I skipped out on Canton to see a friend from school who lives in Bennington and do the Wicked Creepy Cross race instead. The drive was long (nearly 3 hours) but totally worth it for the epic course.
Danielson on Saturday -- yes, that was a fun course, but it wasn't even remotely UCI legal. Fields of 40 would have been a nightmare. Wicked Creepy, on the other hand -- flippin' perfect. A compact six minute lap laid out across a windswept hillside made for one of the best cross courses I've had the pleasure of riding -- power on the way up, technique on the way down, pavement, dirt, off-camber galore, even a wet sandpit. An amazing job for a first-time promoter, and it all held up to the 30 mph gusts throughout the day.
I was registered for the usual race, 3/4 Men, but lined up against none of usual suspects, this being a NYCross race. Linnea had conned me into a costume so I was kind of glad not to know anyone, since I was standing on the start line with a foot-high shark fin duck-taped to my back.
The fin was nice, though, in that it gave me an excuse to start slowly. No one expects much of a guy in costume. It was only about a 25 person field, so a "slow start" meant I slotted in around 12, a position I'd kill for in a Verge start.
The technical nature of the downhill parts of the course quickly strung us out single-file, and hung on to the back of the lead group as it stretched out. After a lap or two I'd vanquished my prerace lethargy and got around to moving up. I was aided by a crash two spots in front of me that forced the guy directly in front to stop dead -- I swear that's the third time at least this season that's happened. I'm starting to think it's maybe not just luck. Anyway, two free places, bonus.
At the front of the race people were checking out, a guy in a pro-looking green kit was moving away from everyone and someone else was going after him. Meanwhile it was freakin' amateur night in the third-place group, five people cutting each other off on every corner, hitting elbows and wheels and bars and yet putting out precisely no speed on the straightaways. I was part of the problem but at least when I got through the mess I tried to do some actual work. After a very reasonable pull, (by mountain biker standards) on one of the straights I looked back and my wheel was clean, so it was off on a solo adventure for me.
In case you've forgotten, I had a giant shark fin taped to my back. It was a little tight in the chest area but that was more than made up for by gaining the support of every single fan on the course. Seriously, everyone should try riding in a costume once. The support is amazing. I was having a great time, even if no one could come up with something more clever than "let's go shark."
So I caught up with the guy riding in second and now everyone is yelling "there's a shark behind you" at him. That was the exact quote from no less than 8 spectators... so yeah, not as original as they had hoped. Eventually he said to someone "There must be blood in the water, he won't go away" and then I tried to sing the Jaws theme, but we were racing pretty hard (despite the conversation) so it didn't really work.
By this time first place was pretty much gone, he was 25 seconds up with three to go so we were racing for second. After some typically nefarious wheelsucking I took the lead on the way down the hill and drilled the off-cambers as hard as I dared. Hit the flats at the bottom with a sizable gap and it only got bigger from there.
The leader was a long ways off but he was getting lazy. People were yelling at me "you're gaining on him" all over the course, but I was running out of laps. Thanks to the inspirational crowd I gave it everything I had up the hill on the last lap, getting just close enough to make him take notice on a switchback -- unfortunately at that point he turned the jets back on and I paid the price for my anaerobic efforts and the gap went back up.
But, I was still able to cruise in comfortably for a solid 2nd place. Not bad for a man with a shark fin.
Unfortunately it got me thinking -- there was a 1/2/3 race later in the day that paid 15 places deep. There were 18 people registered for it. Only ten dollars to enter....
Against my better judgement I signed up for the Jamner/CTodd special. Two guys from the 3/4 race were in it too, so if I could beat them plus two more, I could get my money back. And really, paying zero dollars to be an extreme amount of pain for an hour? That's a rare deal!
So an hour later I lined up again. You won't believe this, but it didn't go well. For four laps, I rode decently, and fought my way up as far as 11th. At one point, it was starting to look like I could turn a profit.
Well, there would have been a chance, if I hadn't already wasted six good laps in the B race. With 20 minutes and 3 laps to go, I was in full-blown meltdown mode, riding only to survive. Had I not been in line for money I would have called it a day, but the prospect of getting the refund kept me out there. Alec Donahue mercifully lapped me, and I limped in for 14th place.
Got my money back!
Update: I'm such a self-centered jackass I forgot to mention that my girlfriend won the elite women's race.
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