MRC Cross Race Report

Hey, can't have good legs every day, right?

The MRC course was pretty solid, especially given that they had only gotten the venue with about a weeks notice. It started with a brief dirt road section, then hooked right into a field for lots of twists and turns, then into the first set of barriers. After that came a extended wooded section with some puddles, and then back into the field for a long downhill with a sharp 180 at the bottom. This corner turned onto a dirt road and was hopelessly loose, and very difficult to ride cleanly or quickly. After that, climb up to and over a big granite rock that flatted a tire or five (silly people and their low tire pressure), then some zig zags in the field, a barrier-induced runup, and some more climbing before looping back to the start area and a massive log barrier that was rideable by a few.

This was a cool event, mainly because a lot of the spectators/promoters were drinking steadily throughout. As a result, there were a variety of nonsensical primes given out. The action centered around the big log, which was a challenging ride but saw quite a few people take a shot at it. They announced at the beginning of the B race that there would be an unofficial prize for riding it cleanly (and officially, we shouldn't ride it, it's a good way to get hurt) and I saw a guy get a tire after the "judges" recorded him riding it cleanly.

But it wasn't all fun and games -- I had a guy come cruising past me, try to ride it, and pull a spectacular endo. One of the elite men tried to ride it and taco'ed his rear wheel. At least one other guy did a monster (a.k.a. totally sweet) endo, shown here. The real "not-all-fun-and-games" moment was the elite men lap one prime. The promoters/spectators had cajoled $120 out of the crowd to give to whomever led the first lap of the elite men; as this was more than the first place prize ($100) the race went out hot. For a while, 18-year old Nick Keough was holding off Mark McCormack and Justin Spinelli in the lead group (I guess $120 is really a lot of money when you're 18!) but come on, it's Mark freakin' McCormack. So finally they got past him, and coming out of the last corner into the finish straight it was Spinelli leading McCormack in the race for $120. So they're both going all out down the grassy straightaway (only 6 minutes into the race) and about 50 meters from the line Spinelli (who is barely ahead, because McCormack is also a sick roadie when he's not owning cross races) starts drifting into McCormack. They get tangled up right before the line and go down hard. Spinelli blows a tire, and somehow his wheel ejects from his frame and goes flying into the air across the finish line. I'm still not sure if he broke his fork or skewer or what, but something gave out. To add insult to injury, he got DQed for not holding his line and McCormack took the money, and got back up, remounted and fought his way back for the win, while Spinelli walked away with a broken bike and a DQ.

Additionally, I did a race, although it was sadly short of prime-sprints or log crashes. B men was probably 30 people, and I lined up in a typically modest back-marking location. I wasn't really feeling great, but I'm not going to make excuses for that. Anyway I could tell this wasn't going to be a breakthrough outing so I lined up near the back and didn't break any records on the first lap. One notable thing was a guy in front of me failing to clip out going into the barriers and eating it hard, with 5 people right behind him halfway through their dismount. I didn't get taken out by that nonsense, more due to luck than skill.

So the race rolled on. I found out very quickly that my legs just weren't there... they were burning under modest efforts and not even putting out much power. About the only place I could ride effectively was the fast corners, solidifying my "reputation" (as if I have one) as a mountain biker with no power. Every time we hit a straightaway, the trail of guys who I had just put behind me on the hard stuff would come blasting back past me, probably wondering how someone with so few watts could've gotten ahead of them.

The other thing I had going for me was Joe Crooks, a runner from Elms College who is a friend of a friend. And I'll be damned if I'm going to lose to someone my friends know. So he and I went back and forth, and each time he got in front of me I had a lot of incentive to suffer on his wheel. He did a lot of nice work, and ended up dragging us remarkably far up the field as the race progressed. Coming into the last lap, he and I were in a group of 3 or 4, and someone told us were "just outside the top 10." Of course, my only concern was beating him (I may not have legs, but I have pride), so this wasn't really important to me, but I guess it meant things weren't going as badly as I thought.

And then, somehow, that last-lap adrenaline I can always count on kicked in. I made the pass on the granite rock, opened the gap on the switchback descent, held on through some climbs and turns, and hammered like scared rabbit into the finish for a 10th place, a few seconds ahead of the 3 guys I had been riding with. It hurt, and it wasn't as gratifying as last week -- but I'll take it.

Next weekend is the first race of the nordic season (freestyle sprints at Great Glen, and my first ski race in two years) and the last race of the Verge series. Aaaaand my new digital video camera is in the mail, so I can chronicle all the pain, and post it to youtube. Sweet.


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