OK, I know everyone is tired from all the racing this weekend. But everyone wants to hear how your racing went! So, in an attempt to inspire some creative writing, CXM is digging through the piles of stuff in the office trying to find a little something for the best race report from this weekends action.
Seems like Beth Hamon is taking an early lead. Anyone up for the challenge?
Race number one is done. The first race of the year is always interesting. First and foremost you get a quick lesson in "You didn't do enough training." I race the C class, the (s)lowest of the classes so we get a lot of new riders coming from other disciplines, Roadies and Mountain Bikers. All are welcome. Inevitably there are some riders that should really be racing the B or A classes.
After some difficulty in finding the race venue, an equestrian steeple-chase area, I had all of 15 minutes to warm up. I was feeling pretty good and loose so I lined up at the front, I usually line up near the rear so as to not get in anyone's way. I looked at the guy next to me, in a pro looking kit. He was riding a Time full carbon, with integrated seat mast bike, complete with carbon wheels and tubular tires. I was this close to telling him that was an awfully nice bike to be racing C's, but I wasn't sure how he'd take the sandbagger insinuation.
After a few minutes of waiting around the got the high sign to go, I got a pretty good start and was in 4th, though quickly slipped to 8th. We climbed the slight hill and dropped around the corner where we started the only real hill, which wasn't much of a hill. About half way through the first lap riders came piling past me like I was standing still. I figured I was at about mid-pack by now, par for the course for me. I also realized at that point that I had probably started off a bit too hot because I was breathing really heavily. I was able to make up time on a couple of riders by running between the set of logs that were placed as barriers about 40 yards apart. It was just long enough apart that most riders opted to remount and ride the distance. I found I was faster running it. After the third lap I really wished I had worked on my running at least a little bit this year. Once I remounted my bike and started riding my heart hurt so bad I actually wondered for a moment if I was having a heart attack. It felt as if a breakfast sausage link was jammed right into an aorta. It was at about this point that the first old guy (55+ masters) passed me. They race along with us, but we're not scored with them. I didn't feel too bad, I've seen this guy race and he's pretty fast.
At about 4 laps of 5 I'm really starting to hurt. My back is aching pretty badly and I no longer have to brake for corners because I've barely got any speed. The momentum I did have I certainly didn't want to scrub off with the brakes. My corners started getting really wide and sloppy. Then, a 2nd old guy(no offense) passed me. I made a brief attempt at catching up with him but he had apparently conserved some energy and I didn't have a chance. As I came through with one lap to go I heard the announcer say that the only girl in the race was right behind me my first though was why is there is a girl in the men's race? My second thought was, I have to at least beat the girl. I don't normally care if I get beat by the fairer sex. I'm pretty sure my wife could take me most of the time.
I got to that hill that didn't seem like much the first couple of laps, at this point it was monumental and nearly killed me. On the ride down the other side I started to feel a little better, a little pep was creeping into my system. I put some time on the girl, and was making up a little on the old guy. I knew I was out of my mind when I watched the old guy go down in a corner full of soft dirt and instead of wondering if he was alright I decided to get past him and at put some distance between us. On a side note, I could tell he was ok, the dirt was soft and it was a slow corner. I blazed through the rest of the lap, blazed may not be accurate but it was faster than I had been going. I ran between the logs, felt my heart nearly explode for the last time and made it through the finish line. I didn't get lapped and I actually beat a few people, though I'm sure those people were probably missing limbs.
Breast Cancer Awareness Cross, Hagerstown MD:
Locked myself out of my apartment, didn't regain access until too late to get to the race.
Kelley Acres Cross, Meyerstown MD:
stacked it into a kid splayed out across the path after turn 2 on lap 1. Endo'd and bike landed on my leg, unable to continue. 45 seconds of racing. I am ready for Granogue and Wiss.
I thought I would contribute a race report here as yesterday I competed in my very first cx race in San Francisco (Pilarcitos ’09, Race #1, McLaren Park)!
A little bit of background: I’m a recent transplant to the Bay Area and moved here 3 years ago from New York City. That’s about when I initially learned of cx as a sport, and never imagined that it would be something I’d partake in (mostly because I hate running and carrying things, and putting the two together seemed like torture). Then there was the added phobia I had of riding on dirt. Given that I’d spent most of my time riding on the road, learning a whole new skill set seemed daunting, and what little experience I had of riding with rocks or tree roots in my path scared the hell out of me.
And so my presence at cx races remained purely as a spectator and photographer at local underground races (the DFL series, Soil Saloon) along with officially sanctioned races. Yet despite the suffering that ensued with racers rolling up with dusty suffer-faces at the finish line, everyone seemed to be having a fantastic time – especially with beer hand-ups, dollar grabs and loads of heckling being par for the course.
