Downeast CX Race Reports

As the promoter of a 2011 race that was known as "Bog Weasels," I definitely felt for John Grenier as the internet talked all week about how much mud and broken derailleur hangers would be at Downeast CX.  Of course, it was dry all week, but that didn't stop the peanut gallery from talking about how the course is "always muddy," and then it rained like 1.5 inches Friday night.  So everyone gets to keep thinking "Downeast CX is always a mudfest" when the actual conclusion should be "races after multiple inches of rain on the course are always muddy."  Downeast has been muddy 3 of the last 4 years.  It has rained directly before OR DURING the race for 3 of the last 4 years.  If the conclusion you draw from that is "Downeast CX causes mud" instead of "rain causes mud" -- I don't know what to say.

Why YES, we did start today's blog post with a somewhat pointless rant!

Downeast CX Day 1

Anyhow, the internet was right (but for the wrong reasons, dammit!) and Saturday at Downeast was GNASTY.  The rain was so hard overnight that it woke me up, and the day was foggy with just about 100% humidity, so all that moisture wasn't going anywhere.  Except into one of the many drainage ditches we had to cross every lap:
The photographers were LOVING this mud hole, for obvious reasons.  Photo:  Carol Liscovitz
The course had a hefty amount of off-camber and an even heftier amount of pedaling, but what do you expect when it's that muddy?  Evan "Boogeyman" Huff called it "the most Euro course in New England" and I had to agree.

The day started off with Christin smashing the 3/4 women's race and getting 3rd.  Of course the only video I took is the only mistake she made all day (OTHER THAN NOT WINNING, HA!):

At some point I started racing my bike, and realized that I hadn't done a great job warming up, but that's okay because there's no drafting and have sixty minutes to "ease into" this effort!

I remember very little from the start of the race except telling myself to be patient and that my legs would come around.

Around the time that my legs came around, Cary did too, unfortunately.

Cary's month in Texas is getting further in the rear view, so he's starting to ride more like a New Englander and less like a Texan (i.e. he's racing clean now.  zing!).  But this was the first time I'd seen him ahead of me all season, and the first time I'd seen him start opening a gap on me all season....

So I thought to myself, wouldn't it be awesome if he snapped his frame in half?

So I turned on my mind-laser and put a crack in his downtube, and half a lap later -- BAM!  Problem solved!

"I wanted a folding bike for Christmas, but I guess it came a few months early" - Cary  (Photo:  Starr Walker)
While I was rejoicing over that turn of luck, I got WILCOXED like it was 2010.  It turns out that the beat-Dave-handily-because-he's-returning-from-injury streak lasted exactly ONE RACE, and now Dave and his leg breaking diesel are back and taking my lunch money once more.   And he's so nice about it!

I settled into a "battle" with John Burns, in that we rode a few laps near each other, and might have even drafted at one point on the only spot you could go fast enough for it to matter.  John is going "full mountain biker" this year with his setup, which means disc brakes and tubeless.  I was mildly envious of his discs, but not at all of his tubeless, especially when he burped it with 1.5 laps to go.  I'm not saying I used the mind-laser on his tire...but I might have.

Well, it was actually 2.5 laps to go, but Lindine and Timmerman were smashing each other's faces off, and everyone else as well, so it was time to GET LAPPED!  Five UCI races, zero lead-lap finishes.  But who's counting?

I cheered for Timmerman as they lapped me, but only because he was gapped and I wanted the race to be interesting.  JUSTIN I'M SORRY!

The attrition rate was high (Synjen dropped out with literally 100m left to race!) so I ended up being the mayor of the $18 zone in 21st place.  I'll take it!

Downeast CX Day 2

Overnight, the clouds and humidity lifted, and on day two we got a classic will-the-course-dry-before-I-race? day.  Christin, racing at 9:30 AM, had a muddy disaster to ride on, that she of course surfed to a second place;  but I still had 5.5 hours and 4 intermediary races to wait.  

I prerode at 1:30 on Challenge Limus.  Didn't like 'em.  Switched to Grifos;  didn't like 'em.  Went back to Limus.  Talked to Adam;  went back to Grifos.  This is why you shouldn't own so many wheelsets.  

And of course, things were drying so fast that at 3pm, we lined up, and Nick Keough had FILE TREADS on.  Which was either totally baller, or totally insane.  As someone who aspires to being INSANELY BALLER I was actually pretty jealous.

