Coming off a 2+ hour mountain bike race I figured this one wasn't going to go very well, but I needed to get a race in before the Verge opener in Vermont in two weeks, as a bike build shakedown if nothing else.
What's that?? Do I have a new bike?? Did I get new parts? Give in to consumerism? Not really, but I did just switch my bike over from dual-ring road mode to single-ring cross mode, and bought some tubulars from CTodd, so yeah, some things could definitely benefit from race testing.
The day was perfect for cross season, it was raining when I got up at 9, pouring when I
got lost in Charleston picked up Cary at 11:30, and not raining at when we arrived in Amesbury. All the glory of a slicked-up course without having to stand around in the rain, it doesn't get much better than that. I got some quick heckle-time in on the fence rideup using my favorite RyanK line, "let's see some waaaaaaaatts!"
Cary and I got in some quick preriding and despite the previous day's fatigue, I was so stoked to be on a cross bike that I Jamner'ed it up and won the preride lap by a comfortable margin. Cary tried to make fun of me but I knew he was just jealous.
Linnea and Alex then proceeded to strongly represent IBC in the 1/2/3 women's race while I ran around taking horrible pictures.
Finally, it was time to start the 2008 cross season! I knew it was go time because everyone else was packing up and leaving. Yash tried to tell me that he was going to mercilessly heckle me for 60 minutes, but we both knew he would get bored and head home after a few laps. That's ok Yash, at least you pretended to care...
Oh right, the race. It was a sweet course (for me, at least), so props to Brian Croteau and the rest of the Noreast organizers for a good design. Lots of good cornering features that would have been technical in any condition, a demanding runup with nowhere to recover, and three straightaways that were slightly downhill. As my last entry shows I'm not shy about
We lined up and the most conspicuous preregistrant of all was missing, Mark the Shark. Combine that with the fact that legit elite dudes Matt Kraus and Dan Coady were on race #2 for the day and we were seriously lacking high-end star power compared to many local 1/2/3 races. This might not have been to the race promoter's liking, but I didn't mind at all.
Not even two pedal strokes in I got some dirt in my eye, and then nearly crashed myself out trying to navigate the first turn in a pack cyclops-style. After that incident I quickly faded to the safety of DFL.
After a minute or so we hit the pavement and 15 sets of tires in front of me unloaded in my face. There might have been some drafting benefit on the road, but closing up on a wheel meant a steady stream of mud clumps blasted in your grill. I don't remember this at all from last year, I guess it didn't rain much, because I sure drafted a lot. In any event I hastily retreated to a safer distance after trying to "sit in."
I moved up a few spots as things sorted out, and started to fall into the typical pattern of pack riding (for me) getting tested on the straightaways and held up in the corners. I was hanging out on the back of the 11-man lead train, which of course hurt like crazy, but at least as caboose I didn't have to defend my line on the corners. After a while I figured out that I could just let people roll away on the straights since there was so much accordion on the muddy corners, and that made my life a lot easier, so easy I thought to myself "50 more minutes of this might actually be doable."
Eventually Matt Kraus and Dan Coady dropped the hammer and rode away, leaving an evenly-matched group of nine fighting for third. We rode a few laps wheel-to-wheel but as people got tired we started breaking up, due in no small part to a series of crashes and bobbles. First Pete Smith laid it down in and got shuffled to the back, then Mukunda Feldman slipped on the rideup (see below), then one of the Metlife guys went down on the rideup and caused a major logjam. The end result of all this, plus a few sketchy passes, was that I somehow moved from 11th up to 4th as the group split apart.
I set about railing corners and making the pain face for all the lady fans, and bridged up to Adam Sullivan in 3rd. At this point I was fairly delirious with surprise at how far over my head I was riding. He asked me how I was feeling, which seemed like kind of a personal question for the middle of a cross race, so I told him I was hoping to see some lap cards pretty soon.
There were no lap cards to be found so I started yelling at Linnea about what time it was, and she said "27 minutes," which was about 30 minutes less than I was expecting. Why yes, I'd love to stay in this cave for another 33 minutes. It's not like my legs are a ticking time bomb because of yesterday's efforts or anything.
I wised up and got in front of Adam on the technical stuff because I didn't want to eat mud for another half hour, and next thing I know I'm alone in 3rd. I don't even know what's happening any more, it must be the tubulars making this happen. Soon people start telling me the gap to Dan in 2nd instead of Adam behind me and seriously, I have no idea how this is happening.
Dan is coming up on ending his 2nd hour of racing for the day so he's fading, with three to go I make contact and take the lead. It becomes clear that he's been softpedaling a bit, waiting, because he sits right on me for a lap and then takes the lead back. At this point, though, I have a stupendous amount of adrenaline flowing and when he nearly crashes on the roots before the bridge I counterattack, well, as much of an attack as I'll ever manage after 50 minutes on the rivet, and now I'm alone in second.
Right. Matt does a wheelie going by the pit, to remind us that he's a top-ten age grouper at nationals and I'm just a monkey on a set of tubulars. He's got plenty left in the tank if necessary. I roll in for 2nd in a 1/2/3 race, a feat I may not repeat this year... nor the rest of my career, for that matter.
So yeah -- it's all downhill from here. And I'll take it.