Tag Archives: Race Report

CYCLOCROSS!!! Racing for Team UPB/www.ultimateprobikes.com:

I suppose today is as good a day as any to announce that I’m racing for Team UPB/www.ultimateprobikes.com this cyclocross season.  The owner of Ultimate Pro Bikes, Joe, is my road team’s (Tower Racing) bike shop affiliation and I got my 2014 Felt AR5 there.  I plan to get a power meter next spring so I didn’t have any funds for a cross bike.  I was going to race anyways, on a 26″ rigid fork MTB that we have that weighs +/- 30 lbs, but Joe heard about my predicament and is letting me borrow a bike for the season.  How awesome is that?  It’s such an honor because this is my first cyclocross season and he’s putting a lot of trust/faith in me.  Here’s a picture of the sweet Felt F65x that I’m riding, blinged out with some Clement MXP Clinchers (I’ll probably do a full photo shoot w/out the battle scars at some point, similar to my Felt AR5 shoot):

A picture of a 2014 Felt F65x

A super-solid CX rig. I’ve already pushed it through its paces through my poor riding skills (ha!) and it’s still riding awesome!

Maybe I’m sponsor-plugging, maybe I’m not, but I really like that Felt specs all their CX bikes with disc brakes.  The F65x is specced with Avid BB5s and they’re a lot better than most cantis I’ve ridden (and I’ve ridden the Shorty Ultimates on aluminum rims).  Although I haven’t raced, I’ve been following cyclocross (BTB, svenness, World Cups, etc) for over a year and it seems like disc brakes give a big advantage.  If you have the money to get into Felt’s hydraulic disc models, even better.  My dream build would be a Force CX1 w/ Hydraulic Disc Brakes on Felt’s F1x Frameset.

This year, Joe is trying to invest in juniors like other people invested in him when he was a junior.  He’s always looking for other juniors who want to compete and have fun, so contact me (comment, e-mail, etc) if you’re interested!  We have clinics/practices pretty much every week either on a Wed/Thurs morning or on Saturday, which are really helpful b/c Joe has tons of experience.  It’s a ton of fun and a great team.

At the beginning of this post, I say “as good a day as any” because today I got my first win!  The season has started in absolutely fine style: First race of the season was out in DeKalb, where I raced Category 4 and Category 4/5.  I got 5th in the 4s, and 3rd in the 4/5s.  Podium in my second (sort of, I raced the 26″ MTB at Afterglow juniors last year) CX race?  I’ll take it.  We’ll ignore an embarrassing Juniors race yesterday (Saturday, 15-18 Juniors) and skip to today, where I got 7th in the 4s after getting stuck behind another racer on the singletrack climb and 1st in the 4/5s after a 1st-row stage and an overall great race (fastest lap of all participants, fastest average, 29 second gap, etc).  Here’s the money shot:

 

 

A picture of the podium of the Men's Cat 4/5 race at Dan Ryan Woods

Team UPB takes 1st AND 3rd!

This win is AWESOME, but there’s still tons of work to do.  Gaining experience with different pressures, continually practicing corneringz, dismountz, and runningz, gaining fitness, etc, etc, etc.  Let’s not forget what happened just a few weeks ago, and get too caught up in what’s happened thusfar.  I’m going to upgrade to Category 3, but I don’t know how that will work with church.

Until next time,
Zach Wong

Leave a comment

Filed under Motivation, News, Personal

ABR State Championships Race Reports

ABR State Road Race Report (Two Rivers Road Race)

End result: I won. Yay!  I first heard about the race through the team email group, and I decided to race because A) I need to race more for experience and B) I figured the Juniors field wouldn’t be very competitive and I could perhaps get my first win ever.

The course is in rural Illinois and consists of a 18-ish mile course with pretty good pavement (although a bit rough/high-frequency vibration-y) and a set of railroad tracks that absolutely suck to go over.  Unfortunately, the race wasn’t very well run.  It was ABR and registration took 30+ minutes, the finish line was 3.5 mi away from registration and parking, making it suck for my mom since she had to walk over, and there weren’t that many people.  But then again, ABR doesn’t have a lot of staff and at least they’re doing stuff, which is better than I can say.  I figured the race would end up being a split; there weren’t any course features that would split the field and, although it was all cornfields and flat farmland, the wind wasn’t very strong (maybe 5 mph), so crosswinds weren’t going to be a deciding factor (maybe in a larger group, but my field started with 10 people.

