Category Archives: Race Report

Ore to Shore

Ore to Shore 2011 is in the books now and I made the most of the experience with the number one plate on my bike as last year’s winner.  So much goes into a single race and with the rest of the race calendar it’s hard to do the same preparation twice leading into a race like this. Ore to Shore was a high priority race for sure, but this year it came shortly after a big six-week long block of racing.  I went into Ore to Shore well-raced, though perhaps a little less trained.  I knew that I’d be ready to go and that the competition would be as tough as ever. It was an exciting race, especially the second half where the pace was consistently high with numerous attacks and counter-attacks being made.

The start was clean and I was able to keep trouble free early on.  Cole set the pace up Lucy hill and I was able to follow without problem as the first split was made. I felt good and kept towards the front as to avoid any mishaps. The pace would go hard in some sections, but for every section that we rallied through, there was a section following where we all sat up and recovered.  With so much non-technical, high speed riding it’s understandable that no one is willing to set tempo at the front. I was content to wait it out, knowing that the real racing would happen later.

On the 510 road things finally picked up and the attacking began. I was in the mix and feeling fine with this early on.  Between attacks there would be brief opportunities to recover and I was taking full advantage. Attacks became more frequent (and recovery harder to come by) and once we were about 11 miles from the finish I was no longer able to respond to the acceleration.  Brian and Tristan were clearly the strongest guys.  As fast as Tristan went off the front I was going off of the back as we went up one of the grassy ski trail climbs.  Mike Phillips laid it down just before this climb so once he got going again we traded pulls shortly before he eventually got away.  Five riders were gone at this point while Mike and I rode in the final miles to bring home sixth and seventh places respectively.

Seventh is still a solid result and we set an all-time fastest finish on the course, but I’m still a little disappointed that I missed out on those final miles of racing.  There’s not much worse than getting dropped and not being able to do anything about it, but that’s how racing goes on occasion.  With a little over a month before Chequamegon I’m looking forward to having another shot at the podium once September comes around.

-TJ

Subaru Cup ProXCT

It’s always a season highlight to come back to Wisconsin and race.  The Subaru Cup is the best stop on the ProXCT circuit and I was really fired up to be racing on home turf.  A week prior I had a great race at Afton Alps and won the Minnesota MTB series event there.  Afton was a great ‘practice’ race for the Subaru Cup and I knew that was ready to have a strong race. Starting from the third row was sure to be a tough start. With not much trail between the start and the first singletrack things massively bottle-necked twice.  The first time was just past the feedzone and then again just as we entered the ‘Nitro Amphitheater’.  After eight seconds of standing in place (as recorded on the Garmin) at the top of the hill we were all strung out and going single file into the singletrack.  From here the first lap went generally okay, but not great. In most races I’m able to keep consistent lap times going and improve position in the process. This time however, my laps only got slower and slower. It was one of those days were I couldn’t power up and over the steep climbs as I normally love to do.  Frustrating yes, but the fans were awesome despite my lack of horsepower and willed me on to the finish.  I had fun out there  despite a 36th place which was far from what I hoped for.  I know I’m ready to go, but was simply a little off out there…

Things came around for Sunday and I was pumped for the short track. It was another chance to test the legs and hopefully go a little faster.  The legs felt the effects of a tough XC, but I knew well enough that soreness alone isn’t much of a valid indicator.  During the race I felt good and was able to let it rip on the climbs in order to keep the speed up.  The only problem was the start of the race and having to fight from the back of the field. Some riders were called up according to their XC finishes, but many of us were called to the line en mass (unexpectedly).  I didn’t fair too well in this le mans style call up and the first several corners were very chaotic, but at least I kept things upright while passing guys.  While 28th place isn’t ‘good’, I was encouraged with a little more speed and a bike setup that felt great on the course.

The short track was enough to be satisfied with knowing that I’ve got four consecutive weekends of racing coming up. Mont Sainte Anne and Windham World Cups will be followed by Nationals in Idaho and the ProXCT finals in Montana. This is certainly the biggest block of ‘big time’ races that I’ve ever done and I’m excited to let it rip.  Two weeks in Wisconsin has been a great way to get in some rest and relaxation along with the finishing touches on the training. More to come from the races ahead!

