The weekend of October 4th/5th had a strange feature to it for an October weekend in New England -- only one cross race. If you wanted to race Saturday, you had to drive to New York. If you're a small promoter going up against an established race, or a great race in Maine going up against a great race in Connecticut, Saturday would have been a great way to snag a good turnout.
It's kind of a shame that there's not an organizing body that helps promoters schedule this kind of thing. I'll bet you an entry fee the Downeast CX guys did not intend to put their race up against Mansfield, but they probably had to commit to the venue before schedules were posted.
But let's not get too off track here. Sunday I headed to the cape and eco cross as it was the only show in town -- and I wasn't the only guy with this idea. The Cat 4 race was something like 80 riders, big enough they had to split it in half.
Playing the role of "gas money" was Ryan K who managed to put his bike on my car before the light turned green in front of North Station. Unfortunately it was last pro thing he was going to do all day.
I made my own not-pro move by skipping the morning forecast check, after all if it was "partly cloudy" 48 hours ago there's no reason to check the doppler, right? The closer we got to the venue the more I had to use the wipers, and by the time Cat 4's were done a steady rain had started. I huddled inside the covered pavilion next to the barriers (yeah, this course is pretty cool) and did my best to avoid warming up and stayed dry.
Linnea continued to play the role of "meal ticket" and scored a 4th in elite women's race
Linnea enjoying pushing a 42x25 low gear through slick uphill mud...quality photo from Rob Bauer
After the women's race ended I jumped on the course to get a nice "hot lap" warmup in, unfortunately after a minute of hot-lapping I came to start line and found 25 dudes already lined up. Not being a Verge race there was nothing I could do but line up behind them all and wonder how exciting the first singletrack bottleneck was going to be.
We got delayed another 15 minutes for the kids race so everyone was good and cold. Then we started with a very intense holeshot. Through liberal use of Bostonian driving techniques I somehow picked off a good 15 people through the first three corners via the late merge. Everyone was busy braking for the sketchy opening descent and lining up single file, I just rode around the outside with my blinker on in my BMW and then jumped in at the last possible second.
I was still miles away from the front and mired in traffic going over the barriers, but hey, it's a 60 minute race. Soon after a Cambridge bikes guy who had ridden the 4 race (McKittrick?) discovered that the course had slicked up considerably since then and did a spectacular laydown on the next corner. I spent the rest of the lap riding people's wheels and darting by whenever possible. I felt like I was making good progress off the back row but the Garmin still said lap one was the slowest (6:40) so... don't start on the back row, kids.
Over the barriers again Matt Myette said to me "Cary's 13 seconds up," and if there's anything to keep you motivated it's news like that. I picked it up for a 6:26 lap and then a 6:21 to catch him, and thought, ok, now I can rest a bit. It sounds stupid, but it's true. Beating Cary is the #1 reason to race bikes, ask anyone.
The inevitable mid-race lull happened -- between minutes 20 and 40 of an hour cross race I always end up backing off a bit. The start adrenaline is gone and the finish adrenaline isn't there yet. So I stalled out in my climb up the standings for a bit, although a I did pick up a place when the guy ahead of me crashed, I crashed trying to avoid him, and then grabbed my bike off the ground faster. Ha-ha!
I also took an opportunity to pull a Tim Johnson and ditch the gloves. It's getting to be a mental block for me to race with gloves ever since I had a great race at Noho when I didn't use them. Something about having my skin right on the rubber of the hoods just feels better. Gosh, that sounds dirty. This is going to be a problem in about a month, but for now, I'm diggin' it.
It's not being vain if the picture's really good, right? Photo from MattGlove-free and seeing the lap cards dropping, I found a second wind and picked it up. I realized that I could ride the uphill sand pit, which was a bit faster but most importantly was one less time per lap I had to try to clip in with shoes packed with mud and sand. I caught the Petes from Cambridge Bikes at the sand pit and went super hard up the climb in an extremely painful show of strength... the last thing I wanted was to end up in a group with two guys on the same team.
During the closing laps I started lapping people from the internet left and right. They were all in too much oxygen debt to call me a sandbagger, which is too bad. In return for this courtesy I will not mention their names, except Ryan Kelly, who told me that it was the "gayest thing ever," and then dropped out.
Even though I was lapping up a storm I was still barely hanging on the lead lap -- Mr 10th-at-World-Juniors Keough was destroying the field and getting closer and closer to me at the clock ticked down. I ended up escaping by a mere 30 seconds -- that kid is gonna win a World Cup someday. You heard it here not-first.
I ended up in pulling out an 8th, with nothing but true heavy hitters (instead of faux-heavy-hitters like me) ahead, so I've got nothing to complain about. Third overall was Kevin Hines, age 48, in his second race of the day -- so yeah, he's much better than I am at this sport.
Ryan dropped out so he could be the loudest guy in the pavilion on the last lap. Hidden by the sign: his beer.