Gloucester is usually a grass crit. Ryan Trebon usually shows up, and rides so fast he leaves burn marks on the grass. With this knowledge in hand, I began scheming for some extra Gloucester speed as soon as I got to the finish line in Vermont. Having just ridden (and flatted, whoops) Cary's Grifo XS file treads, I knew I wanted more o' that shit. But with carbon. Because everything goes faster if you make it out of carbon.
This is why my extreme force of personality/wallet comes in. I hit up Gabe at Echappe Equipment because I figured if anyone has a wheel with about 100mm of carbon I can use, it's him. And he did -- but not with file treads. And I had my heart set on file treads.
I'd like to assume this is where my charisma came into play, because he decided to glue some file treads up for me this week. Seriously!
So that was a longgg prelude, just so I could say "and that's how I jinxed it into raining two inches Saturday!"
Initially I was stoked, because rain means long lap times and roadies falling on their head. I did not remember how miserable my last national-level event in a rainstorm was. Then I got there, and saw the course:
Oh yeah. Mud sloggin'. I'm sure there's a technique to this (especially around the corners), but there's also a lot of pure wattage required to blast through 3 inches of grass and mud. When was the last time you saw the phrase "then I hit it with some pure wattage" here? Right.
And my stupid carbon file treads were useless, after all that! Luckily Gabe brought along some wheels with Fangos AND a ridiculous amount of carbon (HED Stingers) so I looked PRO and had traction while riding at 8 mile an hour through the mud. Yeah!
Oh yeah, a race report. I lined up pretty far back, which is where I belong. We weren't even off the pavement when the first thought of "christ, this is going to hurt" went through my head. Thinking about stuff like that during the holeshot is not a good sign.
The first lap was "fun" because everyone was amped up and we were slamming bars and elbows like no other. No one could steer, but bouncing off other people worked pretty well. So I did some of that, while receiving some of that.
Hitting the runup on lap one was glorious, because I was sprinting up a hillside in ankle-deep mud in the middle of the elite race at one of the biggest cross races in America. Let's keep it in perspective here -- even when it sucks, it's awesome.
The running was killing me. Somehow I forgot to do any runup practice in September (Somerville is flat. I'm lazy.) and yes, a little cx-specific running would have been useful, right about the time my legs were jello on the runup on lap three.
When you're slogging mud it doesn't really matter what "group" you're with. Any attempt at drafting ends up with mud in your eye, anyway, so the benefit is definitely negated by the fact that YOU CAN'T SEE ANYMORE. But man, that doesn't stop the crowd (effin' crowd!) from yelling stupid stuff like "get that wheel" and "catch that group." Thanks, crowd. You're full of good ideas. Why don't you put that beer down and give me a push, huh?
Since there was no group racing, I don't remember much about who I was riding with. The only incident that particularly stands out was when I went by the beer tent and someone was yelling at me about being a mountain biker, so I did some sketchy no-brakes leg-hang sliding into the next downhill corner and made a very exciting pass on the brand-new-elite-rider Corey Lowe. I had been chasing him for forty minutes at that point so I was really excited about this; unfortunately the fear/tension in my leg during this made my foot cramp up (god, that's pathetic) and I had to softpedal a bit after that. Meanwhile, a reinvigorated Corey went and put 30 seconds and three places on me from there to the finish line. Whoops.
The one redeeming factor about mud slogging is that the lap times are HUGE. I think I turned lap one in 11:30 and it only got worse from there. The rain had stopped so the mud was only getting stiffer as we plowed through it. At least that meant I had to lose almost ten minutes in an hour to Jonathan Page or Tim Johnson to get lapped, so I was safe... right?
Nope. Turns out that Jonathan Page was second at worlds because he can ride a freaking bike through mud like it's his job. In fact, it is his job. After just over 4 laps and 45 minutes of racing, he lapped me on an uphill mud section like I was standing still. I practically was standing still, in fact. Still, it's not every day I exclaim "holy SHIT" watching someone else ride a bike. But today was one of those days.
With my lap count suddenly reduced to 1, my motivation came rushing back, so while the guys around me were mailing it in (meh, we're lapped, we don't care any more) I was makin' places for the first time in half an hour. Solobreak's decision to throw a beer on me instead of, say, handing it up to me as I passed the beer tent served to further focus me on finishing strong. Thanks?
JP was going so fast that I rode nearly an entire lap after he lapped me, and no one else caught me. I rolled off at the bottom of the finish straight just as Driscoll was entering it, almost 2 MINUTES back in 2nd. If there's anything you should take way from this blog post it's bet on JP in deep mud. My god.
A ton of people blew up bikes and bodies, so I stumbled into 39th out of 75 starters. That sounds pretty legit, huh? With only 57 finishers, I'm sure some of the 18 guys who pulled out were well ahead of me, but hey, whatever works. Here's how I felt about things post-race: