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Each Uphill, Another Rider to Pass

Each Uphill, Another Rider to Pass

WORS Cup - Amateur XC Cat 2 Women

This was my first MTB race of the year, which seems crazy, but it has been a tough year for training between lots of work, travel, & some illness. The trail was smooth and not very technical (although the climbing was pretty tough), and the race was short--only about an hour--so it was a good one to get my feet wet again. Ultimately, I was pretty happy to finish mid-pack, and probably would have caught the woman in front of me for top 3 age group if I had another lap. Mentally I felt strong--stayed in my own race and focused on riding well and not getting too panicked when I got passed by a group of folks on the multi-track on the first lap. The result was a faster, smoother second lap and I passed most of the folks back on the uphill chicanes. 

It was a fun weekend with so many HAC teammies there and lots of Friends-of-HAC around too. Felt almost like a local race. Thanks for the good times, friends.

-Jen M. 

HAC Mountain Crew Makes a Big Showing at the WORS Subaru Cup

Last weekend, members of the Half Acre Cycling mountain bike crew headed up to Mt. Morris for the WORS Subaru Cup and a weekend of racing and fun. Overall, HAC represented 17 times throughout the weekend across all three events: XC, short track and Super D. We raced with heart and when the mud settled, we took home three medals and a little sunburn.

<b>Saturday - XC</b>
Saturday, we all woke up early. None of us had pre-registered for the race. Bad idea. We got to the registration desk just after 7am and the line was already almost out the door.  Jen M, Julie A, Tim, and I had an 8am start. I felt my usual pre-race jitters at the starting line. Having just returned from a hiking trip out west, I had barely been on a bike in the past two weeks. I settled down and told myself to just have fun with it. And fun I had. With a loud “GO!” we were off. The sprint out of the gate thinned out the pack for a bit, which thinned out a little more as we hit the first climb. The lead group formed out in front of me as we headed toward the first (slight) descent. By the time we reached the singletrack, the lead group started to pull away.

I was third in line in the second group going into the singletrack, which started as a set of switchbacks up the hill. The leader of our group burned all his matches sprinting out of the gates. He was fading fast and taking us with him. He eventually yielded and let a bunch of us pass. We reached the top of the switchbacks and cut across the hill. Ascent finally gave way to descent as the course entered an open field at the top of the hill. The descent began as a zig-zag over loose sand. Negotiating that took us into a technical singletrack section that included roots, ruts, and drop-offs. A few more short, technical sections and the course spit us out into some grassy double-track. The ground was soft, so there was no reprieve on the flats. The course arced around the based of the hill and then back up. Another set of switchbacks took us halfway back up the hill. A long, straight climb took us the rest of the way. Then it was back down to finish the lap. The laps were short (about 4 miles), but slow-going. For the entire race, I averaged about 9 miles an hour and climbed just over 1000 feet.

I crossed the finish line 1:13 after I started. A short race, but I was exhausted. I finished in time to watch Jason and Gerrerd start their race. I watched my teammates writhe in pain as I had done on the course a short time earlier. By now, the course was drying out, but the temperature was rising steadily. The humidity didn’t hold back and by the time the second sport wave was racing, conditions were hot and sweaty. HAC ladies rocked the Cat 2 races: Jen M took 4th in her age group; Julie A took 5th in hers. The men didn’t do too bad either. Jason and Gerrerd took 38th in their respective races. Tim DNFed due to the heat and complete lack of sleep. I came in 12th in my age group. Once our races were over for the day, it was time to celebrate. We regrouped and headed back to the cabin to clean up.

Cleaned up and well-fed, we headed back to Mt. Morris to watch the pros race. By then, Julie P, Ben, and Dan were there. We joined them and staked out a spot to watch the races. We got there in time to watch the second half of the pro women’s race. It was fun to see how fast the pro ladies took the course, climbing the hill as fast as I descended it. After the pro women’s race, the pro men began to line up. Watching the pros race was definitely a highlight of the weekend, but you can find coverage of their race elsewhere. Suffice it to say that the fans were out and loud, cheering the pros on as they rocked the course.

