Saturday, March 19, 2011

New Blog

For those who care, I've started a new blog unrelated to cycling.  It's about other things that interest me - entrepreneurship, technology, ideation, and such.

I'll probably post something cycling-related here, too.  It's been too long.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Veterans Park Cyclocross

I continued my illustrious cyclocross career this weekend entering the "B" race at Veterans Park in Ann Arbor. Jason Boynton and I rode together for about half the race. He put some time into me on the barriers, and I wasn't able to bridge back up, so I ended up in second. I've determined I need to run the barriers, rather than jump them.

I corrected all my n00b mistakes from last weekend, though, and even managed to learn how to shoulder my bike by watching some cross vids on YouTube.

Here are some sick-gnar photos:

Shout outs to the following photographers for the sick pics:
I'm pretty sure I'm going to call it a season for cyclocross, but it is a ton of fun, so I may have to do another race. We'll see.

Regardless, I think I'll race cross in the "A" category next season, since I won't be racing the collegiate mountain season. However, all that is still up in the air, seeing as I only have my life planned up until May 2010 so far.

Now, time to taper for Iceman!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Maybury Cyclocross

I entered my first ever cyclocross race, this weekend at Maybury State Park on my new cyclocross bike. Having never entered a cyclocross race, here are some important n00b lessons I learned:
  • Run your tires at 50 psi.
  • Shoulder your bike on the run-ups - especially if they're muddy.
  • Remove the watter bottle cage so that you actually can shoulder your bike on the run-ups.
  • Practice running barriers before racing.


Mad props to Andrea Tucker and f/go for the sick gnar photos!

Overall the race was a ton of fun. I placed 5th in the B's after spending most of the race in 4th with about 20 seconds to fifth place. With about 1.5 laps to go, I slid out on a corner and could not get going again. The 5th place guy caught me and we rode together for the last lap, but he put a good gap into me in the barriers.

Midwest Cycling Group put on an awesome race at a great venue. Plus they did it for a reasonable entry fee of $15. After helping to organize collegiate race weekends where each entry fee is capped at $13, it's hard for me to justify paying a promoter $30 for a cyclocross race. The low entry fee was a good move by MCG - it definitely tipped my decision. Props to Joe Lekovish for that.

After the race, I planned to ride 25 miles back to Ann Arbor (I rode to the race from AA before the start), but then decided to ride to Birmingham (home) instead. I got my directions mixed up about halfway there, and ended up taking 3 hours on what should have been a 1-1.5 hour trip, ending up with a whole bunch of riding hours for the day!

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Since I've been in Boulder I've been doing a lot of quality riding and witnessing some breathtaking scenery. Unfortunately, when I got here I found my camera out of batteries and my charger back at home, so I don't have any pictures of my own. Instead, seeing how mountains tend to remain the same over hundreds of years, I've ripped photos from other people that were taken at the places I visited. Here they are:

1.) View from Brainard Lake at 10,300 feet. The mountain you're seeing here is Mt. Audobon (13,200 ft). When I saw it, the sun was setting behind the mountain. The view was absolutely beautiful, ignoring the fact that I still had to ride 30 miles home at dusk (thank goodness Boulder is bike friendly - it was no problem).
2.) Ward, Colorado. This is the town at the top of Lefthand Canyon - a very gradual yet mind-numbingly long 3,200 ft ascent.

3.) The flatirons - these are the mountains on the west side of Boulder. They represent the line where the great plains end and the Rockies begin. Any mountainous ride from Boulder ventures through them.
4.) The view from the top of Betasso Preserve - a short, fast mountain bike trail that has a super-steep ascent from Canyon Rd.

5.) View of Boulder from Flagstaff Rd. You can see the CU campus on the left.

6.) The steps at Walker Ranch - a mountain bike trail on the other side of Flagstaff. This part of the trail is definitely hike-a-bike.

7.) The Bustop gentleman's club - this is where the fast group ride in Boulder meets (yeah, kind of random).

8.) One of the loops on the Fruit Loops route - a flatter ride to Lyons and back. This is the route that the Bustop ride uses.

Overall, Boulder is exceedingly sweet. I still have a week left before I drive back to Michigan to race the first ever West Branch "Classic" (maybe) and the MBRA Talent Pool 2000M TT at the Velodrome at Bloomer Park. I'm excited to get back to Michigan but I don't want to leave Boulder behind. I'll be back next year, though.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Nationals Race Report

Road Race:
The course started at the CSU stadium, and consisted of a flattish / rolling start for about 10 miles, followed by a series of painful ascents and steep descents, before completing four laps in a 10-mile loop around Masonville. The finishing stretch involved another series of painful climbs followed by a chaotic, painfully steep descent consisting of a couple 180 degree switchbacks.

