Hanson Hills 100 – 1st Single Speed

fullsizeoutput_766It has been quite some time since I have done a 100 mile specific mountain bike race. The Hanson Hills 100 happened to fall at the perfect time with me starting my summer break. I was interested in the course as there happens to be a 24 hour race there in September. I wanted to get a preview of the course in order to know how the terrain and trails treat you in an endurance format.

Fun Promotions puts on a great endurance series up in Michigan. I was very pleased with the grassroots feel of the race. Fun Promotions make you feel at home and are very accomodating. I arrived the day before the race and set up my tent for an overnight and then I hit the trails for a preview. Hanson Hills Recreation Area is a ski hill in the winter time but it has a nice network of trails to enjoy in the summer. The trails have a nice feel to them as you rip around them through sand and rolling hills. The climbing is deceiving as it adds up over a long course but it is spaced out with flow and some fun descents, especially at the end with a bomber jump on an exposed hill side coming into the finish.fullsizeoutput_762

My goal was to put down my best 100 mile time on single track. Most of the racers were competing in the 50 mile version of the race. We all gathered in Grayling at the Kmart and were led out of town under a controlled pace. 3.5 miles to the trails and then it was 4 laps of 24.5 miles. I had a good start and established my pace, which lasted for the first 50 miles. After the 2nd lap, I started experiencing some spasms/minor cramps in my quads. I dialed the pace back and continued to take in my electrolytes and fluids. On the 4th lap, I began to experience stronger cramps in my quads, which resulted in me dismounting at one point to walk/stretch them out. Interesting enough I was able to manage the cramps even though they slowed me a bit over the last 2 laps. The course is very clean and beautiful as it rolls through hardwoods with very little undergrowth giving it a pristine feel. It was warm and a bit humid at times, which contributed to my cramps I suppose as well as being a bit dehydrated the day before the race. I rode with a few other racers for stretches as we paced each other. Everyone was friendly and respectful out on the course.

My goal was obtained as I set my fastest 100 mile specific single track mountain bike time. I finished with a time of (7 hr 33 min) and the single speed win. I’m super stoked over this result but especially with the finishing time. There isn’t much beta out there about the course numbers but it was well over 6000 feet of climbing according to my Garmin. You finish this race knowing that you have climbed.

I hung out with a few of the racers after the race and had lunch with them. I’m looking forward to going back to Hanson Hills in Grayling, MI for the 24 hour race. It is a fun course that most people can ride but it is challenging over time in an endurance format. I recommend giving the Fun Promotion events a try as I had a very enjoyable experience. This was actually my 2nd event put on by Fun Promotions and my experience was the exact same at the 8 hours of Ithaca. I’m really feeling good as I enter summer with my cycling fitness. Next up is the Funk Bottoms Gravel 200K Race. Time to get FUNKY!!!fullsizeoutput_764

 

Top 5 Single Speeder at Pisgah Stage Race = 32×19 Torture Fest of Fun!

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Cred: iconmediaasheville.com

It was my 5 days of spring training for 2017 and I thought it would be wise to use the Pisgah Stage Race as the setting, great idea! Yeah, now that it is has come and gone I’m left with one certainty…Pisgah is hard, hard and more hard but fun, fun and more fun! I had been to the Pisg before but it had been a long time and I wasn’t focused on cycling back then. I got an eye-opening experience and then some.

I raced the Single Speed division and it was stacked from top to bottom with an exceptional bunch of misfits at least the bunch I rode and hung out with, which made it a very painfully and rewarding experience. It was perfect for me and it tested me. I suspect it has propelled me forward by a month in my training.

A couple of lessons I learned about the Pisgah for those that decide to venture down to the Pisg for the first time or maybe it has been a while:

  1. Suspension is your friend
  2. 32×19 is a bit stiff for 5 days
  3. Dropper Posts are highly recommended and I will have one next time
  4. Ride with someone who knows the Pisg
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously (have fun) and I did accomplish that mission

I could add a lot more but the picture should be crystal, do your research and there is plenty out there, so know where you are going and have a contingency plan and a buddy with you because you could easily get lost or hurt out there and it is remote. I was fortunate to have a marked course and rode with veterans of the Pisgah Stage Race or Pisgah in general.

The course was a plow fest from the start to the finish. You better be ready to climb and go down and I don’t mean your local downhill. You better be ready to ride down gnarl that had me wishing for a belay line as you catapult down boulder fields and tangles of  roots that would make an octopus envious, it will slap you silly. The beauty of the Pisg will reward you with a true back country ride that will slap a smile on your face regardless of the pain you might be temporarily experiencing and believe me more pain is a coming!