<B>Sunday - Cat 3 XC</b>
The next morning, several of us got up early to head down to the Cat 3 race, which Jeremiah and Jacob had entered. For Jeremiah, it was his first mountain bike race since separating his shoulder last year at Chequamegon. For Jacob, it was his first non-youth race. No more kiddie short track: Jacob raced against the big boys. HAC had a great showing in the Cat 3 race. Jeremiah took 7th in his age group and Jacob took 10th (and was the last rider to make it through the strict cutoff!).

<b>Sunday- Short track</b>
Next up was the short track, AKA the “hurricane of pain.” Julie A was our sole female entry, but crushed it to place third and take home a medal for her efforts. Al and I started in the same race, 12 minutes plus one lap. Never have 12 minutes felt longer than while on the short track. Al lined up on the front line. I lined up right behind that row. As the race started, riders flooded out of the gates. I was pedaling so fast I couldn’t clip in. As the wave of riders converged on the middle line of the course, my front wheel caught someone’s rear and I came unclipped from my other pedal. I was now straddling my top-tube and pushing myself along on the ground, trying to regain control of my bike, and watching everyone ride away. When I finally got control of my bike and fully clipped in, ¾ of the field was in front of me.

That’s when the pain started. I pedaled as fast as I could and quickly passed a bunch of riders. I continued to pass people through the first two laps. By the third lap, the group had settled in. Somewhere around the fourth lap, Jen shouted that I was in the top ten. WooHoo! All that pain was paying off, but there was still five minutes and at least three laps left. I caught up with Al with about two laps to go. He was holding on and managed to finish third in his age group (also taking home a medal for HAC). Later he told me he went of the line too hot. I rode out the remaining two laps battling for position with another rider. He eventually got passed me, but I did manage to take seventh in my age group. Not bad for my first shot at the “hurricane of pain.” Gerrerd raced the Cat 2 short track next, but got pulled from the course. Ben entered the Cat 1 short track and met the same fate.

<b>Sunday - Super D</b>
The final event of the weekend was the Super D: a modified, extended downhill course. Jacob, Jen M, and I represented HAC in the event. We took the lift up to the top and pre-rode the course down. It was tight and technical, but a stone-cold blast. I couldn’t wait to get up there and charge at it full speed. The organizers sent us down the hill in 12-person heats. As such, we stood at the top of the hill a good hour before launching. Jacob’s group went off first. After a couple more waves, Jen’s group went off. After a bunch more waves, my group lined up. I got a good position on the line. At the “GO!” I was off and sprinting toward the singletrack. I pulled ahead with about 10 yards to go. I realized at that point that I could be first in the singletrack and first down the hill. I charged ahead and entered the course first in line. I heard the clanging of chains hitting chainstays as my adrenaline kicked in.

I knew at this point that the wave lead was mine to lose, so I calmed myself down and focused on picking good lines and cleaning all the obstacles. Oh, and also having fun. I bunny-hopped a couple of logs, hit a couple of the jumps with some heat, and bounced through the rock gardens with a big smile on my face. All along the way down, I could hear my competition breathing down my neck. I cleared the singletrack and shot out to the bottom of the hill. I scrubbed a little too much speed coming around the base of the hill and had to pedal hard to get back up the short climb. Recovering, my heart raced as I continued to sprint and mash gears toward the finish. As I hit that first climb I could no longer hear anyone behind me. I was alone and I was sprinting toward the finish. I pumped my fist as I crossed the line first in my heat! Glory was not mine that day, however. Three riders a heat after me took first, second, and third in the Super D.

Jen M saved the day for HAC. She was the downhill hero on Sunday, taking third in her age group as well as a medal. Congrats to Jen M, Julie A, and Al for winning medals for HAC. Special thanks to Julie and Gerrerd A for being such awesome hosts and offering their cabin. And thanks to WORS and all the volunteers that showed up to make the event an overwhelming success.

