EFTA The Pinnacle Race Report

Ben Pagano – Singlespeed Open: 2nd Place

After what seemed like a pretty hard week of training, I decided to go and do the EFTA race called the Pinnacle up in Newport, NH.  The Pinnacle is one of the most challenging courses we get to race on here in New England.  It starts with a double track climb that quickly transitions to a gnarly singletrack switch-backy  climb that goes on for what seems like a couple of miles.  We had a pretty thin field in the singlespeed category with only 5 taking the line, but it was a pretty fast crew.  Two of my good buddies, Alexis Arapoff and Keith Reynolds both of Bikeman, were the guys to beat. Continue reading “EFTA The Pinnacle Race Report”

Rasputitsa Race Report – Tough Mudder for Roadies?

rasp4Team Captain Mike Rowell has styled poetically about this one seemingly since he crossed the finish line last Saturday…I’m just coming to terms with what happened up there in the cold dreary north-scape of Newport, VT.  Truth be told I’m not sure I’m capable of putting into words what happened back there in the first chase group…or shall I say what “became” the first chase group.  But that was the race, and largely only the cherry on top of an awesome weekend racing with the BSBL team.  It’s becoming a fairly regular occurrence for several of us to pile in to a car and head off to some gosh forsaken place to race our bikes in less than desirable conditions.  So, Friday afternoon I picked up teammate Skip Thomas and headed for the Casparis estate.  There we met teammates Tslim and Ferret (Tom Casparis and Kyle Welch), and packed up Tslim’s family sized SUV affectionately known as Big Red.  After an uneventful ride up and an unfortunate run in with a buffalo chicken burrito we arrived in Newport, VT.  We pulled up to the Newport City Inn and were a bit dismayed as it did not look nearly as nice as it did in the brochure.  No matter, they were welcoming and the room was updated and clean.  We promptly made for the Louis Garneau factory outlet just up the road so Tslim could score some last minute booties.  Back at the hotel we geared up to do a little course recon.  Just days prior, the Rowells had regaled us with tales of Sasquartch and raging rapids on course, so we were a bit nervous about what we’d be heading in to.  Once on course we found a mix of pavement and dirt and very good shape and not nearly as bad as we thought.  In the back of our minds we all knew that the conditions were sure to deteriorate farther into the course.  After being buzzed by a bubba in a really loud pickup truck we decided to head back to the hotel and find a place to eat.

Course Recon
Course Recon

We found an excellent place to eat right in downtown Newport called the Lago Trattoria, had a good menu and reasonable prices.  We were able to sample some excellent beers and discuss the upcoming event.  After dinner we called it a night and headed back to the hotel.  That morning I woke early to the sound of a steady rain on the roof and windows.. I had a sinking feeling as I thought of a cold and wet start.  I think the rain started to taper around 7 AM when I finally got out of bed.  Kyle and I met Tom and Skip for breakfast and proceed to take on some last minute calories.  Sticking with the Battenkill plan of under-dressing at the start I wore a long sleeve base and the BSBL fleecy jersey up top with the regular bibs and full leg warmers below.  I wore my Giro code MTB shoes with a simple toe cover and a heavier wool sock.  I was worried about getting wet feet on the Cyberia section but figured I could tough it out.  We made our way down to the start line chaos, got our numbers and pinned up.  Yes I pinned Kyle, I wanted him to look as pro as possible.  I said hi to a lot of people.  I went to the porta a few times.  I stood around and shivered.  We rolled out.  I knew I needed to be farther forward than I was.  It was like I was in outer space.  I knew that once the pavement ended it would be hard to move up and I’d be running out of time.  I was back with the crowd surfers, the knees out folks, the BMI crowd.  And way way up front I see MKR followed by the Fukushima glow of Ted King’s Cannondale jacket.  I wanted to be there.. to transport myself there effortlessly.  All around me I heard gears clunking and chains dropping, the breathing was much much to labored for the pace we were going.  Then.  A fleshy elbow nudged into me…like refrigerated play doh…and I stood up and jumped.  Up through the din of muddy metal, the “you got it bros,” and the vacuous stares.  And just then a blue jacketed Paul Richard came back towards me and then away behind me..and I was chasing.  Barely back on and another hill…and again I was chasing.  I watched as it seemed Mike and Kyle may snap off that group too and I thought at least I wouldn’t be alone, but I wanted to be with them, not drifting back to a group of unknowns.  So I chased and got back on.  The stage was set, the legs were butter, the lungs were hot with the stings of a thousand hornets.  And Tim Johnson was peeing off the side of his bike.  I don’t really remember much after that.  It strung out in Cyberia…I opted to run more than ride I think.  I’ve nothing to prove and I was already hurting.  The on off the bike tends to spike the heart rate and that was exactly what I didn’t need.  I saw the powder blue jerseys of my teammates slip up the trail ahead, and I decided I would have to let them go.

