Peak Season Series

Name: Chad Rosser
Place 2nd
Category: CX 35+ B
Team Mates: none
Field Size: 12
Conditions: cloudy, chilly, and super muddy

Race Report: The promotors of the Peak Season Cyclocross series were responsible for reviving the Surf City Cyclocross Series this year, so Peak Season was left as a single race (not a series) to finish up the NCNCA cyclocross season. The event was scheduled at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville, which is a very fun playground for CX racers, and is a place that gets pretty chewed up and muddy after a simple little morning frost. With heavy rains falling for the last week and a half, everyone knew, or at least thought they knew what would be in store come race day.

I arrived early enough to get a couple of practice laps on my back up (pit) bike purposely aiming to keep my race bike clean until the gun went off. I wasn't more than 250 meters in the course and I found myself riding through a mud bog. This was what I would consider (at the time of the practice laps) to be "soupy" mud in that it has enough water content that it covers everything but doesn't stick to everything with any kind of thick cake. About half way through my first practice lap the sounds coming from my drive train was starting to sounds like raw metal parts grinding against each other. I tried making micro adjustments with both the front and rear derailleur cables, but that didn't help. I figured it was just soupy mud clinging to the cranks and bottom bracket so I continued around the course to finish the lap and then went through it one more time to finalize my memory of the course.

Luckily the fairground have hoses near the horse stables which are at the end of the starting straight away, so I got my pit bike cleaned up well enough so that it would be ready for me, and then positioned it in the pit along that same straight away. After registering and watched the start and first lap of the C's race then got back to my car to suit up, fuel up, and get my race bike ready for race time.

There were only 12 of us on the starting line, most of them familiar faces from the last 4 months of CX racing. I knew that I needed to keep my eye on a few of them but knew that for a race like this, the course would do a lot more damage than the riders would do on each other. The gun went off and I was quickly into sprint mode and captured the hole shot, which is an off camber right turn up a hill and around a tree before shooting back down into a soft left turn and into the swamp (it was no longer soupy mud). I hit that and immediately realized that the course was no longer like it had been during my 2 practice laps and I was clearly in the wrong gear. I was able to shift but lost some momentum and was passed by Dean Dealy from DaSalvo Cycles (a Santa Cruz local). I stayed on his wheel through the mud bog (some areas looking more like murky ponds) up the run up stairs and around the pig corrals which then drop us into an steep off camber downhill section. Trying my best to stay on the high side of the hill I still slid out and found myself down on the ground with my bars hooked around the course marker post on the low side of the hill. Got it untangled and tried to re-mount the bike but my front wheel was locked up as the brake was jammed against the rim. After pulling that loose I was back on and now chasing in about 6th position. I made some passes as we weaved our way around each slippery turn through the horse stables, up the big run up hill, and after lap 1 I was sitting in 3rd spot. Got into 2nd position somewhere along that lap but it seemed like Dean was flying and gaining time easily.

I decided to give lap 3 some extra effort and see whether I could cut into the gap but trying a little too hard through the mud bog cost me as I slid out on a hard left turn and found myself laying in the mud, both hands buried, my left side now soaked and covered in dark mud, and my bike looking nearly as bad. Had to run from there and up the steps before re-mounting and finding that my bike was still relatively smooth I hit it hard again, only to slip out once more and go down in the same off camber downhill section. Clearly this wasn't going as planned for my extra effort and now I had Scott Schlachter from Team Wrong Way breathing down my neck. Got myself going yet again and decided that I needed to concentrate a lot more on my balance through the turns as pushing it through those turns wasn't working. The rest of the lap and then lap 4 were by best laps and I found that I had cut into Dean's lead by quite a bit and what had been probably up to 30 seconds was now down to 15 seconds with 1 lap to go. Onto the bell lap and I had shed Scott from my wheel. If I could have a clean and fast lap maybe I could make things close. The mud bog had other plans for me and decided that it was time for me to make another "sits mark" for the riders behind me to deal with. I was down again followed by more running through the mud. The rest of the final lap was "clean" as far as not wiping out but I didn't have anything more to give other than my efforts to turn the cranks (now in full granny gears on the flat muddy sections) and stay upright.

