I have done exactly one non-UCI race this season, the Midnight Ride of Cyclocross, which had enough foreigners in it you'd have thought there were UCI points on the line. So, a wise man might have taken advantage of the first non-UCI weekend in New England in the last month to stop getting sand kicked in his face by the actual good bike racers out there, and instead return the sand-kicking favor to those uppity Cat 3's in a local 1/2/3.
But I am not a wise man... I am a man who is woefully susceptible to peer pressure. Fatmarc started hassling me about attending Granogue back in August 2010.. and by the time 2011 rolled around, I was helpless to resist.
So, off to the mid-Atlantic we go! I had never raced there except for two exceedingly non-awesome USGP's back in the day, so I was interested to see what it would be like. I had ridden my bike once in the last 12 days, so victory was inevitable.
Then I got to the course.
Fatmarc had set me up.
Apparently everyone except me knows that Granogue is the hardest cross course on the east coast. It's incredibly hilly, and we're talking STEEP hills, not that gradual-death vermont style of climb. The course punches you in the face twice a lap and doesn't waste a lot of time being flat elsewhere, either.
Not that there's anything wrong with this, it's just the kind of place where #Lindine is going to smash me and I'm going to hurt a lot. And I realize that could describe every cross race... but you know... especially this one.
Christin kicked ass and took name in the morning, which was REALLY EXCITING to me, and then a guy got knocked unconscious in a crash in the 35+ race which was REALLY DISTURBING to me, and then I realized I never really ate breakfast or brought lunch and I had to race in 2.5 hours and the only food vendor was a barbeque place.
So I ate barbeque and prayed for a miracle and it TOTALLY DIDN'T WORK!
I haven't felt that useless on a bike in, uh, possibly my entire racing career. So I ducked the tape after less than two laps and decided to sulk it off.
Then we went back to Fat Marc's place and watched his brother's kids fight a deathmatch with each other and it was much more competitive than my bike race had been.
But the golden rule, of course, is that it's ok to suck on Saturday as long as you DON'T SUCK ON SUNDAY!
Sunday morning I was prepared to not suck. I ate both breakfast AND lunch. The course had somehow gained even more climbing while getting shorter, because they took out most of the turns. Christin and I had a "oh my god this is a pure power course we're gonna get crushed waaaaah" contest, and then she lost that contest by going out and getting 6th in the 3/4 race.
I spent 2 hours sitting placidly in a folding chair by my car trying to find my power animal.
The UCI random draw was absurdly good to me and I got fourth row out of 55 starters. The start at Granogue is actually really hard to move up on, because it's sneaky-narrow, sneaky-flat and looooong. So we accelerate to 28 mph and then everyone packs into a ball and you aren't going ANYWHERE.
I survived the start in the center of the 28-mph deathball and hit the grass in a good position. However, there were a million feet of climbing per lap so holding "good position" couldn't be achieved with smoke and mirrors, only watts.
In related news, Stephen Pierce passed me on a climb and eventually beat me by like an hour.
More troublingly, Cary the roommate and Cary the Cross Clash competitor passed me on lap two and started riding at the front of the group I was tailgunning. I responded to his attack by bobbling the everloving crap out of an off-camber and running down a hill sideways trying to remount.
I eventually did remount on said off-camber without rolling a tubular, which was cool, but that was the last I saw of the group.
Then I rode around being sad for a while, only interrupting my sadness to put in efforts to draft people on the one flat part of the course, or to look like I was trying hard when FatMarc was cheering.
The "great" thing about 60-minute races is that it's actually possible to put the pieces back together and still have some time left to race, so after several laps of sadness I had finally blown enough of the suck out of my legs to start moving forward.
I slowed down once again, and it became apparent that #Lindine and Troy Wells would lap me so I could ride "only" nine laps and 29,000 feet of climbing.
I stopped at the top of the runup to wait for their arrival while searching the crowd for a beer, but everyone was too caught up in the AWESOME FINAL-LAP DOGFIGHT they were having to give a scrub like me a beer. Which makes sense, really.
I would like to point out that I did not, at any point, hit Troy Wells in the head with my bike because I am not totally clueless about how elite cross works.
Then I made a guy think I was lapping him so he moved over to let me through, and then we got pulled, and yes, I will proudly stoop to tricks like that to get 33rd in a UCI race.