The Beginning of ‘Cross Season!!!!

BY KENNETH LUNDGREN

Hey Gang,

So, my prep for ‘cross really went well this summer… I pretty much shut my season down at Bearscat 50 in early June, then did a bunch of solid foundation work leading into mid-July, then started racing MTB but still, on the training front, keeping the stress more foundation-based…

I wanted to mimic the cyclo-cross weekend of racing before ‘cross arrived, so in late-August I booked a Saturday Sunday… I did the MTBNJ Short Track race on Saturday, then the NYSMTB Series Hurley Burly XC race on Sunday!

I had ridden the Ramapo Rally the Sunday before, 100 miles over my favorite roads in NJ — I highly, highly recommend doing this group ride… The ride gets a HUGE turnout of riders, has pro aid stations along the route, and has a great celebration post-ride at the Campgaw Ski Resort — it is one of the best days for a cyclist in the state of NJ… As always, I had a stupendous time riding with friends and athletes — 100 miles, was not prepared for the volume, but I had really good legs, felt awesome all day…

So, the week after, I had a harsh two-day block of sprint-work on Tuesday, then Wednesday Worlds, and then Thursday Friday light PowerCranking…

At the start of the Saturday Short Track, I actually was talking to one of my athletes and missed the chance to slot in first row. Ehhhh, there’re worse things in life.

But, as the gun went off, I was suddenly 10th charging down the fire road, maybe 7th as we knifed into the uphill singletrack — 7th was okay, but 1st 2nd 3rd were already out of sight!!! The temps were cool and I had GREAT legs, felt very good… The course was a good mix of switchback climbs, hard fire-road climbing, some techy rock gardens, and fun fun fun descending… In the end, I was able to catch 3rd, then 2nd, but Ilya Cantor, a rider I coach, heck, I never even saw the guy on the first lap — he was GONE. Just shows you how important the start of a short track MTB race is — it is NOT a TT, you do NOT pace yourself for the first 45 seconds. You need to BE gone, and then STAY gone… Great job, Ilya, showing us all how it is done…

So, 2nd, I was happy with that… The second day at The Burly (!!!) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGaqGHyVD2I), the legs felt a little tight — perhaps it was the heat, and I also did an additional pre-ride lap, but the course was also wayyyyyy more gnarly and technical — super-twisty, virtually zero elevation, just twisty and turny and twisty and turny…

As we roared off into the woods at the start, as we railed 1, 2, 3 turns, I knew it wasn’t going to be my day. 1 my legs did feel little flat, and 2 I was happy with how hard I had pushed the day before, really just wanted to ride hard and have fun… With the dynamic of this Burly course, and me not being a pure MTBer, I just felt like I couldn’t get on the gas… The day before, there were patches of course where I could unload gobs and gobs of power — at The Burly, not quite the same… The guy who I beat for 2nd at the short track by 2 minutes beat me by 6 minutes at The Burly — and that’s the beauty of MTBing, every course is different, every rider can has his/her day… I was, however, very happy to slot in at 3rd…

Two weeks later was the first weekend of cyclo-cross, and one of the biggest: the Nittany races in Trexlertown… The course is not very technical, favors a power rider, roadies can come off their road season and surf this form into these early-season races, the course really not techy enough to hold them back…. Last year, I had started 95th and finished 35th… This year, I was on the front row, very amped for that, was hoping for a top-10…

I WAS top-10 as we hit the first climb, and then *SNAP* there goes my chain. LOL, of course, first race of the year, after so much time spent on this very same machine… So I hauled a$$ to the pits, left my bike with the mechanic, rode the second half of the course on the pit bike, and then mechanical genius Funk Freshington had a new chain on my bike and off I went, back in 125th place and knifing through the field… I finish around 45th, actually happy with that… I felt very strong, just not my day…

As an athlete (and all the best athletes are like this), you need to be even-keeled: you need to learn to take the bad with the good and the good with the bad…

I had bought a pit bike over the summer but didn’t think I’d need it ’til Charm City, was when I was hoping to get it fully prepped. Well, I was WRONG. Learn from this: Proper Planning Presents Piss Poor Performance. Had I been 100% prepared at Nittany, if I had snapped my chain, I could’ve run to the pits, swapped bikes immediately, then swapped again if needed, really losing farrrrrrrrrr less time. Instead, I had to noodle half a lap on a HUGE SRAM pit bike, just really coasting, losing eons of minutes…

I had plans to stay with a friend very close to the race site, but that changed with the broken chain. I hauled home, got my pit bike, and had my mechanic get it fully prepped… By Saturday night, I had two identical CX bikes ready to rip.

But I do think my full-metal race effort combined with running around like a lunatic Saturday weighed on me on Sunday… I’m usually a good starter but on Sunday I was very sluggish off the line, and I went from top-7 to top-30 in about 20 seconds… Body tired, head not really there 100% — just shows you what cyclo-cross is all about… ‘Cross is all about being perfect and trying to always push the envelope, trying to take safe risks without making ANY mistakes.

That really is my thesis statement for success in cyclo-cross…. On Sunday, mentally and physically, I felt flat. I tried HARD out there, but instead of having fire in my eyes, I felt like I had fire in my throat, hard to get it going… I fought hard for 24th, actually happy with that, but it was such a dusty dogfight out there — like 30 of us finished about 45 seconds apart from one another… If ONE rider made one tiny mistake, he lost instantly 10 spots…

An athlete I coach, Sean Pasieka, who in the last two years has become almost a ‘cross specialist, he took 6th and 4th on Saturday and Sunday… He’s come a LONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNG way. My FT used to be 40w higher than his and now he’s arguably stronger. I used to weigh 12 pounds lighter than him and now he’s 10+ pounds lighter than me… Wow. Talk about a change!!! The kid has become a real force to be reckoned with. When I told him he could place top-5 in this hotly-contested MAC Series, he looked at me incredulously… but he’s seeing TRUTH here… Terrific start for him, and he’s only going to get faster…

Also, Stacey Barbossa had a fantastic start to her season… She couldn’t get it going 100% at the start of the pro race, but she really found a stupendous rhythm halfway through, bridging to the lead group of GABBY DAY and LAURA VAN GILDER. She ended up just 11 seconds back on Van Gilder and Gabby Day, WOW… To put that in perspective, Gabby Day just beat Georgia Gould by over 30 seconds at Crossvegas… Stacey Barbossa has become one of THE top ‘cross racers in the MAC and NE regional area… Watching her intently at these races and seeing how fast she goes still gives me sincere goosebumps…

I’ve had some family matters to attend to recently, skipping out of Charm City (a crucial MAC race, but life happens sometimes) and also the next week of Town Hall and Westwood Velo, but I am hoping to be able to start racing again first week of October, at Providence, which for many CX racers is the “true” start of the ‘cross season anyway…

This is my favorite time of year to ride… Am loving mixing together potent CX training, fun MTB rides, and some hard road rides, a wonderful balance… Am hoping to be able to see this cyclo-cross season through to the end… and then in 2014, get back to my roots and do what I do best…

Thanks for reading and hope to see a bunch of you at these awesome upcoming cyclo-cross races…

“The stronger or faster men don’t always win life’s battles… Sooner or later, the man who wins is the man who thinks he can win.” — Vince Lombardi

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Kenneth Lundgren's Diary | Sunday, September 22nd, 2013 | | |