!! (photo: <a href=""Amy Dykema</a>)


WORS Weekend Fun

13 Half Acre Cyclists headed north to Mount Morris, WI for the WORS Subaru Cup last weekend, ripping up some rad (and hard!) trail and enjoying all that Northern Wisconsin has to offer.

Congrats go out to our 3 3rd place age group medalists, Julie Abrams (short track), Al Thom (short track), and Jen Mosley (Super D).  Most importantly, though, congratulations Jacob Thom who lined up for his first "big" cross-country and super D race ever-- no more of those shortened double-track kids races!  He totally rocked it through the whole cat 3 course.

(Photo: Al Thom)


Dust, Descents, and Downed Riders at Treadfest

Julie, Erica, Adrian, Chris, Tim, and I represented HAC at Treadfest last Sunday. The weather was on the warm side, but otherwise beautiful: clear, sunny, and dry. Too dry, as we’d all soon find out.

I met up with Jason on Saturday afternoon to pre-ride the course. He had already done a lap by the time I got there and was losing air out of the stem on his front tire. He swapped out the tire and we were on our way. We got out to the start line and Jason turned to me, “I don’t think you’re going to like this course,” referring to the climbing, especially at the beginning. (I seem to be getting a reputation as an anti-climber. I assure you, dear reader, that I do not dislike climbing as much as I simply prefer descending). I took the lap slow, so I could make mental notes of where I needed to conserve energy, where I could pass, good places to take a drink, etc. My bike started acting funny half way through my test run—ghost shifting in the rear and chain rubbing on the front derailleur. I ignored it for a while. That is, until my chain broke on the last climb before the finish line. With Jason’s help, we took a couple of links out of it and I was back in business. By that time, Jason went home and I took another lap. My bike was still acting funny, but I made it through my second practice lap ok. I stopped off at REI on the way home to get a new chain and then spent the better part of the evening working on my bike. I replaced the chain and futzed around with the derailleurs until they were close enough.

By the time I got to Lake Geneva on Sunday, Erica was on the course riding in the beginner race. Julie was warming up by running up and down the hill, because Erica had the Spot and hadn’t crossed the finish line yet. The rest of us were admiring Chris’s shiny new Specialized Stumpjumper 29er, so white and glistening in the sun. Chris and I took a short warm up spin around the tarmac of the Lake Geneva airport. It was fun to see all the cyclists taking over the runway of this tiny airport.

Warm up over, we lined up and waited for our start. Maintained by the Treadhead crew, the course was a great balance of climbing and technical singletrack. A successful racer would have to have good legs and lungs as well as good handling skills. The course was mapped out on a downhill ski hill at Grand Geneva Resort. Off the starting line, racers wind around the front of the hill and began the first climb. I started out in the middle of the pack, but toward the back. As we all hit the first hill, racers thinned out, but I got stuck in the slower pack. The first climb levelled out before rising again and turning down and to the right. As I came around the front of the hill again, I hit the first descent—a narrow, reasonably steep piece of trail cutting across the face of the hill. Here’s where being toward the back of the pack hurt. As racers hit the first descent, there was a traffic jam as people tried to get into single file. After flowing down that hill, we raced around the bottom of the ski lift and around the back of the hill. We hit another climb, this one longer and more torturous than the first. At the top of that hill, another traffic jam. The trail made a sharp right down a loose, steep chute. The more timid racers got hung up at the top of the chute while the more aggressive among us cut across the inside. The result was a little scarier than the promoters probably intended. The singletrack began at the bottom of the chute. And what singletrack it was: fun, twisty, and technical. There were off-camber turns, logs, even a small ladder bridge. The singletrack was broken up by periodical doubletrack, which allowed for fast passing, taking a quick sip of your water bottle, or trying to clear some of the dust from your mouth. The topsoil of the trail was light, loosely packed dirt. It didn’t take much for the fine grains to become airborne. With each passing tire, more and more of it was in the air. We all breathed it in. It blocked our vision (I think it made me faster, as I couldn’t see obstacles in the trail and thus rode right over them).

