Friday, December 20, 2013

Alley Cross, Episode Two.

SSCX love.

Last Sunday Team Metropolis attended (and some of us actually participated in) the second Alley 'Cross race of the fall 2013 season at Overlook Park in North Portland.  What's this Alley 'Cross thing you ask? Well, it's sort of a hybrid of a standard alley cat race and a regular cyclocross race. It starts with the entire field (there is only one category) putting their bikes in a designated start location, then convening a short distance away to receive instructions.

The course awaits.
In this case those instructions were "go to the Dog Bowl". You may not know it by that name, but the Dog Bowl is the unofficial dog park located off N Willamette Ave between approximately Killingsworth and Ainsworth, where the road makes a big curve above a sizable depression in the bluffs below. There the racers would receive the location of the actual "cross" part of the race, where they were to do 4 laps of the course and return to the start, which in this case, would also act as the finish.
The racers receive their instructions.
But first, the racers need to get to their bikes. It's common in many alley cat races to utilize a "Le Mans start" named after the French automobile race. This means at the "go" signal, the racers run the short distance to their bikes (or cars) and mount up before starting the course. It makes for an exciting though unpredictable start to to the event.
And they're off!
 Sadly, I had more pressing concerns after the race start and was unable to participate or spectate further. I am told good times were had by all. Part of the fun lies in the fact that there is no designated course, and racers are required to rely on their knowledge of the city streets as much as their speed and bike handling skills.
Alley Cross 3 is scheduled for January 11th, at Creston Park in South East Portland. for details check out their Facebook page.
Ho ho ho indeed.
Thanks to Kristina Nash for the photos.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

'Cross Crusade Halloween

Sorry I dropped the ball on the blogular activities back in October, but I'm gonna try to make up for it with some recap posts now.  Let's see where we? Ah, yes. The last race I covered was Heron Lakes, so up next is the 2 day Bend Halloween 'cross extravaganza. Team Metropolis fielded a fairly small contingent, half of whom didn't arrive in time to race on Saturday. I myself had planned to race at least one day, but discovered upon waking on Saturday that I wasn't feeling so hot and bowed out of racing for the weekend. I likewise passed on taking pictures on Saturday, so we'll fast forward to Sunday, which is the costume day anyway.
Sand? Rocks? Sage brush? Must be Bend.
Cross in Bend is a whole different animal than West of the Cascades. The 'Cross Crusaders did a typically stellar job in designing the course, combining loose off camber, thick grassy sections, deep sand, two runups and a purpose built flyover ramp.
Dr. Hymans writing a prescription for dirt.

Crappy picture of the flyover. The Deschutes Brewery is in the background.
Sr. Chilidog blending into the background.
The Gnarwhal passing a convict on the inside.
The nastier of two runups. Really loose sand.

The Great Pumpkin rising from the pumpkin patch? Nope, just a costumed rider at the top of the runup.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cross Crusade Heron Lakes

The third race of the 2013 'Cross Crusade took place on October 20th at the Heron Lakes course north of Portland International Raceway. Once again, the day started off foggy and cool, before breaking out into brilliant sunshine. Team Metropolis had a sizable group in the "C"/Clydesdale field and several racers were caught up in a nasty pileup at the start of the first lap where the course took a turn through a long stretch of loose gravel. Young Adriel was one of the casualties. 

Lots of loose gravel on this course. photo courtesy of K Nash.
This was also the driest a PIR course has been in anyone's memory, and it was fast and fun, if a bit sketchy in spots. 

Action on the runup.

The Schwartz making a move.

Loose corner under the bleachers. 
We set up camp near the Vault, a large concrete platform about 16 inches high and 8 or 10 feet square. The fiendish minds that design the Crusade courses have long since determined that this makes a perfect barrier, and it has been featured in many races at this course. It's always a great place to spectate, especially since some of the more skilled racers don't dismount at all, but simply ride up and over the impediment.

