Ascutney Psycho Cross Race Report

I have a secret, dear blogosphere.

Last week at Chainbiter I ate it big time and "bruised" my ribs. Last week my whole body hurt Monday. Throughout the course of the week I steadily healed, except for my 4th rib up on the left side.

That rib hurt more and more as the soreness around it dissipated. It feels like having a cramp in my side 24 hours a day. Coughing and laughing both hurt.

So I am officially upgrading my unscientific diagnosis to "cracked or broken." I don't really feel like paying the deductible to get it x-rayed since they aren't going to do anything for it, so I guess we'll never know which one it is.

The crazy thing is that it doesn't hurt my side any more to race a bike than it does to get out of bed. Possibly less, if I ended up rolling onto that side at some point in the night. So I prereg'ed for a weekend of frigid Vermont cross and loaded up Justin's jeep Saturday morning, because the only thing suckier than racing with a broken rib is not racing at all.

The Ascutney Psycho Cross was a new event on the calendar, and since it was lacking the pedigree of Putney, it most certainly lost the battle with Plymouth for most racers on Saturday. We only had 17 people in the 3/4 field, but I did a reasonable job of staying motivated, despite the 40 degree temp and brisk breeze.

The course was a fun one, lots of elevation change, two steep rideups, and a confusing maze of course tape through a dirt parking lot. The dirt was loose enough to be un-railable, so lots of low-speed, dainty cornering was required.

We got started and I ended up in 5th or so. Right before the first rideup there's a gradual left bend on loose dirt, as the field storms around it the guy in front of me decides to rock it motocross style and hang his foot out. Not a great decision in traffic, he basically ends up putting his foot 2 inches in front of my wheel as I'm starting to overtake him, which startles me into braking and then loosing my line and drifting outside, and possibly starting a chain reaction that eventually crashes two guys at the back. So yeah... that's bike racing, right?

Anyway, Collin Huston (what is up with guys named Colin riding near me these days??) gets a pretty hefty holeshot thanks to the mess behind him and being a junior, and he tears up the first lap with a five or ten second lead. Meanwhile back in traffic Justin heckles me for not going fast enough on the flats, and then runs over a length of wire that would have destroyed any geared bike. There was a horrible sound of metal pinging on metal to my right, and I thought to myself "well there goes someone's bike." However, being an intrepid singlespeeder, his rear wheel survived pulling 16 inches of quarter-inch diameter wire into his spokes and through his drivetrain. So untangling that mess cost his 20 or so seconds, but if I had run over that, you'd be getting a bitchy race report about how many dollars worth of parts I destroyed.

Anyway. Starting lap two Joe Crooks (whom I've raced before) pulls through in second going much faster than seems reasonable, so I just let him go. He quickly pulled back the holeshot kid and took a commanding lead.

Meanwhile I was clowning it up-- there was this sharp left turn at the top of a rise, on lap one we were flying so I leaned in hard and nailed it. Lap two, come in, do the same lean, then I realise that I'm going way slower and I'm going to take the wooden stake on that corner in the face at present angle of attack. I huck my weight outward to sneak past it, except this overloads the traction provided by the front wheel and I stack it in a very ugly fashion, going over the bars sideways as the front wheel drops out from under me. Didn't even get clipped out on one side, so of course the bike then comes over on top of me.

Ugh. Back down to 4th, Joe, Collin and the dude who was previously behind me are up the road. My right shifter is bent in almost parallel to the tops.

I tried riding some laps on the tops, using the top mounts since that shifter was pretty jacked up (take that, G!) but I really needed my hands wider for the corners, so I ended up back on the hoods with the right hand cocked like an original cross gangsta.

The good thing about the crash was the subsequent refocusing, I actually got out of my haze and started riding some better lines and putting efforts in where it mattered. Pulled back 3rd and then 2nd. Collin and I rode two laps together, he was a tenacious bastard, but it was fun because everyone on the course was cheering for one of us so we both heard our names a lot. I kept putting in mini-attacks but he hung on, then after about five of those I got a real gap on a rideup and he fell back, slowed by the weight of carrying around the extra L in his name.

Meanwhile Joe was trying to hang onto what had been as much as a 25 second lead at the front. I was chipping away at it, but not fast enough, until I cut it from 17 seconds to 10 seconds in a third of a lap. I was hoping he had blow up completely but it turned out he had run a rideup -- so that was a nice seven seconds but it wasn't going to get repeated.

On the last lap he looked uncatchable, until he crashed on a corner and suddenly I rounded a turn to find him on the same straight. I grimly sucked it up and got ready for a final battle, closing it from 5 seconds, to 3 seconds, to 10 bike lengths on the last rideup and into the dirt parking lot. I was totally on the rivet after going all out to close it, but he was riding pretty panicky after blowing a ten second lead on the last lap. We both skittered around the dirt lot and I got all the way up to his wheel.

I started to think about the finish strategy, I was just going to come off the last corner, put it in the big ring and hammer... when with two 180s to go he goes randomly off into the tape instead of making a corner. Apparently he got disoriented (thanks, oxygen debt!) and forgot about the last two corners.

So hmm, I win, right? Well he went through the tape and ended up on the finish straight, where he just stopped, meanwhile I looped around the last two turns and came up to him again. I didn't really know what was going on so I just said "let's sprint it out" and then we drag raced from 150 yards out.

The problem was that I hadn't put it in the big ring because of the crash confusion and I couldn't reach my right shifter because of my early crash, so I ended up sprinting in like, a 38x18. It was bad, I needed some singlespeeder skillz, because I hit about 100 rpms and didn't get any faster. Joe ended up winning it at the line by about a bike length.

So... technically, I won, since I'm pretty sure cutting the last two turns is illegal. But the officials didn't see it, and he won the sprint, so they gave him the win. I'm not going to complain because hey, it's not like my skill put him into the tape, and I sure didn't earn the win by totally botching the sprint after that. And no upgrade points for a 17-person race anyway... but I did get a cool $30 for 2nd.

It was pretty fun, but damn, so windy and cold. Not sure I can handle this true cross weather business. We grabbed some pizza afterward, then I had some horrible stomach problems, then some quality dinner in Brattleboro and 9 hours sleep before Putney...


Matt Simpson said…
Never a dull moment reading your race reports, sweet battle. Keep the ribs clean.
josh said…
you are on a tear right now.
EyeBob said…
Great read. Catch up and say hello to me at a race. You can't miss me, I'm just about the only NHCCer left.

Bob T
aka EyeBob
aka Putney Endo-King
John Davis said…
nice! ah yes, post-'cross stomach problems. Last time I raced 'cross I ended up in the fetal position on the couch half-way through dinner.

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