I set pace during a neutral 3mi rollout to the start/finish and then I fell into about 3rd position.  Then, the race sort of fell apart.  The other junior, 17-year-old Isaac Drew from Bike Heaven, sort of rolled off the front at maybe 26/27mph.  The first few times, the race stayed together, but after the fourth effort, I ended up in a 3-man group with Isaac, and another rider racing Cat 5s, “Steve” (quotes to mean I only know his first name).  I wasn’t having any problem holding the pace, but I didn’t want to tire myself out taking pulls.  I feel like when you’re in a breakaway, there’s a sub-competition to pull the least possible.  So, Voeckler-level facemugging, loud complaining, and innocent guttering occurred.  This race was one of the places where knowing the direction of the wind is vital.  The wind was pretty much directly West->East and on the North/South stretches, I would always “pull” along the very right side of the road, guttering my companions without a draft.  They didn’t realize this or didn’t care, and neither said anything nor pulled anywhere except in the middle of the road.  I still think I had the best sprint, but every extra watt mattes when you’re going for the win.

Anyways, the race was kind of weird.  There wasn’t really a threat from the guys chasing, who neither had the firepower to chase or the numbers (they were in small groups of 2 or 3).  In the last few miles, we literally sat up on the tops and had a chat about the race.

Skip to 1k to go and I positioned myself in last position.  I watch a lot of pro cycling and my sprinting style lends itself to being last or at least behind someone in the sprint.  For some reason, I attacked with about 400 meters to go.  I was pretty confident in my ability and thought I had the win after my initial burst.  Unfortunately, though, I heard Isaac coming up on the left.  At this point, I was afraid that I was going to lose.  Those doubts that always come when the race gets hard started to bombard my thoughts and I was scared of losing.  I tucked in on the left of Isaac, who had come around, and got ready to kick again.  I had no idea where Steve was, and was a little scared of him coming around both of us with enough speed that I wouldn’t be able to close it in 200 meters.  Thankfully, that didn’t happen; I got into Isaac’s slipstream and laid it down for the last 170 meters, finishing at least 4 bike lengths ahead of a charging Steve.  I even got to post up, which was cool.

Yes!

Yes!

Woodale Criterium Juniors Race Report

Not much to say about Woodale.  The course is super fast.  There aren’t any tight corners, there are significant downhill stretches, and the hard sections, a tough headwind on the day for about 400 meters and a small, 3% grade, did little to limit the speeds.  The field in juniors was me, another 17 year old who didn’t race a lot, Alex Timperman, a 12 year old, Carlos something, and two ten year olds.  I felt pretty confident I could pull out my second W of the year.

The race ended up evolving pretty much like the Two Rivers Road Race.  Essentially, Carlos, Alex, and I dropped the two 10 year olds and rotated at the front.  It was pretty mellow until the last lap.  I expected the final lap to go like this: I would strand Alex or Carlos on the front, or sit on in third wheel like during the race.  I figured Carlos would attack up the small incline into the last corner, and then I would follow him and sprint around him at the end.  It pretty much turned out like that, except Alex did the attack.  I covered it immediately, coming around Carlos to do so.  I expected, then, for Carlos to come around and counterattack and I kept watch for that.  Alex’s attack was good, but short, so I figured Carlos could kick around it.  I didn’t know how fast his sprint was, so in my anticipation of anything from him, I left a pretty significant gap to Alex with 200 meters to go, probably 2 or 3 bike lengths.  When I realized I needed to get going or get second, I shifted into my last tooth and fired up the pistons, coming by with a bike throw at the end and winning by a half wheel.

Leave a comment

Filed under Race Reports

Willow Springs Road Race Race Report

2014 Category 4/5 Willow Springs Road Race Race Report

The 2014 Willow Springs Road Race took place on a weekday and no one from Tower had pre-registered, so I didn’t think I would have any teammates in the field.  The course is a triangle b/w Flavin Road, 107th St, and Archer Ave.  It’s 9.5mi long and consists of all flat except on Flavin, which starts with a “kicker” and another rise about halfway down the road.  I’m hesitant to call it a hill because it’s not nearly hard enough nor long enough nor significant enough.  It starts about 6% for 5 seconds then flattens out to 2-3%.  In reality, it’s pretty much a flat race.  Here’s the segment for the course.

Strategy going into the race was to sit on as long as possible and then sprint at the end.  I was confident I could be at the front the last lap and at the finish.  The last incline to the finish is waaaaaay longer than it looks and takes at least 25 seconds from bottom to top.  A lot of people start their sprint at the bottom, but it goes on forever and if you don’t sniff the wind until about 100 meters to go, you can pull it off.

Tower was hosting the race along with the organization that runs the PSCS, so I volunteered to course marshal an apartment complex.  Races started late and I was close to the finish, so I barely had time to run back to the car, stow my backpack, and sprint into staging.  In fact, if I hadn’t had the foresight to get dressed and do a small warmup (without cooldown) at my course marshal location, I wouldn’t have made it into the race.

