Monthly Archives: October 2008

Thanks Trek

The new frame is here, courtesy of Trek – a brand new ’08 Top Fuel 9.9 SSL. Appreciate that warranty.

Big thanks to Mike at East Coast for trying to get this in a rush. Unfortunately the frame didn’t arrive until Monday, one day after I wanted it for the Tidewater Mountain Bike Challenge.

One notable thing about the redesigned frame: The bottom bracket shell, which shattered on the ’07 Top Fuel, is notably beefier. The downtube is triangular; the older was more oval. The rear shock also is a Fox, rather than the Manitou that was on the ’07.

Can’t wait to go ride her.


Call me Frame Cracker

Seriously, three frames in one year. I should be paid to test the durability of frames. I’m stunned. And this one didn’t last but maybe 10 rides.

The Top Fuel bit it today. Not a mile into the Tidewater MTB Challenge course I was suddenly having wierd shifting issues when I tried to climb. Mike from East Coast Bikes was riding right behind me. He adjusted the rear derailleur. It happened again. He adjusted the front derailleur. It happened again. I looked down and saw some wierd flex in the cranks. He looked and said “Dude, it’s cracked.” All around the bottom bracket shell the red coat was cracking and carbon fiber splintering. Thankfully he’s my dealer and saw it fail and Trek will warranty the frame.

I don’t know what the deal is. I cracked my old Schwinn road frame at the bottom bracket last November. In May, I cracked the K2 MTB at the rear shock attachment. Those were both older bikes. But this one was  brand new, never crashed. I have no idea why it failed. Too bad though, I really liked how it rode.

Kevin says there’s nothing easy about how I ride. I sort of plow through the woods rather than finessing things. I admit it. I’m tough on my bikes. But I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to this frame. Today, I was out rolling a first lap easy, trying to get a feel for what is a rooty trail. Instead I found my self hiking for the second Sunday in a row.


Maybe I cursed myself, but I knew going into my fourth Ironcross race in Pennsylvania that this wasn’t my year. My training stunk and the head cold was locked in. Still one hopes that maybe it will all come together like it did for my Tripower teammate Crazy who raced to 8th place despite a cold of his own.

This was the warmest Ironcross on record with temps in the low 50s at the start and heading into the 70s later in the day. It was also the largest: Seemed like a huge crowd at the start. I started conservatively – at least that’s what I told myself – instead of going hard and trying to latch on to the fast guys ahead of and passing me. In truth, I knew my body couldn’t handle the fast pace. I rode a lot with teammates Art and Zach during the first half of the race and went into the crawl-up with Sawyer, Chad and Art in front of me and Zach just behind. What a slog it was this year. The warmth definitely took its toll.

Art rode away from me on a climb a little after checkpoint 2. I just couldn’t turn over the pedals fast enough. Every time I tried a harder effort I quickly ran out of gas. On the next fast descent, I again had contact issues as one slipped out. I stopped and replaced it with a spare I carried as maybe 20 riders rolled past, including Sally’s brother Nick and Zach. Zach and I worked together a little on the road to checkpoint 3. Hitting the big climb out of it, Nick was just in front of me and Zach just behind. I rode well for a while, but again ran out of steam. Zach passed me and disappeared up the road behind Nick. I even had to walk some stretches that I’ve ridden in previous years.

But I started feeling better when I hit the valley singletrack after the fast fire-road descent. I quickly pulled back about 10 riders who passed me on the climb and had more in my sights when an ungodly sound came out of my rear wheel and the bike stopped dead in its tracks. I looked down and a stick about the size and diameter of a police billy club was jammed in my rear derailleur, which in turn was bent into the spokes. About 12 miles from the finish my bike was kaput. I tried bending it back, but no luck. Zach, who’d crashed on the descent (I didn’t even see him), passed again. I started walking along the trail with it when a rider stopped and suggested converting it to a single-speed. I had no idea how to, but he went to work. The kindness of strangers!

Meanwhile, Chad, Harlan and Jerry came by. The guy spent about 10-15 minute messing with my chain, but couldn’t get the conversion to work. The chain was too slack. I really appreciated his help, but urged him to get on with his ride. I walked the bike along the trails and coasted some downhills, but it was mostly trail and not much of it went down. Carol then Mike then Liz came by. Liz offered to send a car to pick me up, but I told her I was determined to finish.

Finally I got out to the road and was able to scream the downhill, hitting 42mph despite not being able to pedal. I’d coast the uphills and pedal a little until the slack chain popped off again. In this way I worked the final few rollers back to the start/finish. I had to walk the bike onto the field. Some guys yelled at me to run and I grinned and shuffled a bit. The announcer called me out, so I jogged the last few meters as my teammates howled for me. Bless them.

I think I must have hiked about 7 or 8 miles with the bike. As hard as it was I really can’t wait for next year’s IC7. But next year, I hopefully won’t be sick and I’ll be in shape for it. I think that’s what I said last year

It was great to see so many teammates up there this year and everyone finished; some, including Bill, Kevin, Tim and young Mark, finished well under 5 hours. I can’t really say how I might have finished without the broken derailleur. I certainly wasn’t going to achieve my goal of going under 5 hours given my conditioning. I was spending a lot of time with Zach, who at 14 became the youngest Ironcross finisher ever in 5:35, so maybe it would have been around then. He was riding strong. Very impressive.

Starcrossed Ironcross

My great hopes to finally go under 5 hours at this year’s Ironcross are slipping away, I’m afraid. I’ve let the months before the race get away from me.

I’d hoped to lay the base miles in while on vacation in New Hampshire in August, but a crash laid waste to those plans and I lost two weeks on the bike. I finally started riding again in early September, but my promotion to business editor of The Virginian-Pilot put me in charge as the housing crisis and credit crunch hobbled financial markets creating one of the most difficult times for our economy since the Great Depression. I’ve spent more than a few 12-hour days in the office and haven’t ridden but once during week the past three weeks aside from back and forth from the newspaper. I’ve ridden some on the weekends, including two longish rides in New Kent County on a mix of tarmac and gravel roads courtesy of Danbo; however, my Saturday rides have been cut short by either the girls’ soccer or rain.

A week out from Ironcross, my body worn down my long hours at work, I’m now sick with a head cold. I did ride 30 yesterday before Ellie’s soccer game (she scored six goals! a double hat trick and won 6-3), but I’m laying low today. Don’t want to exacerbate things.

Meanwhile, despite the best laid plans, my cross bike remains uncoverted to Ironcross gearing. I need to either put a compact crankset on the front or switch the cassette and derailleur off my mountain bike. I also need to retape the bars. And I’m just feeling slackadaisical.

But I am going. Hoping that I’ll feel better by the weekend. I’ll try my best. Maybe some of the form from this summer is still down there somewhere.