We finished in that same order with Dean crossing the line a full 50 seconds ahead of me (lap 5 was clearly my slowest lap) and Scott was 30 seconds behind me. I don't think that a mid-race bike switch would have made any difference for me today, so I'm not second guessing the decision to pass up my pit bike each lap. Everyone had smiles on their faces as they came across the line as we had survived what was probably the toughest cyclocross course conditions available. As we headed to the hoses to somewhat clean up our bikes and ourselves, we all were in agreement that a race like this was the perfect way to finish up the cyclocross season.

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Central Coast Series

Name: Chad Rosser
Place 2nd
Category: CX 35+ B
Team Mates: none
Field Size: 13
Conditions: cold and rainy and FINALLY muddy

Race Report: With rain during the week leading up to the series final of CCCX, we would finally have the mud we've been waiting all season for. The only "problem" was that the final race was at Ford Ord and that means sand, which loves to find its way into chains and gears and make shifting not so smooth. It rained the whole way down to Monterey but seemed to let us a little for the early morning practice laps. The course was fast with some very slick spots, tight turns, and one long uphill climb at the start of each lap.

Only 13 brave souls showed up for the rainy race and just before we started the rain started coming down again. Having missed 2 of the previous events in the series I was well out of the running for the overall, but I was there with the goal of starting out the year with a win. The gun went off and I got a good start up the hill and slotted into 3rd position behind Mike Morgan (Sycip) and Mike Hyde (Buy-Cell) who were 2nd and 1st respectively in the series. Made it around the first lap without any casulties so lap 2 had a few fireworks to try to shed some of the riders off the back. Mike Morgan got a little gap off the front with Hyde, me, and Ted Burns from Webcor A/V following. I kept coming around Hyde to close the gap and he seemed to be slowing things down through the technical sections but then he'd go full blast on the straight aways to get in front of me each time and this allowed Morgan's gap to build to maybe 10 seconds after the 2nd lap. For lap 3 I hammered up the hill and closed to within 3 seconds of Morgan and then caught his wheel on the twisty (and slippery) descent and at about this time the rain really started coming down and the course got extra mucked up and getting through the turns was a little slower process.

Had a little gap on Ted Burns at the start of lap 4 up the hill (still on Morgan's wheel) but I slid out on a hard downhill left turn and had to spend a few seconds to get back up, grab my downed bike, bash the left shifter to make it somewhat straight again, then get back on and start chasing. That delay allowed Morgan to work on his gap even more and now Ted Burns was breathing down my neck. I could no longer see Mike Hyde so barring any mechanicals it was going to be between Morgan, Burns, and me for the win. As much as Ted would have liked me to wait up for him a little more so that we could work together to chase down Morgan, I was feeling strong and my adrenaline was pumping after the wipe out and I just went into hammer mode. Morgan unfortunately was doing the same up the hill on lap 5 and extending that gap. There is one straight away area on the course with a hairpin 180 degree turn that traces its way back on the course so you can see your competition at that point and when I got there on lap 5 I knew that it would be tough, if not impossible, to catch Morgan unless he went down or got a flat tire. At the start of the final lap I was told the gap was 20 seconds to Morgan and my chasing efforts on lap 5 had cooked my legs pretty good so the hill climb for me was a bit of a suffer fest. I had 10 seconds on Ted Burns at that point and with the course now a sloppy mess I know I was being extra careful on all the turns and concentrating much more on staying ahead of #3 instead of working hard to still try to catch #1.

In the end we finished in that order with Mike Morgan taking 1st and securing 2nd place overall in the series, me coming through in 2nd, and Ted Burns in 3rd. Mike Hyde finished well enough to secure the series lead and take home the very sought after CCCX winner's jersey. Mike Morgan deserved the win by getting the hole shot and leading the race the whole way. I remember how that felt for me at the Surf City race that I won in December. I'll be aiming to get that feeling one more time at the final CX race of the year (Peak Season Cyclocross) on January 24th. It will be messy and rainy again for that one so I'm hoping my Early Bird RR performance isn't my only highlight of the weekend.

