So…I came back for more. I think I pissed someone off by doing it. How else can anyone explain the “act of god” level of weather we had?
I got there in the morning and MJH2 offered to watch little P (Mrs. P was working all weekend) while I took a practice lap. It was cold-ish, but right in that middle range between warmers and a parka. I figured it would be warmer as the day went on.
The course was ….interesting. I think I liked it, but I am not sure. It had a lot of open sections that you could really gain some speed on. The technical sections were pretty technical at times, but could be ridden really easily if everything went right. I was kind of hoping for more off-camber stuff which I seem to do well. Best part? No sand. Interesting part? “Mud”.
When I got back to the course later in the day I made it in time to see a few of our Cat 1,2 teammates flying around the course. It was cold and the wind was cranking around non-stop. I was up to 4 layers on top – base layer, jersey, vest, winter riding jacket and I was still cold.
Last week surprised me. I actually did better than I had imagined I would. I intentionally started near the back and didn’t fight for position in the first few turns and ended up finding I could out-ride a lot of those guys as the race went on. So this week I decided to “try” to see how well I could do.
With that in mind I was getting nervous. With my wife being a nurse and my son in daycare the illnesses have been flying around the house. In general I have been feeling “empty” when it comes to riding. I was feeling that way coming up to the race. MJH2 was trying to warm up for this one. He too was trying to see how well he could do. More than myself in fact.
I just didn’t have it in me to warm up, but knew I should. He was riding, it was close by, and I was freezing so I decided to give it a shot. It wasn’t like a normal road race warmup or anything, but it did help to get me breathing and helped keep the cold off. no sweat was ever developed though.
Around this time you could see a wicked storm front moving in fast. It looked like we were going to get rain. Then the wind kicked up, temp dropped further, and we started getting dropps of rain, sleet, hail, whatever. I was thinking “this will be epic.” I was also getting more excited.
MJH2 heard another one of our teammates sum it up this way, “everyone is miserable and hurting. You just have to be miserable, hurting and angry.” That’s the only way to sum it up. Everyone is suffering. I will do whatever I can to avoid bad riding weather conditions, but if I am kitted up, on the bike, already outside and committed to doing what I have planned and THEN the coniditons get bad….I embrace them. Honestly I think it gives me an edge sometimes.
Well the rain held off turning on full blast and we ended up getting to the line. MJH2 and I lined up dead center on the front. They do a callup for the series leaders to get them to the front, which we knew, before letting us line up again behind them. The field wasn’t as deep as the last race, but MJH2 claimed he saw a 390-something meaning there were at least 40 who had registered. looked like 30-40-something at the line. Maybe more. Hard to tell.
There were some brief words at the start. “Be careful. I know it’s windy. I would post your results, but they took down the board so…” Then we got a last minute slap in the face from the official, “blah, blah, blah, Hey…guys…this is cross weather…..Riders Ready….”
We were off. Heading into the first corner, which was too close to the line, it was once again like pushing 5,000,000 gallons of water through a 1″ nozzle. I head a sound not unlike football players bouncing off of each others pads as riders tangled in the corner. MJH2 got a pretty clean shot through the corner and was off – somewhere in the top 7 or so.
I lost some ground in the first corner. We were then on to the first barrier. This one was dicey. Barrier, run-up steep hill afterwards, quick remount to a 90-deg turn at the base, followed by a quick 180/switchback back up the hill into another 180/switchback down and into an off camber 90 followed by another 90 and another 90 all within a few seconds of each other. Needless to say this was worse than the “sandpit” of last week.
I made it off the bike and up the hill OK. I had a little stutter step at the top to remount. Couldn’t find the pedals quickly and by the time I was locked in I was at the 90 deg turn into the uphill. At this point that section was like a line at Disney and no one was moving. I came flying in at high speed recently secured in my pedals….I just about impaled 3-4 riders. So…I guess we’re running this one too…
Luckily at the top I got around a lot of riders and remounted on the downhill. My rear wheel went up in the air on the way down (I assume I was tagged by someone), but I managed to hold on to the course and stayed on through the next few turns.
After this I basically got into a tempo. What that means is that I was breathing hard enough to be heard 3 counties away and I felt like dying. That’s my regular racing routine. I lost ground to a few people early on – one passing as we went into the woods, but also found I was passing people at a pretty steady cadence. I had been gapped by MJH2 pretty well at the beginning and could just make him out passing me going the other way after each turn.
In the back section- after the woods – people were just really dogging it. There was soft soil (“mud”) and wind that I think zapped a lot of people. It was hard, but I found I had enough oomph to just keep swimming along. I found I passed people right after the mud on the uphill. Around a few corners and there was little P and Nana and Sarge cheering.
It’s hard to focus on anything other than pain when racing, but I was able to see little P’s face and the smile he had on it. Priceless. It’s like a shot of O2 and 5 gels all at once.