A big thanks to all of those who cheered me on at the Subaru Cup and to WORS for making it all happen. It’s good to be home.  -TJ

Whiskey 50 MTB Epic

The Whiskey 50 made for a great wrap-up of my early season racing.  Being a single 47 mile loop with plenty of big climbs it was quite different than the ProXCT’s, at least on paper. When racing, it’s largely racing and this one was simply longer than most. At times the pace may have been ‘easier’, but obviously much more work was done before crossing the finish line.  I knew that I was riding strong and ready for a good finish.  The start went smoothly and things were shaping up nicely.  When descending to the 260 trail, I dropped my chain and had to stop for a quick fix.  Being it was a technical section it took some time to actually stop. Guys were quickly go by and I eventually got back into action after ten riders or so went by.  The cause of the dropped chain was part back-pedaling to level the pedals and part chain slap. This was enough for the chain to come off to the outside of the big ring.  (Interesting enough, Shimano has a fix for this with their prototype 2012 XTR.)

After about ten minutes of descending I had finally gotten to the bottom of the 260 trail while the lead group had already checked out and was out of sight. With more than half of the race remaining I set off in chase, hoping to regroup with others that might come off from the front group. Three of chased hard on the dirt road from the aid station to Skull Valley and made up some ground.  From Skull Valley the course climbs for about an hour up to the Sierra Prieta overlook. I kept a steady-hard pace going and caught more guys near the top.  We caught Barry Wicks shortly after the feed station and soon later I got by Tim Allen.  I had Tinker in my sights when the descending began and I was able to pass him on ‘cramp hill’ – yes both of my legs were cramping so it’s appropriately named.  After this it was simply a matter of riding smooth and going fast until the finish.  The descent is so fun, and during the race it’s even better when you’re at the limit like that with little or nothing left in the tank.   I rolled into town solo and came across the finish line in 8th.

I was pumped with the result and knew that I had ridden well out there. It’s a long and tough enough race that not having anything go wrong is awfully tricky. I had one relatively short spell of bad luck, but it was enough to lose the front of the race.  Next year I’ll be back with the experience of having raced it and better knowing what to expect.  A big thanks to Troy, John, and Nora who helped to make the weekend so much fun.  We had a great place to stay and having everything within walking or riding distance worked out great.  Prescott delivered a fantastic race weekend as promised.  This race will likely be the biggest I’ll do all season and I’m happy with how it turned out. It’s just the right amount of ‘epic’ for a guy who still wants to focus primarily on racing XC’s.  Good stuff!

Sea Otter Classic

The Sea Otter Classic is a race weekend that I always look forward to.  True, the pro xc race course has changed in recent years and it no longer has that ‘epic’ component with the shorter laps, but the racing itself is faster and more competitive than ever.  This year was no exception; I was excited to go back for the high intensity, tactical racing that was sure to unfold.  Upon arriving to San Jose Thursday afternoon I was feeling more run down than expected from the travel and it didn’t take long to realize that a cold was developing, though I tried my best to deny it.  By Saturday (race day) I was feeling generally achy and had a very sore throat so I did what was possible to lay low and conserve energy for the 2pm start.

The race started off well, but in typically fashion some guys decided it was best to crash into fencing along the feed zone climb, just as it’s happened in numerous years previous.  I was able to stay clear of this chaos, but lost some ground in the shuffle amongst the group.  I didn’t quite have the high intensity efforts that were needed for the first lap or two in order to establish good position and hang on to the fast wheels so much of the race was spent chasing.  By the second half of the race when others had worn themselves out, I was able to move forward from one group to the next, eventually collecting the 37th place finish.  The Top Fuel worked great and the full suspension helped me make up ground in a couple of spots while the lockouts were used for most other sections of the course.   The XR0 tires rolled fast and were certainly the right call given the dry, hardpacked, pavement and grass.  The end result was certainly not on par with the first two ProXCTs, but given how I felt with the cold bug I’m happy to have been out there enjoying the little bit of racing that I was able to do.

