Monthly Archives: October 2011

ECCC MTB 2011: UVM Easterns @ Catamount/Kingdom Trails

Two weekends ago wrapped up this fall’s ECCC MTB season.  A short race report is in the wrap-up.  Full results are on the calendar.

Alongside the now classic Catamount races, this weekend debuted yet another new venue to the conference.  In fact, as far as we can tell, the races on Burke Mountain in the Kingdom Trails were the first races ever allowed in the trail system.  Speaking to one of the KTA people afterward, they said they approved the event in order to get more exposure among our racers.  I think that’s awesome and hopefully it worked out.  Certainly Sully and I talked up the Kingdom an awful lot.  The weather wasn’t really compelling to keep riding, it was kind of dreary and wet all day Sunday, but I think a number of people did partake of the opportunity to go ride the other trails.

Men's A lines up.

Yep... How the mighty have fallen.

Heading off into the fields.

Women's A in the opening stretch.

Not too surprisingly, the weekend had a good bit more riders than the generally small season has had.  At about 140 riders on Saturday despite the weather—periodic rain and even thunderstorms—attendance was really solid.  Even better, about 110 made the long transfer from Burlington to East Burke, surprisingly good retention.  I had been guessing more like ~80, so that was pretty exciting.

Apparently it was a little tiring out there.

Yep. And these guys did really well!

We laugh at the suffering of others...

Even beyond that, I had a great weekend.  Catamount is basically like a home race at this point.  Even though we transferred over to Burke Saturday night, we still managed to drop by and see the Sullivans for a bit.  Keeping up with an unplanned, implicit tradition, I also got a call Sunday from an old friend I’d been trying to get a hold of for a while.  We only talk basically a couple times a year, and MTB Easterns Sunday has just happened to be one of those days the past couple years.

Slalom time!

Airborne.

The banquet.

There was a lot of talk at the banquet about what to do for next year.  Lots of people seem pretty intrigued by Eliminator format racing and some of the other potential changes and additions we’ve introduced.  Other people are real hesitant to break from pattern.  Either way, I don’t think it’ll really change much unless we manage to really change the promoters and teams.   Short track isn’t unpopular because it’s intrinsically bad.  It’s unpopular in large part because most of the courses are pretty unpleasant.  We’re going to face the exact same problems with Eliminator unless promoters get more serious about making good courses, rather than just showing up at a mountain and being handed some fire road to race on.

Men's a STXC lines up.

Hughes and Jesus goin' at it!

Hamlin showing them all how it's done.

Bella and Marie tearing around the STXC.

A sprint for the line.

Generally next year I think we need to get more serious about a bunch of things.  License control has gotten a bit too lax, there were a number of riders needed things fixed for nationals.  We’ll probably also have a more formal promoter process with the race deposits and so on to prevent issues we had this year.  What the scoring crew will look like I have no idea.  Sam’s talking about moving out west, which would be really unfortunate in many ways.  I would miss him a lot, and it would be a big loss of knowledge and experience.  Scoring went extremely well this year.  For example, we were ready for and whipped through the Easterns awards ceremonies in no time.  Hopefully Stu and/or Tim would still be available so we would not be training an entirely new set of people.

In any event, that’s the end of yet another ECCC MTB season.

Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

MP3s: Jezabels

I first came across the Jezabels in Danny MacAskill’s Way Back Home video, which features their song A Little Piece.  It turns out that the whole album, Dark Storm, is amazing.  In some ways it sounds a bit similar to Florence + The Machine’s Lung album.  The Jezabels are definitely more folksy, at least on this album, but it has that same kind of high, swooping energy and hint of darkness to the sounds with an awful big dash of darkness in the actual lyrics.

It’s not a fair comparison as there are only five songs in this album, but there are very few albums from which I routinely listen to all the songs, and this is one of them.  Dark Storm and Mace Spray are almost definitely the best, but the others are excellent as well.

As far as I know the band hasn’t really hit the big time yet, so make sure to check this out now so when they do take off—something I think very possible—you can be all “Yeah, I heard of ’em, you know, before everybody had heard of them.”  Damn hipsters.

ECCC MTB 2011: UNH @ Attitash/Cranmore

 UNH rocked it out at Attitash and Cranmore this past weekend, the first time the conference has raced at those venues.  A short race report is in the USAC Weekly Wrap.  Results are on the ECCC Calendar.