Anyways, when I got to the field, I saw that Tommy Will (would take 1st place Cat 5s) and Tony Kassel (club president) were both in my race.  It was too late to make a strategy so we said a couple of words, desperately tried to find out where rollout would be (much to the confusion of my non-under 18 racers), downed 4 ounces of maple syrup, and dumped water onto my brake lever after it got sticky.

I managed to get to the front of staging and in the neutral rollout I started the race in second position.  The last straight before entering the hill was a 10mph+ headwind, so it would be important to stay tucked away in that.  Also, it would be a great place to move up as everyone hunkers down and singles up in headwinds.

The race went like this: 75 people in the field (the smallest field limit, actually).  In the hill: fast at the beginning, lull, back swarms the front, if you don’t respond, you’re at the back.  Too narrow (centerline rule) to move up in either of the back stretches, and then the headwind stretch.  After the second lap, I learned this, so on the final lap, I finally secured a good position going into the end of Flavin and the turn onto 107th st.  Side note: The Flavin/107th and Flavin/Archer turns are really sketchy.  If you get a chance before a future race, check them out and look for a good line!  I felt that the safest line into the last turn (Flavin/Archer) was on the very inside and the safest line into 107th was the outside line.  Also, everyone slowed down a ton going into 107th and going into Archer so if you don’t brake into either turn, you can pass 10 people+ on the outsides.  That is, if you don’t spin out at 34mph on the downhills (spoiler alert: I did).

Anyways, before the race, I noticed someone warming up: Rick Lapinski of the Zoot Triathlon team.  He’s raced at Ironman worlds the past few years, and I’ve seen him blow past our Tower paceline at least once, so I definitely saw him as a threat.  If he got just a little separation, he could ride away from the entire field.  I talked to him before the race, and he said that, yes, he was going to attack.  I told him I’d be on his wheel.

The focus for the first lap, then, was to stick to Rick like maple syrup to my brake lever.  Unfortunately, he moved directions that I didn’t and I lost him over the hill.  I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at moving people off of wheels, but the road was so narrow and people are so unreceptive to contact at 30 mph (I know, right?) that I could only watch him from 5 feet away and look for a way to move up in frustration.  Rick never did get away, never getting the separation he needed to lay down the watts (different fitness skillset), but I did get to the front and we traded a few pulls while everyone sat on.  While you should never pull unless it’s advantageous, I’ve found that pulling secures you a spot in the front, which is why I’ll pull at least a few times.  I don’t think it’s hurt me as of yet.

Skip to the finale; An attack into 107th sent the field into skitters.  I was at the front at the time, probably 5 meters behind the leaders, but I didn’t think anything would get away so I just sat in and saved energy.  The break consisted of a guy from Manitoba (a Canadian devo team that drives 13 hours to race weeks/weekends.  Sheesh) and someone else.  They, somehow, stayed away.  It was seriously impressive because it was into a headwind against a 73-rider peloton.  Down Archer, there was a lot of yelling, mostly from the back (OK, mini-rant: The yelling was really starting to annoy me.  There were a ton of people yelling at everyone to rotate and chase, which I’m fine with.  It’s a great tactic that often gets people working.  However, most of the people yelling were at the back!  Which actually is a good idea if you get someone to fall for it, but it kind of annoyed me at the time.  There were more than 5 instances in which I heard “pull through or get out of the way” when there was at least 2 meters of space on the sides to pass. Sigh).  People tried to get a chase going and a Spidermonkey guy on a sweet S-Works Tarmac that was orange and black (unfortunately not the new MacLaren Tarmac) got stranded on the front, but in the end the break wasn’t pulled back.  It just wasn’t organized enough.

Anyways, I wanted to save energy so I stopped fighting for position going into the final turn.  Bad idea; I don’t really know what I was thinking.  I think, now, that, in the heat of the moment, I wasn’t cognizant of my race strategy.  I should have found the Illini guy who had won the past few days, stuck to his wheel, and come around him in the end.  Or, I should have kept fighting for position and stayed at the front.  My thought at the time was that I would just catch some guy’s wheel to the front.  Which sort of ended up happening, I just caught a guy’s wheel… to the wrong side of a 4 meter split.  I finished first in that bunch, outsprinting everyone else, but was overall disappointed with my result.  I really thought I had the legs and the strategy to take first in the bunch, but unfortunately I wasn’t positioned well enough to even have that opportunity.

I got to meet a reader, though, who weighs 115 (!!!!) pounds and is, like, doing really well this season (it seems, by his results).  Hopefully racing the ABR State Championship this Sunday.  Maybe I’ll film that.

Thanks for taking the time to read these 1300 words.  As always, I would heartily recommend subscribing via email a el right-o or following me on Strava to stay up-to-date with my journey.

