I heard that the ground beneath Chocksett School in Sterling, Massachusetts is home to the largest naturally occurring sponge in the Western Hemisphere.
I heard that Tom Stevens spent 12 hours Friday night with a Shop Vac taking water off the course.
I heard that 40mph wind can really dry out a place.
All I'm saying is, I did not expect Sterling to be dry, fast and fun on Saturday. It rained all day Friday, and the wind was "25 gusting to 40" on Saturday. I was ready for the nastiest, coldest mud fest ever. I was so sure of this that I didn't even bring a rear Fango.
Keep that in mind when you think I know what I'm talking about.
With Linnea off in Maine doing pro stuff like "taking a weekend off," I carpooled with the Verge Cat 3 Men's leader and Natalia G out to Sterling, with $10k of bike strapped to the rear of Cary's car, watching Cary's bike lift off with every gust. It was a little unnerving.
Of course, since Cary races at noon, I was showing up early. You know what that means... time to be a SUPERFAN!
I am improving my superfan technique. A month ago I would have given in to the temptation to ride a cross course 5 hours before my race, because it looked fun. But not now! Riding the course too early is bad. Running around cheering for people is bad. Sitting in a chair is good. Eating is good. So I took my PB & J to the top of the big hill, plopped my ass down and screamed RIDE ITTTTT at guys who had no chance of riding it (aka everyone).
Ok, race time. Third row, behind Burns and next to Kevin. Mountain bike superstar/CX clown Adam Snyder lined up behind me hoping for seat cam time, but I lost the nut to the rear mount (if you know what I mean) that morning so it was front cam only. Don't worry, he managed to get on camera anyway.
The start was little sketchy, which Kevin claims was due to Justin Spinelli's derailleur going into his front wheel, which I claim is due to him being a wuss. Anyway, I was pinched a bit at the start and didn't make any awesome moves into the top 15.
Across the top Adam comes sprinting by me and I'm thinking, what the hell is he doing, and then he attempts to do a tabletop on a cross bike going to into the downhill. Of course it looked like nothing on camera, but it seemed pretty exciting to me at the time. Then he rode the horse jump, in traffic, for good measure.
Somehow I ended up back on his wheel despite all this, and we rolled through after one lap with Pete Smith. I am lazy and Pete is not, so he attacked us on the track. Very rude as I was expecting him to obligingly pull me instead. But I closed the gap back down by riding all but the last 5 steps of the run-up.
Coming into the barriers on lap 2 I saw Adam hit the brakes and stay on the bike, and I thought to myself, oh, sweet, I'm gonna video this! I slowed down to try to keep him in the video. These are not competitive thoughts to be having... and it didn't work anyway, I totally missed it.
And of course, after the second barrier, he's on his bike and I'm not, so he gapped me on the hill and that was that.
In case you forgot, it was gusting to 40mph, so I immediately had to start hiding behind another wheel. I can't remember how I got there, but somehow I found another -- I think it was Damian Schmitt? Anyway, big guy, nice draft, and going fast enough that I was basically flat out just to hang on. He tried to get me to come around, repeatedly, but I was a big meanie and didn't. Good jorb Colin.
I almost went down on the runup dismount on lap four because I couldn't get out of my pedal... crap, I know that "have to twist really far to release" feeling and it means a loose cleat. Why do I know it so well? Because it was happening on my *other* shoes during warmup.
Crap. I knew there was a reason I quit using the black shoes.
I had forseen that I might have shoe issues, so I had pit shoes set up. Seriously! So PRO. But you should never actually have to use pit shoes if you're PRO. Luckily, the left pit shoe was the one that was loose in warmup, and now I had a loose right shoe, so I still had one functioning set of footwear. I hated to do it, but I had to address it before it got bad enough that I stacked a dismount.
Into the pit, dump the bike, change the shoe, back on the bike! The bar cam says this only took me 15 seconds, pretty nice, but I still managed to lose Damian's wheel, and even worse, the next group went through just as I was remounting.
That group had John Burns and Adam Sullivan in it (two nemeses, I might add) and with 40 mph gusts I needed. those. wheels. And six seconds is so incredibly long in a cross race.
If you watched the Mansfield Hollow video you know how fast Adam goes on a straightaway. With him pulling on the track and road, I knew I was in trouble, but I still had to try. I put in a very solid lap chasing, one might even say I was "drilling it," but the gap stayed at a tantalizing five seconds.
More drilling it. Cary was all over the course screaming "don't ride like me," which was good material. Fine. I'm trying, really I am.
Finally Manny popped off the group and I caught him -- and here's where I screwed up. After 10 minutes of flat-out chasing I was gassed and wanted a break, and we were only 15 bike lengths behind the group. I can totally close that after I recover a bit, yeah!
Except, Manny had basically dropped an anchor and was about to DNF. I took a 30 second break on his wheel, and by the time I went around the gap was back out to 10 second. Oh Colin, you are such an idiot.
Time to time trial to the finish now! Nothing else exciting happened, until I caught Pete Smith with one to go, and while he seemed like he was D-O-N-E he still put up an annoying amount of resistance when I tried to drop him. Like I said, that guy is not lazy. But eventually I succeeded, and rolled in for 19th/30 and a rare payday!
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