Intro: I’m a frequent flyer over at mtbr.com, and a newly minted ‘cross nut – so here’s my report from the first 2 weeks of ‘cross season in now chilly New England. Posted some pix in the pix thread, and figured I could share some stories here too. ‘Cross season has started for real and the mountainbike season draws to a close – here’s the tale of 4 races in 8 days!
For being out of shape and grumpy about ‘not riding enough’ sort of guy/dad/old-phart, it’s been a productive better-late-than-never season. I still have no regular workout plan, no training plan, and usually get my good / hard rides in on, well – on race day! If I could do 2 races a week every week, then ride easy in between – that’d work out just fine. Of course, it would NEVER HAPPEN! Except last week, and the week before. The main problem has been a semi-permanent state of being unemployed, and the associated flux that goes with it. Throw in a perpetually sick household, where we pass around colds, flus, and other crud like we’re playing duck-duck-goose – and the pickins’ are slim for much focused riding/training time. I keep thinking; “NEXT week we’ll get back into a groove…” when really, this – the current situation – may just well be ‘the groove’. Guess life is a B-Side then.
Anyhow, with (1) ‘cross training ride in at Bradley-Palmer State Park with the ECV guys and gals, and then onto the Green Mountain chapter in the Verge / New England CX Series, then (0) rides on the spankin’ new KHS ‘cross bike – I hit the ‘New England Worlds’ at Gloucester the next week. Nuts! Good, but totally nuts…
Saturday 26 SEPT:
Muddy indeed (Saturday at GPG):
Green Mountain CX Weekend, Williston, VT. New England / Verge CX Series event #1 in lovely central Vermont. Rolling, long, powerful, fast course through some rural hilly terrain, with (1) technical climb up a log-stair-step hill run-up. Fun! This event kicked off the very competitive NECS (New England ‘Cross Series) – and gave me a taste of what to expect; namely WICKED fast guys on uber-bling bikes. Hell, the pit bikes most of the guys had were way nicer than my ride. I do have spare wheels I keep handy, but a whole $5k bike? Yow! I was knocked out the week before with a nasty cold or flu or something, as was everyone at home – but still mustered a respectable finish in the CAT 3 mens race. Worked the kinks out of my 1X10 gearing – which works great and is oh so quiet too. It’s a single 42t chainring with a 11-26 cassette in back.
After a last-minute scramble to go buy some bibs and a jersey (left that bag at home – DOH!) I quickly pinned all the numbers on, then warmed up quickly, and hit staging. Had a horrible near-the-back start position, as they stage racers in rows of 8 across by as many deep needed. The field here was over 100 riders – so I was back in the 11th or 12th row. They stage up based on previous seasons points (none!) and then by registration order (I was late – having registered only 3-4 weeks in advance!).
First half of the race went well, second half was just a hard tempo time trial with little traffic. Made the ‘cut-off’ and finished a few minutes behind the leaders, not getting lapped, not getting pulled. 30th place – about how I felt, and expected for this initial outing. Note: Too bad this darned Redline Conquest Team frame is too small! Such a nice frame… but I cannot shoulder it without some sort of coordination malfunction – usually leading to chainring punctures in my arm, or a dented right shoulder.
(GP of Gloucester pix)
Sunday 27 SEPT:
Fort Rock Revenge, Exeter, NH. Eastern Fat Tire Association [EFTA] Finals ~ the non-USAC series for New England. Rain, rain, and more rain! Rained all the way up to New Hampshire, rained through warm-up, and tapered off right at the start. This was a sadly forgettable course, venue, and race. Mustered 3rd place after multiple off-course forays, over-inflated tires, and lack of pop due to previous days’ effort – and the still-not-healthy lack of recovery. As the name implied – lot’s of rocks indeed, on an at times fun course – but for an all too short duration of 1 hour and 17 minutes! It was supposed to be a mountain bike race. Right? Thankfully it was kept fun by the great crowd that shows up regularly at these events – as I was able to chat with series rival Todd at the start line, and afterwards. Sounds like the promoter is gearing up to change venues for the future, and this iteration had a thrown-together feel of a less than thrilled staff. I can’t really complain aside from course markings, all those rocks I have so much trouble with, and a very short length. For all my moaning and groaning, I was able to close the deal and clinch an Expert Veteran Mens Title for the series, which felt great. Todd and I battled down to the wire – and I eeked out a 6 point gap at the end – by far the closest rivalry in the series. He claims the EFTA overall for the whole thing, as best overall rider – so I was in good company.