One of the trip highlights for Chloe and me was eating at Papa Chevo’s after the race.  It had been five years since we were last visitied this hole-in-the wall place for our first date.  Even though neither of us would have called it that at the time, it was memorable enough.  The menu hadn’t changed much and it was still very tasty, very affordable Mexican food which always works great after a race.  Too bad they didn’t have t-shirts for sale since I definitely would have bought one to commemorate.

We booked the earliest possible Sunday return flight to Arizona so that Chloe could race the Old Pueblo Grand Prix that afternoon. Waking early, flying to Phoenix, driving to Tucson, and getting to the crit on time was somehow more taxing than the racing was the day prior so I took full advantage of the chance to rest up that afternoon and evening.   Now that it’s Wednesday it seems that I’m recuperating well and should be just about ready to resume with some training that’ll have me ready for the Whiskey 50.  At 47 miles and over 6000 feet of climbing I’m excited for the challenge and plan to be at 100% for it.

TJ

Fontana ProXCT

The Fontana venue was in better than ever condition for the ProXCT this year since the trails received rain earlier in the week. What is traditionally been one of the dustiest, rutted out courses was instead a smooth, flowing course with plenty of tacky singletrack to be enjoyed.  We made the drive from Tucson on Friday morning and had plenty of time for an afternoon pre-ride of the course.

After a good finish as Bonelli it was nice to be rewarded with a second row call up position.  The course snakes through some tight corners and quickly gets narrow so the call up really helped to alleviate a lot of stress.  I was able to focus on my effort rather than spending energy to pass riders.   For much of the race I was able to go back and forth with guys who eventually wound up placing 14th-18th on the day.   I was 17th once again and happy with how things had turned out.   It was a very competitive field out there and I felt good on the bike from start to finish.

The course featured an extended climb shortly after the start that took us further up the steep hill than we had gone in previous years.  This meant more fun and flowing singletrack on the decent before resume the layout used in previous years.   I really like the longer climb even though it was pure suffering up it each lap. It seems as though everyone was in their easiest gearing, simply trying to make it up successfully each lap – it was that steep!  The combination of steep climbing and tight singletrack made for a perfect course for the Top Fuel. I was very much able to maneuver the bike quickly and had a blast ripping around the course.  Once again the tubular tires were fantastic and highlighted the active suspension feel since they are so supple over the rough stuff.  It’s impossible to corner them without smiling too.  Dave from www.Trailwatch.net happened to capture the action with this shot as posted on www.cyclingnews.com

After a strong XC on Saturday it was Chloe’s race that highlighted the action on Sunday with her win in the short track.  She’s been close to making the front group of the STXC races so many times that it wasn’t a surprise to see her in the mix, but it was nerve wracking to watch.  She did a great job with the tactics and was able to make the most of it by snagging the win after making the right attack with a half lap to go – nothing short of incredible!  It was awesome to be there for the finish and to see it in person.   These are the moments that we all train so hard for… It was a huge breakthrough for her and I couldn’t be more proud.  Colt was there for the CyclingDirt.org coverage so be sure to check out the videos if you haven’t already seen them.

Race footage of Chloe’s win (sprint included!)

Post race interview with Chloe

Sea Otter will be the next race weekend and with three weeks between, it’ll be a great opportunity to put in some fun rides and great training.  More to come,

-TJ

2011 Season kicks off @ Bonelli

Piloting the Trek Top Fuel 9.9 SSL to 17th place in the XC at Bonelli Park ProXCT

Piloting the Trek Top Fuel 9.9 SSL to 17th place in the XC at Bonelli Park ProXCT

