CYCLO X SEASON IS HERE
Donkey Label couldn’t be prouder to sponsor the one and only Tobin Ortenblad. At 22 years old, this dude is already going places. He is a workhorse (an incredibly fast one) and the very definition of what our brand embodies, and we can’t wait to see him shred this season. Donkey Label joins Tobin’s sponsors Bell Helmets & Santa Cruz Bicycles in what will most assuredly be one hell of a season. We hope to see you out at the races this year, and when you're there be sure to tell Tobin to “SEND IT!”
In the meantime, if you need to sate your insatiable appetite for DL swag, snag a McTubbbin's Mug t-shirt here.
NOTES FROM THE PIT
Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 18 & 19, 2017
What a treat for Tobin, Zack (fearless assistant and racer) and I to have a team truck, a tent and a road trip with a kick ass Air BnB. The whole trip was just so damn good, there was no way Tobin wouldn’t win both days. I had zero nerves, everything was so automatic for me. I was settled enough to even run every morning. Usually I am too worried that I am overlooking something and I just hang out. Anyway, Tobin handled the dark dusty conditions of night one for an "easy" win. We tested a lot of tires before the race, but decided to race on the Donnelly LAS 33 at 25 psi front and rear. There was no traction anywhere, so why not just go with the fast tire?
Day 2 was pretty similar. Tobin tested tires for a while, I cleaned bikes a lot from all the dust, he warmed up on rollers...auto-pilot program. Again, Donnelly LAS 33 at 25 psi front and rear. This race was in the day light but still extremely dusty. Tobin sat in the first group for about 3 laps...and then he seemed to "Send It" on out of the group for the win.
We had three bikes in service this weekend, because we had the truck. So, to the pits I took the B Bike with an identical set up to the A Bike. C Bike had a Donnelly MXP on the front at 25PSI and a LAS on the rear at 25psi. I also had a complete set of spares of MXPs. It was really nice to just have everything and be totally dialed.
Derby City Cup & Derby City Cup Pan American Championships
Louisville, KY, Nov. 4 & 5, 2017
Well, what can I say? I think we turned it around in a big way in Louisville. We got to Louisville on Sunday evening and stayed with some friends for the week. A couple easy days training wise Monday and Tuesday were on the docket with a lot of napping. Wednesday, we were happy to get on the course. The Louisville crew absolutely crushes on course design, and prep.So thankful for that. We got to spend some quality time out on the course dialing the sections, going over gearing and tire selection (and in this weekend, tire modification, https://www.cxmagazine.com/mud-tire-modifications-tobin-ortenblad-allen-krughoff-2017-pan-american-championships-donnelly-specialized)
The sensations came, the stoke grew, and we were on point come Saturday. We really needed to get the monkey off our back after the mystery legs that came in Cincy. I knew on Saturday, in the first 2 min Tobin was firing and back on track. He raced aggressively start to finish, maybe too aggressive early on for 4th place. We were both stoked on the result, but more on the execution and sensations. A sigh of relief was had.
With high spirits, we quickly moved on and got to the work at hand for Sunday, the Pan Am games. Tobin said to me at dinner after Saturdays 4th, "dude, I can win tomorrow" I just smiled and told him that talk was cheap. A quick smirk back at me, and that was all we needed to say. I knew we would be in the hunt for the win.
This weekend I was also taking care of our Jr. rider, Ben Gomez Villafane who won the Jr. race on Saturday and the Pan AM jersey on Sunday...So the stoke was super high in the camp. Both days, Tobin was at the start line and on the course to give Ben "live" feedback and direction. I just love that shit! Our program is really coming together and this makes me very proud. Top Club!
Tobin came out guns blazing with the Canadian Champ MVDH. These two essentially forced the selection and the race was down to 6 right away. the group continued to shed people as Hyde took advantage of some dabbs and attacked for the win with 3 laps to go. Tobin fought hard to pursue Hyde, it seemed like Powers was contributing and MVDH was hanging on, which he did for 3rd. Powers had some issues and dropped. Tobin was 2nd. Again, super proud of the actions of Tobin this weekend. Normally we would pack up and fly home...this time we drove through a Tornado and went to Indianapolis for a couple of days of work at Zipp/ Sram. We also took the opportunity to hang out with great friends and enjoy some off the bike fun time.
Part 1 of the season is over and has been a massive success. Now we move our attention to part 2!
CICI CX & HARBIN PARK INTERNATIONAL
Cincinnati, OH, Oct. 28 & 29, 2017
Day 1: Devou Park in Loveland, OH. Round 5/7 of the US Cup. Result 14th. End standing in US Cup, 2nd.