This weekend basically started off right: I got home from work and Caitlin goes:

“Mmm… Somehow I didn’t think you’d already left already.  Don’t you have any idea where the race is?”

“Up north somewhere?”

“Yeah, it’s at Mt Washington.”

“Oh.”

Mt Washington is pretty damn far up there; it’s often taken us 11 hours to get there.

In any event, fortunately it took Tim and I only almost exactly 9 hours to get there, with just a little bit of traffic.  Coming back was the same, even with an unnecessarily lengthy dinner stop.  This was also my first weekend in a long, long time traveling without any of the equipment; Sam had it from the previous weekend.  It was pretty awesome to be able to roll up to the start about two hours beforehand and crawl into the back of the Prius for an hour nap…

Upon actually learning where it was, I was pretty excited about the location though we wouldn’t really wind up spending any time in town.  In many ways North Conway is not really my kind of place.  Too many trendy skiers, lots of shopping, steak houses, etc..  But it does have those gear shops going for it, and we’ve had some great trips up there to go winter backpacking on Mt Washington.

The venues worked out fairly well.  Cranmore seemed like a pretty good XC race.  Substantially more climbing than the previous races have had.  On the other hand, some of the descents were a bit fast fire road and double track affairs with some unfortunate step downs and waterbars.  I think the speed let people get in over their heads; there was notably more blood at this race than we’ve seen in a while.

Women's A starts up the XC opening climb.

Tom Sampson (Plymouth) recovers from a flat to take the day.

Short Track at Attitash was workable but really only after we built a bunch of CX style chicane sequences to break up and slow down a long, steep fire road descent.  This highlighted that there was no way Attitash would be able to host XC after their trails were destroyed by Hurricane Irene.  In hindsight we probably should have moved STXC to Cranmore as well, but it was workable.

Women's A/B short track lines up.

Derek Harnden (UVM) finally claims a victory this season.

Scott Igo (UVM) proving you really don't need to ever stop racing in the ECCC.

Downhill went off without a hitch.  Everyone seemed pretty happy with the DH trails around Attitash.  Super D was its usual terrifying affair.  The early sections were wide open gravel descents through a couple super high speed turns, not well suited at all for XC bikes.  Everybody seemed happy by the bottom though.

Early in the Men's C Super D.

Women's Super D leaders over the first crest.

Interestingly, Jesus Martinez (Columbia) crashed fairly bad in the XC, breaking his handlebars, frame, helmet, and some other stuff.  He got a bike from somewhere for the STXC but was clearly hurting.  Combined with skipping the previous weekend, that enabled Alex McAndrew (Clarkson) and Nik Patalano (Northeastern) to jump ahead of him in the season omnium standings.  All three have a shot at it this weekend, particularly with double points on the line for Easterns, so we’ll see what happens.  Could be exciting.  Nik sounds super pumped for it.

A couple other thoughts:

  • Team licenses are a definite issue.  We have a bunch of one-man shows here and in MTB we don’t really have the numbers to turn those guys away.   They also tend to be less clued in than people on the road side.
  • We need to push riders, particularly downhillers, that they need to alert us to course problems in time to actually do something about it.  Right as we’re about to get on the lift to go up and start the race is not the best time to inform us the Super D course has lots of marking problems…
  • I think we’re really going to push back a bit against running Super D in the future.  It sounds awesome, but it’s very unpredictable and tough to have a good course.  Cross Country racers get in over their head, Downhillers opt out of it, and all in all I think more people would participate in just a second straight up Downhill.

More photos from this successful weekend are in the gallery.

MP3s: Alicia Keys

A lot of people have undoubtedly heard Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind featuring Alicia Keys, and presumably a fair bit have heard her version on her The Element of Freedom album, but I wanted to point out the instrumental single of the Alicia Keys Piano Tribute Players’ Empire State of Mind.  It’s beautiful.  Not exactly quiet, the piano too sharp and tempo too up to be quite that, and neither is it precisely sad, but the main riff is almost lost, questing, wondering what to do with the day.  I’m not sure where you would play this except alone in your thoughts, or the end to a movie as the characters walk off changed into the city, but it’s well worth the price of admission.