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Velo Bella Surf City Series

Name: Chad Rosser
Place 16th
Category: CX 35+ B
Team Mates: none
Field Size: 28
Conditions: slightly overcast in the high 50's

Race Report: Word came through mid-week that current US Cyclocross champion Tim Johnson planned to show up and show off his new skinsuit in the Elite race, so the organizers of Surf City Cyclocross went out of their way to make a tough course around Aptos High School even tougher. A steep climb from the whistle followed by some rolling concrete terrain between the school buildings with curb jumps, tight turns, lots of off camber hill riding, bowling ball size potholes, several sections of steps (with barriers to hop while running the steps), a very loose and steep hill climb, and a couple of super fast descents with hairpin turns at the bottom of the hill to help rack up the "carnage points" and make the event even more fan friendly.

Having won the previous Surf City event, I was a marked rider when we got called up to the line. Everyone knew my game plan would be to go out hard and keep the throttle floored until I'd shed as many people as possible, then find a smooth, but fast pace that I can maintain for the rest of the race. I got a good start up the hill and was 3rd into the first turn which took the race between a couple of buildings then a little climb up towards the swimming facility. There are a couple of nasty curbs to hop off and hop up, so gravel "pits" to ride through, some steep climbs with off camber turns up the climb, then a bumpy ride around the perimeter of the baseball field. That brings you to some very rutted out "pathways" and onto a flight of stairs immediately followed by a steep run up that requires you to shoulder the bike. I made a pass of Josh Rebol (Specialized) on the run up and was now in 2nd place behind series leader Mike Morgan (Sycip). After the remount and a bit more climbing there is a very fast downhill section and I overtook Morgan on that area and decided this was the point to make my move. Now down on the lower section of the course, loaded with off camber climbs and decents a bit of sand, some technical sections around the football field, you climb back up to the starting straight and head out for lap 2.

By the time I got to the starting grid I had a 10 second lead over Morgan and continued to build on that lead during lap 2. Near the top side of the course, just before the stairs, I hit a pothole really hard and burped air from my front tire (I was running tubeless clinchers) while taking a really nice tumble. Right side of my body got a bit dinged up and my shifter bent slightly inward but was still functional. While the bike was shouldered on my run up I used my freen hand to check the air pressure and it seemed to be good so I hopped back onto the bike and made my way for the fast downhill. The air pressure still felt good and despite my now 25 second lead over the second place rider (only 1 1/2 laps into the race), I passed up on my pit bike (located at the bottom of the hill right at the 180 degree turn) and continued around the bottom of the course. No problems down there and as I came through the starting area again the tire still felt good so I again passed up the chance to change bikes just before the hill climb. BIG MISTAKE!

Onto lap 3 with a 30 second lead and in nearly the same pothole infested area before the stairs, I burped the front tire yet again, only this time it released all the air, I wiped out on my left side and fully bent the shifter, tore a nice hole in my skinsuit, and I now had no way to ride that bike. I shouldered it and got up the stairs and up the hill climb (no time lost there), but now had to continue to run with the bike up the final hill and then all the way down the long and fast concrete road while the rest of the riders proceded to ride by at 30 mph saying "bad luck Chad. You had us all killed today." After a 3/4 mile run with the bike, I swapped out for my spare bike and did my best to get back into the race, hoping I could still salvage enough points to finish on the series podium. Despite passing lots of riders over the next 3 1/2 laps, I rolled across in 16th place and that knocked me off of the final series podium by 8 points. Rough outing and tough to swallow. I thought I was done with my bad luck for CX races this year (pinch flat, dropped chain, loose stem bolt, etc.) but as the case in cyclocross, anything can happen and change the race in an instant. It is easy to look back on the race now and tell myself that I had 2 chances to change out my bike or even just the wheel, and with that 30 second lead I had at the time, it wouldn't have hurt my chances at still winning the race.

I've repaired the bike, made changes to the wheel/tire set up, and I'm working on healing up my body. Have another race next Sunday and then the final CX race of the year the Sunday after that. Still have 2 opportunities to finish out the season strong and on a high. This is my playground!

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