Devou Park is a pretty gnarly course. One of the most difficult and physically demanding courses we will race on the domestic circuit. There is pretty massive elevation drop and gain per lap as well as some tricky off cambers and chutes. We showed up to pre-ride on Friday and I did a couple laps of the course and it seemed the same as usual. It was dry and pretty bumpy. The course wasn’t flowing at all at the time. My legs felt pretty marginal on Friday, so I did what I could to stay positive and open them up on the rollers after doing some laps of the course. Devou is a course that I’ve struggled with in the past, so I really tried to come into it as positive as possible.
After we got back our host house it started to rain and continued to do so for most of the night. We showed up to the course Saturday to muddy and cold conditions, the first “real” cross weather we’d seen yet. I like the way the course was riding much better in the mud and was pretty pumped to race in the conditions. I had a front row start and we were off. I had an okay start and slipped my pedal a bit, but by the first corner was back into second position. Although I was back towards the front I could tell pretty quickly that my body wasn’t feeling as good as usual. Something was off and I couldn’t seem to hold any wheels and started losing positions almost immediately. By the end of the first lap I was back around 7th and continued to slip back the rest of the race. My legs felt heavy and my heart rate was pretty jacked on the first lap. I knew at this point it was all about damage control as I needed to try and hold position in the US Cup standings.
Chris and I pitted every lap to keep the bikes light and clean, but ultimately it was a bad day on the bike and I finished in 14th place. I fell out of the lead of the US Cup and was bummed to say the least.
We rode “mud” tires at Devou. The Donnelley PDX’s at 26psi rode well. We would go a bit lower with tire pressure normally, but this course has quite a few hidden roots and rocks to flat on so we didn’t get overly excited on dropping the tire pressure.
Day 2: Harbin Park in Fairfield, OH. Round 6/7 of the US Cup. Result 11th. End standing in the US Cup, 4th.
Harbin park is a very different course than Saturday’s course. Overall its pretty flat with one long uphill drag and a couple little punchy climbs. It was pretty cold again, around 40 degrees. Donkey Label embrocation was key both days. It was a tad windy and the course was muddy from the day before, not soupy mud, but firm and almost grabby. You still had to be on your toes and watch your speed into the corners.
I was definitely slightly worried about my legs from the day before, so I made sure to get a solid warmup. Again I had a front row start. I had a good start and was 5th into the first corner. Once we were into the first long straight away I jumped hard and went to the front and drove the pace just as I normally would. I drove the pace and was in the front group for the first lap and was still there for the next two laps. About three laps in my legs started to go again. I really pushed as hard as I could to stay up there, as again it was a US Cup race and every position matters for series points. I slipped one position at a time, I tried to settle in but still couldn’t. I ended up 11th and once again was pretty pissed. I didn’t know what was happening.
Tires for the day were a mud front Donnelley PDX at 23.5psi and a Donnelley MXP rear at 24psi. It was smooth and slightly slippery so no need to worry about flatting on hidden bumps.
Chalk it up to a bad weekend on the bike. It definitely happens it just sucks that it aligned with an important weekend. Definitely excited for the coming weekend. Time for redemption at the Pan American Championships.
Cincy weekend was a rough patch for us. Tobin had 2 rough days at the office. Its interesting to me, the reactions of everyone asking, "what happened to Tobin?" I guess this is to be expected after the results... but athletes are humans, not machines... and shit happens. Things go haywire and we might never know why, we arent even dwelling on what happened. just moving forward and shifting our attention to the next races. the biggest bummer for me was the first chance to see Tobin perform on a heavy course. it would have been great to see him duking it out in the front. I could tell the first time in the pits, he was not feeling it. I can’t quite isolate what was wrong, but he just looked wrong. eh, it happens... in fact last year at this venue was not a great ride either. So, we roll with it. Sunday looked to be a fun course, too, not as heavy as Saturday, but slippery and fast. Tobin really wanted to get things rolling in the race and from the gun was aggressive. He led through the pits for the first lap. He didnt look strong, but driving well. As the laps passed, Tobin continued to slip back and struggle to hold wheels. Just wasn’t happening. we packed up and got into our minivan pretty quick. We pondered and offered up hypotheses, but nothing of real value came to the surface. So, after 30 min we moved on.
We are now in Louisville with our full attention turned to next weekend.
Craft GP of Gloucester
Gloucester, MA, Oct. 14 & 15, 2017
Gloucester is an iconic East Coast venue. It's right on the ocean in this tiny fishing town. You can literally see and smell the seaweed at low tide while you're racing.
Conditions, despite some rain, were dry, slightly dusty, rocky and a steady wind all day, as well. I rode an MXP (intermediate) front tire and a rear LAS (file) both at 28psi. Couldn't go too low as pinch flats were a definite risk on this course.