Chris Aten and I lined up among the field of 130 or so riders ready for a day of pain. The race started chaotically as every collegiate rider collectively freaked out at the idea that they were racing nationals. Imagine the sketchiness of the Men's D race at Depauw - only at 30 mph and with 130 riders.

I got involved in a crash early on, but luckily I didn't go down. Unfortunately, I had to chase back to the pack, and given my minimal warm up (since nobody really warms up for a 70 mile road race), my legs were hurting pretty bad. I recovered near the back of the pack, while Chris rode like a champ at the front.

The back-of-the-pack positioning proved to be a bad idea because once we hit the first climb of torture I had to ride around a bunch of fatties. By the time we reached the first peak, I could already see the main field approaching the bottom of the descent. For some reason, I didn't think that when you have a pack of 130 riders, the time from the front to the back of the pack can be over a minute on an ascent. Even if you're a great climber, if you start in the back, you're going to get dropped. I drafted Owen from Lindenwood as he bombed down the descent.

As time went on, we caught some riders, and others caught us, to form a chase group of 10 people. The group worked well, with some crazy 35-40 mph, 53x11 at 120RPM rotating pacelines in the tailwind sections. We eventually closed the minute gap to Chris's group of 10 riders. I sat in near the back of the group, trying to recover from the hard chase effort while Chris Aten and Chris "Umberti" from Purdon't pushed the pace.

I survived with the group for about 10 miles until we reached the feed zone where a bunch of riders put in some attacks. The elastic of the group snapped and I found myself dangling off the back of a group of 3 or 4 riders, digging deep into the pain cave to try to get back on. My legs were so blown out from the earlier chase that every pedal stroke brought more and more pain and lactic acid. As the small group slowly pulled away from me, I yelled in agony (literally) and threw in the towel. In retrospect, I should have kept riding, especially given the fact that there were still 30 or so racers behind me, and since I could have caught onto a group behind me. However, in my oxygen-deprived state, such logic escaped me, and giving up seemed like the better option.

Chris was able to hang with that group until the end, but had little energy remaining to sprint. He rolled across the line for a very respectable 61st.
The criterium course was a pancake-flat, figure-eight-style course in downtown Fort Collins. Before our start, we saw one of Marian's fatties take the win in the D1 Women's race.

Cory Dubrish, Chis Aten, and I lined up in the giant field. The race started out really fast at first as everyone tried to gain position. Chris went to the front and followed some attacks. He briefly found himself in a breakaway, but the charging field wouldn't have it.

Unlike last year's criterium on the same course, which involved 10+ crashes and multiple trips to the hospital, this year's race saw zero crashes (except for one dude that rolled off the course - but that was his own fault). Last year, the finishing straight involved a giant gap between two concrete slabs running parallel to our line. That gap was responsible for most of the crashes last year, but this year the trusty road service patched it up for our safety!

As the race went on, Chris moved back a bit to recover. Before he knew it, there were only 10 minutes left and he couldn't move up in the aggressive pack. He ended up 32nd by the end. Cory also rode strong in the pack and ended up 58th. I was still pretty tired from the day before and didn't race smart (dangled in the back for a while) and ended up in 82nd.

Overall, nationals was a fun, yet humbling experience. The great part about competing in races like these is that you get to see exactly where you need to be fitness-wise to hang with the big guys.

After the criterium, a bunch of us Midwesterners banded together and rode up Rist Canyon, which ended up being a ridiculously long climb. I finished the day with 80 miles total.

Here's a picture of us at the top of Rist Canyon (ripped from Chris "Umberti"):

Since Sunday, Cory, Chris, and I have been hanging out in Boulder, CO. Cory and Chris leave for Michigan Wednesday morning, and I'll be hanging out in Boulder until the end of May.

Full results are at:
Picture of Cory before the criterium start:
Picture of Chris in the criterium:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Time for some sanity...

If you're reading this, you've probably already seen Zack Colman's article in the State News (Bicyclists need to stay on the sidewalk). Check it out if you haven't. It's causing a LOT of controversy in the cycling community and on Michigan State's campus. (Bike Snob NYC even wrote about it.)

This article really angered me, but it also made me wonder who this "Zack Colman" character really is, and why he would write such a hateful piece as this. After all, he goes to school only a short car ride away from Ann Arbor!