The technical spots in the trail meant lots of riders down. I passed Adrian after a downhill with a series of drops took him off his bike. After that, I worked hard to pass as many riders as I could. The fewer people in front of me, the fewer to fall—not to mention the less dust I’d be eating. A bee took Chris out of the race. It flew right into his jersey and stung him. Fortunately, he wasn’t allergic, just a little annoyed.

After three laps of inhaling much dust, my legs were burning and my lungs were aching, but there was a big smile on my dirty face. Julie crossed the finish line not too long after. It was one of the most fun courses I’ve ridden this year—by far the most fun of the WORS courses I’ve done. And when the dust settled, I took 12th place in my age group, my best showing in a WORS race so far.

 -Paul-Brian McInerney

3 for 3 - WORS Alterra

I was in Wisconsin for the weekend having some “fun” in Elkhart Lake but I guess I was having a bit too much fun and got up Sunday a little later than I should have.  We hustled down to Crystal Ridge with no time to spare.  I really hate not getting a warm-up, and here I am 20 minutes before race start and I still have to register and suit-up!  Paul-Brian stops by to say hey, and he is running behind as well.  I pretty-much had time to pedal to the bottom of the ski hill and up to the line.  The 50+/Clydesdale wave is pretty far-back in the field, but I get a good slot behind the call-ups, get the gooooooo! and man I just cruised right up that hill thinking wow, this feels good!

I am in 4th at the top heading into the first turn and it looks like they are all clydes in front.  I zip past two of them before the singletrack, and the two in front aren’t holding me up, so we get caught up to the tail of the last wave halfway through the really dizzying singletrack and start picking them off as best we can…me and number 2 clyde are working the traffic pretty well, we get by a few that were holding us up, clyde lets me by and I drop the hammer in the twisties just until I hook my left pedal on a root, get crossed-up and practically endo into a tree.  I kept it upright, but bashed my left shin into my eggbeater and another shot behind the left knee.  With that, the two I passed, pass me back – but other than that nobody has overtaken me yet.

We emerge from the woods and into the switchback climb up the ski hill.  I re-pass the two and start picking-off some 20-29’s and 40-45’s, etc.  We crest the hill and I put my head down, take a feed, grab the big ring and pedal hard to get by as many as I can on the open section before we head into the back-side singletrack.  I think I got 6 or 7 more, and wasn’t held up too bad in the twisties.

Heading back to the hill, I hear some, ahem…encouragement from Hemme, then a couple “go Half Acre!” yells as we make the dive back down the hill to start lap two.  Another surprisingly good climb up the hill (thanks Coach Bob!) and I am feeling parched, but better than expected.  A superb hand-up from Kristin and some cowbell from Evan and I am charged-up for another lap.  Nobody in front and a couple guys a ways back and I feel I have the class lead under control.

As we plunge into the woods again for the rollercoaster singletrack I am hoping that the road ahead is clear so I can set my pace and some fun at the same time.  I then see Jason carrying his bike – flat tire – Damn! Then my plans for clean singletrack are ruined by two riders that are not racing each other and are at a slower pace – I say “coming through” and get nothing.  Be patient – don’t force it, I tell myself - I try encouragement, like “lets kick it up a notch, guys”…slight improvement. Then we catch 2 more…damn!  So I get a bit louder…”come-on guys, lets pick it up!” – “leaders coming through!”. Still no help…I notice one from the first group is a Master Lock guy, as is one from the second group.  Knowing it’s a Milwaukee company, I say “hey Master Lock Dudes, you should know the trail – LETS GO!”  I now have a couple guys on MY tail and this seems to be taking forever.