Day one: We started super fast, and on the first lap Curtis White had about an eight second gap. I jumped across and was eventually joined by a group of about six. Eventually this group dropped to four of us, Curtis White, Spencer Petrov, and Jeremy Powers. Curtis suffered a flat which left me in an Aspire Racing-teammate-sandwich, a less than ideal scenario. As expected, it was them versus me. I stayed second wheel and listened for attacks from behind and stayed out of the wind. With two to go, Jeremy put in a massive move which took me about a half a lap to make up. Going through the finish line with one to go I had caught Jeremy, but I was totally gassed. Fortunately, it seemed like we all were. Towards the end of the lap there's a long straight flat headwind stretch into a U-turn and a series of other turns into the finish. We were riding tempo when Petrov jumped into headwind and into the corner. I went with and heard Jeremy coming under me into the corner as well. I held it tight and kept the door shut. Spence lit it up into the remaining corners, but I was right on his wheel and able to jump around and be first into the last double stair step obstacle which was right before the finish. I got up that first and held it wide open to cross the line for the win.
Day two: We took off and I sat second wheel most of the first lap. Jeremy came from behind towards the end of the first lap and went straight to the front and twisted the throttle until only he, Curtis White, and I were left. Curtis popped about 2.5 laps in, and from there it was just Jeremy and me. He kept it pinned for another full lap then I went to the front and did the same. We attacked each other back and forth all day to no avail. Coming into one-to-go I pulled through to have first position going through the technical parts of the course. Jeremy came right back past me so I sat on him instead. We both rode all the technical parts on the last lap perfectly, wheel to wheel. Towards the end of the lap I pulled back through and rode us into the headwind. Jeremy jumped into the u turn and I was right on him coming into the chicane before the long, paved, slightly uphill sprint. He saw me on his wheel and sat up exiting the chicane. I was a wheel or two of off him and setup the chicane so I could exit a bit wide, pass him with speed, and lay on the sprint. I came onto the pavement with my rear wheel sliding a bit, but when it caught I lit up the sprint from the bottom of the hill for the win again!
Baltimore, MD, Oct. 7 & 8, 2017
Charm city is a great race in a very interesting venue / setting. I have had a blast at this event the last 2 years for sure. The races were pretty similar day 1 and 2 with conditions changing ever so slightly.
Day 1 was dry and a lot of grass. We ran file treads at 27psi front and rear. Rain overnight had us thinking the course might get slippery, but I would suggest that it didn’t change that much, just enough to change the A bike tires to intermediate tread at 25psi. We were ready in the pits to go to higher PSI on intermediates or tire change to file treads, because the conditions were drying so rapidly.
(Side note, learn how to set up your tires, don’t duplicate someone else tire pressure. It just won’t work out for you.)
Day 1 saw Tobin take the C1 win. That is four in a row counting Night Weasels but 3 US Cup CX races in a row. What I noticed was that Tobin was a bit aggressive in the first 2/3s of the race, (this might be my fault...our game plan is changing a bit) and that aggression coupled with the heat was taking its toll. In the closing minutes of the race, gaps were opening and Tobin found himself struggling on the wrong side of the business. He continued to dig and fight (this is new for him...usually would look back and resign himself to make sure he was 4th) this race he clawed his way back, regained good position and won in a sprint over Jeremy Powers. Yup, Tobin has a sprint and now all the cross guys know it...3 sprint wins. It has been our tactic to stay ahead of the reshuffling and position for a sprint, whether its 10 up or 2 up. We know Tobin can win from that position.
Problem is, everyone knows this now, and day 2 you could see the tactic from the others change. Tobin and I had a good chat about what shift we would see in the other riders’ strategies and walked through some scenarios to be prepared. My assumptions were correct. No one racing for the win wanted it to come to a sprint and the race was made super hard all day. Tobin rode a bit too aggressive in the opening laps, that with heat and swamp air caught up to him. We had a good heat plan, but you could see it wasn’t enough, his face was white as a ghost, and at the finish he was cold...and sweating. We will continue to work on that. Again, a great day of racing that saw Tobin fighting forward instead of looking back. 4th was his place on the day, 21 seconds back. Just not enough in the tank to battle for the win in the last lap and a half, but a great race and result.
We have some work to do for the last rounds of the US Cup CX and Pan Am games and a little time to do it.
VERGE Night Weasels Cometh
Shrewsbury, MA, Wed Oct 4, 2017
It’s always fun to go out midweek and get a race in. The New England CX scene is super tight and there were a ton of people out having a good time on a Wednesday night. The course traversed all over the bottom section of a ski hill and was pretty grassy and pedally. Not too many technical sections, but all in all a great time and midweek effort before the next round of racing in Baltimore.
Cool little venue with a lot of spectators. Awesome to see Ryan Trebon start and light up the first lap. We had a goal for Tobin to get clear and then ride for negative splits. He got the W and some good training, and from what I could hear from the pits, he was getting steezy airing out the "boardwalk" every lap.