OVCeXperience
Wednesday December 09th 2009, 11:53 pm
Filed under: Anecdotes

Last Sunday was the Storm the Greens Ohio Valley Cyclocross Series finale, which was also set as the Kentucky Cyclocross State Championships.

Here’s a little interview conducted after the race with Cat 4 Kentucky Cyclocross State Champion Michael Webber. He’s telling us a little bit about his first ‘cross season, what it’s like to race for the first time, and well, here it is:

PrestaShrader:
Alright, Michael, congratulations on the big win. So what’s it mean to be State champ?

Michael Webber:
Thanks, it meant a lot to win my category at Storm the Greens. Not only was it the state championships, and the series finale, but it was also the last race ever at Louisville’s River Road Country Club. It was also my last chance to race against a few rivals I’ve been battling against all season. Beating them was a great feeling, doing it in this race was a big deal in a way. At least in my mind it was—you know, overcoming challenges and whatnot.

Being state champ is icing on the cake really. I think it’s funnier than anything being that I’m not from the area. I wore my medal proudly nonetheless.

PS:
That’s right, you’re not from Louisville, or anywhere around here. Where are you from?

MW:
Most recently from  Seattle where I lived for something like ten years, but originally from Maryland.

PS:
And did you do much racing in those parts of the country?

MW:
Nope, just random alleycat races in Seattle and the daily “racing” to work as a bike commuter.

PS:
Well, this is one hell of a first season for you then. Does commuting by bike work into your training for cyclocross?

MW:
That is the extent of my training actually. Since the beginning of this season, back in August, I have looked into a few training regimens here and there, but really found them all to be a little too serious and not-”fun” for my style of riding. Basically, I’ve learned sitting on a trainer for really any length of time is boring as hell. (I did however use a trainer before Storm the Greens to stay warm, that seemed to be a good call).

Just riding the bike worked well enough for me. ‘Cross bikes are great commuters, especially when making use of people’s front yards as rideable terrain. Occasionally, I’d work some harder sprints into my ride to or from work, getting the heart rate up with intervals between sections of stop lights downtown, or long intersection-free areas of the town of Clarksville on my way to work, but generally speaking, I just ride everyday. I guess that’s what’s referred to as “base miles”. Good for me, right?

PS:
So it seems you haven’t taken cyclocross very seriously then? I know I raced this season too, and honestly, I haven’t had any extra time to really even post to this site.

MW:
No, even while I haven’t taken it wholly seriously, it has seemed to occupy a lot of my time and thoughts. It became a little too all-consuming surprisingly. Since the season had started back in September, I basically raced every weekend. That’s a lot of registration fees and travel expenses too. I already sort of miss it, but am also glad to be done with it for a while. It’ll be nice to have a weekend again.

I think where I took it seriously was in the mechanics. I’ve learned that ‘cross is rather demanding of your bike and components. This is one of the reasons I wanted to get into it, to get some insight and experience into what works on a bike that’s being used for racing. I’ve replaced numerous brake pads, through wear, but mostly through experimentation. I’ve had pedal quandaries and potential solutions, as well as crank and chainring issues. I’ve even managed to demo some sew-up carbon wheels to get an opinion on them; I just about rode the entire season on the first set of wheels I ever built. Lot’s learned from those.

PS:
Really, tell me about those wheels. What are they? What’d you learn?

MW:
They are 6500 series Ultegra hubs “double-laced” to MAVIC Open Pro rims; 32 hole. They were decently lighter than the stock wheels that came with the Jamis Nova Pro that I bought for this season. Like I said, they were the first set I’ve ever built and the pattern was introduced to me by a shop out in Seattle. This guy said he’d lace the spokes this way specifically for ‘cross racers out there, he taught me his technique and they honestly seemed to hold up pretty damned well across the season.

The “double-lacing” refers to the way the spokes cross each other as they travel from the hub to the rim. Instead of a typical 3-cross lacing (over-over-under) the spokes are woven a little bit more (over-under-over). Theoretically, I guess it extends the hub flange making the wheel stiffer and supposedly stronger. The most obvious benefit I experienced with it was the race in Indianapolis where a fellow racer, while blocking my passing, put his foot/pedal into my front wheel breaking three spoke nipples. This lacing pattern seemed to keep the spokes within the plane of the wheel to the point that I didn’t immediately notice I had “lost” any spokes at all. The wheel was still rather “true” as well. The wheel is not perfect by any means now, but I was able to replace the spoke nipples and bring it back to life to race on it again.