Me and a guy behind really start railing on them and finally one pulls-over and lets us through – another cracks from the pressure and trips up, then we get a short, straight, wide break between sections and I get by the other two as I say “thanks for the help” (NOT).  Out of the woods – same drill.  A few passes on the switchback climb that doesn’t feel quite as easy as the first time round – yet better than those around me, crest the hill and pass a few more into the back.  I stay hard on it and pass another 5 or 6 guys on the flats and think - not long now and only one climb to go…as we come out of the woods at the bottom, I pass a couple more but get re-passed by one of those skinny-little-Expo kids who is climbing up the kill like a frickin’ goat! 
I try to hang with him up the hill and we pass two or three more as I start to hear the yells from Kristin, Evan, Adrian, Erica and Helge (thanks guys!).  They push me past one more guy that tries to fight back but I stay on it to beat him across the line.

I am met at the line by Jason and Amber with the cold, wet towels (thanks guys!) and I think I bagged another win.  Not only did I win, but I had over three and a half minutes on the next guy and even with all that traffic out there I ended up 37th overall out of 219 starters – a pretty satisfying race.  I felt bad for Helge and Jason flatting, as we had a good dirtbag showing for HAC, but I am counting on even more for the Palos Meltdown!

 -Al Thom

(Almost) Bursting at Sunburst

I spent my summer vacation in the mountains—the Eastern Sierras to be exact—backpacking, follow by some mountain biking at Mammoth Ski Resort. Biking at Mammoth is “lift-assisted”: you take a scenic gondola ride up to the summit and ride down. So when I got to Sunburst Ski Area on Sunday for the WORS race, I was happy to see that they, too, had lifts. I quickly found out, however, that nothing about the day was going to be “lift-assisted.”

The course was mowed into the side of a hill with some intermittent singletrack sprinkled throughout. It was wide open and bright. The promoters called it a spectator’s dream. I’m glad the weather was perfect, as I imagine this course to be hellish if much warmer. The climbing begins 1/4 mile from the starting line with switchbacks up the side of the hill. The switchbacks level off a bit into some wooded double-track, which gets increasingly steeper as it narrows into singletrack. I was breathing pretty heavily as I entered the woods. My chest was heaving by the time I finished the climb through the singletrack and darted into an alpine cornfield. The course reentered a short burst of singletrack again before spitting me out onto the front of the hill. Most of the rest of the course was a wide, mowed path through grass. The grass was ankle and knee high as switchbacks took me down the other side of the hill, leading to some neck-high grasses as I sped through the flat areas at the foot. Then it was around the parking lots, through some brief singletrack areas and switchbacks partly up the other side of the hill. The course then traversed the hill back to the starting point.

My lungs were in pretty good shape from spending time at altitude while on vacation, but my legs were pretty shaky after the first lap. Two more to go. The second time up the hill was pretty torturous for a flatlander like myself. I thought my race was over as I entered the singletrack portion of the climb, when my lungs told my stomach to jettison breakfast. Fortunately, my stomach refused and I finished the climb. I smiled thinking that I only had to do this one more time and settled in for a solid lap.

On this one, I turned up the heat through the singletrack, which was minimally technical, and went full throttle on the descents. My vacation downhilling and freeriding paid off as I flicked the traction control switch on my bike and sped down the hill in full-travel mode. I ran into a couple of bottlenecks in the singletrack areas, as some riders that climbed like goats floundered in the technical stuff. Unfortunately, their weaknesses canceled out my strengths: the singletrack was too tight for me to pass. By the time we got through the tight twisty stuff, there was another climb ahead. The third time around, while not a charm, was more like the second than the first.

They say that races are won on the climbs. And they are right. While it was a blast bombing the switchbacks down the hill, I lost too much time on the climbs and finished 18th out of 25 in my category. I drowned my sorrows with local suds and Toffalo Wings (vegan Buffalo Wings) at the Palomino in Milwaukee, where “if it’s good, it’s better fried.” Not exactly part of my training plan for better climbing, but the perfect way to close a fun day of racing.

