My chief complaint was with the distance (12 miles!) on a course that appeared to be over 50% grass. Luckily, it turns out that the posted distance was wrong, and the race turned out to be over 15 miles. And the half of the course that WASN'T grassy field was basically the funnest trail ever. And it was super-punchy, and super-fast, and we were done in about an hour and fifteen minutes. Some people might say "oh I don't want to drive that far to race seventy five minutes" and the proper response is I HOPE YOU DON'T RACE CYCLOCROSS, THEN.
The whole thing was basically a super-fun cross race on mountain bikes. Some people might not consider that a good thing, but I'll take it. Heck, the whole thing took as long as 2 climbs at Wilderness!
By what can only be described as a miracle of common sense that more race promoters should engage in, they split the cat 1 field into only two groups for the start, "under 40" and "over 40," so we had like twenty or more dudes lined up for "under 40" and it actually felt like a bike race.
(Still not as rad/crazy as that time they started 80+ Cat 1s in Wisconsin together)
There was a junior in a skinsuit on the start line whom I correctly predicted would win the holeshot.
I settled in to 10th or so out of the start and we went ludicrous speed around grassy fields for a while, because this is actually a cross race. Except it was much easier than a cross race because instead of Tim and Jeremy on the front it was "random teenager on the front."
We hit that first wall coming out of the first woods (you know the one if you raced) and everybody was like "little ring," clearly missing the memo that it's a cross race and the proper response to a punchy climb is to NUKE IT.
So then I was in 4th place, but also about to throw up, which put me back to 6th by the time I collected my lungs.
My recent string of mediocre xc results meant that I was very content to draft a Quebecois dude for the rest of the first lap while thinking "you know, I can probably go a little faster than this." Of course since it was a mountain bike race, he had no problem with me sitting on his wheel for every windy section in the grass. Ohhhh mountain bikers. And I would have pulled through, too!
At the end of the first lap I realized that we had ceased gaining ground on Brendan McCormack (NOT the aforementioned junior in a skinsuit, surprisingly), but a hard attack got me across the gap and left my Quebecois sled dog behind. I recovered on Brendan's wheel while plotting my next move (did I mention this was a cross race?)
My next move, it turned out, was "get a small gap on Brendan, ride the singletrack as hard as you possibly can, get to the field with a 3 second gap, sit up and let him catch you." Well then. At this point there were 2 dudes ahead of us, skinsuit-junior (Michael Owens) and random-Colavita-guy (he was from Colorado, it's not fair!)
Brendan and I started "working together" to catch them. The first time I tried to get him to pull through he was like "sorry I'm eating" which is a MCCORMACK-LEVEL EXCUSE if I ever heard one. I gotta remember that.
He did pull through later and probably ended up doing more work in the end, because I started HURTING. Cross races usually end after 60 minutes for me (ok, 50, because I get pulled, shut up) so when we got the one-lap-to-go at 60 minutes I was very much ready to be done.
Shortly before that we had caught Mike Owens (and established that Colavita guy was never coming back) to make a 3-man chase group. Let's not talk about how I was the only person of legal drinking age in that group.
On the plus side, being old enough to be Mike Owen's dad (oh wow, that's the first time I've ever said that about someone I bike raced against), I had some AUTHORITY FIGURE CRED. So we go down this fast singletrack downhill and Brendan sorta gets a gap on Mike, and I'm behind Mike so there's nothing I can do. We hit the field and Brendan keeps opening up the gap, and I'm like, crap, do I need to go around and try to get across that? We come through the start finish and Mike's real dad (not me) says "Mike don't let him use you!" as I sit on Mike's wheel, but as soon as we're out of his Dad's earshot I respond with a condescending "you opened that gap, you can close it.*"
And he did! I love kids!
That effort left both Mike and I kinda spent so Brendan started rolling away again. I know New England common sense says "never go to the line with a McCormack," did you guys ever just think of letting them drop you? It's so much easier.
Another New England maxim should probably be "never go to the line with a 14-year-old" so I started trying to get rid of Mike, mainly by attacking the last extended woods section. I TOTALLY got a gap in there. Like five seconds. And I came back into the field FLYING, but then there's there's that last sizeable climb in the field, and a I forgot to/couldn't go crazy-man anaerobic on it, and you know who CAN do that? Teenagers. So Mike came back, and not only did he come back, he attacked me into the last rock garden. Possibly because Brendan was still in sight and he could care less about race tactics against some old guy.
If he had no race tactics, though, he executed one of the best stall-the-guy-behind-you moves-on-"accident " that I have ever seen on the last little punchy climb. ALL THESE KIDS HAVE MCCORMACK LEVEL MOVES JESUS.
However, feeling like a small child is trying to trick you is quite motivational so I chased back on. Now we just had a minute or so of grass, and Brendan only a few seconds ahead, so he was SO CONTENT to pull the whole way while I sat on.
KID, I thought, YOU ARE SO SCREWED WHEN THIS SPRINT STARTS.
We came out of the woods and he started sprinting and I just stayed there, seated. I was like "YUP, TOTALLY SCREWED."
Then I stood up to dust him and found out that out fast-twitching a teenager is really hard, especially when you think it's going to be easy. It ended up being close enough that I did the bike-throw-just-to-be-safe, because you know they have a finish cam in mountain bike races. Right.
|Pretty sure my opponent was already changed and eating pizza by the time I managed to get off the ground.|
|The benefit of slugging it out with kids all day is that you end up winning the old guy category!|
...and if you're a race promoter who wants my feedback, turn a half mile of grass into a half mile of trail and you've got one of the best race courses in New England. Remember, I put on a bike race once, I am an EXPERT.