I began to race track at Hellyer Velodrome and focused my efforts there, as that was a much easier transition to racing (no cars, no potholes, just turn left and don’t stop pedaling – just NASCAR on bikes) but cx still held a ton of appeal for me. People starting asking why I wasn’t racing since I was showing at all the races to cheer on friends, and I finally said, “Yes – what’s REALLY stopping me?”
Last fall I decided to finally take the plunge and enrolled in the Surf City clinic down in Soquel and had a blast. Before I knew it, I was having a friend of mine build me a cx frame so I could race at long last (which is another epic story in of itself as the build was beset with problems and still does).
On to the McLaren race report: On Saturday, I scoped out the course with my fiancé Shawn and studied the difficult sections – and there were many, including a short, twisty dusty chicane (see video here of the carnage from the 35+ A Men’s race) and a long, bumpy, bone-rattling descent that led to an even longer paved climb that seemed endless. I was definitely intimidated and turned to Shawn after the first lap and said, “I don’t know if I can do this!” But after several hours of getting my bearings, I mustered enough confidence to proceed with racing the following day. (It also helps to be a part of a team that will give you endless grief if you wimp out).
Here’s where I shamefully admit that I am NOT a morning person (It’s my New Year’s resolution to try and change this but I’m not optimistic). Thus with only a few underground cx races under my belt, I decided I’d race in the B’s so that I could start at noon. I showed up to McLaren Park at 10:30am and several of my Sheila Moon teammates had already raced in the C’s. I changed into my new bright pink skinsuit and followed some of my friends who were racing A’s Women for a warm-up lap onto the course. I was aghast at the current condition of the course as it was now pretty shredded from the morning and felt my confidence starting to drain from me. Could I do this without totally eating shit or being DFL?
There wasn’t much time to be worried, however, as the next thing I knew we were being called up to the start behind the A’s Women along with the 35+ Masters Women. Everyone was already jockeying for start position and I ended up in the 3rd row (I see now how crucial it is to be in the front). We took off after the A’s were let go, and sprinted across a grassy stretch to a really hairy, muddy run-up– which McLaren is famous for. After a short, sandy stretch, we hit the chicane, a short climb, then the washboard descent into hell to the Everest-like paved climb which finally ended in a woody section at the top of a hill. A quick left into loose dirt and some brief relief (a downhill paved descent, then a dirt descent!) was followed by a sandy straightaway. Another paved descent (wow – I actually feel fast and can breathe!) led behind the start / finish to two barriers that were set-up on squishy, muddy grass. Loads of fun to remount on the other side of those! Then we u-turned through the start / finish, circled around a baseball diamond and back to the run-up on the opposite side from the beginning, which was like riding in a swampy bog.
One of my teammates said to me that my face after the first lap said this: “I thought she was gonna stop, throw her bike into the bushes and walk away from cross and never look back. Not the face of someone having fun.” But apparently my sufferface eased up somewhat as I continued to slog through. I have to admit the 3rd lap was the hardest; hearing the announcer say, “Two to go!” made me think I had enrolled in a Sisyphean task with no end in sight. But I played cat-and-mouse with two women for the remaining laps, losing and gaining position at various points of the race, and that helped keep me focused. Also, hearing cheers from my friends was so wonderful – you never realize how much that means to someone until you’re on the other side of the tape! Alas, I missed my one opportunity at a dollar grab, but my consolation prize was that I did manage to pass those two women in the end. I finished 17th-ish out of 23 women (we think - final results are still pending as all of that day’s categories seemed to have been miscounted).
I'm thrilled to have survived unscathed with no crashes (because I'm getting married in about a week and a half!) and now have a better idea of what to expect for the rest of the season. However, I’m mostly glad to have taken one step closer in the confidence realm in regards to dirt. Who knows – maybe one day I’ll brave Sea Otter? (I highly doubt it). Thanks to my team for their support and the Norcal cycling community for making cyclocross so awesome!
I'm awake by 4:30am, and up fifteen minutes later. I get up, get dressed, and head downstairs. It's still dark out, so I flip on an outside light to see what I'm in for this morning. Rain. Sweet.
Kristen and I are in Gloucester by 6:30. I'm one of only a handful of racers here. I'm early, as usual. No one else in my section of the parking lot except a wild rabbit. Still dark. I look up at a streetlight, and the rain is coming down in sheets. This is why I bring extra gloves and shoes I guess. I suit up and head out onto the course for some warmup laps. No one is out here. No one else is dumb enough to be out here right now. It's basically a small hurricane.
I get through maybe a lap and a half, and I've had it. I'm already drenched. Both sections of the course that run directly along the coastline are positively miserable. As one rider in the startup grid put it, it was like getting a face full of 'noreaster. You'd round a corner and it felt like you were hooked up to a parachute in the driving rain.
We stood in the starting grid for a good 15 minutes. A handful of others and I were already shivering, and taking shit from some of the guys with a little more body fat, who seemed perfectly content.
