Monday, October 04, 2004

Ed Sander Memorial 'Cross


Ed Sander Memorial Cyclocross 10/02/04
B race, 45 minutes, 6 laps

The Course
The start was a short, uphill stretch of road that turned left onto grass and gravel before dumping us onto grassy doubletrack on the main course. After passing the start/finish there was a very muddy uphill left turn that gave people fits.

Then the course turned hard right onto a hard packed dirt road with mudpuddles before heading onto the grass. A series of tight, grassy turns led to the only barriers, a set of widely spaced (25 ft?) doubles on a flat grassy straight. After two more turns on the grass there was a long grassy straight that ended at a 180 degree turnaround onto another hard pack dirt road with several mud holes.

Then it was back onto the bumpy, momentum sapping grass for more twists and fun leading to a short gravel road uphill. Next technical skills became important as the course dropped down a twisty off-camber descent leading to a short, but very steep run/ride up. In the morning this was wet, slick and tough to ride, though by the time of the elite races it was dry enough for most everyone to ride. Once at the top of the run up it was a quick turnaround and right back down the same slope. The following downhill was a very brief respite before a right hand muddy drop into a 90 degree lefthand turn, all off camber.

The last part of the lap the course rolled through a combination of grass and mud before turning left into a short grassy climb before dropping back to the finishing straight a few turns later. This was not a fast course. It demanded constant power to maintain speed. Additionally, it had rained the night before and that morning so the course had a number of wet, muddy sections.

The Race
I lined up on the right side of front row to get a good position for the hard left turn off the road. This would have been a good call if I had actually engaged my pedal right away. Instead I fumbled for a split second...just long enough to find myself mid-pack as we made the turn.
The first half lap of a cross race is usually chaos as everyone is giving it full stick and battling to get to the front. That makes every turn, every barrier, and every dismount even more tricky as there's more traffic. Later in the race when the pack gets strung out you have more space on the technical spots.

I did my best to ride hard and defend my position without going so hard as to blow up in the first minutes of the race. I was passed by a few riders that were making huge efforts to advance. Predictably, they hit the wall by lap two and faded.

I rode a steady effort the whole way, putting in an extra effort on the hard pack and grassy climbs. Other than that I just focused on handling the technical parts of the course smoothly to avoid losing time to a crash.

I suffered the whole race as there was really no place to recover, but I actually felt a little better as the race went on. For most of the race I was leap frogging another racer. He would accelerate and pass me for a while and then I would pass him. Also, just behind me was my teammate Sean. He was riding a strong, steady race and always just a few seconds back.

With 2 laps to go I had a small gap on Sean and the other rider. I put in a few hard accelerations and had established a solid gap by the time I got the bell to start the final lap. At this point I just wanted to ride a smooth last lap since it would take a mistake by me to lose position. I rode most of the lap very well, smooth on the technical stuff and fast on the straightaways.

When I reached the base of the run-up the guy in front of me was suddenly in sight and struggling. Now I wanted to pass him as well. I was a little sloppy on my remount and my rear wheel caught a ledge and slid down a few inches. Unfortunately, the tire grabbed enough ground at the top of the ledge to peel right off the rim. I hear a pop and thought I had punctured.

With a puncture on tubulars you can still ride the tire, albeit with zero pressure. I rolled back down the slope and immediately the tire was flopping off of the rim giving me no traction in back. At that point I was in some mud and had no other option but to run. I momentarily passed the guy in front of me as he was fixing a dropped chain.

After 30 seconds of running my heart was about to come out of my chest. I continued to trudge on up the grassy climb, but I was passed by three riders, the guy I had just passed, Sean, and the guy I had been battling all race. Sean went by with a lot of speed and held on for 10th place.

At the top of the climb I remounted and rode the rim down onto the finishing straight where I dismounted and ran across the line to finish 12th.

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