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Midnight Ride of Cyclocross

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Last night Jake and I left work a bit early and headed west to Lancaster to compete in the Midnight Ride of Cyclocross.  This fast and fun mid-week race is in its second season and after hearing the rave reviews from last year I put it on my calendar as “can’t miss.” The Midnight Ride follows a similar course to November’s MRC race, but in the reverse direction. Since it’s still September, the course was dry and fast and the reverse direction offers less climbing and off camber turning than it’s November counterpart. Announcer Richard Fries was on hand for the event, which always makes things more exciting, and as he repeated multiple times throughout the evening, this race is the kickoff to what is now known in New England cross as “Holy Week.”

Racing as a beginner amateur and working at Seven, I’m in a great position for success. I have friendly relationships with some top Pro racers who have raced on the very same courses that I now compete on and they willingly offer up advice on things like tire selection. I ran into Mike Broderick and Mary McConneloug at Cross-Vegas last week and Mike gave me some tips on what to run for the Holy Week races. I heeded his advice and it paid off in spades. The treads that I had chosen were fast on the gravel and pavement and hooked up just well enough in the grass and loose loamy corners that I was able to walk that fine line that exists between speed and control. Line selection, not tire selection, would be the only fault in my race.

I’ve raced enough at this point that I am starting to get first row call-up and for this race I lined up one spot from the outside with a clear view of the first turn a few hundred yards ahead. At the whistle I jumped out in front and my first four of five pedal strokes put me out in front with a fair gap on the field. I had taken the hole shot, and it was suddenly my race to lose.

Having never been in this position before in any sort of bike race, I did my best to stay calm and just rode my ass off.  From what I’ve been told I actually put a sizable gap on the field and held it until my worst case scenario presented itself – a crash in a hard 180 degree turn on loose gravel. I got up faster than imaginable and got back on the bike, but after a couple more turns I lost the lead.

As we wove through the course and over the barriers I held onto second position for dear life and started to hear Richard announcing that the 14-year-old in the group was gaining on the leaders. I held second place for about a lap until the leader missed a turn in the woodchips and slid out – I was back in front.  For the next two laps I led this group of men and boys through the twists and turns of the Midnight Ride course and listened to Richard’ words about what it might mean to our egos to lose to a 14 year old.

He also seemed to give Jake’s single-speed a shout out every time he passed through the start finish area. When I finally saw the lead slip away for good, it was a newbie to cross, not a kid whose brothers have been notorious for cleaning up in the men’s field as juniors, who took it away from me.  I kept fighting and rode most of the last three laps in the 5th position and watched another young and new-to-cross racer, who had fought from the back row past about 65 other riders to take the lead with two to go.

When he went by the leaders he rode off in front with ease at a pace that none of us could match. I was cooked, and hanging on by a thread, dry mouth, blurred vision, etc., when I heard a friend yell “Joe!  Hurt!” Oh, yeah, I thought, this is not supposed to be easy, you have to hurt to win, there are no two ways about it. I kicked it back in but unknowingly was making it easy for the rider behind me. He was drafting me around the course and saving energy for a move in the last grass section before the pavement to the finish.

I feared if I let him around me so that we could work together that I would not be able to hang on, so my best bet was to keep him behind. It seemed to work, but in the end he made a move and went around me just as we came up on that speedy young teen who had finally run out of gas with just a few turns to go.

The result of these place changes left me squarely in 5th place, another top 5 finish in what has been a great start to my season.  A few more like this and the heckles along the course, hopefully, will be encouraging me to “cat up” into the 3’s, a place where many a family man can spend the bulk of his bike racing career.

Post-race, Jake and I grabbed a beer and heckled some friends as they suffered much in the same way that we just had, and then cheered on Mo Bruno Roy as she rocketed around this drag strip with apparent ease.  I picked up some tire tips from her husband and pit crew, Matt Roy, and he showed me some new treads that they are trying out for this season. It’s good to be an amateur, it’s great to get the inside line on tech tips from the pros, and it’s amazing to have the opportunity to ride and race on a bike that is just like the pros race yet uniquely built for me.

- Joe W.