The 2011 MTB race season started up this past weekend with the proXCT series opener in Bonelli Park, San Dimas, California.  Before I get to the race recap, it’s important to provide a little background info first.   This will be my second year racing for the Trek Bike Store out of Boulder, CO.  Why does a Wisconsin guy who now lives in Tucson, Arizona ride for a bike shop that’s in Boulder?  Good question, and certainly valid to ask.  The Trek Store is a great shop that’s supportive of my goals and they’ve been super helpful over the past several years.  I’ve spent a considerable portion of the past two summers living and training in Boulder, so when the bulk of the racing is going on it’s great to have local support.  Sure it’d be fantastic to have a full support staff at the national races, but there are a lot of positives to be said for keeping things simple when it comes to racing logistics too.   I’ve been a big fan of Trek over the long term and their bikes are legitimately built to go fast.  If that wasn’t enough to like, it’s awfully cool that they are Wisconsin company, something that goes a long ways in my book.   I loved my first Fuel 100 in 2004 and now my 2011 Top Fuel 9.9 SSL blows my mind every time I’m out riding.  The Trek Store team is a simple arrangement, but a lot of fun to be a part of.  I’m looking forward to another great season and hopefully some more really strong races.  2010 was my best season yet, but there’s always room to improve and I plan to do just that.

Bonelli Park was once again the venue for the season opener and this year it was part of the ProXCT series.   The course was revamped to be more technically challenging and shorter.  All things considered they did a great job with putting together our race track.  We raced a short start loop plus seven laps so the numerous short/steep climbs certainly added up as the race progressed into its later stages.   I steadily caught and passed guys the entire race to finish up 17th.   Considering the competition, this was a strong result and I’m encouraged to keep building from here.  A lot of time, sweat, energy, etc goes into the training so it’s a good thing that I love what I’m doing.  It really takes a 24/7 approach and every year I figure it out a little bit better so it’s motivating and rewarding to keep pushing the limits.

I’m looking forward to improvements as the season goes on and I’m thankful for the opportunities that I’m able to pursue . It takes the support of family, friends, and sponsors to make it all happen so thanks for checking in now that the 2011 season is under way.  I’ll keep race updates in the mix here on the blog and my twitter @ http://twitter.com/tjwoodruff will continue to include snippets from my normal day to day.  Expect more to come!

This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the AZ Development Team and the support they provided me with bottle feeds and wheels ready in the tech zone ‘just in case’.  Seeing Arizona’s up and coming riders get the support required in order to do the national races is excellent.  The riders are gaining a feel for the sport at its highest level in the US this way.  In addition to their Trek bikes and team kits they all have really good attitudes, they work hard, and they love what they’re doing.

-TJ

Trek Madone 6.9 SSL!

2011 Trek Madone 6.9 SSL

2011 Trek Madone 6.9 SSL

I’ve got to introduce you to my new sled, the Madone 6.9 SSL, made by Trek for 2011.  Yes I’m a mountain bike racer through and through, but it’s important to have road machine that gets you through the miles (and especially the fast miles) that really help to improve your game.   After going twelve months without a road bike I couldn’t be more excited about this one, which is far superior to any other road bike I’ve ridden/raced in previous.

I went through the Project One process with the guys at the Boulder Trek Store.   My first thoughts to custom spec’ing out the bike was “why all the extra rigmarole; why not just have a stock version available?”  Then I realized that Project One would allow me to have everything dialed for me right out of the box rather than having to swap out the usual parts – stems, posts, bars, cranks, saddle, etc.   I was able to get not only each part spec that I wanted, but also the properly sized option.  Crank length, bar width, stem length, saddle model/width and tires were all options I was able to select.

Without going too far with the details, here are some notes on my setup that might vary from the norm.   The photos ought to summarize the rest!

Crank length – I always go with 175’s on my road bike even though I ride a 56cm frame which would normally have 172.5’s.  With 175’s in place all my bikes share the same crank length and I’m training on what I’ll be racing with off-road.

Wheels – I opted to save some major cash by spec’ing the Bontrager Classics.  For training purposes I prefer a traditionally laced wheelset with a higher spoke count.  They aren’t light, but I won’t need to spent much (if any) time truing them.  And if something should ever happen on the road and  a spoke breaks I’ll be able to continue on and get home just fine – not something that’s possible when a wheel has fewer spokes.  The wider rim gives the tire a little extra air volume which helps to improve the ride quality, awesome for rough pavement or dirt roads (two of my favorite options).   When it comes time to race I’ll mount some carbon tubular and really do it right.

Tires – Following along the same lines as my preference for wheels, I like to train on 25mm tires that are closer to ‘flat proof’ than they are to ‘race tire’.  I like to spend my ride time riding rather than fixing flats so why not choose a tire that allows this? Also, the 25mm profile encourages the dirt road option and helps to smooth out rough pavement.

