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Cyclocross Hits The NW Like a Ton of Bricks!

October 21st, 2009

The Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, checks in with bike racer and brand team member, James Whitesides. Here James describes the enormously active (and slightly contentious!) Pacific Northwest cyclocross scene…

Come to Seattle because good fun is being had by everyone in the PNWCX scene! If you don’t know what that is don’t worry; Scotty came up with it last month for our beer cozies. Rivalries have been restarted, racing has been fast (and big), and we are just about to get some real rain. After spending the better part of four days in Las Vegas at Interbike it has been great to be home and enjoying our trails and racing. Lots of people are sure that the Northwest is rainy and nasty in the winter but being from the MItten I find it to be much more enjoyable than everyone lets on. As the days get shorter out come the lights and the knobbies and everyone gets their lube on nice and thick.

Nick and I started sampling the joys of fall and winter riding here in the northwest last week at Tiger Mountain State Forest. Logging constantly disrupts our use of the trails, and we are forced onto about 1/16th of the parks trail system to stop “erosion” caused by mountain bikes. I find it a little hard to swallow some of the vitriol that greets us every time we run into hikers on trails that are designated multi use when they have just walked through a massive clear-cut to get to the trail we are riding in the trees.

Talon 5.5

Talon 5.5

Luckily, Nick and I only saw one other soul out there and he was cruising up to the top of the hill to ride the Preston Trail down and up (not the usual exit) thanks to a closure so we knew that there would be little to distract us from some great riding in the rain. I had the Talon packed with my camera and we played around with shooting a few poor quality movies just for the heck of it. Nothing like tight rooty single track in the wet! Only two and a half hours of riding and I was sore that night. I realized that I hadn’t ridden over an hour since the Rapha ride in the middle of September!

Despite a little mountain biking, Cyclocross (CX) has been dominating my riding schedule lately and I am finally having consistent races. As of today I am 4th in the MFG Cat 3 field after three races and I think I might be able to get that top step with a little bit of luck. I raced the Cross Crusade race in Rainier, OR this weekend and I am more than impressed with what they bring to the table. If anyone doubts that Oregon is the heart of CX in the good ol’ US of A then they need to take a look at the result sheets.

Our biggest races in WA bring out 900 people for the day. Their average is around 1200 and they just held the biggest CX race ever with about 1450 racers. That’s a lot of people! Not only do they have a ton of racers but they also make it feel a lot more like Europe than anywhere else I have raced. However, we did steal the Grail de Grunge this weekend with a fine showing on Saturday in Seattle and a little bit of craziness on Sunday. There will be a lot of talk over the next week in the blogosphere about how crazy seven guys from Seattle are for stealing the cup from right under the noses of a guy with a sledgehammer. If you doubt my story go check out the pictures on the Cross Crusade site. I can only say that I acted in the heat of the moment and we are all lucky that no one really got hurt (except Brett but he only bled for ten minutes). People are keen to defend the honor of the their cross scenes! I hope that means we are going to see a more consolidated racing schedule over the next couple of years where SCX, MFG and the Cross Crusade work together for the betterment of each series.

Ed.’s note: Check out this story and video on Wend for a better idea of what James is describing!

Driving home from Seattle all of us were stoked to talk about some long rides this winter and we are all planning on doing some long races this winter. After seeing the new hydration pack online and the Flapjack at Interbike (Thanks Osprey for supporting Bike Hugger) I am really excited to test the new stuff and I am already dreaming up ways to abuse some packs!

For more information about James, see his profile page here.

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24 Hours of Spokane, WA

June 2nd, 2009

The Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, checks in with bike racer and brand team member, James Whitesides. Here James describes his team’s experience in the 24 Hours of Spokane endurance mountain bike race …

You never know how much you are going to suffer until it is too late to change your mind. About a week before the 24 Hours Round the Clock in Spokane it looked like my four-man team had shrunk to just two healthy members. Nick had a sinus/lung/generally-not-good illness going on and Jon was nursing a tweaked knee (and he rides a single speed). Despite all of this, the “uBRDO Man Bots” made it to the line at noon on Saturday and finished the race the next day in 8th, only three laps off of the winning pace.

image courtesy of www.roundandround.com

The “Round the Clock” 24 hour event is a team relay mountain bike race, beginning at noon on Saturday and ending at noon on Sunday. Teams compete for medals, prizes and bragging rights. Anyone who can ride a bike can do this. Bring your camping gear, bike gear and whatever else will keep you going for 24 hours…then come out and get dirty with us.

I “chamoised up” at 11:30 to start the race and with a Lemans start (a 400 meter run uphill to the bikes) and in a flash I was racing. I started my first lap on my singlespeed; big mistake. My run put me immediately in 12th and the first climb was short and steep, perfect for my gear ratio, and allowed me to move up a couple of spots. Then we got to the first flat section. Geared riders, most of them expert or semi-pro racers, were slowly catching me then hovering just a few feet in front of me until we would hit little downhills where they could accelerate. 12th soon became 20th after the long climb on the course proved too long for my gearing. I slowly clawed my way past a couple of riders on a technical section, and then they passed me back on another long flat. Winding through a burned clearing I could see the leaders about six minutes up on me just exiting the section I was just starting. Then I got to the pavement. I hovered in between riders and caught a couple towards the long descent that marked the end of the lap. I handed off my timing chip to Mark and immediately felt drained. With the run I clocked in at 1:01.

Night laps proved to be almost no impediment to our lap times and we had some great rides. My lap at 1 am was crazy. I had my light helmet mounted and I felt like I was riding almost in daylight wherever I looked. I let my eyes drift a little and the edge of the light was so dramatic that the woods looked pitch black. Without a moon to help light my peripheral vision I really relied on the power of the Seca 700 light to see. This was my fourth lap and I was amazed to pass so many people. I finished the lap and immediately got back to camp and into my sleeping bag for about two and a half hours of sleep. I woke up around five, kitted up, and left for another go-round. After Nick’s fifth lap I decided to go out for a sixth to keep us in the top ten. I rode my third fastest lap and felt that I could have done another had I needed to but we decided that finishing on 21 laps and feeling at least a little bit normal was going to be better than having me or Mark attempt to ride a 22nd. I finished the last lap through the timing tent with a little bit of flair and we all felt good about our race.

Our team did pretty well: I learned that my Osprey Talon is absolutely awesome (I was the only one who didn’t complain about my pack) and that I can push myself longer than I thought (91 miles on six laps to be exact), Mark learned that eight Coors the night before is not a good idea (he was still the fastest on the team), Jon learned to stick with what he knows (but that he can also ride four laps missing most of the skin on his left hip), and Nick learned that he should not let himself get sick (and that he is, after all, a redhead).

If you never considered racing your “thing” or thought that in order to race you had to be super fit you should come to a 24 hour race in order to see that the best part about racing is not the race itself but the people you get to meet and the sheer fun of being sleep deprived and giddy. Despite spending all of last week in a fog we are already planning for next year. Endurance racing is a bug that is hard to ignore!

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