Monday, October 03, 2005

Ed Sander Cross

Ed Sander Cross
Buckeystown, MD
Sunday, October 2, 2005
B Race (~50 starters)
Sunny, dry & 80+ degrees

The Course
The course was similar to that of the MABRA Championship Race last December with a few changes. For the start there was a prologue loop that went up the road before a quick right-hand drop onto the grass. There were a few twists before merging with the course proper. The main course was made up of 3 pretty distinct sections.

Section 1 - Pond Crit
First was a winding maze around the ponds with a lot of tricky turns to accelerate out of. This section began with a double set of barriers on a pretty fast grassy straight. I liked the placement as we don't see many fast barriers these days. Coming out of the ponds you came by the pit before moving on to section two.

Section 2 - Fast Gravel
This part of the course was a series of double track dirt roads that had recently been covered quite thoroughly with gravel. They were still fast, but required attentive riding due to the deep gravel. Line choice here was important in order to maintain speed. There were a couple of nice loose turns here as well that made for some wheel drifting fun. The finish of this section was a little double-track dirt & stone climb.

Section 3 - Techno-Fun
Section three started at the top of the little climb with a bermed right turn onto a grassy 'trail' that became the most technical part of the course. A quick downhill with an off-camber left bend at the bottom led into a short and very steep run/ride-up. In the right conditions this definitely would have been ridable, but it was so loose that riding it was a gamble. If you could ride it to the top you would save a nice chunk of time, but if you stalled part way up you would lose time. I made the decision to dismount to avoid losing big time if I got stalled. I was happy that I had installed the toe spikes that morning. Without them the scramble to the top would have been tough. At the top you immediately dropped right back down the same slope, usually before you had a chance to clip into your pedals. There were a fair number of people that actually walked down this drop.

From there it was up another slight rise and back down to a tight 180 degree turn and right back up the hill. Next was a bit of double-track downhill into a fast and fun off-camber left hand drop onto a a short stretch of bumpy grass before climbing back up to the double track and more climbingto the top of the hill. At the top it was a long, fast no brake downhill winding around before emptying out with a short ridable gravel pile that came by the pit and onto the gravel finishing straight.

Laps were roughly 9 minutes. We did 5 laps in the B race.

Bernie and Tina picked me up a bit after 8 and we hit the road. We arrived shortly after 9 and got right on our bikes to inspect the course. We did 2 slow laps to look for the best lines and practice the trickier bits. This was really important as it allowed us to race the course with confidence and avoid the pitfalls that took a lot of riders down. Quite a few riders that didn't inspect the course ended up with crashes and mechanicals. Aside from being very helpful, I really enjoy figuring out the course pre-race. It's like working on a puzzle that can be solved in a variety of ways.

The Race
We had been told that riders would be called up based on certain criteria and then would be staged based on bib number (registration order). Based on the criteria I was pretty sure that I would get a call-up and if not I had been one of the first to register. Thus, I didn't get to the line early like I usually do. For some reason there were only two call-up's (neither based on the announced criteria) and then it was a mad dash to the line. I was not in a good position, but I did everything I could to move up. Manners and decorum were out the window. When the dust settled I was in the third row in a mass of overlapping bikes and racers. This was not going to be a pretty start.

Ed Sander CX start

When we got the word to go we somehow got going without getting all tangled up and hitting the deck. Unfortunately the first two rows were flying up the road. I dug in and gave it everything to get in line about 20 back from the front. At the first twist some guys misjudged the turn and created a bottleneck, squeezing me into the course markings. I put a foot down and squeezed through before getting going again. At the barriers I didn't slow down, making a clean dismount, and passing several guys by the time I got back on.

Ed Sander CX barrier

That put me onto the back of the lead train heading to the ponds. I made a tight pass on a right-hander to move up to about 12th and settled in line. This section was like a crit first lap. We were single-file and motoring. I was just hoping that the guys in front of me would ride the corners cleanly and not open any gaps. A few guys bobbled taking bad lines, but I was able to stay on the good line and get around them.