It isn't even 8 in the morning yet.
The whistle blows, and we're off. I'm about four rows from the back. I still cannot start these races for the life of me. You really have to just take off with reckless abandon and somehow not blow up. I don't do that. I don't know what the hell I do. I go out kind of hard, but never really gain more than a few positions, and then by halfway through the lap I've already imploded.
Also within half a lap, the course is already chewed to hell. Everything is swampy, muddy, slippery, and soaked. And then it rains even harder. All the lines I found during warmup are still there, but it hardly matters because the field is 80% gone. I don't know what the hell is going on with me this year. I have nothing. I basically abandoned all hope of racing singlespeed this year by the end of lap one. There's no way I have it. Especially in conditions like this.
I shoulder my bike for the mud wall run-up, and I forget to grab the handlebar, which swings around and punches me in the mouth. Terrific. I'm soaked, covered in mud, and now I'll enjoy a few laps of bloody mouth taste.
At one point, as if my shifter was somehow connected to my inner reservoir of motivation and will to live, it simply stopped working.
Going through the same stretches of water, completely re-saturating your lower half - it took a few laps to get used to that. It's like a miniature electrocution every time.
My tires - Michelin Mud 2 - actually did really well. In fact, they were awesome. Even as things basically degraded into pudding. Problem is, I have no experience racing in this stuff. Also, due in large part to last year's crashes, I have no balls whatsoever. By the time I figure out that I'm being overly cautious, it's far too late.
I don't know how many laps we did. People were steadily overtaking me the entire time, passing me in the same spots. Spots where I just had nothing, no matter what I did. I thought for sure I'd be lapped. I heard 1-to-go with about a lap and half left, and I was ready to be pulled, just like last year. As I round the corner to the pavement, the race marshal is standing there with the clipboard, uninterested. She lets me go. Terrific. Another lap in the mud typhoon.
I try to finish with one of my teammates, but I can't even muster the energy to hang with him for more than a lap. Almost ten minutes after the winner, I cross the line 75th of 83 in 47 minutes or so. 99 racers were registered; who knows how many DNF'd or simply had the good sense to stay in bed.
I beelined for the tents, said hi to Stu Thorne (the man behind CyclocrossWorld, the team I ride for), and booked it back to the car. The rain was still torrential. Not wanting to soak the driver's seat, I cram into the backseat, which is loaded with gear, and perform no end of circus-like contortions to peel my race outfit off and get into some dry clothes. Everything is drenched, so I throw the bike in the car too; why the hell not at this point. It's been through enough not to have to ride home on the roof.
wow. nice report, but it left me a little depressed - or grateful that my recent race was less eventful? i miss that weather but your descriptions make me wonder if should appreciate the dry dusty conditions here more.
Inspiration for this Cyclocross ballad came from Munson Park Night CX Race in Monroe, Michigan and Bob Seger...
Night ‘Cross Moves
(sung to the tune of "Night Moves" by Bob Seger)
I was a little too tall
Could loose a few pounds
Tights, arm warmers sagging down
B race starting in 20 or so
1 warm-up lap and it’s time to go
Time to line-up and go
In the Southeast corner of Michigan’s mitt
Lined up and ready to race this grassy crit
Embro shinning once the tights are removed
Workin’ on my night moves
Tryin’ to score a series point or two
Workin’ on my night moves
In the sodium lights
Ooo, under the glow of the lights
I wasn’t in front, oh no, far from it
Missed my pedal, my position plummets
I was dead, and it’s only lap one
Recover, now run
And jump the barrier made out of wood
Up the hill, remount, all as fast as I could
Lap by lap went by, I haven’t a care
My lungs just want air
Workin’ on my night moves
Tryin’ not to barf on my Sidi shoes
Workin’ on my night moves
And it was pain cave time
Mmmm, sweet, pain cave time, pain cave time
Oh, a blunder
I felt the front end
It went out from under
Front tire washed out from under
I awoke at last from my anaerobic slumber
How many laps, I often wonder
The bell lap lifted me from my oxygen debt blues
Ain’t it funny how the last lap moves
You just don’t seem to have anything left to lose
At the end of my night moves
With the finish line closing in…
almost got the hole shot & was in the mix up the first hill. went down the hill & in to the barriers-- literally. ate $#!t hard, jacking my handlebars & my left lever to the side. i got up & saw that i was in 2nd to last place (out of like 27). after that everything went in to a whiteout of rage & pain. i didn't even realize where i was until i was about to pass the 2nd place rider. i was in the lead going in to the last lap & told myself to go careful & smooth. turned out to be my fastest lap. i couldn't believe it! i actually WON! sure it was a C race, but i fought back & that was what mattered. after the race we were inspecting my bike & realized that the rear end somehow got jacked-up to where the brake pad was rubbing on the sidewall of my tire the whole time!