Cheshire Cross Race Report
I write this having just left a John Hodgman show early. He made a lot of jokes about being old and irrelevant, which as someone who used to blog hit perhaps closer to home than I would have liked. After thirty minutes of wishing for the show to end, I realized that as an adult I am in control of my own destiny at all times, even when there's an implied social contract that wants to suggest otherwise. So here we are!
Now that the days have gotten short, like every other pro desk jockey, amateur bike racer, I've totally quit training, unless you call a 90 minute mountain bike ride in the dark "training." While trying to figure out if I had any kind of plan for maintaining respectability up until NBX (Nationals? HAHAHAH), I decided that racing double weekends is really the only thing I can trust to help me hold some semblance of fitness. Working long hours and drinking beers might be making me fatigued, but it's not making me tired, you know? Or maybe vice versa? Someone who's a coach, help me out here.
Anyway, down to Cheshire Cross I went! Christin was at a bridal shower so I had full agency. Cheshire is one of those races I'd heard good things about for years but never made it to, well, this is THE YEAR!
I showed up and the first thing I found out was that Al had flatted two tubulars preriding, which would have been great except he brought extra wheels and won anyway. But that should tell you something about the course... it was at about half rocky doubletrack, the kind you think "oh this will be so sweet to ride cross bikes on" but then you spend the whole time trying not to flat, so it's like kinda sweet but kinda not sweet, which is actually a good synopsis of bike racing in general.
In any case I put 30 freaking psi of caution into my tubulars and lined up with 20 friends or so in the 1/2/3 race. I missed my callup because I was trying to pee without exposing myself (YOU FOOL!) but it didn't matter much, there were only three rows.
I took a very casual approach to the start, which seemed like it was clever until we got into the woods and I immediately got gapped off the peloton by someone who had never ridden a bike off road.
The gap appeared to be several miles long but I got across it in all of 10 seconds (mostly under braking) so I guess it wasn't.
Then I chilled some more and went around a few more dudes when it was easy.
Somewhere in there Amos did a step-over dismount for the barriers that I didn't believe I had actually witnessed until I went back and watched the video (watch the video!!).
Near the end of lap two I tagged onto a diverse group of dudes battling for respectability. I drafted them and continued chilling, a luxury that really only exists in a non-UCI race when your wife isn't spectating.
But, it was almost like I had a plan! Because lap 3 was the lap where EVERYONE FLATTED. If I were a know-it-all I would tell you that lap 3 is when everyone gets too fatigued to unweight over the rocky sections, but the racing is too tight for people to avoid the rocks, so tubulars get MURDERED. In any case, that was the lap I went by Aaron Oakes, Mike Wissell, Jules Goguely and Eric Carlson with flats.
Seriously, 20% of the race flatted in a lap! And I wasn't one of them!
At some point we picked up Hunter Pronovost who was riding pretty well for a dude with promoter legs. I haven't raced on promoter legs in at least two years now....
Hunter and I rode around behind Keith Gauvin until he told us that if we didn't do some work, we were going to get caught from behind. This seemed like standard old-man trickery, but there were a LOT of dudes lurking 10-20 seconds back and I respond well to peer pressure, so I started trying to figure out a way to "contribute" without actually "contributing."
Sooooo with about 2.5 laps to go I might have finally gone to the front and I might have taken as strong a pull as I dared going into the longest technical section on the course... and when I came out of it with a 3 second gap I was like "well, just crush it for a lap until you break their spirit and you're set."
Which of course was operating under the assumption that everyone else is as breakable as me. So a lap of crushing later, we got the bell and the gap was all the way up to 6 seconds, and the status was "well, just crush it for a lap until you break their spirit and you're set."
I could tell the crushing was getting difficult because I basically dropped my bike on my head trying to shoulder it on this lap.
Eric Carlson was CHARGING despite a flat which kept everyone behind me far too motivated, but I hung on juuuuuust barely to stay out of the sprint for fifth place (which he won), and holy shit, that means I was fourth??
....I'd like to thank everyone else for not putting enough air in their tires.