Gearing – The 53×39 crankset is great for me and works well for racing. When training I like to pair it with an 11-28 cassette.  A roadie might scoff at such ‘big’ cogs on the cassette, but sometimes I like to ride really steep climbs and this helps to keep my cadence low rather than super low.  Having the 11 cog at the other end of the cassette means that I can rip down Mount Lemmon as fast as I like and rarely be spun out.

Saddle – I’m not one to change much here and for the past five years I’ve been on Fizik saddles.  This being said, I figured that I’d try out the InForm RXL saddle and see what it’s all about.  I know that a lot of research went into the design process and I can always appreciate that.  From the first ride this saddle was more comfortable than what I’ve been riding.  The only issue is that I’m now facing the likelihood that I’ll want to switch over all of my saddles!

Fit/General Setup – I run my saddle about 3mm lower on my road bike than on my MTB or Cross bike. Why lower on the road?  The pedals and cleats have a lesser stack height so in order to get the same effective height the measurement from BB needs to be dropped on the road setup. Bar height and stem length are such that I’m comfortable on the bike.  A pure roadie might go for lower bars, but I’m more concerned about putting in the work and when I’m too bent over that gets harder to do.  Any lower and riding in the drops would become a non-option.  As is, I can mix up the hand position and go plenty fast no matter the situation.

SRM + Garmin 500 – Wouldn’t want to train without it.  As a professional coach I spent much of my days living and breathing data so it’s important to include myself when it comes to taking an analytical approach to reviewing the training.  The SRM is reliable and accurate, it’s clean looking, it’s light, and it syncs wirelessly with the Garmin Edge 500. Aside from the crank and Garmin the only other accessory that is required is a small magnet mounted near the BB that trips on the powermeter and measures the cadence.  There are no wires, no zip ties, no dedicated wheels, no plastic hardware, and really very few clues that it’s there in the first place.

All of this comes in at 16.97 pounds.  With race wheels and tires it instantly drops two pounds and goes to the UCI limit.  As is it’s set for full on training and with only a swap of the wheels it’ll be a purebred racer.

16.97 pounds & ready for training.

16.97 pounds & ready for training.

Black. Silver. White.

Black. Silver. White.

Wisconsin built. Have to love it!

Wisconsin built. Have to love it!

Day 15

a nice road for riding.

a nice road for riding.

Things have been going great recently here in Premanon and it seems that training is now in full swing.  The first couple of weeks included a lot of time spent riding at Tempo or otherwise aerobic intensity while my body generally got reacquainted to the increased training workload.  During the first 10-12 days it was a lot of going through the motions, but since Saturday I’ve felt quite strong on the bike.  The goal of increasing sustainable power while exploring the countryside is off to a promising start with six weeks still remaining.  I’m motivated to make the most of each ride and the roads that I find.  ‘Roads’ no longer means pavement only since I’ve found some cool dirt sections and also some ski trails that are suitable enough for me to loop through rather than turn back when forced with such  navigational dilemmas.  Lately I’ve been able to connect up a bunch of the small roads with fewer stops to check out the map so I must be beginning to figure it out.

Sunday’s testing made for a long day at the hospital lab, but all went well with each of the VO2Max tests and all the measurements that came along with it.  With catheters placed in each arm (left arm vein and right arm artery) my cardiac output was measured with use of a Lithium injection.  Other sensors monitored heart rhythms, blood flow to the brain, blood pressure, lactic acid concentration, and respiratory gas exchange all while I completed the exercise test going until exhaustion no longer allowed.   After doing this once we got to relax for a couple hours before doing the same exact test all over again, only with hypoxic air to breath that simulates 2500 m (8200 feet) this time.  The break wasn’t very relaxing however, having tubes still stuck into both arms with an IV drip to wheel around, but nonetheless I came out strong with the hypoxic VO2Max test – getting all but 25 watts of what I did on the first test.