-week 1 done-
The next week I thought for all of 3 seconds, and decided I needed to try and hustle a new CX frame. Bikeman.com has a blowout on some weird looking KHS frames – so I got on the phone and had one 2 days later – on Thursday – just enough time to build it AND maybe ride it around the house once or twice! Aside from that, I laid low trying to kick a cough – and developed a regular cold on top of it. A week of easy riding / recovery was not enough for The Main Event(s);
Saturday & Sunday 3&4 OCT: The New England / Verge CX Series event #2 – also part of the NACT (North American Cyclocross Trophy) series – Great Brewers Grand Prix of Gloucester, aka New England Worlds. This was by far the biggest event on my calendar this year; 2 days of hellacious racing on the ocean, right down the street from my fathers house! Nice. The week of laying low helped – though I felt a little ‘stale’, but was about 90% cough-free.
Saturday was an apt kick off, as it rained all Friday night and all the next day. The course was wet, slick, muddy, and downright nasty – perfect! The CAT 3 Mens Race was HUGE. 125+ racers lined up, and thankfully my diligence in registering the SECOND registration opened netted me a mid-pack start spot. Nice! The venue is perfect for cross – wide, uphill, paved start area and then a huge rolling seaside parkland to traverse. Saturday featured the infamous mud-bog steep hill run-up. Riding is absolutely NOT an option, as it’s steep, deep, and treacherous. It’s also crammed with bezerk spectators! Staying on the bike after a good start was my goal, so to speak. There were three areas it made sense to dismount and boogie – and I found lines the day before that proved serviceable. The rest of the course – while rideable – required concentration and skill to stay upright. I had the immeasurable pleasure of a few hardy cheerleaders out there – including Jo-Anna and her husband (she’s a mean Spinning Instructor at the YMCA) and fellow NM transplant Jamie Ryan White – who shot some pix too. Towards the end, I felt great and went by a number of racers – and wound up in 19th place – far better than I’d have hoped. Bike worked great (except that loose crankarm!), body felt good, and thats all she wrote.
The barriers at GPG were like 5′-0″ tall:
Sunday the sun was in and out, and the course drained well. BUT, the devious course designers were busy throwing a series of curve balls at us! No more post-hole run-up, and a number of sections were completely re-engineered, or reversed. Yow. I liked the look of it – as there were now a number of long straight aways – some into the wind, where I usually do great. BUT, as I’d find later – having trashed my legs the day before it was exactly these efforts that would hurt the most. Give me shorter punchier efforts, please! What I should have done is PRE-RODE this version, however. But I was in super-conserve mode, and put the thought on credit – and would pay (dearly) later. The super-bad-ass-bonus was that my 30th place finish the week before, and my 19th place finish the day before netted a call up to the third row! Hoo-baby! I was jazzed to say the least. But then…
…Ooops. Why is my bib number so different than everyone elses? I naturally wore the number given to me on Saturday, as in New Mexico we used the same number through a whole SEASON – nevermind the same race/weekend. Quick chat with the official with 30 seconds to go, and all was noted and squared away at the start line. I thought. Whatever. BAM!!! Off we go. I absolutely bury myself getting up the road among the top 15 or so riders, and hit the grass feeling OK. My wife and little guy, and my buddy Dave were all out cheering and shooting pictures. The sun was out, it was warming up, and the course was FAST! Aside from traffic on the first lap – it was wide open the whole time, and indeed, those long stretches on the backside really, really hurt. Accelerations were OK, but the moment an effort lasted more than 20-30 seconds, the lactic acid dug its claws into my quads, calves, and hammies and tugged and ripped and hurt BAD! Owowow. A few bad lines, a little fading at the end and I lost a few spots here and there – not to mention the silly wipe out with just a few minutes left. Next time, pre-ride the damned thing!
Don’t look back!
I was stunned to cross the line and see the winners still nearby, huffing and puffing. I was actually not far back from them. Wow. Quick scan of the preliminary results showed 13th place! Holy Mother of God. THAT is a huge result! I double checked with the USAC score keepers, noting my bib number snafu – and they had it written down all correctly. Then I checked with the promoters data crunching guy, who also had it noted. I had not realized racers were to have checked in BOTH days, and gotten new numbers each time. Oops! Now I know… but, alas, my result for Sunday is still not showing up, though it sounds like anyone who can help is looking into it. USAC and the promoter are reviewing it all.
Almost done – note dirty side here 😉
One way or another, I was STOKED to have had so many fun races in so short a time! ‘Cross is mighty addictive – especially when my little dude is right there, cheering – and beer is available right on / next to the course for spectators – and some racers too, I suppose. If our family could just stop passing this bug around and get healthy – who knows what could happen.
Head down, blown, finito: