NBX GP of Cross Day 2 Race Report

All week I had been hearing hype about the Sunday weather at NBX, the kind of hype that far outstrips what the weather forecast shows. People who get paid to predict the weather were calling for light snow and/or snow showers; people who pay to bike race calling for inches of pure ice and/or fatalities.

So, when I woke up to see it snowing lightly in Boston -- not even sticking to the ground -- I was feeling pretty smart for not buying into the hype. I loaded up the car with not one, not two, but three female cross racers and headed for Rhode Island.

Twenty minutes into the drive, the snow`was getting heavier, the lanes were getting whiter, and the cruise control was dropping along with my smugness.

We arrived in Rhode Island to a wet two-inch snowfall, the kind that packs down into a hard, slick surface, the kind of snow that makes you get your stupid rear-wheel drive SUV stuck on a small hump in the parking area, spinning your rear tires loudly in futility, alerting everyone to your vehicle's pathetic abilities and your own stubbornness.

When that guy finally got himself unstuck, I drove my little car through with no trouble.

The course was the "classic" Day 2 NBX course, the same start/finish as yesterday, but with a much longer second sand pit and a lot more dirt corners than the first course. This was the Rhode Island course I remember and loved, and now it had packed snow on it, it doesn't get any better than that.

But only one thing was stuck in my head from the day before, all I could think about was dying a slow death in the sand again, if Brian and friends dropped me yesterday in the sand they were sure to do it this time, right?

Well -- let's find out.

The pavement was free of snow, but loaded up with water, so the holeshot was disgusting, nothing but flying water, salt and dirt for everyone not leading. My forward-facing camera picked up some water on the lens and started flipping out, but the stupendous speed we were traveling helped clear it off and ended up creating a cool trippy effect, like what you'd see in a movie that had a dream sequence about racing cross. Just watch it.

I rolled into the opening sand pit in 5th and ran all over James Patterson on the way up, I was so impatient to go around him I remounted right at the very crest, still in the gear I had been racing on the pavement in. Pro tip: don't do this. The four guys ahead of me ran away and CCB's Jon Bernhard ran around while I was clunking along at 15 rpm.

Unlike the previous day the leaders were going out fast and I was already gapped, while the drafting was reduced it certainly wasn't absent. Some sketchy cornering got me back to the front group (check out the tape rubbing on the camera) which I then got gapped from AGAIN by almost eating snow exiting the hard, off-camber downhill. Chase back on. Sounds like yesterday already.

The big difference from yesterday was that behind me was a yawning chasm of open space, five or ten seconds back to 6th from our lead group of five on lap one. I thought to myself, "nice, stick with these guys for another lap and you'll be racing for fifth at worst!" and not thirty seconds later, Jon Bernhard and I got dropped during sand run #2, and that's the end of that line of reasoning.

Suddenly five or ten seconds seemed like no cushion at all, without McNicholas and Tosca dragging us along. I noticed on the switchbacks that the chase group was BIG. I DID NOT want to go back there.

Jon and I did something like "working together," where the guy drafting gets fed up with the pace and goes around, then realizes how much harder it is. Meanwhile the original leader is now drafting and thinks to himself "man I gotta go around, we're slowing down." Combine this logic with the short term memory of two goldfish and you have something approximating a paceline. Two laps of this process had us opening the gap steady over a dwindling chase group.

Unfortunately, one man was bringing across from that chase group and it was the guy I least wanted to see, Jeremy Dunn. As mentioned yesterday he was leading the race for third overall and I was 15 points down, so I need him to be many places behind me. Not just one place.

I felt like we were keeping it steady, but it wasn't enough, when I remounted early (again?? you idiot!) after the barriers I saw a flash of turquoise to my right and Dunn was there, running past me as I bogged down. He started to close the door, but I started to get on top of my gear. I hit his calf with my wheel to discourage him from cutting me off completely. He ran harder, and then, undoubtedly full of lactic from chasing hard for two laps and then sprinting, blew the remount and hit the snow.

I have never been so relieved in my life.

Our gap went back up to five seconds, and we went back to our "I could totally be going faster that this -- no, wait, no I can't" paceline.

With just under two laps to go I finally figured out how to ride the first sand pit, come in hot, maybe even hawt, in a wicked easy get and you could spin spin spin your way shockingly far up the hill, plus when you finally got off the bike your legs had just been doing 120 rpm and it was impossible to keep yourself from sprinting the rest of the way. I crested the top and immediately regretted my excitement, but after 20 years of "doing sports" I've finally figured out that it hurts for everyone. It took Jon quite a while to get back on my wheel, and Tosca had already flatted out of the race ahead of me -- I started thinking about podiums.

Of course while I was dreaming about podium girls, Jeremy was somehow bridging up to us AGAIN, and Jon happily drafting once again, so there was still plenty of hurt to be had. With one lap to go we were holding a tenuous five seconds or so over Jeremy and Jon went back to the front -- either in a brilliant attempt to stop me from repeating my spinny sand pit ride or a foolish move that gave me a rest just before the sand. You be the judge.

I threw down an attack just before the sand to get the clean line and spun like a man possessed, rounding the corner at the top I saw Jeremy running just on the other side of the tree -- while an uphill, sand run certainly foreshortens the gap, he was close.

This time I had a slightly bigger gap on Jon -- time to end. the. season. right. I sprinted out of every 180, I'd just be starting to accelerate when he was braking, oh man he's right there, gogogogo my brain screamed. Soon Jeremy overtook Jon, but it didn't matter to me, I was still barely surfing a three-second gap to stay on the podium.

Finally I hit the last sand run, all I had to do was kill it for third. A spectator yelled something about "he's got a flat" to me, and I saw Dylan running through the sand ahead. My lactic-addled brain thought that spectator was an idiot, Dylan was clearly running because he's in a sandpit, heck look at me, I'm running too and I don't have a flat! Man, that guy's stupid. I wonder why I can suddenly see Dylan, when the gap was 35 seconds two laps ago?


I passed him to move into second and he ground along on his rim. Suddenly, it seemed as though I could make a miraculous leap to third overall -- I was riding in second place, Jeremy was fourth. Second place outscores fourth by 15 -- my deficit when the day began? 15. Ties are broken by the final race.

I'd like to pretend I did all this math while riding crosseyed for the last two minutes, but even I am not that much of a nerd.

A few more corners of all-out sprinting, we're talking about two shifts per acceleration here, and I got to the line, preserving my delicate four second lead over Jeremy and pulling off a better-to-be-lucky-than-good second place. Dylan faded to fourth -- not surprising when you're riding on 0 psi.

I ended up fourth overall for Verge 2/3 men. After the race I found out that Jeremy had been out partying until 4 am, which made me realize just what a huge pussy I am compared to some people.

There's a ton of "multimedia" from this race, check it out:

Thom wrote a ridiculous blog post that demonstrates how not racing for two months and eating nine thousand donuts can make your buddy podium'ing seem really cool.

Colt McElwaine made a moving video about the greatness that is Dave Chiu:

David Chiu from Colt McElwaine on Vimeo.

And of course, I took some handlebar cam:

NBX GP of Cross 2/3 Men Day 2 Lap 1 Handlebar Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

I have a bunch of other post-Verge-series thoughts, but I have a freaking race to organize, so that will have to wait until later. If you haven't registered yet, you have 24 hours left. REGISTER NOW, IF ONLY FOR MY SANITY.


Popular posts from this blog

A letter to everyone's parents about Coronavirus

Sam Anderson Cheats at Mountain Bike Racing

Do-It-Yourself March Cycling Blog Post