Image: Matt Pacocha, Bike Radar

Seven’s Mary McConneloug Takes the Podium at Providence

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Photo Courtesy of Natalia Boltukhova Pedal Power Photography 2011

It was sunny and hot at the Providence Festival of Cyclocross this weekend, which everyone found disorienting and dusty.  We managed to see several of our favorite riders do well despite the trying conditions.

On Saturday,  Mary McConneloug of Team Kenda/Seven/No Tubes finished second in the elite women’s field, and then outsprinted the Day 1 winner, Laura van Gilder, for top spot on Day 2.

These were extra impressive results for McConneloug who is only just back from racing the World Cup circuit in Europe for the summer.  Making that transition from mountain to cross can be difficult, but it’s a testament to Mary’s sheer class that she can hit home soil, swap bikes and come up with a big win and a second place. Laura van Gilder, who topped Mary on Saturday, said of McConneloug after Sunday’s race, “the ideal cross racer is a mix of mountain biker and roadie.  Mary has those both, she’s incredible.”

Bob’s Red Mill and Seven racer  Mo Bruno Roy took 10th on Saturday and 7th on Sunday, a pair of results that bring her to 5th on points with two weeks break before Downeast Cross in Maine.

Andrea Smith of Ladies First Racing rode her  Seven Mudhoney SLX to 7th on Saturday and an impressive 4th on Sunday.  Smith won the Verge Series last season and stands 3rd on the New England points list for 2011, just behind van Gilder.  Since winning at Monson in her opening race of the season, and finishing 11th in a super tough field at Cross Vegas, she’s been solid and consistent, big keys to winning any series.

With Mary, Andrea and Mo doing so well, that’s three Sevens in the top ten in Providence, BOTH DAYS!!!!!

Carl Ring was there to represent the Seven Development Squad on the men’s side:

“I lined up both days, I got stuck behind a bad start line crash on Saturday, fought my way up to the front half of the field, then lost all my spark.   Back slid all the way back to the tail of the field. Sunday was better.   I managed to advance pretty well in the first two laps, but I’m still lacking the fitness I need after knee surgery early this year.   I hope to be back to full strength in 3-4 weeks. Still it was fun racing and a great venue…(it) was great to see Mary McConneloug line up.   I noticed that Andrea Smith and a few of the other Ladies First riders are also on Seven’s now.   Looking foward to seeing you at the Maine Verge Series races.”

Seven at NEPCX Gloucester

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Mo Bruno Roy before the mudfest that was Gloucester

Seven was out in force at the Grand Prix of Gloucester over the weekend, basking in the mud and gratuitous suffering.   Bob’s Red Mill and Seven-sponsored rider Mo Bruno Roy finished top ten both days in the elite women’s race, and Andrea Smith from Team Ladies First rode her Seven to a podium spot – second overall – on Day 1, bagging a solid 5th place finish on Day 2.

Carl Ring from the Seven Development Squad was in action, and the guys from the Seven office: Keith Cardoza, Jake Bridge, and Joe Wignall all flew the colors in the mud at Stage Fort Park, too.

Seven employee Keith Cardoza on his Mudhoney

New England has turned cool, wet and rainy: ideal cross weather.  At Gloucester this weekend, Richard Fries’ bombastic ranting ringing from the PA was a perfect accompaniment to the race’s mayhem and conditions.

The New England cross season is in full swing, with races almost every week from now through December.  It’s not too late to register for The Night Weasels Cometh in Shrewsbury, MA Wednesday night.  You can warm up on Tuesday night at the pre-race party at Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington, too.  And who is excited for Providence next weekend?

Any of you Seven owners out there who raced at Gloucester, write to us in the comment section below and let us know how you did!

Check Out Seven’s Development Squad Facebook Page

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Squad Superstar Matt Engel

Seven’s Development Squad is ramping up, getting ready for cross season and racing across the country.  Check out their exploits on Facebook!

The Seven Development Squad Facebook page is really active:  each member posts their training plans, results, product reviews, photos, blog entries, videos, and other content as the season unfolds.  You can even add your own comments or pose questions for them to answer.   We want this to serve as an interactive space open to anyone interested in the team.  Click here and become a fan today.  It’s the best way to get up-to-the-minute details on the Squad’s racing schedules and to see what’s new.