A little about the course so that you can get the picture of what 5 days of the Pisgah Stage Race looks like for you data crunchers and planners. At first glance, don’t mistake this for your EKG results, it looks like an up and down affair within a shark’s mouth and it is indeed. Credit: Blue Ridge Adventures for the profile charts below.

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River crossing to the start of Stage 1

Stage 1 – Looking Glass Route
24.71 miles / 39.77 km
4,130 ft / 1258 m elevation gainStage 2 – Promised Land Route
29 miles / 46.5 km
3878 ft / 1182 m elevation gain

Stage 3 – White Squirrel Route (HARD)
29 miles / 46.5 km
5118 ft / 1560 m elevation gain

Stage 4 – Carl Schenck Route (HARDER)
31.5 miles / 50.5 km
4113 ft / 1254 m elevation gain

Stage 5 – The Land of Waterfalls Route
25 miles / 40 km
3186+ ft / 971 m elevation gain 

It is a grind but it will reward you with some of the sweetest morsels of ripping this side of the Mississippi along with amazing views. A few routes that stood out to me that I could do over and over with a grin from ear to ear: Stage 1 was a hoot from start to finish except the hike a bike up Daniel Ridge, Squirrel Gap ascent and descent on Stage 2, Black Mountain descent on Stage 3 after barely staying upright on it during Stage 2, Laurel Creek descent and Laurel Mountain Ascent until the ridiculous hike a bike at the top on Stage 4 and the Bracken Mountain flow descent to the finish on Stage 5.

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Looking Glass Falls

When considering your trip to visit the Pisg rather it be for a bike vacation or to do the Pisgah Stage Race, these venues and resources were bomber for me: Sunset Motel (lodging convenience that caters to cyclists), The Hub (afternoon ale refreshments and food truck delicacies), The Square Root restaurant (dining pleasures and evening chill time), Davidson River (cooling those battered legs) and great weather which we had everyday so I recommend a spring time frame.

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Sunset Motel

 

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The Hub

 

My bike shredded and climbed like a beast! It was the first real test for my Lynskey Ti build and  the Captain came out with a 5 star crash test certified rating. A few of the pieces that made it a success on the Pisg-gnar: ESI grips kept me from having nerve damage in my hands, Trucker Co tire sealant kept me from having any flats nor did I put air in them one time during the entire race, Maxxis Crossmark tires provided great traction across all surfaces (it was dry), Industry Nine wheels that hooked up while absorbing the pounding of the Pisg, KMC chain that I put out at least 500 lb-ft of torque on those vertical climbs and last but not least some cold hops with classy folks!

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This bike rocks!

A few things that would have made it even more pleasurable: A dropper post would be advisable for you hard-tail lovers like me as it would make the extreme vertical descents so much more ridable, instead of a 32×19 gear setup on the single which I ran every stage for added training bonus (idiot)…a 32×20-21 would be more forgiving on the climbs,

I want to thank my sponsors for their superior support that aided me in my survival: Trucker Co brakes and tire sealant, ESI grips, Kogel bottom brackets, Squirt lube, Twin Six kits, Loaded components and Wolftooth cogs!

In the end, I revisited a terrain that I don’t get exposed to often, especially the technical descending. It was a blast and very rewarding! I’m glad to have been a part of this mayhem. I have done several stage races in sweet spots across the globe and the Pisg is the most challenging technically, so be prepared. I want to thank a certain few individuals that suffered alongside me while hooliganing all along the way. These guys are single speeding machines of madness, cheers to my fellow one-cogging brothers: Dave and Dave, Stephen, Cam and Joe!

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Dave, Joe, Stephen, Cam, Dave and a suspect character

Blue Ridge Adventures put on a memorable and delightful stage race experience. Thanks to all of the volunteers that were out there everyday supporting us. The course was marked perfectly. The food and libations were delicious. This is a very affordable race compared to the others out there and Brevard is a very cool town to hang out. I had a great time mingling with all of the racers who were very social and positive. Racers came from all over the world. It was a pleasure getting to know some of them.

Now it is time to focus on endurance racing and I will be stronger having had the Pisg stamp of fitness and beat down etched into my bones. I’m very pleased with my top 5 finish alongside these wily bunch of single speeders. XC racing, I have always found to be a great way to supplement your endurance racing with that extra bit of power and cardio fitness that will kick in during those wee hours of the night when you are battling it out with another crazy and you need that little boost to get you over that mountain top in front!

First, before I get ahead of myself I have to go check all of my wheel and bottom bracket bearings after I went swimming in the creek with my bike on Stage 3, oh yeah!

Cheers and all the best to your 2017 season of ripping and roaring!

