting the smooth remount, gluing tubulars, and dusting off the skinsuit. In the meantime, I might get motivated to put up some more profiles so tell me who you think will be at the front when the mud stops flying in December.

No doubt this year will be fun. After all, Zanconato is returning to the scene, so what more could New England cross ask for?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Change of seasons

For a while there I started thinking that 70 degree highs were normal for New England summers. The last two weeks we all got a slap in the face as the humidity and temperatures rose to create those sticky, uncomfortable conditions we know and love in New England. Despite the arrival of summer, I dusted off the cross tires last week while I was on Nantucket. There are some really good trails out there!

This morning I detoured through Cutler Park on the way to work. That place is a blast on the cross bike. It felt so right (despite the heat) to be dismounting, remounting, railing corners, and bunny hopping on the hoods. I'm looking forward to some mtb racing this weekend and then a few more road races (hopefully) and then it is time to CROSS. I'm psyched for cross.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Oops, I think I broked it

After buying my sweet new ride my budget was tapped and I had to reach into my parts bin for used wheels from my stock of used wheels. The first wheelset I installed was a set of King hubs laced to Bontrager rims from 2001 or so. I bought them for pennies from a former coworker who was getting out of the sport. Although they were well built, I thrashed them for 3 years before finally relegating them to the parts bin (mismatched spokes and all). I figured I might as well finish them off so I could justify a rebuild for the new bike. It didn't take me very long and after two rides on the new rig, the rear is finished.

I went deeper into my parts bin for the next rear wheel, a King ISO hub laced to a hefty Sun rim that I built with straight gauge spokes in my "hucking" days. By hucking I mean falling over 3 foot drops and usually tacoing the front wheel. Anyway, this is one of the first wheels I ever built (I am reminded of this when I look at the valve stem that is not properly located between straight spokes, ugh). What was I saying? Oh yeah, I intended to install this wheel on the new rig. As I removed the old disc rotor and cassette body I quickly realized things were not right.

I apparently snapped the axle on this wheel, though not having ridden it in 1+ year I can't remember where or when this might have happened.

I just finished talking to Chris King and they are more than happy to work with me on the repair. Not only did a live person answer my call, but that live person was able to accurately and confidently answer every one of my questions. It's so rare these days to get that level of service from any company, let alone a bike company. But I guess if you are going to expect it anywhere in the Bike Biz, Chris King would be the first place I'd look. So, for $125 a new axle is on its way. When they get my broken one back, I'll get a credit for the cost. In the meantime, I'm stealing my wife's wheels (which are nicer than any of mine anyway). Hope she doesn't mind...