 -Paul-Brian McInerney

WORS #4 Mt. Morris: 2 for 2!

My son Jacob and I got to Nordic Mountain about 45 minutes from the start – as we look up at the hill, I tell Jacob it looks like we’ll have our work cut out for us!  I had to hustle to get a warmup in…not quite as much as I wanted, but better than nothing.  Lined up early enough to chat with John Wryzca from Wheelfast and get a couple pointers on the course.  It sounded obvious that a good start was in order to kill some traffic in the climb before muddy, rocky singletrack in the forest.  Got to the line quick enough to get in the 2nd row of the 40+ wave after the call-ups – so it was showtime! 

Got a great start and passed two of my competitors on the climb before the drop into the woods – and no sooner did we get in there, and I could hear the traffic jams behind us…the group I was in was hustlin’ pretty good through the peanut-buttery mud and rocks, so we were building a good gap.  Pretty uneventful lap one till we got over to the faster downhill east section where I had a 35-39 kinda holding me up, so I keep saying “coming through”, but he ain’t moving, so I keep the pressure on, then wham – he does a double (yes, double) endo right in front of me…I yell “you OK?” as I blast by, and he yells “I’m good”, as I see him pop-up.

We hit “dave’s drop” which is a techy, twisty section and get some much-needed cowbell from some kids.  We finish lap one, I get a good handup from Jacob and we make the climb back into the peanut butter…as we do, I say to Jacob “the only thing worse than a climb, is a soft climb”…it was agonizing, but I was still gaining positions as I go, so I was doing better than others. 

It was also hot, damn hot and humid.  You go from the shady, peanut butter and rocks climb in the woods – with no air moving - to the kinda up-and-down roller coaster section, then out of the woods straight into the face of the ski hill, where you zig-zag your way up the hill while the sun is cooking you.  However, what goes up, must come down, so you zig-zag your way back down, make a turn back into the woods directly into a sand hill climb – damn!  At this very moment, I get one of those overwhelming head rushes that goes straight into nausea…for a moment I think I am gonna pass out, but get a cool drink from the fresh bottle, finish the climb and find recovery on the downhill rollers shortly after…a couple more gulps, and I now feel fine, actually refreshed, so I press on. All the while, I am passing a number of guys in younger age groups, so it dawns on me that I might be in front, and I’d better get my head down to make sure, or at least defend an attack. 

As we get near the end of the east woods, I come up on a group of three that are just a bit too slow, so I ask for a pass.  First guy – no problem, second guy – “on your left” – no problem, third guy, “on your left” I yell and I swear he yells “take it” as we go over a left-turn hill exiting the woods – but no, he turns into me as we go left and we are both down, directly in front of a female spectator.  I swear, he swears, we both get up, my bars are tweaked, I’m tweaked, but I hop on and go – he does too, he apologizes, I apologize, and as we’re off, the girl yells “you OK?”, to which I yell back “yeah, I’m OK”, to which he responds “she was talking to ME!” – I guess we took each other out in front of his girlfriend – oops! 

Nevertheless, I press on with the twisted bar and tweaked bar end, but everything else works, so I keep pedaling…another pro hand-up from the boy, but I was stopping anyway to straighten the bar…Jacob confirms that he has seen no 50-ups in front of me, so I drop the hammer to keep whatever gap I might have left on the field. 

Lap three is much better…I loosen up, take-on some food, and just start riding for fun…I hook up with a Clydesdale that is really strong on the steady climbs, but not-so on the steeper ones, so we trade-off for a bit and really just relax – but it feels faster for some reason…”clyde” as I called him started running out of steam right at the end, and I pulled him along a bit, but he had nothing left for the finish climb, when I still did. I was cheered to the line by Jason, Amber and Jacob, and the cold-soak towel from Amber pretty-much made the day – THANKS!  Another tough, but rewarding race, and I am really looking forward to the next round!

 -Al Thom