Leave a comment

Filed under Race Reports

Monsters of the Midway Cat 4/5 and Cat 5 Race Report

The intention going into Monsters was to use it as training and for experience.  I haven’t raced much and I want as much experience racing as possible.  Also, it would be good training and would contribute to my Cat 4 license.  Also, it was close – just 40 minutes away by car, in downtown Chicago.  The race was raced on the University of Chicago Midway and was put on by the University of Chicago Velo Club.  The course consisted of a 1.8 KM rectangle with wide corners, long side running West-East.  Street conditions were pretty poor – the streets are usually used for parking so the sides of the street were cut up and there were three huge potholes in the back stretch.  It would be nice for the race promoters to mark the holes w/ spray paint or something like that as it was hard, if not impossible, to know when they were coming.  Generally, I would coast when I knew I was approaching one (using trees/buildings on the side for reference), which would put me at the back of the group.  Wind conditions were out of the West at 13 KM/H, consistent the whole time.

Since the finishing straight was about 400m to the finish line out of the last corner, the strategy was to enter the last corner in about 6th position and follow wheels to 150m, where I would jump.

Category 4/5 Monsters of the Midway Race Report:

Link to Strava File

I went in feeling really good.  I had been doing really great on the Tower rides and had been riding consistently and strongly.  I started the race in the third row but didn’t try to get up to the front immediately.  That put me in about 25th position, where I stayed for the first of 10 laps (30 mins).  The chances of a break getting away on such a simple course were very slim, especially with the crosswind sections being 140m long, each, which ended up being more of a long U-turn than two separate corners.

The main problem I had during the race was that I kept ending up at the back.  I would move up to top 10 or so in the tailwind stretch (800m), corner and maybe move up a few spaces (either people in the lower categories aren’t very good at cornering or I don’t know how much the accordion affect comes into play – although even when I was third/fourth wheel at times, I still had to brake significantly in order to stay behind the person in front of me.  As mentioned, the corners were wide – you didn’t have to brake at all) through the turn.  However, on the long headwind stretch, people would be constantly moving up on the left and right and I would find myself in the back half.  I was never tailgunning but I still had to move up every time on the tailwind stretch.  That wasted a lot of energy, I think.  I need to, in the future, make sure that I’m constantly moving up so that I don’t end up at the back.  Maybe that means being more aggressive in moving into trains.

Despite this, with 1 lap to go I was sitting 2nd wheel.  About 200m before turn 3, three XXX guys moved up to the front and I jumped on that, thinking it would be a train to the finish.  Unfortunately, the first guy blew in between turns 3 and 4 and the second guy blew going through Start/Finish.  Instead of getting stuck on the front, the last XXX guy jumped, trying to bridge up to a break of 4 up the road.  I should have been ready but wasn’t, getting caught out and having to pedal into a 3 meter gap.  I couldn’t bring the XXX rider back and was off, solo, in front of the decimated field behind.  I thought it would be smarter to sit up, try to recover, and then try to do something in the field sprint but I couldn’t recover quickly enough and limped in last of the pack, 34th overall (out of 60 or so).  Maybe I should have put my head down and TT’d, but I was already at 200bpm and I don’t think I could have summoned the watts to stay out in front.

Category 5 Monsters of the Midway Race Report:

Strategy was the same as above.  I lined up sort of out of it all b/c of the efforts of the 4/5.  That probably wasn’t the best idea because I ended up losing focus and pulling some dangerous moves in the field.  I’ll have to work on that.  Anyways, the race was definitely slower than last time and I learned from the 4/5 race by following moves up the sides in the headwind straight.  I was in the top-20 w/ 3 to go but was sort of mentally out of it.  Even if I had stayed in, I don’t think I would have had the winning mentality to pull off a pack win.  I ended up flatting out after hitting a huge pothole (RACE PROMOTERS!) and blowing the rear wheel.  Oh well.


Overall, this was definitely a good thing to have done.  I know I learned a lot about crit racing and definitely benefited from the workout (hitting 200bpm can’t be… bad for you, can it?  I mean, isn’t it healthy and natural to have your heart beat that fast?).  Takeaways from this race include:

  1. Always be in the process of moving up to the front of the race
  2. People don’t corner very fast – either be on the front and split the field in a technical course like Homewood or do something else (haven’t figured out how to approach it b/c even top 5 I had to slow down).
  3. My sprint power is pretty good.  The lifting over the winter (max back squat of 235lbs, 1 rep) has definitely made my force out of corners and in accelerations much stronger than last year.

My next race is the Quad Cities Memorial Day Weekend (Snake Alley, Melon City, Quad Cities crits).  Thanks for taking the time to read my report.  Connect with me by following this blog via WordPress (footer), subscribe via e-mail (right sidebar), e-mail me (link here), or follow me on Strava.  Thanks again!

Leave a comment

Filed under Race Reports