USGP Mercer Cup Day 2 Race Report

After a brutal day of running through deep mud at 60 degree temps, mother nature decided to up the ante for day 2.

Post-race, a line of severe thunderstorms came through, re-saturating the course and destroying what little course tape hadn't already been ridden through. And then the temperature dropped twenty degrees.

Sunday morning's temperature hovered around 45, with wind gusting to 30 mph -- the most significant change to the course conditions was that warm, sloppy mud had been replaced by cold, sloppy mud. The course was effectively the same, except it had been shortened further, leaving "only" four length running sections. Actually, if you ran down the hills (which was becoming more and more popular), you could join some of the running sections together... so maybe it only had two running sections! Yay!

As you might imagine my motivation and core temperature were pretty low, and based on the number of people preriding (zero) I'd say my feelings were representative of the crowd. A surprisingly large field (87, after 92 the previous day) showed up for 2/3 Men -- the "beauty" (if you're promoter, which I sometimes am) of forcing prereg.

Off the line I took a very laid-back approach, and actually dropped some spots on the start straight. The caremeter, as they say, was reading zero. You guys can go ahead and get in the "draft" up there.

The course conditions had changed a bit -- the brisk wind was drying out the thinner areas of mud, and hardening up the deep areas. Deep tacky mud is absolutely unrideable, but the other sections were getting faster. There were a few spots on the back side of the course where -- gasp -- I had to brake before a corner. Gosh, it was exciting! I might even go so far as to say I liked it.

After a lap I started to get into it a bit more. The running was still horrendous (have I used that adjective yet? I've said "the running was X" about 100 times in these two reports) but the race was much shorter (3 laps) and there was a hint of technical skill required to ride the back section cleanly.

Linnea hadn't arrived at the venue yet after getting sick overnight, but I had her bike in the pit and took the opportunity to pit myself after 1.3 laps. It raised my level of happiness even further, because pit bikes are PRO and damned if I don't want to be PRO. It was also clean, for about two seconds. Best of all, I caught Pierre and had the pleasure of passing him while riding his former bike, and I wasted a lot of oxygen letting him know about it.

On lap 3 things got more exciting as Linnea arrived and started pitting for me. Another bike change, huzzah! One of my close competitors was also getting a fresh bike each half-lap, so we were having a jolly good throw down, and our pit crews were fighting each other for the hose. You know how the mid-20s of a B race are. Serious business.

As the race drew to a close I took one last bike change and applied the "advice" I'd given Linnea on that last lap to myself -- "Race ends at the top of the flyover, GET THERE." My bike-changing foe had been hurting me on the run, but with the end in sight I was able to pick up my stride in exchange for super duper pain and get ahead for the flyover. I scaled it with legs of jelly and sufferred on in for a scorching 24th place and the knowledge I didn't have do any more of the crap, at least until next weekend.

After how hard it was for me to find the motivation to race, there was no chance that a growing-iller-by-the-minute Linnea was going to line up for the same thing. We took the opportunity to get home a few hours early and left after pitting for Matt in the Masters race.

He used my bike for the short half of the lap and I ran the handlebar cam for him a few times. You won't believe this, but it's not exciting at all. Nevertheless, it's worth a look (four minutes) just experience the course. In the below clip Matt runs for 1.5 minutes of a 4 minute stretch... breathing as hard as he can the whole way.

USGP Mercer Cup Day 2 Handlebar Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

I'll be interested to see if the Mercer Cup happens next year. The park itself was destroyed until spring -- the mud will go away, in time, but people will have plenty of time to get upset about it first. The park ranger we had a run-in with on Sunday was a complete dick, no doubt because those damn cyclists had ruined his park.

On top of course destruction, there were some organizational issues that I'd like to point out. Generally, one cannot complain about the way a race was run without getting a bunch of crap about "you're not a promoter so shut up" -- luckily, I'm running a race in 3 weeks, and while it's no USGP it's still plenty of work. Anyway, the race was certainly run acceptably, it just lacked the polish of the Verge Series. Half of these things are probably out of the promoter's hands, anyway. Screw it, I'm complaining anyway.

1) We reused the same numbers from day 1 to day 2, except no one actually told us this. There was allegedly a sign at registration somewhere, and you know how easy it is to see any given sign when you're in a sea of people registering. I talked to other racers and the message had gotten around almost entirely by word of mouth.

2) The race lengths were ridiculous on each day. Day 1, they ran every race too long. There's no times on the results (sneaky) but my opening and fastest lap was 13 minutes, so I was probably out there for 55 min. Given that our posted race length was 40 min, 3 laps was obviously the right call. Day 2 had the opposite problem, the course had been shortened yet they told us three laps on the start line. This time we actually could have done four laps (like the A Masters did) to get the appropriate race length, but they kept us short, and also...

3) Stopping racers early. Because they were behind schedule on both days, they started barring racers from the finishing straight once they started staging the next field. While obviously you can't have people finishing while the next race is starting, my experience showed they were being way too aggressive about this. On day 2 I was kept off the finish straight, so I decided to watch the start of the 45+ race (which must be imminent, right?). Four minutes later, I left in disgust. Let people ride to the finish line until there's a minute to go, just make sure they get off the course once they cross the line!

4) Why were they behind schedule on Day 2? Because everything was pushed back 30 minutes because the course was still in tatters at 8 AM, when the Cat 4 race was supposed to start. After a thunder-and-wind-storm at 6pm the previous day, no one should have been surprised to have to restring a lot of course tape that morning, but apparently they were.

5) As long as I'm pointlessly and aimlessly whining, they called us up ONE AT A TIME for staging, right down to the last two guys. On Day 2 it took even longer because they had to cross names off the sheet to see who was DNS'ing from the day before. It's not a big deal, (that was a freezing five minutes I could have done without), but it makes me want to hug Alan Atwood at the next Verge.

If this post didn't do it for you, go read what Matt wrote, it's the same message but more eloquent.