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Salute

 

 

 

 

 

CUPCAKE

 

20150928_120159_resized I decided to update my Single Speed frame and I’m thrilled with my selection. The Niner One 9 RDO is a beast. I dig the blue as it reminds me of childhood birthday cakes and cupcakes. You know the ones that had icing scribbled on them that spelled your name out on it and had a superhero stamped on it giving your imagination a dopamine release of invincibility all in honor of celebrating your 7th birthday. You know what I’m talking about!

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The One 9 RDO was designed for single speeding with its beefed up bottom bracket housing for stomping out that 60:1 gear ratio. It is agile-light and the geometry allows for Bambi Deer Flow through and over the course of your desire.

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I outfitted my cupcake with the already precise and tested components that I was using on my previous single speed and they bolted right up and I was on the trails in no time. The Niner Biocentric II is a dream and allows for chain adjustment to be done with ease and it holds tension over the course which allows you to ride without having to fumble over chain issues that other setups are prone to do.  I have it dialed in now after riding in Dayton and Cincinnati. I’m super stoked to push it further and line it up for future races.

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Niner hit it out of the park with the One 9 RDO frame and with my setup filling it out…oh yeah it is cupcake time!

Cheers

1st Overall at 24 Hours of DINO

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Versailles State Park in Indiana is where it all went down. This park is beautiful and I really have to commend Indiana on a job well done. The terrain was an up and down affair on a course consisting of 13 mile laps with a 1000 feet of elevation gain per lap. I was impressed with the course, which consisted of a good mix of everything a mountain biker craves from ruggedness to flat-out ripping berms. I chose to race single speed [rigid]…note to self, “Idiot”! The course had a lot more rock and technical terrain then what I was anticipating and I felt it in the end. It is very difficult to complete a 24 hour race without support in the pits. Jess ran the pits for me and did an exceptional job keeping me on the go for 24 hours. The DINO crew put on a stellar event and I recommend their races. The 24 hours of DINO had a 6 hour and 12 hour option if you didn’t have 24 hours of abuse to spare.

The race started with a short run with either your saddle or a wheel around the pool to your bike. Once my front wheel was attached I began my 24 hours of nonstop boogie woogie. I settled into a steady pace with an emphasis on pace control. 24 hours is a long time and pacing is key. The key is to always move no matter how slow you get. Once you stop it becomes very difficult to get going again. This was even more true as the low reached down to 45 degrees that night. I was able to adhere to my plan and with Jess and the Grave Yard Shift Sergeant running the pits my pit stops were always smooth and quick. DSC_4567

This allowed me to always be on the move. My goal was to get 200 miles. The course was a lot of fun but it beats you up after 24 hours and because I’m so smart and ran a rigid fork the beating was compounded. As I type this report my hands are still numb. I don’t recommend a rigid fork on this course for 24 hours. What was I to do though as I couldn’t ride wheelies for 200 miles, so I adopted my new favorite mantra of “Suck it up, Cupcake!”. About 12 hours in to the race I was told that I had the overall lead. The DINO crew thought that I was a 12 hour racer and was confused as to why I went back out for another lap at midnight. Come to find out had I done the 12 hour race I would have won the overall solo.DSC_4563

My pace was solid throughout the race and I was pleased with my fitness. In August I raced short and fast races successfully with little emphasis on endurance. My endurance seemed to be right on as I went through the night without issue. My nutrition was good and no gut distress was experienced. I think I have honed that process down to what works for me in these types of races. The issue I dealt with that caused the greatest struggle was the impact of plowing down the rocky and rooty sections on the course. The rigid fork beat me and it really became a struggle to hang on at times. Due to the exposure on some parts of the trail and the bone rattling my body was feeling, I had some moments where I thought I was going to have to eject due to loss of control. In the end, I was able to hang on and this cupcake did suck it up. I won the single speed and overall male title. I completed 208 miles and 16,000 feet of climbing on a strong course in 21.5 hours. I could have done 2 more laps but there was no need as my pacing and steady movement afforded me that luxury and my rigor mortis stricken body was thankful to unsaddle from the bike.

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I’m always impressed with the mountain bike endurance community in regards to how the racers are generous and positive out there on the trail. This held true at the 24 hours of DINO. I ran into a buddy of mine, Matt Curry, and it was great catching up with him as he took 2nd place in the Solo Male Division. Nothing but good vibes from me to the DINO race scene. I had a great time and it is always special to have Jess in my corner. I have had an exceptional year racing and I want to thank all of my sponsors for their support.

