Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Wissy CX

photo courtesy of Gina Harshman

After a good night's sleep in Exton, PA I travelled a few miles north to Ludwig's Corner for the Wissahickon 'Cross. I did this race two year's ago when it was at the Belmont Plateau in Philly so this venue was new to me.

Whenever possible I arrive early and spend some quality time getting to know the track, figuring out lines, speeds, sections on which to attack, and sections on which to survive. After about 2 minutes of course preview it was clear that the start would be crucial.

There were many slow, tight, technical turns that would lead to big traffic jams early in the race. The sandpit would be ridable with one decent line, but in traffic would it be possible to stay on that line and continue moving forward? The fast, open power sections would up the speed and extend the gaps. I followed fastMarc & E-town around on the warm-up laps spying on their lines since both of them tore it up at Granogue. I was the padawan trying to learn from the jedi.

I really liked the course and enjoyed the fact that as the race progressed you could learn a little bit more and ride a little bit faster each lap, legs & lungs willing!

So it was clear that the start would be pretty important. I knew it and was ready for it. Once again I was on the 3rd row. 3rd row is hit or miss depending on what the guys in front of you do. In the first 10 seconds of the race you can either be at the front or 50 guys back.

Lined up next to me was Don Kessel. I became a Dad last year and Don will become one very soon. We talked about baby stuff as we waited for the start. It was really cool to recall those experiences and think about what he has in store. However, all of this happy baby-stuff might have cooled some of the pre-race fire and aggression that is key to a good start, but that's all good. 8-)

When the gun went off the two guys in front of me had trouble...clipping in and spinning out on the gravelly surface. I had to pedal in slow motion for several seconds waiting for room to move. In those seconds a good chunk of the field accelerated past me.

I was frustrated. I felt lonely. I wanted to get in the car and drive home. Then I realized how pissed I would be if I DNF'd so I kept going.

The first lap was a nightmare. I practically came to a stop in the first half dozen turns and got chopped in the one turn that I entered carrying any speed. When we got to the sand pit things were FUBAR, not unlike the traffic heading home on 95 South. So, 3 minutes into the race I was way back in the field and the leaders were probably a minute in front.

The second lap wasn't much better. The gaps were growing, but at least there was a little more room to pick and ride your own lines. Passing was difficult and took a lot of effort and good timing. I worked my way up to my teammate Bernie mid-race and hoped we'd be able to work together, but it only lasted for a lap. We weren't far apart, but with a bunch of chasers just behind there was no point in slowing and forming a big group.

The rest of the race I focused on picking off one rider at a time and constantly moving forward. I got a few guys by riding turns faster and then jumping past before the next turn. I made more passes in the last part of the sand pit. On the fast, open sections I latched onto the back of groups and attacked before the gravel filled right hand turn. If you could get in front entering the 'spiral of death' you could gap guys. And surprisingly I even passed a couple of dudes on the run-up. Two other passes late in the race were gifts...Don K. dropping his chain and Eric Morgan dumping it in turn a slick off-camber turn.

Overall I passed a lot more than I was passed. One guy that did get by me was Jeremy Dunn. He smoked me as we entered the 'spiral' entering the turn very hot. It was an aggressive and very smooth pass. He kept on moving up and ended the race in 14th. I'd like to say that I should have stuck to his wheel, but it wasn't happening. I was feeling good, but he was moving!

Michael Hosang and I did battle trading spots and jockeying into the turns for the last 2 laps. It was intense racing, but I got away from him on the run-up last lap. Fun stuff.

Coming up the finishing straight I was closing on Chris Harshman and my teammate Morgan Gerlak. With another lap I might have connected with them. I was happy to even get close to them as they were clearly riding well. Despite the crappy start I ended up having pretty good legs and solid focus.

I ended up 22nd, good for a handful of series points. After the first lap I thought I had no shot at the top 25 so I was happy with the result. For the remaining MAC races I really want to get a starting position on the first two rows and have a better shot at the Top 10. I'm not strong enough to make my way up there from mid-pack, but I think that with a good start and some luck I've got a shot.

Congrats to my teammates. Everyone is having a good season and our killer B squad is looking really good with JH3, Morgan, Bernie, & Miles.

'Cross is hard & humbling & painful, but the rewards from expanding one's limits are manifested in physical, emotional, and spiritual ways. Perhaps even cooler is the family that is the 'cross community. Seeing friends and making new ones is pretty damn sweet.

1 comment:

dk said...

My plan to distract you with talk of fatherhood almost worked. At Beacon maybe I'll try to discuss quality international beers pre-race.

The latest Thor pics are great! dk