Ed Sander CX leaders

Entering the gravel section I was in the top 10, but the guy in front of me overshot the turn and then over-corrected tangling me up. We slowed to a crawl, but luckily nobody behind could get around. I got back up to speed and closed the gap to the lead group. Riding the gravel single file was nerve racking. I knew the lines, but sitting wheel to wheel you never know what the guy in front of you is going to do in loose gravel. Some of the good lines were right on the edge of the ponds. A little bobble and you're going for a swim.

We got through the technical stuff cleanly, though it was a bit hairy doing it in a sizable group. About 7 of us were still together to start lap 2, with Wayne Scott behind solo trying to bridge. Behind him we had a decent gap already.

Ed Sander CX bridging

Going around one of the ponds the front two guys misjudged a turn and both went headfirst into the water. Good stuff. They both got back up and were back in the group surprisingly quickly. Note to self...those guys are fast.

That left me feeling a bit nervous about riding around in such a big group. I'm better on the technical stuff and not as strong at closing a lot of gaps. I wanted to get out in front to avoid the sketch and try to get some separation.

Heading up the double-track climb out of the gravel section I attacked up the middle and got the lead heading into techno-land. I got through everything cleanly and stayed on the front to finish lap 2.

Starting lap 3 I decided to stay on the front as long as possible, even knowing that the guys behind were getting some benefit from the draft. I figured I was better off setting the pace and leading through the tricky stuff. Around the ponds I rode a steady tempo and jumped out of every turn. I was trying to stretch things out and tire the guys in back.

Ed Sander CX leading

Riding the gravel/dirt roads in front was nice as I could see the lines and not have to breathe in a cloud of dust. Coming up the little climb a Greg Lindstrom attacked (he ended up winning) with Adrian Lobito (he won last week). I covered the move weakly and knew that I didn't have the power to stick if they gunned it again. A gap started to open and Anthony Von Lierop came around me to close it, creating a leading group of 3 with 2 laps to go.

Behind that it was me and Steve Fife from Rockville Harley with a super-strong Wayne Scott closing fast behind. I led it to over the barriers and to the ponds, before Wayne made a nice pass to get by me. I tried to get his wheel, but he was moving. He made it up to the leaders leaving me and Steve riding together.

I gapped Steve on the gravel and once I realized that I gave it some gas to stay away. It turns out that Steve had flatted. So I was on my own and trying to keep the pace high in hopes of re-catching the leaders and not getting caught from behind.

Ed Sander CX chasing

Starting the final lap I could see that I wasn't going to catch the leaders, but I had a solid hold on 5th with a big gap back to Nick Bax, who had worked his way up into 6th position. I just rode a time trial the final lap, taking care to take clean lines to avoid crashing and losing time.

Upon crossing the line I was happy to see Bernie close behind Nick to get 7th. Bernie had an even worse starting position and rode an incredible race to get by traffic and work his way up the field. He got 7th in the C's at this race last year so he has made a big jump this season.

Props to NCVC for putting on another great race. The course was fun and fast and the food vendor was a nice touch. I definitely dug the ice cold Coke and big plate of french fries post-race. Also, big thanks to Suzy Gerlak for the bottle hand-ups each lap. With the dust and heat of the day a quick swig of water helped out a bunch.

I was happy with my race. I had a bad starting position, but was able to make it up to the lead group pretty quickly. That took a lot of energy, but it was good experience to have to overcome a bad start. I hung with the leaders well and played my cards with the lap 2 attack. I knew I wasn't the strongest and just sitting in I'd eventually get gapped. My only shot to win was to get out in front and ride the techno stuff cleanly, hoping that the guys behind me had trouble.

My gamble didn't pay off, but at least it thinned out the lead group. My fitness isn't really there yet, but I was able to hang on for 5th place. Right now I have to lean heavily on my bike handling and cross skills to make up the time I lose on the long power sections. I'm hoping that I'll have the power to be there at the end by November.

Overall, it was another gorgeous day at the races. The 'Cross scene is a friendly as ever and it seems to be really growing this year. Pretty soon we'll be into the cold, nasty race days and slathering the legs in warming oils. I can hardly wait!


Anonymous said...

Any Mayo on those Frites you downed after the race Sven?


Chris said...

Though that would have been keeping in the Belgian spirit of the thing I'm not a mayo guy. I did smother them in ketchup and they were mighty good.

I did drink a Hooegaarden when I got home to maintain a bit of Belgieness to the day.