The day 2 course was missing some of the off-camber and a lot of the moisture from day 1, so it was EVEN MORE watts that the day before, plus we were rolling a lot faster, so drafting was a thing.  It did not, however, bear any resemblance to what the tech guide had promised (AHEM).

Adam Craig showed up to line up at the back and make us all look like amateurs.  Oh Olympians, you so funny!

Thom made a great video of Adam Craig shredding everyone here.  I have watched it like five times.

I had a far-too-relaxed start and ended up deep in the scrub zone.  And, being a scrub myself, it was a tough place to dig out of.  I don't remember much, except that after two laps I was think "criminy, this is painful, and will stay that way."  

I knew it was going to stay that way because Cary had once again appeared in my rear-view mirror, having replaced his broken, handmade, steel, bike with a carbon, factory-made, unbroken, Trek.  The drastic change in steed didn't seem to be a problem for him.

Ahead of me was John Burns (again!), and this time his tires were staying inflated.  With Cary, Mike Wissell and Adam Sullivan all lurking close behind me, I made the calculated decision to try to bridge the gap to Burns rather than wait for them.

I was feeling pretty good about the plan, until right as I made contact with Burns I lost my shoe between the barriers!

My shoes are always loose because it hurts my feet otherwise, but today they were especially loose.

I threw my bike into the ground, confusing the spectators greatly, and then did the ANGRY-CASUAL shoe retrieval:

Disgustedly sigh.
Walk/stomp back over the barrier.
Pick shoe out of the mud.
Angrily slam foot into shoe.
Sigh again.
Walk (don't run!) back to your bike while muttering under your breath.

It turns out this process took exactly as long as the lead I had on Cary, so he came by right as I stopped muttering and got back on my bike.


Two frame breakages in a weekend were too much to ask for.

Along with Cary came Adam Sullivan and Mike Wissell, but for the time being they were just along for the ride -- Cary was going hard at the front and not interested in anyone else leading.  I tried getting in his way before the big hill, but he was wise to my tricks and wanted to GO HAAAAHDAH so he passed me back and we went ludicrous speed (for cat 2s, anyway) up the damn thing.

I rode with grim determination.  There are times when you're doing well, and excited, and that motivates you to go hard -- and there's time when you really, really don't want to lose, so you go hard.  This was the latter. It's way less fun than the former.

Cary's expression says it all:  #roommateclash is serious business.  Photo:  Todd Prekaski

While I was obsessed with our personal battle, it turns out that Mike and Adam were sitting on my wheel quite comfortably, and with 1.5 to go they started playing bikes, too.  First Adam attacked, into a technical section, which didn't work at all, and then as we got the bell Mike started hammering just a little too hard on the front, which worked quite well.

Through the twisty section at the start of the lap I struggled to stay with him, and even felt some cramps coming on, but sprinting out of each 180 I could see Cary was having the same experience -- so if I could only stay with Mike the useful engine for a bit longer, roommate clash would be mine!

We went up the stupid-hard up the stupid-big hill one last time and I hung on.  But then, on the neverending, muddy, bumpy, false flat, Mike kept going stupid-hard.   Arghhhhhhhhh that's not nice, Mike, I thought, as I cracked.

Mike's gap got just big enough that I started worrying about where Cary was, and then, BAM!  Mike laid it down on the weird rocky transition back to the field  (mind-lasers:  possibly a factor) and we were back in business!

In fact, we were more than in business, we were opening franchises, cuz I had a solid three seconds on Mike  by the time he got back up, and Cary was behind him, and we're into the final five minutes, where I have an elevated ability to GET HURTY.

So I got hurty.  Sticking a three second gap for the rest of the lap wasn't fun, but it was doable... go super hard on the straights, recover while not making mistakes on the technical stuff, repeat.  If I could do this for sixty minutes I'd be an actual bike racer.  

But I can't!  So I'm just a dude in 22nd place beating his roommate.

...and getting "interviewed" about it.  And volcanoes.

Watch more video of 2012 Downeast Cyclocross Weekend - Verge Series 3 and 4 on


JD said…
FYI Synjen "dropped out" where lapped riders should have left the course if the UCI official was enforcing the rules. But it turned out the official wasn't enforcing the rules..... except on Mike Wissels's tires....
Colin R said…
They told us at the start, "if you get lapped, ride to the finish."

FWIW. You're right, of course. But this is why I always ride until an official tells me not to.
MB said…
I'm so happy you still blog--really really funny stuff. And Thom's videos are so dang good! Love it!

Love you!


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