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Race Report: Surf City Cyclocross (Or, Yes, I Brought My Bike To A Nerd Convention)

What: Surf City Cyclocross, Men's C (what these NorCal hippy freaks call Cat 4)
Where: Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, Interlaken, CA
When: Halloween, 9am
Who: Me and 30 new friends
How: Second to last place, baby!

I'm in San Jose at the World Fantasy Convention, commuting with my nerdy people and talking about the importance of gun play and crashing zeppelins in your modern fantasy novel, all done in a bar the size of a tennis court. This is awesome, but it means I'm not in Oceanside at Storm the Beach, getting wet and sandy.

However! Because I am a super nerd, I took to the Internets to find out if anyone else does this cross thing, and found out there would be a double-header weekend race about fifty minutes south. I wasn't able to race in Seattle in September because it's a pain to fly with a bike, but it's really easy to drive with one. So, I load up the car, do a few days of nerd stuff, then excuse myself from last night's festivities to do something that no one ever really considers at a nerd convention: physical activity.

The drive was foggy and cold and just a little freaky, but once I got over Hecker Pass, the sun came out and Santa Cruz County spread out like a gorgeous quilt of farms and fields all the way to the sea. It stayed cold all morning, so that meant bundling up, even though everyone else was walking around in short sleeves like it was nothing.

The course wound through the fairgrounds, so we had plenty of twists on grass, straightaways on dirt and through the equestrian show grounds, slaloms through the stables (including one sweet straightaway down the central aisle of the horse stables), barricades (short and spaced enough that a lot of guys just bunny-hopped them) and one really technical bit: a Spiral of Despair (which looked kinda like this) on grass that emptied out onto a short and steep climb that killed me every time.

The start was a little odd: rather than line up at the finish line, we were sent about two hundred yards down course to the bottom of a broad hill that narrowed into a steep bottleneck climb. Even if you made good time going up the hill, unless the guy in front of you sped the through the bottleneck, you'd lose momentum and have to clip out to keep from falling over. I was a little bummed about doing this cheesy run-up, but I was a guest and couldn't yell too much.

It was tricky to find a good line at first, even though I'd taken two warm-up laps, just because the grassy bits were so slick. It was like Rustic Park first thing in the morning, but with off-camber sections that lead to sharp downhills with a few hairpin tree turns thrown in just to keep you on your toes. Whatever time I made at the barricades I lost negotiating these turns without bailing. I managed to find one rabbit; even though I couldn't catch him, I only kept ten seconds behind.

And then there was that hill. It was a little shorter than the run-up we use at Rustic, so you could ride it if you had the speed. I never got that speed, though, no matter how hard I tried. Having local fans lining the hill yelling, "Ride it! Ride it!" while I fought to keep a grip on the ground didn't help. I gave it an
honest effort, and got Not Last Place (though last place had a mechanical, but what the hell).

Afterwards, I talked with Andrew Yee from Cyclocross Magazine, who was amazed when I told him the size of our cross packs ("Seventy guys in a beginner's race? Thirty women? No way!") We may not have the moisture NorCal does, but we sure have the fields.

-A., back at the hotel, ready to get his bibs off and his nerd on

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