It's only a small exaggeration to say that lining up for this race is the biggest achievement of my life. I mean, I've done other stuff, but we live in a society where sports are king. Cyclocross might be a long way from the NFL, but it's still a lot cooler than sitting at a computer typing (which is what I'm doing now, actually). Anyway, every time I reach a new level of 'cross it's pretty much the best I've ever been at sports in my life.
That was a pretty dramatic opening, huh? Yeah. With thoughts like that all week you can imagine how well I was sleeping. I could've quit drinking coffee and just had someone whisper "UCI race" in my ear in the morning, the effect was the same.
Since I'm working for Verge now, I got staged in the second row of the entire damn thing. This was not my idea; Alan thought that I'd "appreciate" getting the first non-UCI start spot. Of course it was good for my race, but it sure wasn't good for my heart. All you need to do is watch the first 60 seconds of seat cam (coming tomorrow!) to see the guys I was racing/how far over my head I was.
Luckily starting over your head means you can do the "gentleman's slide" over the first two laps. If your goal is to win, this is bad, but if your goal is 25th, starting in 12th and drifting backward is a good way to keep most of your matches early on.
Only one person did a harder slide than I over the first few laps -- Adam Myerson. I believe he was on his 6th race in 9 days or something at that point and had just spent the night in the airport on the way back from Vegas. As you might imagine, this kind of lifestyle is a good way to slow a UCI-point-scorer down to my speed. At first I was excited to be on his wheel, but soon I realized, "wow, I think I have to pass him." Getting passed by a clown with a seat cam gave Adam an opportunity to express how his day was going:
So you probably guessed this, but racing the UCI race is hard, especially on a course as hilly and wide open as Vermont. There was too many fast people to draft, and too many spectators yelling at me, to ride your own pace. Coming by the Cambridge Bikes tent was the toughest part of the course because it led from a dismount into a 90-second power section; you can't let a wheel go with those guys yelling at you, but you can sure pay for it after you're out of earshot.
Finally by lap five or so, things settled down a bit. I had the required "bad lap" where the bumpy grass and excessive prerace drinking gave me a horrible stitch in my side. Meg may have actually saved my day by shouting "drop your shoulders" when I rode past whining about my side. It totally worked.
After my bad lap I was done getting passed (finally) and ended up racing with Pete Smith, Adam Sullivan, and Sylvain "wicked Quebecois hairstyle" Jean for a while. It was not a tight group because Sylvain sucks at cornering, but we all sucked at something so it kept coming back together, more or less. The highlight for me was boxing Adam out at the last second on the log ride up to the jeers of the crowd, and then me apologizing for this as soon as we were out of earshot.
Pete had come up from the back of the field and was probably the strongest guy in the group. With under two to go he was leading with all of us a bit gapped as we went by the Cambridge Bikes tent... whoops that's the adrenaline section of the course! To the delight of the crowd he dropped the hammer and as second wheel I got to chase it. Probably the hardest effort I've ever put in at the 55 minute mark of a cross race, but it was worth it. I got his wheel and the other two were gone.
I came around and told him we had a gap and I wanted to keep it that way, so I put in the hardest effort I've ever done at the 56 minute mark of a cross race. This lap was off-the-chart hard, but I was loving every minute of it. This is what I've been waiting all summer for.
So I flatted with one to go.
It was my fault, the rear tire had been a bit soft all day and I was finally too tired to unweight in a rocky spot. A quick thunk-thunk-thunk and Cary's tire (did I mention I borrow his file treads? He rules.) was done holding air.
Luckily I was right by the pit. My pit bike was in the other pit, but Linnea was right there with her bike. I bellowed "LINNEA I NEED YOUR BIKE" and she got it into the pit with only a short delay. Back on the course in 24th, we can still do this...
And then her crankarm fell off.
I'd like to point out that I did not build this bike, but it was an FSA crank, which are notorious for falling off. Regardless of the reason for it being off, I was definitely screwed. I pointlessly ran for five minutes to the other pit, got my pit bike, and finished the race with a nice 13-minute lap. When I got the finish line (72 minutes after starting) the officials were surprised to see me.
I only fell to 27th place because everyone else had been lapped (thank you, Timmerman!) but the points and money ended at 25th. Burn.
So now you might understand why I dropped out when I flatted the next day. There's a limit to how many times I can break my bike and keep fighting.
I'd like to say I got all the bad luck out of the way for the season, but I thought that after last weekend too. At this point all I know is that I can ride pretty decently when my bike's intact. Is "pretty decently" enough for lead lap at Gloucester? I'll know in three days.
[Seat cam coming tomorrow]
[Photos from Kate, Dobie and Soups]