These next couple of weeks are very mild in terms of testing since the ‘hypoxic’ intervention is now taking place.  So far we’ve had just two nights in the altitude rooms (or are they control and normal elevation?) since the first couple of weeks were scheduled for baseline testing and allowed us a chance to generally adapt.  A once per week blood test is all that will be required while we are exposed to the hypoxic environment for 16 hours of each day of the week for a period of three weeks.  After having acclimated we’ll go through another round of heavy testing to see what has changed and to what degree as a result of the altitude exposure.

So with schedule that’s relatively wide open for training I’ll try to keep some updates coming from any of the more interesting rides.   Good luck to everyone racing Chequamegon this weekend too.  I’m already looking forward to the 2011 version when I’ll be back and a little extra motivated after having to sit this one out.  Ciao,   -TJ

Day 10

Time in Premanon has gone by quickly thus far and I’ve more or less settled in for the duration of the stay.  I’m familiar with the local time, the food, the testing, and the general scope of the Jura training grounds.  It’s a fun group of people to stay with and the research team is both very personable and professional.  By the end of eight weeks we’ll all know each other quite well.

The night before muscle biopsy number one (of two) I was really questioning why I had traveled 5,730 miles from home to this random place on a French map knowing that a core sample of my quad was soon to be cut out of my right leg.  Others had already had the procedure the day before and most were gingerly limping around with few good words to be said (understandably).  Other required testing is also invasive to varying degrees with plenty of needles, electricity, breathing masks, sensors, etc involved in various combinations.  Also, its fall in Europe so cloudy skies, rain, and cool temps will likely be the norm and not so much the exception.  Fun stuff, eh?

Life in Tucson is great – a wonderful fiancé and good friends, a comfortable home, plenty of sunshine  and warm weather, and great roads/trails for training are all there.  So why was it that I traveled all the way over here again?  A quick talk with Chloe and I was snapped out of my funk rather quickly, thankfully.  I’m certainly not here to be comfortable, rather I’m here for a challenge, or to do ‘life’ put shortly.  It’s at the price of personal discomfort that I’ve come to know some of the most valuable experiences.  And often the greater the level of discomfort, the greater the experience once all is said and done.  I’m happy to be here and ready to challenge myself being that I’ve got a great opportunity to do so.

I got through the first biopsy just fine and I’ve trained on some incredible roads in the Jura region.  It’ll simply be a matter of separating myself from the testing procedures and in doing so I’ll manage quite alright.

I’ll leave you with pictures from some of the most recent rides.

typical forest road

typical forest road

Alps view from summit of La Baudichonne

Alps view from summit of La Baudichonne

border crossing route

Swiss/French border crossing route

sweeping meadows

sweeping meadows

Day 1, Altitude Training Study

I’m in Premanon, France volunteering as a subject for a live high, train low altitude research study for the next eight weeks.   Travels here went smoothly and now it’s just a matter of adjusting the body clock to the nine hour time difference from Tucson.   Having been in town for just a little over 24 hours I’m still getting a feel for things.  So far, the riding has been great, the weather cool and a little wet, accommodations comfortable, and the food plentiful and healthy.  It’s a good thing to like cheese since it’s a part of every meal in some fashion, some of it coming from local cows apparently.  With meals prepared and little or no other responsibilities aside from normal training and regular testing,  most days will be relaxed and I’ll have plenty opportunity to do most things as normal, coaching included of course.  With just over 20 of  us ‘subjects’ staying here it feels a little bit like college only without the classroom part.  Some riders are taking online college courses, a few others do coaching, and some are simply here to hang out when not on the bike. Overall it seems to be a good mix of people and personalities from all over the map.

A schedule for our testing is soon to be posted so that will be helpful in knowing when to plan what types of training so that there’s little or no conflict between the two.  I might be on schedule for a VO2Max test tomorrow afternoon so that ought to be a good way to start off the testing (plenty intense, but also one of the few tests we’ll do that doesn’t involve needles).

Today’s ride was just over 70k which included great views and a couple of long climbs done at tempo pace.  Here are the first of hopefully many pictures I’ll be posting during my stay.  Ciao,  -TJ

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BIG bike

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Tunnel en route to Saint-Claude

Tunnel en route to Saint-Claude