So! All that not-racing left me with a burning desire to race dem bikes on a double weekend. Which is a good way to feel, man.
Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross
This is one of the oldest still-running cross races in New England -- it might be the oldest, actually. Maybe Putney goes back further? In any case, the promoter gave us a nice speech on the start line about how cool it was to see Frank and Mark McCormack still racing there, since apparently 25 years ago they were the juniors who were begging him to get into the elite race.
The course is fabulously all-around solid, too. It's a pavement start stretch away from being a venue for a UCI race... but we "only" had 23 guys in the elite race because there was a competing race in Maine that day.
AND THEN THERE'S LIKE NOTHING THE WEEKEND AFTER DON'T GET ME STARTED!
Anyway! I don't freak out so hard when there's three rows of guys so I shuffled into a mediocre start. Some dudes hadn't managed to preride the little loop at the beginning, which was too bad for them because there were some barriers that definitely went better if you knew they were coming. I ended up behind John Harris after the barriers, and that name sounds familiar, right? But not from cross?
YEAH so Cat 1 road guys racing cross bikes that still have the reflectors on them are the BEST. And by BEST I mean "go eye-bleedingly fast on every straightaway and then crash." So he nuked me off his wheel like it weren't no thing, but by the end of the lap I was back ahead of him after a crash. But the lap ends on a straightaway, so no sooner had I noticed this than he went flying by me at 30 mph.
Somewhere along the line the crashing exceeded the sprinting and I got away from him.
I briefly hung out with Kevin Sweeney, but when I went around to "take a pull" he said "yessss leave me here to suffer in peace," which is not the kind of thing a cooperative or inspired bike racer would say.
I was ok with that.
I found out that cracked-ribs-Wissell is much more fun guy to race bikes against than intact-rib-Wissell.
I found out that Charles Clarkson is way, way fitter than last year.
So I hung out on his wheel, because that's what I do.
He is also a very good bike handler. I spend most of my racing life riding behind guys I can out-turn, which leads to me to get into the habit of thinking "I can close that gap in the turn," and it was NOT. HAPPENING. today. Seriously, it took me like 3 laps with him to adjust. And it was annoying! Those are MY CORNERS!
The only place I actually had his number was the sand (aside: raddest sand feature in New England), but that doesn't do much good when you come into the sand behind him and if bobbles, you automatically do too.
Best of all, he had NO interest in letting me pull, even when I rolled up next to him a few times after bobbles or whatever he would just accelerate to lead into the next turn. So he's not a reader of this blog, either...
I think at this point you can probably guess the conclusion, after 20 minutes behind him I won the sprint for 9th because that is what I do.
Minuteman Road Club Cyclocross
I have a rich history of doing better than normal at this venue (see: Midnight Ride) because of the smooth grass and RAD number of turns. This year, MRC turned it up to 11 (see what I did there?) and made a course that was actually so twisty it was silly.
Like Ice Weasels 1.0 silly. Anyone remember that one? 22 hairpins per lap? Good times.
|Lap one. The smirk is because Adam is hopping these barriers and I'm thinking about the amazing opportunity to stuff him for no reason that Mike just passed on. Really. [russcam]|
It was basically a five-minute cornering drill with a sprinting drill at the end of it. Which is actually the best possible course design for me, which is why I was IN THE LEAD GROUP WITH ADAM MYERSON after three laps. And it was hard! But not insanely hard. It seemed like I might actually be able to do it for the rest of the day. Mike Wissell and I were getting a little gapped, so I shifted into the big ring as I hit a bump and.... CRUNCH.
Chain of the top of the ring, and hooray, it's Di2 so there's no way to fix this except to stop and put two feet down! Bye bye, lead group. At least now I can pretend I was going to win.
The chase group of seven(?) went by me as well while I was debating throwing my bike in a tree.
Once my internal tantrum subsided, I actually caught the chase group pretty easily, which is a testament to how many freaking turns were on the course and how one guy can shred a lot faster than six guys.
However, moving up in the chase group was actually impossible. There were two? two and a half? straightaways per lap and everyone was very recovered and ansty going into them, so unless you were Mark Cavendish you couldn't accelerate enough to go by anyone before running out of straight.
(Ok, except the finish straight, fine, you had one passing chance per lap)
This meant that I hung out at the back of the group while Jesse Keough and Jon Anderson started attacking the front of it, and somewhere between us someone wasn't as interested in that kind of thing so they just rode away.
I'll admit I did experience some fatigue which is probably why I could never manage to go all-in on moving up on the finish straight, and if I could do it all again, I'd chop my way to the front like a Quebecois rider at Gloucester. But I didn't...
|Russ makes me look like a bike racer. I like Russ. [russcam]|
As the race wound down, myself, Sean Pantellere, and Chandler Delinks (CHANDYLAND!) ended up in a group that I would like to blame on Sean's cornering sawing us off the rest of the group, because blaming other people for outcomes you could've affected is a cycling tradition.
In any case the three of us were gonna have a grand last-lap sprinty chopfest.
So then I dropped my chain again, because kicking your pedals backward on a dismount kinda just happens sometimes, and guess whose chain is too long and flies off the friggin' crank when you do this?
(Well at least now I have another thing to adjust before I give up on Di2)
Once again I contemplated throwing my bike, but in a remarkable flash of #HTFU I instead got the chain back on FAST and started chasing like a madman.
Chandler is unfortunately not as much of a bike-handling liability as he would have you believe, and had flown the coop. Sean, however, was not lucky, and coming off the final turn I had just barely closed the gap enough to make it sprinty. He had a solid head start but also an affinity for checking on my progress over his shoulder, which is not the wattiest way to sprint. This might have been why I managed to get him at the line by a wheel, which would be so RAD if I wasn't still cranky about mechanical-ing out of the lead group half an hour earlier.
If you need me I'll be tightening all my limit screws now.