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Upcoming This Week…

Last race I did Cat 4/5, the lowest category in the ChiCrossCup.

This Sunday, I’m racing 1/2/3s, the highest category in the ChiCrossCup.

Good luck, eh?

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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

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Quad Cities Criterium Race Report

Category 5 Quad Cities Criterium 2014 Race Report

The old Quad Cities Criterium was a mile-long, eight-turn affair, dead flat, and almost invariably a sprint.  After crawling up the 25% grades of Snake Alley and bunny-hopping the Melon City speed-bump at 36 MPH, I was looking forward to a flat course.  Not how I said the old course was flat.  This year’s course was not.

Under the direction of a new race promoter, someone from the same company that runs ToAD and the Prairie State Cycling Series, a new course was drawn up, located in downtown East Davenport.  The course featured narrow roads, a 2-block 4% climb into a 1-block 11% climb, a screaming but straight descent into two narrow, super fast corners.  Normally, this would have been a really cool course.  After Snake Alley and Melon City, it wasn’t a race I was looking forwards too.

Luckily, my dad and I were staying overnight just outside Davenport so we headed over to the course the night before to preride and check out the climb and lines through the corners.  As soon as I saw the course, I groaned – although wide, the climb was really steep and even going up it easy was difficult.  The descent is super-fast.  I reached 38/39 mph each time down.  The best tactic, especially on junior gears, is just to tuck and fly down – spinning out your gears will only waste energy and won’t make up any ground.  The descent comes down at pretty much the same grade and spits you out of the trees onto a long straight, probably about 400m long.  Along the straight, you’ll still be going 32/33 mph so pedaling can be efficient, but still probably not worth it.  The corners are tight and over sealed brick – the kind of faux-brick pathway that turns banana-peel slippery in the rain.  If it’s a rainy day, have caution going through the corners.

After pre-riding the course and discussing with my father, I decided not to race the juniors race.  I knew it would be really fast and going down the descent and into those two corners at the end of the back straight would be dangerous and I didn’t think I would be able to be safe with such an aggressive, more advanced field.  Bike racing isn’t exactly about safety, but you have to know your limits and when you’re taking unnecessary risk.  If I had three more years of experience and Cat 2 fitness and could think clearly the entire race, I probably would have stayed in.  First year racing, it wasn’t worth it.  As it was, my first lap, I overcooked the first corner and almost locked the rear wheel up, which would have been pretty bad.  Even then, for the rest of the laps, the last corner was always super fast (b/w the two corners, it’s downhill).

Lining up for Cat 5, it was hot and muggy.  85 degrees but more humid than a dog’s breath.  I warmed up on a great bike path along the Mississippi, jersey unzipped, trying to stay cool.  Strategy going into the race was to go into the last two corners second, ideally, or first with a gap.  From the last corner to the finish was probably 350m, making it better to be second wheel, but I figured the speed coming out of the corner would be so high that any farther back and it’d be too many people to come around.  First or second into the last two corners meant some sort of attack, probably onto the climb as it was almost impossible to pass people on the descent and flat (spinning out).  I could attack into the corners, but that’s sort of a jerk move and not entirely necessary to win.

30 people lined up at the start but I sorely overestimated how competitive the field was.  After the first lap, there were only eight of us in the front group.  Huh.

Anyways, second lap, the eventual winner of the race attacked on the climb and dangled about 20 seconds off the front for 3 laps.  It turns out he had won Snake Alley and Melon City the two days before.  When he attacked, I didn’t follow because I didn’t think it would get away.  I should have known that, with a group of only seven, no one would chase him down.  After about 4 laps, the eventual second place racer got a small gap over the top of the climb inadvertently, looked back, figured it was better to be off the front than on the front and held his gap to the finish line.  By that time, there were only 4 others left and the next time up the climb, it was just me and one other racer.

I’d like to tell a story about how we went back and forth, tossing attacks at each other, each time clawing back the time advantage to the chaser.  But alas, it wasn’t to be.  I pretty much sat on his wheel while he led the remaining 5 laps.  He tried to accelerate a few times, on the 4% or the 11% grades, but he didn’t have a lot of pop and I was able to stay with him.  Also, it was hot, hard, and humid, so that probably contributed to it to.  Last lap, I tried to attack at the bottom of the climb and was giving it everything, but when I looked back, he was only a few seconds off my wheel and I knew he would catch on the descent, so I sat up.

Here’s when the race was won (for third): On the descent, he came around me.  I don’t know why.  Maybe I had conditioned him to be in front.  Regardless, I immediately got on his wheel and stayed there until about 180m to the finish.  He started the sprint and I came around him and took third by about 2/3 a bike.

I’m really happy that I finally got a good result.  Like I said on Strava, I’ve felt like I’ve had the fitness to grab a good result, but I just… haven’t.  Getting on the podium also gives me confidence for my 4 upgrade.  I’m excited to race Glencoe Cat 5s with my teammate, Tommy Will, next week and also excited to see real power numbers the week after that.

