That's a bad thing... arguably. But, since Mansfield was the only race I finished this weekend (we'll talk about MRC in a bit), it's writin' time.
So back in the day, 2006, Mansfield Hollow was the second cross race I'd ever done. This was the year I moved to Boston in August, so I'd been back to riding a bike for all of two months and thus raced C men at 9 am. I went to an MC Frontalot concert the night before and got home drunk at 2 am. On the road at 6:45, by the time I'd filled myself with coffee and breakfast sandwiches and found the venue it was 8:45. Barely had time to get a number, didn't preride, then feebly raced around getting off my bike what felt like every 10 yards (I think it was 7 dismounts per lap that year?) and finished something like 20th/30. Luckily that was the year they lost the results, so this experience was expunged from my record.
Anyway, you can see why I quickly labeled Mansfield a "must-do" race.
Also -- and we'll get to a race report here in a bit -- I think it's time for to admit to myself that my race prep needs a bit more attention to detail. This is not news to anyone but me, but after having equipment issues in 60% of my races it's time to face the music.
Saturday's problem? Worn cleats that wouldn't stay in my pedal. I'd lost a screw in my "race shoes" at Providence to I was racing on my commuter shoes, which I'd noticed had been seeming a little loose lately. Turns out the cleats were completely infeasible for cross, especially at a place like Mansfield where you could take 2 dismounts out per lap with some hopping.
The race started. I was front row. Nailed the clip-in and went to pull up on the other pedal -- clipped out. Practically hit my face with my knee. Beautiful. So much for "settling in with the front group," time to chase for a the first lap!
Into the twisty section of lap one I was behind Adam Sullivan, who has been antagonizing me all season with his slow cornering and Cat 1 roadie power. I mean, there's nothing wrong with that per se, except that he keeps beating me by a few places and is now official Nemesis #4.
So in between pulling out of my pedal a few times I went around Adam, put a huge gap on him, and he promptly closed it all on the big power section near the start and went around me. I doubled my wattage to stay with him. It hurt.
Then we got back to the corners and I went flying past him again and quickly opened up a gap. Then I threw most of that gap away trying to ride the sand, and then we got back to the power section and he slammed the gap shut and went past me. Again.
On lap three I changed up my plan and decided not to pass Adam, since it was pretty clear he'd be coming back to me after the corners anyway. This worked, in that I was SUPER RECOVERED by riding slowly in the corners, but I needed every ounce of that recovery to hold his wheel for the damn straightaways.
That didn't seem any better than attacking the corners and getting caught, and was less fun, so I went back to the former plan on lap four. This time I actually cleaned the sand so I still had a pretty healthy gap coming into the barriers, and I was definitely thinking I could maybe hold him off for the rest of the lap and have "gotten away." Unfortunately I had been tightening my pedal release tension prerace (an exercise in futility, because I pulled out 15 times in the race anyway) and got hung up for a split second in my left pedal in the barriers.
We all know how that went.
Let me deflect the inevitable "see this is why you need to pre un-clip" comment: I've been racing cross for four seasons now and this is the first time I've been stuck in a pedal. It was also the first time I've ever tightened my release tension directly before a race. Lesson learned.
So, blowing my entire gap with a massive crash was a pretty big blow. I rode like an angry man for a lap and closed all the way back up to Adam on the twisties -- but this meant I was gassed and had no cushion for the power section, so I got gapped big-time while McKittrick cheered something like "I would prefer that you don't get gapped big time here."
I could never really catch Adam after that, I'd close up ever-so-close at the end of the technical bits but never even got on his wheel long enough to get blasted off it on a power section. With the laps winding down I turned my attention to Dave Wilcox, who had been dangling 10-15 seconds behind me for most of the race.
About the time I started worrying about Dave was about when I started slowing down, or either he started speeding up. In any case, a gap that had been somewhat stable suddenly got shut down quickly, and he caught me with two to go. I sat up a bit before in preparation for throwing down, but it turns out my version of "throwing down" is "clinging to Dave's wheel for half a lap and then getting dropped."
I was feeling pretty bad about that until I looked up and realized that we'd almost caught Adam (again) and in fact, Dave was passing Adam. A lap later he was almost 20 seconds up on me. I have no idea what that guy was doing for the first seven laps (well, possibly picking gravel out of his face), but god. damn. was he flying at the end.
After being crushed by Dave, there wasn't much left to do except tempo through 1.5 more laps and call it a day. I ended up four minutes down on the winners in 8th, good enough for the last paying finish, a swag bag, and all the free hot cider I could drink.
Mansfield is a good time. You should come next year.
[ If the whole course was this rideup I would have won! ]
All photos from Alex, who also drove me to the race.
All photos from Alex, who also drove me to the race.