Well I actually contacted Zack through e-mail when someone tried to (prank) subscribe him to the Michigan Cycling e-mail list. Not expecting to hear any reply, I sent him this message:

One quick question: it seems like there's some confusion between whether you were being sarcastic or genuine in your article. Could you clarify? Was the article really meant to threaten cyclists, or were you trying to create some sort of strawman for a viewpoint that you don't share?

Maybe we'll see you on a ride one of these days, either on your bike or in your Saturn!

Oh, and also, we have 7 friends in common on Facebook. Small world!

Happy riding,
Brendan Benson
He actually responded within a few minutes, and here's what he had to say:

The fact that anyone could have possibly thought that was open threat is beyond me. I have no idea how. Things can get sensationalized pretty easily, so when my column got sent to a bunch of cyclist forums with the description "HE IS THREATENING CYCLISTS," people undoubtedly read the column with the preconceived notion that it was a threat. All of the writing was sarcastic, and I can't even begin to count how much hate mail I have received — at least 300. How it got to be that this was a threat, I don't know. But it upsets me to no end, and it also puzzles me. I thought the sarcasm was obvious — who would actually advocate vehicular manslaughter? That's the one thing I don't understand.

Haha and you can ask [Facebook friend] about me. I think he would tell you I'm far from a murderer.

He also wrote this in a following e-mail in our conversation:
I realize now the word choice in the column was harsh for those who wouldn't detect the sarcasm, and for the many people who have been injured or who know people who have been injured by motorists I am sure the sarcasm was impossible to detect. I was unaware it was such a big problem in the cycling community.
It's relieving to hear that Zack is not the angry person he seems to portray himself as. I'm glad to know he's normal and that if I ever encounter him on a ride, he's not going to run me off the road.

At the same time, I wish he had not published that article. After all, every law-abiding cyclist experiences dangerous drivers, which explains the crazy backlash from the cycling community. Many people on bicycles are injured or killed by reckless driving. In my opinion, sarcastically writing about hitting a cyclist is in poor taste.

Regardless, it's good to bring some sanity to this argument.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Back from Georgia

Last week I went to Georgia for Spring Break with Michigan Cycling and got some high quality training in.We had 23 riders plus a few alums who made guest appearances. The rides included the Six-Gap Century, Brasstown Scenic Byway, and other various jaunts. Weather was decent - it was warmer than last year, but it mostly stayed in the 40s and 50s for the entire trip, making for some cold mountain descents.

I didn't bring my laptop on the trip, which was a nice way to disconnect from Ann Arbor life.

At the end of the week, we drove directly from Georgia to Kentucky for the first collegiate race of the season hosted by Murray State University. As luck would have it, they had the worst weather of the year over the weekend. Saturday was cold and rainy, and Sunday brought a layer of fresh snow.

Saturday's road race consisted of a 16-mile course, on which we raced four laps. I stayed near the front for most of the race in order to avoid crashes and hopefully get into a breakaway. A few other guys and I got off the front for a bit, but they either didn't want to - or couldn't - work hard, so we ended up back in the pack pretty shortly. I moved farther back near the end of the third lap in order to rest up a bit, but that decision turned out pretty bad. Going into the end of the third lap, a crash occurred in the middle of the pack. I started to slow and move over, but a Lindenwood guy ahead of me decided to hit the deck. I skidded into him, but only had to put a foot down. I remounted, but my chain had come off. By the time I was able to fix my chain, the pack was already out of sight up the road. With only one lap left, and a crit the next day, I decided to abandon and save myself for the next day.

Well, as it turns out, I should have kept racing - and I would have if I knew what the crit course would be like. The course consisted of about a dozen 90 to 180 degree turns in a tight, slippery parking lot (the shiny type of parking lot with a slippery coat to allow car tires to turn easily). Watching the D and C racers crash, I decided that racing would not be a good idea - I crashed way too much last season, and had a strong chance of crashing again if I raced. Instead, one of my teammates and I headed out for a windy ride in the countryside. There will always be more crits.

(To clarify, I'm not trying to bash Murray State here. I just felt the crit course was not suitable for a collegiate criterium course. Several other racers and teams also echoed my sentiment by not racing. I would love to race at Murray State next year on a different criterium course.)

This week will consist of some training and recovery in preparation for the race at Depauw this weekend. Temperatures in Greencastle, Indiana are supposed to be in the 50s and 60s, which will be a nice break (again) from the cold Michigan weather.