The infamous Vault. Sadly, I don't have any photos of the racers who just rode over it.

The other main terrain features are a couple of stretches of off camber terrain on the backside of the only hill on the course. Otherwise, it's mostly flat. Most years, when it's wet, these provide a serious challenge; forcing many riders to dismount. But when it's dry, they are quite rideable.

Digging into a corner.
Off camber on the backside of the big hill.
More off camber.
All in all, another great day of racing!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

'Cross Crusade So Far...

Hey Gang, sorry we didn't post a recap of the Cross Crusade opener from the Alpenrose Velodrome. We're going to make up for it now with TWO races in one post, both Alpenrose and Rainier High School.

 The first race of the 2013 River City Bicycles Cyclocross Crusade dawned cool and foggy over the hills of Southwest Portland and the grounds of the Alpenrose Dairy. Team Metropolis was there bright and early for a long day of racing. We are pretty well represented in most categories, but the bulk of our racers go in the second race, composed of Category 'C' and Clydesdales (racers over 200#). Unfortunately, since most of us were racing, there aren't a lot of pictures of us doing so. The weather had recently turned from very wet to very dry, and the course was in good condition with the exception of some very muddy stretches which dried through the course of the day with the assistance of the sun, which came out in force during the second race.
 This was a theme that was to be repeated the  following week at Rainier.
Johnny B, single speedin'.

K Nasty (AKA Lil' Snacky) attacks the off camber.

Senor Chilidog looking pro.
JoJo overtaking the competition.

The stairs of doom.

Using the Schwartz.

Sunday at Rainier High School started off cloudy and cool. It took a little longer to burn off than the week before, but once it did, it was a beautiful day. I expected the course to be pretty dry, but there were still some severely boggy patches. Rainier's most famous feature is a long and brutal climb, but this year there were many downed trees as well, which the Crusaders worked into the course.
Using the natural terrain in course design.
Notice Brad yelling on the left.
Coming out of the woods.
Not the big climb, but big enough.
A hell of a lot of downed and limbed trees.
Tricky corner. The Team Metropolis encampment is in the background.
This weekend the Crusade returns to Portland and the Heron Lakes course at Portland International Raceway! Come out and enjoy the sun. Stop by the Team Metropolis tent and enjoy a beer courtesy of our friends at Widmer Bros. Brewing!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Enter, 'Cross Season!

 It's been a busy summer here at the shop, and I've been a bit remiss in my blogging duties. As we transition into fall, I hope to be able to devote a little more time to the blogular sciences. We're also going to have a lot more subject matter to write about as cyclocross season is here and heating up quickly. The first race of the season was actually August 31st (I know!) and there has been at least one if not two races every weekend since. I myself (along with the Hymanator and Secret Chilidog, with moral support provided by The Schwartz) kicked off the season last Sunday at Fazio Farms. They call it a farm, but it's as much a gravel pit as a farm, with lots of heavy machinery and huge piles of dirt and rock. I didn't have much time for photojournalizing, and I didn't have a real camera, but here are a few cellphone pictures to give you an idea of the majesty of the scene.
The 3 tents on the right are the finish line. The tents on the left had FREE BEER!
The course is in a great location between the Columbia River and the Columbia Slough, just West of the airport. It was an easy 15 minute ride from my house. It featured a mix of fast, flat (though bumpy) dirt and grass stretches and a few short but steep climbs. The main feature was the bomber downhill followed by the uphill to 180 which I referred to as the halfpipe. Holy shit was it fun.
Dropping in. Don't touch your brakes. Just trust me.
Full speed ahead!
Now pedal your ass off!
But wait, there's more!
The view from the beer tent to the "dinosaur back".
The other main feature was the so-called Dinosaur Back. It was a steep (though rideable) hill with a less dramatic though still fun descent. It's best feature was a sweet berm that funneled you around the hill and into a narrow chute of marshy grass that immediately sapped all your momentum.
Coming down the Dinosaur Back. Note Sr. Chilidog repping the orange.
Dig in and let your tires do the work.
All in all, I vote Fazio Farms as most fun cross course ever. And there was free Tecate!
Next weekend you have a choice between Ninkrossi (featuring lots of Ninkasi beer) or the Battle at Barlow (featuring no beer because it's at a high school). For more details check out the OBRA calendar. If Fazio Farms looked like fun, it's coming back for a rematch on November 16th! In 2 weeks shit gets real when the infamous 'Cross Crusade kicks off at the Alpenrose Dairy.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Last Sunday I rode my bike up Mount St. Helens...