PS:
Ouch! How’d you fare in that race?

MW:
Not terrible considering, but sixth place. I think if there were another lap, I’d have caught back up to the lead group. No real injury though.

PS:
Across the season, any injuries?

MW:
Nothing substantial or lasting really, just sore muscles on Mondays.

PS:
How was the competition in your races?

MW:
Pretty good from what I could tell, it being my first season and all. I learned very quickly that there exists a strong Junior team that races in the beginner Category 4′s. Those Red Zone kids have a lot of experience and have some speed. Across the season though, I found that the ones to beat were beatable. Get ahead of them and lay on the power, I found that I could then stay ahead.

‘Cross itself has a way of beating you otherwise sometimes though. Case in point with the Indianapolis race, a set of broken spokes putting you back six places; it can be an easily lost chain, or flatting (never happened to me), bad preparation, or a course that doesn’t suit your skills. With the 4′s though, it’s a shorter race, there’s not always enough time to get back into podium position. What’re you going to do? It’s racing, and all those are just excuses after the fact.

PS:
So, if you didn’t take it as seriously as some do, what was your motivation to go for podium at all?

MW:
I guess to see if I could. I’ve never raced before and my results became a barometer of how good of a competitive racer I could be. I’ve never really thought of myself as overtly competitive, but… I guess maybe I am. That was probably brought out a bit at the first two races of the season in Landen, Ohio. First race, I was holding a great position, second or third, when this dude nudges me off a tight track into a fallen tree. A competitive nature—read: vendetta—was born out of that circumstance (ninth place finish). The second race of that weekend, was when I was introduced to the Red Zone kids, one of which I was neck and neck with throughout the race. I just couldn’t keep him behind me, not even at the sprint finish where he took 14th putting me at 15th. I got competitive with myself on that one; getting beat by a 13 year old was a little demeaning. I learned later he had quite a bit more experience than me.

Other motivators were definitely the team I’d just joined. Go Rogue! Oli telling me how good I was going to do, and then resorting to threats if I didn’t get on the podium. Sherri screaming at the races, startling others in the field. The heckling from teammates and co-workers was only a little influential probably. There were also opposing opinions given to me continually throughout the season as to what category I should be racing in; be it 4′s or 3′s. I wanted to upgrade, but only with justification, and I honestly never wanted to justify it without getting on the podium at least once. By the time that happened—first place in Columbus—the season was nearly over, I may as well have stayed and compete for the overall series’ points. My second podium placing was also first place for the state championships—I’ve never won anything like that before in my life. I’ll upgrade for next year.

Feeling like I was a part of the community was a good motivator too. The whole OVCX was cool, meeting rad people in other cities is always kick ass, having the home court advantage of River Road Country Club was cool; momentarily getting heated at it’s imminent demise was interesting. (It will of course be the best introduction to cyclocross for myself—and evidently many others—bummer to see it go, but there’s better terrain to tear up for ‘cross in this town).

PS:
What’s next?

MW:
One more race for fun most likely, the Cyclo Claus coming up mid-December. After that, not much until next season in the 3′s. Maybe I’ll try some mountain biking come spring, there’ll be plenty more base miles from commuting in this damned cold winter, and perhaps some brevets on the road bike. See you out there!


6 Comments so far
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Great interview – and congrats on the season, Michael.

PS I’d love to check out that lacing pattern of which you speak. One of my goals for next season is to build a set of ‘cross wheels for my rig. You got photos somewhere?

Comment by ben 12.10.09 @ 9:58 am

what a great interview! you inspire me so much… congrats on the win. hope to see many more.

Comment by cas webber 12.10.09 @ 10:09 am

Nice read, Michael. And congrats again on the great season. However, if you interview yourself too often, I know a good counselor…

Comment by Greg Bain 12.10.09 @ 12:18 pm

Nice interview, champ! Way to kill it this season. Now get out of your kit.

Comment by Doug 12.10.09 @ 2:13 pm

watching you race this season was great fun – almost made me wish I was still in my 30s (not really) Not sure I congratulated you properly on the gold, Congrats Sham-Wow! Oh, and thanks for capturing that video, too.

Comment by Sherri 12.13.09 @ 11:12 am

There is this to look at Ben. Thanks for the well wishes.

http://crankedmag.wordpress.com/issues/issue-5/hadrann-wheelcraft-method-part-1-lacing/

Comment by Michael 12.13.09 @ 6:21 pm



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