I awoke Sunday, having just gotten almost 10 hours sleep thanks to the time change and the later 1pm B Men's start, and I was sore. Old man sore. My shoulder, knee, back, ribs on both sides. This must be what football players feel like on Mondays.
But, I had the coveted 9th place start place in Noho. No time to feel bad for myself, it's time to go make myself feel bad!
The course was rumored to be non-technical, but after preriding it I thought it was reasonably hard. Three of the long straights were paved and flat, which seems to help me, and there were no long uphill grinds like Chainbiter. Most importantly the course was broken up by a variety of 180s that required braking. The more cross I race, the more I think that the micro-rest afforded by 180s (ideally more than one at a time) makes the difference between me recovering enough to hang and me getting blown away by the super roadie legs I end up racing against with sometimes.
Anyway, today was a high pressure day. Ended up in the 3rd row after callups, with an ideal spot to crash Rosey in revenge for yesterday. I could actually see the front for the first time in my Verge B career.
I got clipped in on the first stroke and blasted off the line, terrified of getting swarmed under on the first gravely turn. A gap opened and I moved into the second row of guys as we tore through the opening corners and out onto the grass. We hit the first big straightaway and it looked like this (photo shamelessly stolen from Dave L):
So yeah, 13th place. It didn't last long as people were flying around me, some of the heavy hitters like Ryan were heading to the front and some of the wannabe-heavy hitters (kind of like me, actually) were burying themselves for that first-lap glory.
Coming into the runup everyone kind of bunched up, I was on the far left side halfway through my dismount when I got bumped even further left, WHACK goes my left (and fully weighted) pedal into a rock and I went crashing knees-first into the rocky uphill. I tried to jump up and run with my bike but there was already people all over me, I walked and crawled up the incline half-shouldering my bike, someone else had their wheel in on top of my bars so I couldn't actually get it on my back.
I took a quick glance at my knees remounting, lots of brown and red but no kneecaps showing so it was still hammer time. I survived the first-time up the ride-up in dense traffic and was still going full blast after one lap.
The second lap is always when reality hits. After starting the race riding totally over my head the legs were begging for mercy and with 40 minutes of racing left I didn't have the guts to keep the power down. Five to seven guys got past me on this lap, blowing by on the straights when I just didn't have those apparently effortless watts.
This is it, I told myself, here's the pack slide you know is coming, you haven't broken the top 40 in a Verge race all year and you were in the top 20 a minute ago. You have to go backwards.
But it didn't quite work that way. The stream of dudes past me slowed to a trickle on lap three, and on the 180s I started to notice some of the jerseys in front of me were getting closer -- apparently some other people's adrenaline had also written checks their legs couldn't cash, and they were coming back even faster than I.
By the end of the third lap I had definitely survived the opening rush and was no longer "taking on water," as Richard Fries would say. Thom P caught up with me on the runup at some point, and being a nice guy with zero trust in my legs, he gave me some advice: "Colin you're having a great race, don't get gapped to this group!" He was right behind me at the time so he may have had a vested interest in my wheelsucking abilities, but since we were on the rough twisties up top there was no danger. Of course the next time we got to some pavement, sure, I was probably going straight out the back, so his concern was warranted. In any case he quickly got around me and disappeared on his merry single-speeding way.
The last few laps I continue to inexplicably pick people off, moving back into the top 20. There were a lot of very dangerous riders close behind me that I was all too aware of, which kept me just panicked enough to keep digging to pass people instead of sitting in. All I could think about was the large group of guys who are often much faster than me hanging around about 10 seconds off my wheel.
Finally on the last lap I ended up in no-mans land, there was a big train behind me but if it hadn't closed those ten seconds yet it wasn't going to do it on the last lap. Ahead was the lime green kit of Colin Murphy, close enough to been seen but far enough to be basically unattainable, even if I did get to him he has some of the aforementioned super roadie legs that frighten me so. I really didn't fancy my chances against someone who actually knew what they were doing on the very long, very straight, very paved finish straight.
But you never know until you try. I kept on racing my guts out, it's not like there's much other choice on the last half of the last lap. As I rounded the final turn onto the pavement Colin was already through it and sprinting, three or four seconds ahead of me.
I sprinted anyway, out of habit, and then when I looked up after a few seconds I could see he'd stopped sprinting and was sitting up... completely soft-pedaling, blatantly disrespecting the closing speed of a guy with top-mount levers. A dangerous move, to be sure. The gap was coming down but the road was running out-- I just kept sprinting, and the more I looked at it the more I thought I was either going to get him right before the line or right after the line.
It turned out to be right before the line, I came tearing past at as fast a speed as I may ever go on a cross bike on flat ground, I might have even had it in that stupid 48x11 I basically never use. I didn't deserve the place since he easily could've had it, but that just made it better.
I was thinking that I was probably just inside the top 20 until I saw the results. 16th freaking place! Missed one of my season goals by just five seconds...damn you, Thom Parsons! That could've been my Verge point, if not for your freakish legs. I'll make you a deal -- you can ride my geared bike in the UCI race next time. That cool?
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