Cyberia.  I'm fading...
Cyberia. I’m fading… (photo by Dirty40)

After Cyberia.  A bunch of us came back together.  Truth be told I was dragged up to the group by a desperate Peter Vollers.  Once we were all together the pace became civilized, no he-man pulls, no attacks.  I think we knew we were the chase and that it would maybe catch the leaders but not be caught itself.  We rode a long for awhile before I looked around…some familiar faces and kits.  The ever amicable Andy Gould, my old MTB nemesis.  Peter Vollers, and a Tall Tree dude I know I’ve seen before..  Soon we picked up a soloing Bobby Stine.  Then up ahead a group of three containing the Ferret, I was relieved as I knew what that meant.  It meant I would be a wheel sucking weasel for the rest of the race.  With MKR likely in the lead group and a teammate in the chase, Kyle and I both agreed, while we would not be blocking these hard men, we certainly would not be pulling them closer to MKR.  The course slogged on for a long time after that.  Muddy climb after muddy climb.  Mr. Stine came to the front a few times and made it hurt.  I wished aloud that he’d stop doing that but he didn’t hear me.  Or care.  Then we were back on the pavement and I asked Gouldy…”are we gonna sprint, or just roll in”?  He shrugged his shoulders and said “don’t know.”  That means yes.  The group let me sit on the front for the last 3k or so and I was happy to be there…I looked back at Kyle who was sitting 4th wheel and tried to catch his gaze.  I thought maybe I could send him up the road with Stine and Gouldy for a better finish.  I didn’t think anyone would chase even if they could.  No dice.  He was staring at his front wheel and thinking about the PBR’s he had for dessert the night before.  I halfheartedly led out the sprint knowing my snap was long gone…probably laying on the side of a muddy hill back in Cyberia, whimpering…dying…  And so it was.  This wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve done on a bike, not even close.  But it was hard in a way I’m not awfully familiar with, and in a way I like.  I noticed in our very competitive group…everyone was facing something down inside.  Not like other road races where its about your competition and what they are doing or not doing.  Everyone in that group had a demon to deal with…to over come.  At the end it wasn’t bro hugs and high fives.  It was exhaustion and a feeling that you just did something not too many people can do.  And if you want to go back and do it again, there is something seriously wrong with you…Get in the van.

Taking advantage

No Bikes? No Problem.
No Bikes? No Problem.

The weather over here in Hudson hasn’t been conducive to training on the road.  In sharp contrast to the last couple of weeks when I was starting to get out and build some endurance and bring the volume up in anticipation of an early start to the spring season.  I have been spending quite a bit of time in the last week out on the Salomon Snowscapes I got from the Bikeway Source.  I’ve been fairly successful in exchanging my bike workouts for ski workouts, and as anyone who skis knows…its really easy to put yourself into the pain cave on the skis, perhaps easier than on the bike.  Lately, I’ll avoid the swarmed ski areas in favor of a local nature preserve, the Assabet Wildlife Refuge in Stow.  The AWR is about a mile or so down the road from my house and its a perfect place to go break some trail and get a workout in.