After the back section there was a long “paved” section consisting of a bike trail. I was big ring-ing it and putting some hurt on – well at least hurting myself. After that was a 3 part barrier/run-up section with a remount on a hill with some off camber down to uphill turning, etc. before the final straight.
At the end of the first lap I was done. At least that’s what I had hoped.
Well the second lap started going a little bit better. I tanked the first run-up and remount and caused some mayhem in the corners. I bit it a little in a corner – something is up with the geometry of this rig like it’s too high and too short…just doesn’t turn the way I would expect it to and you can’t seem to hammer the turns.
In the woods I started to see what looked like MJH2 in front of me. Now I had been picking up ground for a while and I had been passing quite a few people, but I did not expect to see MJH2. I knew 1 of 2 things was happening, 1. I was doing well. 2. He was having a bad day. I was hoping it was 1, but had a feeling it was 2. Turns out it was a little of both I think.
On my way to catch MJH2 I passed supergirl right after the mud. I think supergirl is on BikeForums so actually I just wanted to say “hi”, but figured that could wait until after the race. Supergirl has seemed to finish fairly well at every event and was quite a ways in front of me at the last event so I figured that i must be doing well.
Right after supergirl was MJH2. I yelled at him to hopefully inspire him and so we could work together a bit. He turned and basically said something inspirational and followed it with something to the effect that he was cooked. The sun had come out and despite the wind our choices of putting on wind vests came back to haunt us as I began trying to cook myself alive from the ehat I was producing.
From that point on I was all about trying to do well. It became painful. The closest thing I have experienced is TT’s. What makes it different is places to recover. For the last 2 laps I was in a battle with a few guys. 3 or so. We kept swapping places, but mostly I was in front just trying to not lose position in the run-ups.
One of the guys was “Bob”. I think he was on Beverly. He has supporters at seemingly every turn who were telling him how he should be attacking me, etc. What they didn’t know is that there are some who call me Bob as well so they were really cheering me on. Then on the 3rd lap in the fast road section a rider came flying past me towards the end. I thought I was never going to see the guy again. Then at the end of that straight we had to run back into the killer wind uphill. He would fade on that uphill with me just wheel sucking for lack of a place to pass.
On the last lap I was in front of Bob and Kevin (found out later) only to have Kevin go for that same move in the same spot. I had to let him take it because I had no energy, but I knew he would fade on the uphill and if I could hold position through the barriers after that I would be able to hold him and Bob off at the line.
So when we turned uphill I jammed it. I passed him as we headed towards the run-ups and we were side-by-side through the barriers jumping each one at the same time. Right behind us was Bob with his yelling fans breathing down our necks.
I remounted sooner than most coming out of there and just jammed the hill. it was killing me. I had figured out what gear to be in coming out of the barriers on previous laps and had put myself in it this time, but looked to find that I was actually still in my big ring. …and I was still hammering up that hill. I was surprising even myself.
I got it into the small ring for the last bit and then came the final straight. I started to accelerate and went for my big ring…….it wouldn’t shift…..seriously.
OK I pride myself on my mechanical abilities and have been working on bikes for a long time (20+ years)….to have a mechanical for me is simply unimaginable. I lost a few seconds trying to shift. I even downshifted and back up again trying to get it to go and it wouldn’t. Finally I threw the front derail back to the low ring and jumped tapping my rear shifter every few pedal strokes.
I was on overload. I could feel the riders behind me. I gave it what I had and could tell I was in a place I have either never been before or have forgotten in a similar way to how mothers forget the pain of chilbirth. When I couldn’t go anymore I looked over my shoulder to see that I had an insurmountable gap….I coasted across the line.
All 3 of us fell into heaps after the line and quickly followed with gasps of, “good race”, “nice job”, “I thought you had me”, introductions and hand shakes. It was awesome.
MJH2 was a ways back. He had imploded. I was shocked. I have never actually seen him implode in a race. He’s a strong rider a could have definitely done well here if everything had gone right. he says his back gave out on him and later on text messaged me to let me know his cross setup/stem is 2 inches shorter than his road one…..Ouch… that’s like runners wearing a shoe that’s 2 sizes too small.
There was a storm front coming in fast and we were going to get drenched. the crews were tearing everything down because we were the last race and they wanted out of there. I never caught the posting of results. I feel like I was easily in the top 20 and hope I was around 15th or higher. That would make my week.
I had fun. Next up is the Campton Cross event that is actually put on by my team. I’m not hooked on cross yet by any means, but it is fun. I would rather be road racing, but this is a nice diversion. Best part is you get to race every single weekend and all of them have been close enough to home that I can register/pre-ride, go home, get stuff done then drive back in time.
Sorry about the long report and the lack of pictures, but Mrs. P was working. Hopefully we’ll have some stellar shots next week.
Shoutout to my blog fan from Peoria! It was nice meeting you! Drop me a comment on here. I still don’t think I caught your name completely. Send me some links to some of the other area cross blogs as well!
EDIT: This just in….my results are listed on USA Cycling…17th out of 45. Yeah baby.