One of the great things about cross is that you can do it twice in a weekend because it's not as physically destructive as mountain biking. So instead of spending Saturday farting around and resting up for Sunday's MTB race, you can just race Saturday, and if that doesn't go well there's always Sunday.
Which isn't to say that Sunday won't be a bit slower, but it's not a guaranteed suckfest like back-to-back 3 hour MTB races would be.
So with that in mind I headed up to Bedford Sunday for some more cross. The good news was that I was racing the 3/4 race, so no pros crushing me and no sixty minutes of hell. The bad news was, I could definitely feel Saturday in the legs, and the Bedford course was far more roadie-friendly than Eco Cross. Instead of singletrack and turns, Bedford featured long, rough, grassy straights that demanded the kind of seated watts I just can't produce for very long.
It wasn't totally lame, though, it had one nice, dusty and slippery high-speed corner and it had a steep runup that lead into almost nowhere to remount before a rocky and dusty drop that claimed more than a few people who didn't get clipped in. I saw someone trying to improve the rideability of it by clearing out the rocks, but this drop was hungry for blood and no amount of work was going to make it easy, or even safe. As a mountain biker, I considered that a good thing.
So the typical thing happened, the masters race finished and no B's were lined up. I ride 3 more minutes, and hey, 40 B's are now lined up and I get a back row start. If I was a really crosser I would recognize this was bad and bully my way to the front, but I was scared my legs were going to give up the ghost if I started too fast. Next time I'll man up and push my way to the front.
I also realized just before we rolled off that one of my season's goals was unexpectedly in play -- Lynn Bessette snuck into the front row of our field. Apparently risking her season by racing the calamity that is 3/4 men in September is not too sketchy for her, so I applaud her for that. And I guess when you're a country's national champion, you can take a front row spot if you show up late. Humph.
So the whistle blows and Bessette jumps off the line in a very pro-like manner. I watch in dismay as none of the other frontline riders match her speed, and as we hit the first corner Lynn Bessette has gotten the holeshot on us. This is a dark day for the B Men of New England. Have you no testosterone? Half of you are going to blow up by lap 3 anyway, why not step it up just a bit more and save us from the ignominy of getting holeshotted by a girl?
It's easy to say these things when you are blocked in at the back.
The first lap is a dust storm of chaos. The runup becomes a rundown as the inevitable crash happens and we storm around the fallen rider. I feel like I've lost tons of time in this cluster behind at least 30 people, but when the course loops back I'm still within 20 seconds or so of the front, and yes, Lynn Bessette is still there, although someone else is now leading.
I'm scared of going into the red too early after yesterday so it's all I can do to hold my place on lap one. Everyone is still too excited and making adrenaline-fueled jumps out of every turn. On lap two the pace starts to slow and by lap three the pretenders are dropping left and right, crashing on the off-camber, crashing on the drop, crashing through course tape. I start making some serious places along with an IBC guy, and soon Jordan says I'm nearing the top 10.
Thanks to all the loopbacks on the course I can see the lead group several times a lap. A Cambridge Bikes guy (apparently the Messenger World Champ) is going off the front, but other than that they aren't gaining on me. As we pass the halfway point, I'm starting to think that I just might be closing on Bessette.
Eventually I stabilize with a group of 4, two other guys (West Hill and Cox Communications, maybe?) and the IBC guy who has been moving up with me. My legs want to sit in here, and there's still 3 or 4 laps to go, but after a lap with them we're losing ground on the leaders and I have to suck it up and move on. The IBC guy comes with me, and the other two are quickly gone. Lesson learned -- if you started at the back, never sit in, ever.
The places come hard now. The field is strung out, few and far between ahead of me. I gradually distance myself from the IBC guy and make a place or two as the race winds down. Finally, on the last lap, I see the blue kit of a Zancanato rider getting closer and on a turnaround I see his custom painted HUP bike and I realize it's none other than the legend himself.
Mike Z has apparently gotten very, very fast compared to the guy who raced mountain bikes at this spring. I do not like this development.
But, at least today, he's flagging. I catch him with half a lap to go, and my body has hurt long enough it stops reporting pain, so I go by as soon as I can and sprint home for 6th place.
I'm reasonably satisfied, given that it was not a great course for me and some of my competitors took Saturday off, but I can't call it a success. Not when a certain Canadian National Champ finished 25 seconds ahead of me in 3rd.
One of these days, Lynn. One of these days.....
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