The Trail Ahead
The Trail Ahead

I find that I’m one of the first ones to break trail after a big snow, but there are plenty of other hearty souls out doing the same.  Hikers and snowshoers are respectful of the ski tracks and generally stay to the side.  The solitude of this place on a snowy winters day is second to none…and its easy to slip into the zone, just listening to the skis hiss along the fresh snow.  I’ve been learning so much about how to propel myself forward on skis in the last few weeks and I’m grateful that we’ve had good conditions for that.  Sometimes, much like cycling, its nice to have other people along to help push the pace and give you a carrot to chase.  I’ve been fortunate to be able to get out and ski with my new neighbor, Gary David, who in addition to being a CX racer for the ENGVT cycling team, is an all around good guy with a fairly flexible schedule.

ENGVT's Gary D.
ENGVT’s Gary D. and I

Gary is fit as hell, a pretty good runner I’ve heard, and a long time nemesis on the bike.  We’ve had a few good sessions beating up on each other out on the ski trails lately.  Today, however, I took Rebecca out to ski.  After an awesome Valentines day dinner last night and a few too many glasses of wine, we both needed to stretch the legs and clear our heads.  Rebecca has much more experience than me on skis.  She’s been both skate skiing and downhill skiing and snowboarding for years.  The last few times we’ve gone skate skiing together she drops me like a bad habit.  Seriously.  I flail on the skate skis but I really seem to be getting the hang of the classic style so I can return the favor a bit!  I take advantage of the advantage when I can.  It’s what I do.

Obligatory Double Selfie.  MKR style.
Rebecca plotting my demise…

Simple Body Weight Strength Training



This is what many of us think of when we think of a trained cyclist at his or her(god I hope not) race weight.  Not unlike my own physique as team mate Kyle so eloquently pointed out a few weeks back…or maybe he was referring to the tan.  I’d be willing to bet that even the scrawniest of professional cyclists incorporate some strength training into their year round training plans.  For most of us amateurs its something we often overlook or make a point to overlook.

I’d like to talk about some very basic exercises we can all do that don’t require any special equipment (except for a few small dumbbells) and only a minimal time commitment.  The benefits will pay dividends once the race season begins especially for those of us who race mountain bikes and cyclocross where it is not simply about putting force into the crank.  I’ll share a simple routine that I personally do 2-3 times per week that improves my upper body strength drastically, helps flexibility, and honestly gets my winterized body burning more calories than just logging the miles alone.  I like to do this routine on days when I’ve been resigned to the trainer, or a shorter, easier outdoor workout.  It helps break the monotony and is a great post-trainer workout when you are all warmed up.  Beware, this is not a rest/easy day activity as the pace and resistance should be enough to get your heart rate up and muscles really working.  Never do this routine on consecutive days and if you are sore give it another days rest.  Try to do 3 complete circuits of this routine resting briefly between circuits.  Try to move from one exercise to the next as quickly as possible.  If you need to, reduce the number of reps.  Go for quality not quantity.

20 x Body weight squats (add dumbbells if its too easy and as you get stronger)

10 x Pushups (go from the knees if you can’t do regular)

20 x Walking lunges (10 each leg.  add dumbbells as you get stronger)

10 x Dumbbell rows (these can become inverse body rows or pull-ups if you are strong enough)

30 second plank (45 sec…1 min as you get stronger)

30 x Jumping jacks (keep that heart rate up between circuits)

30 second rest and repeat the circuit

That’s it!  Pretty simple, no crazy equipment needed.  If you don’t have a dumbbell, grab anything…fill a gallon jug with water ~8lbs.  Use a docile cat if you need to.  Google the exercises if you need help learning how to do them.  And you can always add reps and weight to make it harder…for example you could throw another set of 10 pushups at the end after the plank..just transition from plank to pushup.  This workout should take less than 20 minutes of your time and greatly improve your overall fitness and physique.  I’m posting it as a challenge to my BSBL teammates…who’s in?  I want to hear comments from people that attempt this!  I’d love to hear from those of you that already incorporate strength training in your workouts.