I went to the Mercer Cup last year, and it turned out to be a bland, unfun mudfest with some organizational issues. So why the hell did I come back?
The real answer, of course, is that Linnea wanted to go, but let's pretend for a second that I have free will. The USGP, despite all its flaws, is simply the biggest show in town, and until there's another race on the east coast of that magnitude, it's the closest I'll get to racing Nationals every year. With 80 starters, it was only a marginally larger field than Gloucester, but according to crossresults it was significantly stronger. I was predicted to beat a grand total of 6 people.
The location was different, but the conditions and course managed to serve up the same experience as last year: interminably long straights that could be ridden only slightly faster than they could be run, and a bike change every half-lap. That's REAL CROSS, remember, for all of you who complain about grass crits. And yet I was inexplicably discouraged by said conditions.
I spent most of my prerace timing pitting for Linnea with Cary, and when her race went long, my warmup went with it. I jumped on the trainer for 10 minutes, while she rolled directly from the finish of her race back to the car to put her wheels on my bike (why? it's a long story, involving the phrase "too lazy to change carbon pads").
Anyway, slightly warmed up, I took my spot in the 8th row and got ready to try really hard to go slow anyway. The race had one of the longest holeshots I've ever seen, probably 300m of straight pavement, so it was going to be fast.
10 seconds in I felt a little shimmy in the back tire, but I was sprinting, so maybe that made sense? Two seconds later I was riding on a totally flat tire... so apparently not. So I put my hand up (I've always wanted to do that) and went straight out the back, because everyone else was still sprinting.
Thanks to the stiff bottlenecking going on, I managed to ride back into contact, albeit still last, at least twice. The pit was close, so I wasn't even that far out of contention when I got there.
And here's where the jinx comes in. My pit crew (Linnea) had just finished a race, so I told her "I won't need a clean bike until the 2nd time past the pit" to give her some extra time to get cleaned up. Guess whose pit bike wasn't in the pit yet? Whoops.
After some debate I decided to take a neutral wheel, and my casual attitude about the whole thing definitely didn't get a mechanic running over. Eventually the neutral guys realized that I was actually racing and one of them leapt up with a wheel, and I was back in business... only a minute off the back of the fastest field I'll race all year. Sweet!
The PRO thing to do was to ride two laps as openers for Sunday and then drop out. I need all the help I can get racing these guys; I'm not going to burn matches racing for "not last" after spotting the entire field a minute or more. Don't judge me!
I did manage to pass five or six guys on my "openers," and I managed to get off the course before Trebon and Timmy lapped me, thus disappearing from the results and relegating this to a race that didn't happen.
Are you worried? I'm not. It's not like it was Sunday or something.
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