This is my eleventh season of racing cross, and I still like it enough that I have to hold myself back from racing doubles every weekend. This weekend I failed, because Cheshire Cross is close and awesome and Orchard Cross is far and awesome.
Cheshire Cross Race ReportI've been coming here for a few years now, because there's some really unique and fun woods trail, and the best grassroots rideup in New England.
I was predicted to finish 5th out of 19 (!!), so I thought it would be a good chance try being a real cyclocross racer and start the race FAST instead of my usual technique of burying myself deep in traffic, picking my way forward slowly, and then using my steady forward progress to convince myself that I totally could have done better if I had started better.
Of course I neglected to remember that starting HARD means you should warm up for real, and maybe not panic and eat a gel right before the start.
So I blasted off the line into 3rd wheel, rode most of lap one in the Todd Bowden group (note to self: Todd is faster than you, being in his group means you're starting TOO FAST not just FAST) and was experiencing deep regret about my strategies as lap two began.
I slid back a few places and finally managed to start clinging to Hunter Pronovost. Ordinarily I would be fine with this, but Hunter was the race promoter. Which meant that every time we went up Heckle Hill the crowd was REALLY LOUD and he went REALLY FAST.
I mean, I am a good freaking sprinter and he was gapping me every time up this 15 second powerfest no matter how hard I hit it.
Also when I race promote, I am a shell of a man and don't even start the race, so just by being able to ride anywhere near me he was saying "I am so much better at taking care of myself while putting on a bike race, you dumby," which was a bitter pill to swallow.
Finally around the 45 minute mark Hunter seemed to tire (almost like he promoted a race!) and I started to feel better (almost like I was warmed up and that stupid gel wasn't blocking up my guts) and I got away.
I briefly started gaining on fourth place, but then I bent a link in my chain and my new goal became "finish the race without exploding else anything in your drivetrain," and in that regard I won!
Here I am restating much of this blog and trying to get Thom to look at my chain, which isn't as exciting to him as it is to me:
Orchard Cross Race ReportBy what can only be explained as an act of God, I had a brand new 10-speed chain in my parts bin. What would normally have been an overnight scramble to cobble together a non-bent chain (I hope you like masterlinks!) was actually a trivial fix. And off we went to Orchard Cross!
This year's UCI schedule has shifted around a bit, so HPCX in Northern New Jersey was drawing the fact people (see: me getting 5th at Cheshire) and Orchard Cross was even better -- there wasn't a single Cat 1 racer on prereg. Sure, I was still predicted 16th (because I suck ha ha ha) but the points were TIGHT. The guy who was supposed to win I have beaten THIS MONTH. Anything could happen!! (#hype)
Well then Adam Myerson showed up to ruin the party, but whatever, the race for 2nd was still wide open.
Adam was there to have fun and win the race, not "get a workout in" or something pro like that, so instead of riding away from everyone on lap one he hung out in the group and evaluated the situation. This left Cat 2s to dictate the pace. Did you know that I'm a cat 2?!
...and so were 20 other people. And that's why the lead group was still twenty freaking riders strong after two laps. I'm in the lead group... but I'm also in 20th!
As you might imagine, some people in the 10th-20th zone did not want to be there, and thing were a bit choppy as these guys tried to filter up to the front of the group. I exhibited a total lack of aggression during this phase, probably because I am a dumb-dumb and am way too happy settling for "in contact" instead of "positioned well."
So of course when things finally started splitting up I was relegated to the chase of the chase of the lead group in around 13th place or so.
Then I proved that I really didn't deserve to be any further forward in the race by bobbling coming down the weird rutted muddy pump track. I saved it, straightened up, saw myself heading for the tape -- ah, sweet, a course crossing! So I blasted out the course crossing with the naive idea that somehow I would be able to duck back into the course without losing speed and everything would be rad.
Of course instead, the second I was off course I was smashing through a bumpy corn field and there was definitely no smooth return to the course happening. I came to rest in the branches of an apple tree, thrashed through it, caught myself in the tape, thrashed through THAT, and resumed racing.
So that was how I dropped myself from the chase of the chase of the lead.
From there I fell in with James Norris, Ryan Larocque and Case Butler for a few laps. I chilled at the back and Ryan made fun of me on a PA. I started feeling pretty recovered, and counting down the laps until I would make my attack to win the group and finish in the money (!!). I let Case know that I was feeling good by riding into him at least twice (sorry).
With 1.5 laps to go I attacked out of the berm and established a gap going down the pump track (it's faster if you don't ride out a course crossing). Then I rode wicked hard, in a way you should not be able to ride if you actually paced your race correctly. Oops.
On the final lap I caught a flagging Matt Sousa, who was of course ridiculously nice to me. I thanked him by attacking at the barriers and finishing 11th.
So this was actually a great result for me, all things considered, but of course as an amateur athlete who really is only doing this for personal satisfaction, all I could do after the race was focus on my mistakes and think about how much better I could maybe have done.
Yay bike racing!