 Well, partway anyway. It sure felt like I rode all the way to the top. Of course, I didn't do it alone. The whole trip was masterminded by the Hymanator who wanted to cross it off his "bucket list", whatever the hell that is. I'm guessing it involves doing things that make you feel like you've kicked said bucket, 'cause that's sure how I felt after. Along for the ride was D-Bone (AKA Dime Bag) because we figured somebody out of the three of us would probably survive to go for help. We headed out bright and earlyish after a hearty breakfast.
Man what a crappy view!
The trail from the parking lot climbs steadily up through an evergreen forest, following a ridge line that eventually takes you to Ape Canyon, a deep but narrow cleft in the flank of the mountain. Before that, we had to read about the dangers of Giardia.
Not to mention get swarmed by a horde of black flies that were attracted to my sweaty, salty flesh. I felt like one of those kids in the Sally Struthers infomercials, I had so many flies crawling all over me. I didn't get a picture of the flies, but here's one from where they were thickest.
The climb was long and challenging, and I'm not ashamed to say I had to walk a good chunk. Eventually it leveled off a bit and we reemerged from the trees to this:
 And this:

Another mile or so of intermittent climbing brought us to the actual Ape Canyon.
We didn't see any apes, though we did see some other primates.
From here the trail wound up and over a rocky saddle to the Plains of Abraham. (Insert biblical joke here.) The trail up this point had been fairly typical of riding West of the Cascades; steep, with roots and rocks, but mostly firm soil under tree cover. From here on, it was markedly volcanic, lots of loose gravelly sections composed of pumice, interspersed with harder rock shelves and outcrops. Also, not a tree in sight and little other vegetation. It kind of reminds me of the plateau of Gorgoroth in Mordor. You know, if it were real.

I had to steal this pic from the Hymanator. Apparently I couldn't be bothered. Imagine that's Mt Doom in the background.
D-Bone on Plains of Gorgoroth Abraham. Also stolen from Hymanator.

Once we ascended to the Plains, we had a mile or so of flat, moderately technical riding before transitioning onto a ridge that headed toward Spirit Lake. From here the trail wrapped around numerous narrow drainages cut into the side of  the ridge.
Mt Adams in the background. I crashed in an embarrassing fashion right before this. Hymanator strikes again!
Until we came out here:
If you look on the left hand side, you can see where the trail continues.
This seemed look a good spot for a break and a chicken fried steak sandwich before continuing on. From here we dropped down a hundred feet and continued on a trail running along a narrow spine before arriving at the "stairs."
As you can see, they're not really stairs, but that's the easiest way to describe them. We descended 8 or 10 sets of these before continuing a few hundred more feet along the spine to a road. From here, it was an uneventful 2 miles to the Windy Ridge viewpoint.
That's the rim of the crater in the background.
We loitered around the viewpoint for a bit, wolfing down some more food and water in preparation for the return journey. Of course the trip back required us to go UP the stairs, which was not my favorite part of the day.
View from halfway up the stairs.
All in all the return was uneventful, if a little thirsty. By the time we were back under the trees, I was almost out of water and wishing I had more.
Looking East from the top of Ape Canyon.
Almost done!
After a long, fast descent, we were back at the car and ready for some damn ice cream! Fortunately the store in the little town of Cougar obliged us.