As always, thanks for reading my race report/blog.  The best way to keep up is to follow me on Strava.  Second best would be to follow this blog (in the sidebar).

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Snake Alley Criterium and Melon City Criterium Race Reports (+Extras)

This was one of two A-race weekends this year (Glencoe Grand Prix, May 31st being the other – I dropped out of Galena due to SATII Testing).  The purpose of this weekend was to get experience racing against the top juniors in the  Midwest.  As I explained, the Memorial Day Criteriums are all part of USA Cycling’s Road Development Race Series.  RDRS is meant to find talented juniors in the United States for the National Development Program.  The product of this is that juniors come from all over to race.  There were people from Kentucky (440 mi from Burlington, IA to Louisville), Ohio (440 mi to Cinci), Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, etc.  Probably the biggest news was that Hincapie Development sent four riders, David Lombardo, Richard Rainville, Simon Jones, and Gavin Haley.  I don’t know much about the others, but David Lombardo is from Crystal Lake, IL and has gone to the Junior Cyclocross World Championships.  So he’s pretty fast.  He won both days.

Snake Alley Criterium Race Report (Juniors 15-18)

Link to Strava File

The hallmark of Snake Alley is Snake Alley, a twisting street in Burlington that, according to Strava, has an average 20% grade, peaking at 26-29%.  The rest of the course is a fast, 3-corner descent, with about a half mile of flat until a short, 1-block, 10% kicker before the Snake.  Although the corners were wide and kept clean of gravel or dirt by a great team of volunteers, the corners were still super fast.  If you could corner, they were a good place to make up time or catch up to a group.  Because of the hill, I figured the race would just blow up into a brutal time trial.

That’s essentially what happened.  Racers are lined up by pre-registration order.  I was third row and came into the first corner (into the 10% kicker) in about 25th position.  I entered the Snake, first lap, in 25th as well.  The Snake, because it’s so short, ends up being just a power climb, albeit one complicated by lots of racers in a narrow road and on a steep gradient.  (Luckily, in none of the laps, I had to dismount, although it was certainly tight)  It’s sort of a climb where you just have to bear through the pain for 30 seconds and then try to recover on the descent and flat… and then do that 9 more times.

I shot up the climb and passed a few kids the first time up, exiting the alley probably in 20th.  When I got to the top, the race was already strung out, racers already descending down the backstretch.  From there, it turned into a time trial as I thought, descending, TTing on the flat, and then busting it up Snake Alley again.  One nice thing was that, because the whole thing was just a TT and the flat part was short relative to the descent and climb(s), people weren’t looking for you to take pulls.  So, if I caught up to someone, I was able to sit on their wheel on the flats and draft.

In general, each lap I would lose time on the climb and then catch up on the descent, sit on someone’s wheel trying to recover, and then repeat.  I guess I need to get better at climbing or anaerobic endurance.  It might even just be a mental thing, sticking it out when the legs are hurting a lot.  For sure in the middle of the race, I tried to take it easier, tried to limit the burn of the lactic acid accumulating in my legs.

I ended up coming in 26th out of 34 (37 starters)

Extra #1: Check your Ish before you race

I failed rollout like an idiot at Snake Alley.  I thought I was running a 44/34 in the front and a 12-25 rear cassette, making the max gear 44-12 and expected rollout of 7.67 meters (7.93 is the limit).  Ended up I was running an 11-25 in the rear and rolled out to 8.37 meters in front of everyone like an idiot and should have been DQ’d.  My fault.  Lesson: Check before the race, at home, etc.

Extra #2: Dan Hollywood Holloway is a boss

We stuck around the whole day for the pro race and got to watch Dan Holloway (Athlete Octane Cycling) break away with Alexander Ray (Hincapie Elite Development Team) and win for like the 8th time in a row.  If you don’t know, he swept Speed Week in Georgia (no one has won more than two in a row), then went to Dana Point and promptly beat UHC, SmartStop, etc.

But what’s more impressive is how good he is for his sponsors.  Every time he wins, he highlights the front of his jersey, thanks his sponsors, welcomes fans to talk to him, thanks the crowd for coming out, compliments the race organizers and volunteers, etc etc etc.

Melon City Criterium Race Report (Juniors 15-18)

Link to Strava File

Melon City was Sunday’s race, a 1-mile lap of “Weed Park” in Muscatine, Iowa.  It features a 530m climb that starts out at 8% and ends with a false flat that really sucks the legs.  The 8% part isn’t that hard because the descent goes right into the base of the climb so you can carry speed into it, despite the best efforts of the park staff: There’s the infamous speed bump at the bottom, although it’s overhyped.  It’s definitely ridable with a bit of caution, although certainly nerve-racking.  Strategy on the descent is to just tuck.  With junior gears (this time corrected by blocking out the 11t) spinning out at 33ish, it’s better to get aero to save energy.

