solo caught me messing with the camera when I should have been putting out watts
The world is full of terrible, horrible, misconceptions. One of the least terrible ones is that people think Northampton is a roadie course. You want evidence it's not? Look at my results there for three years running. How the heck could I have my best results of the season on a roadie course?? I rest my case.
Don't get me wrong, winning Northampton requires power, just like any other bike race, but it's more than just a festival of watts. It's just not a steady-state power course (like Gloucester, or Downeast in the mud), it's a sprinter and bikehandler's course. Put on by Adam Myerson, who is a sprinter and a bike handler... how convenient.
Anyway, the deal is, you come ripping into the sexiest grass 180s the world has ever seen about 15 times a lap, lean the bike over about 45 degrees, and then gun it for all you're worth for 5 seconds coming out of the turn to get back up to speed. Wash, rinse, repeat. These are the only two things I am legitimately good at on a cross bike, so yeah, I loves me some Noho. And you should too.
Northampton finally got a free date on the calendar (those still exist?) and thus the field was stacked, with strong depth all the way through the field. I was stoked to ride with a bunch of dudes, but I was not stoked to almost die in the start. The start straight is narrow and fenced, so when not one but two guys broke chains before we were off the pavement it got SKETCHY. I jacked my brakes on twice to stay off the fence, then finally found some clear space and gunned it over the curb, just in time to narrowly avoid the monster crash we finally got around to having.
If you watch the video you'll see I'm the last person to get through unencumbered, as Dylan's Redline goes flying behind me and blocks the last clear lane. It was like an action movie where the hero dives out of the building as it explodes behind him (or like Wedge Antilles shooting out of an exploding Death Star, if that strikes a better chord with you), but either way, I was the last guy through clean and thus lucked into a top-20 position on lap one.
I got immediately gapped off because Jeremy freaking Powers was on the front of the train, but it was actually a good thing, so I got some free space to slay the sand and earn Colt's love, seen here at 0:53.
The rest of the lap was a parade of people cheering "you're doing awesome!" at me while I thought "yeah, it's not going to last." And I was right, of course, because guys like Adam Craig and Josh Dillon were in the crash, and I can't hold them off for 60 minutes with a 20 second head start. (Or 3 minute head start, in Josh's case, but whatever.)
So I slowly bled places, but not as many as I thought I would. Despite my sweet start, Greg Whitney managed to come flying past me within a lap, and the other usual suspects (Ricky, Wayne, Pete B, Pete S) came through a bit later. Wayne went down pretty hard on the roots up top, and since he is basically public enemy #1 these days (beat me by one place 3 times this year!) I was very interested in getting back past him.
After that it gets a bit fuzzy; Eventually I ended up in no-mans land with 3 to go and a lot of guys I feared behind me -- a chase group of Christian Favata and Todd Wheelden about 10 seconds down, and then Wayne and Dave Wilcox a bit behind them. Making the situation all the more dire, a spectator had just told me I was in 23rd, which is points and money and babes*.
It took me about 4 laps to remember how much better shouldering is here, but hey, plenty of guys never figure it out. [ solo ]They were closing on me fast enough that I wasn't going to TT safely to the finish, so I sat up and waited for Favata and Wheelden. Favata has been top 20 at MTB Nats before, so I don't know why he was behind me, but when he came through it was clear that he was truckin' and Todd and I were just along for the ride. Works for me, since the group was still 23-25 on the road.
This situation quickly got better when Todd stuffed a remount and got gapped. With Favata pulling at 9000 watts and me hiding in his draft, contributing nothing, we steadily pulled away. With just over two to go, I knew what I had to do: die a thousand deaths to stay on this wheel.
And it was all going so well, for 30 seconds, until we went flying into the turn behind the sandpit and this happened:
And BAM, it's officially PANIC TIME. Getting rolling again after a brisk soil sample like that is always hard; you get the adrenaline rush that launches you off the ground and back on your bike, but it's always gone before you're back in the zone. Before I get everything squared away mentally and physically Todd was by, and then Dave (public enemy #2) and Wayne (public enemy #1). Shit.
The Northampton sandpit is kingly. JD does good work.
I finally got back on a wheel, but it was Dave's, and with two to go Dave turns into the strongest guy in the field. Really, I don't know what he does for the first 50 minutes, but he clearly doesn't experience fatigue like a normal human. Or maybe he didn't smash his face off the ground a minute ago. Whatever it was, he was still hungry and I was still dazed, so he rode me off his wheel just before we got the bell.
Then I realized that we'd just gotten the bell, which meant I didn't get lapped on a sub-seven minute course with JPows and Driscoll in attendace, so it's not all bad. In fact, I got out my time machine, went back to talk to myself in 2006 after my first cross race, and 2006 Colin was mega stoked on that. So with his blessing, I decided to mail in the last lap, because it really hurt anyway and those guys were going fast.
Of course this left me with 27th place (so close) and Wayne in 26th (OMG NOT AGAIN), so 2009 Colin wasn't really thrilled about that.
* (Babes may not be available to all racers; depends on who you date)