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I have been running the Loaded X-lite Ultra Carbon 29 Wheelset this year. They have been remarkable. I have won more than a few races on them this year from XC to 24 Hours. Here is the process in which Loaded creates and describes one of their master pieces…“Ultra light weight, ultra durable. Utilizing the state of the art manufacturing processes and cutting edge technology, Loaded Precision has produced quite possibly the strongest and lightest tubeless carbon fiber mountain bike rims available today. They use a Carbon Knitting Technique (CKT), securing the carbon layers together through a refined knitting and bonding process. All X-lite Ultra Rims feature True Bead Technology- Loaded’s very own Tubeless System that provides an efficient interface between the tire and rim for easy installation and inflation”. The way they hook up and respond is amazing. The lateral stiffness is impressive when railing through turns and berms. I have to admit I have never had a wheelset that responds and holds like these babies. They seem to track exceptionally well no matter what you throw at them. The trueness of the wheel seems to never get thwarted. Durable they are as I have pounded them all year-long on a rigid fork setup. They are light and incredibly strong as you should expect. Mounting tubeless tires up is easy and I recommend Trucker Co tire sealant, the best cream tire sealant in the universe.

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Suck it up, Cupcake!

1st at Funk Bottoms Gravel Grinder

A true cycling race award!

A true cycling race award!

Welcome to Ohio! The best way to adapt to a new environment is to get out and race, I say. The Funk Bottoms Gravel Grinder (Ohio’s Toughest Gravel Grinder) takes place south of Cleveland in the Mohican Wilderness out of a little town called Lakeville, OH. I must say that Ohio has some legit climbing. I thought I would be finding myself struggling to find some climbing here but all is in good order as the Funk gave me plenty. I signed up for the 200k but that was relegated to a 100k before the start after the area received a torrential downpour and flooding was a real threat. I had to get up early around 4:20 and make my way north for almost 3 hours. The interstate was flooded…a little fish tailing here and a little fish tailing there if you know what I mean. I made it none the less with about a half hour to prep in the rain. Not much talking at the pre-race meeting as everyone was huddled under the roof of a park picnic area. Im sure they were like me wondering what in the world am I doing here…this is going to be a bit insane. In other words it wasn’t the most ideal day to be out racing. We started off in a controlled lead out for the first 2 miles and made a right turn onto gravel that went UP. The race was on and I got in the lead group and pushed the pace on the first of many steep climbs. After about 3 or 4 miles, a guy from Indiana was with me on his cross bike. I chose to ride the Niner Air Carbon mountain bike that I recently finished building up. We chatted off and on…nice guy. Not long into the race as we were descending the pitchy course, I noticed that my handlebars were loose. I was like…what…for real!!! I continued on by applying pressure to the bars in order to stabilize them in the stem mounting cup as I went speeding down the bumpy, washed out and slippery gravel roads at high speeds. Once I realized that my wishing them to retighten on their own wasn’t going to happen and that I would have to tighten them or risk a nasty crash. At mile 20 we came through the little town of Killbuck. As I continued to race, I proceeded to unfasten my GPS and place it in my mouth. I then removed my tool kit and tightened the stem cap bolts. Once all was back snug and my tool kit was put away, I replaced my GPS back to its mount and continued on as if nothing had ever happened. That takes skill people. My fellow racer from Indiana and I continued to go up and down for the first 30 miles together as the rain continued to be unrelentless. The gravel roads were soft and plowing the muck we were. We made a turn and the gravel went up up up. As I made my way along and pedaled steady, I looked back and he was gone. At that moment a dog came out to greet me with a snarling attitude. Now that I was on my own, I continued to move along the course as I knew there was a checkpoint coming up that was put in place to make sure that no one cut the course. I arrived at the checkpoint and signed in. I refilled my water and dropped off my rain jacket…it was useless by this point as I was soaked through and covered in grit and mud. I spent a few minutes there chatting with the race support guy and then off I went with about 2o miles or so to the finish. The climbs just kept coming and coming. I thought the course had 3500 feet of climbing but as it turns out it had over 7000 feet. Thats a lot of climbing over a 63 mile course, especially in the rain and mud. I looked back here and there and never saw anyone in the distance, so I kept the same tempo. After a few downed tree crossings from the early morning storms, I made my final turn that would lead me to the finish. I started backing off and just coasted in to the finish. My legs were slammed. Two minutes later, Chris Karpowicz came flying in to the finish for 2nd place. 20150627_130507_resized Chris is the race director and a super nice guy. He is really into the gravel scene. I was presented a case of Yuengling Beer and the winners plaque. I must say it was a tough race, especially with the conditions that were present and the climbing that caught me off guard. Chris put on a great and challenging event. The course was marked very well and the volunteers were all smiles. I would put this one on your calendar for next year if you dig gravel racing but be ready as it is no cakewalk. The course is absolutely beautiful as you climb and descend through some beautiful forest and farmlands. I do believe I will have plenty of solid racing and riding here in Ohio. All smiles!

Haven't seen one of these in a while.

Haven’t seen one of these in a while.

Cheers