Anyways, the pace out of the gate was really fast.  The strong teams/riders kept throwing attacks, trying to get away and, since I was at the back (what a surprise, right?  I should work on that) I was feeling the accordion a lot.  Everything got chased down by the field, although I failed to chase down the field and got dropped with 3 or 4 to go.  Sucks when the moto passes you.  Anyways, I finished strong, going all out to the finish and came in 26th again, this time out of 38 (maybe b/c there weren’t any DNFs).

Tip if you’re in contention to win: In my not-in-contention-to-win, the winning line is on the inside the entire course.  The cuts down the distance you have to pedal by at least a couple-ten meters each lap and, going into the sprint, it’s definitely the line b/c you’ll have a shorter path up the hill and you’ll come around the last corner wide and carrying speed, instead of having to break and then accelerate.  Also, you’ll have the inside of the small bend in the finish and, when sprints are won by tire widths, any advantage you can get you should take.


Overall, the results so far have been good, I think.  The competition is much higher than anything I’ve raced in and, at least according to the USAC points system (the lower number the more competitive), I’ve done the best I’ve ever done.  I’ve been beating a lot of Cat 4s and even some 3s, so that’s pretty good.  I’m certainly riding faster than last year and earlier this year and I’ll be doing power testing after Glencoe, next week.  It’s also great to be able to race in this super-competitive fields with Cat 1s and 2s.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  Next is Quad Cities Criterium which, although traditionally flat, now has a 9% hill in it.  Cool, thanks race promoter.

As always, if you’ve gotten this far, thanks a lot for reading.  If you want to connect with me, hit me up on Strava (strava.com/athletes/zachryanwong) or e-mail me.  If you do happen to see me or race with me (I’m looking at you Diego Arana – I saw your dad by the Mississippi River), come say hi or something.  That’d be cool.  Learn about me at (guess where) the About Me page.

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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!

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Planning This Season

I’ve been thinking about next season (2014) for a while now, but only just got around to writing a post about it.

I’d like to preface this post by saying that I’m really excited about 2014. It’s only my second year of training, but I’m really eager to get training and see some good results. My ‘A’ priority races are really big events and fall into three-weekend period, which is really nice.

I used the Cyclist’s Training Bible by trainingpeaks.com founder Joe Friel. Thus, there are ‘A’ races, which I base my entire season around, ‘B’ races, which are important and I might rest for, and ‘C’ races, which are used for training and aren’t very important.

A Races:

  1. Quad Cities Races (Burlington RR, Snake Alley Criterium, Melon City Criterium, Quad Cities Criterium), Memorial Day Weekend
  2. Glencoe Grand Prix, May 31st
  3. Tour of Galena, June 6-8

Quad Cities Races:

The Quad Cities Races are four races held on Memorial Day Weekend, one per day (Friday -> Monday).  They are located in the Rock Island, IL area, which is about a four hour drive.  These races are the most important races in my season because three out of the four races (each except Burlington RR) are part of the USAC Road Development Race Series (RDRS).  RDRS races are used by USAC officials to identify upcoming talent.  If I do well, I should get on USAC’s radar.  The RDRS is a national calendar, and having three races four hours away in one weekend is a fantastic opportunity for me.

I especially want to win the Quad Cities Cat 4/5 U23 race on Memorial Day.  I think it’s specially designed to identify talented riders who have gotten a late start into the sport.  Which describes me, right?

Glencoe Grand Prix:

The Glencoe Grand Prix is part of the USAC National Criterium Calendar (NCC).  Like the RDRS, it’s a series of races that USAC designates as ‘big.’  Because there are only 18 NCC races all year, the competition in each race is super stiff.  These are the ‘A’ races for Domestic Pro teams.

Tour of Galena Omnium:

This is a great race because it has a TT, Road Race, and Criterium.  It’s pretty much the only road race in my calendar, and the only one that has a significant amount of climbing.  It’s only an hour away and should be a great race.

B Races:

  1. Cobb Park Crit (April 21st)
  2. Monsters of the Midway (May 5th)
  3. Lake Bluff Criterium (Intelligentsia Cup, NCC)
  4. Wood Dale Criterium (ABR Illinois Criterium Championship)

C Races:

I may or may not race in these.  Most C races are on Saturdays, so I don’t have to miss church, and aren’t super important.  Most were chosen just because they are close and racing is fun.

  1. Hillsboro Roubaix (March 22nd – Cool race over dirt and bad roads)
  2. South Beloit Circuit Race (April 4th)
  3. Elgin Criterium (May 12th)
  4. Tour de Villas (June 29th)
  5. Homewood Criterium (July 6th – My 1st race ever.  Got dropped)
  6. Sharon Road Race (July 16th)

Subscribe to my blog – I’m going to continue writing about my upcoming season and how training is progressing.  See you on the road!

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