Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Wissahickon Cyclocross

Wicks, Jacques-Mayne, and McCormack lead the field at Wissahickon. Posted by Hello

Wissahickon 'Cross
Sunday, October 25, 2004
Belmont Plateau, Philly
B race
~76 starters

The Course
Classic hillside course in a city park with a nice view of the Philly skyline.
200 meters of road, 75 meters of dirt trail, the rest soft grass

Here's a quick tour
Stage/Start on the road for a short 200m funneling into a
Narrow opening, loose gravel left hand turn leading immediately into a
Long (~1 minute) climb...1st half soft grass, 2nd half dirt/rock trail.
Left turn around a tree onto a bumpy soft grass section along the ridge.
Bear right slightly down into a twisty soft grass & mulch section winding around trees on the backside.
Hard off-camber left around a tree onto another soft grass section curving right and then into a
180 degree off-camber putting you onto the finishing straight...uphill grind on very bumpy grass.
That was the starting half lap.

From there the course twisted around mostly downhill all the way down the hill next to the road before
Winding right back up the hill in a twisting fashion with many many soft grass sections that sapped your power.
After climbing most of the way back up, the course shot down a bit into a fast, soft left hand turn that required nerve to stay off the brakes.
Then it wound back up a little ways before sending you into the double barriers off a sharp right turn...our right hand barrier practice paid off here!
The barriers headed back up the hill. Although the hill was ridable, the fastest way up was to run the hill after the barriers to where it turned left and down the side.
This run-up was easy compared to the Granogue run-ups!
There you could remount and hammer the long curvy downhill back to the road. The curves were a bit off camber, but you could give it full throttle.
At the bottom you had to drop off a curb and make an immediate left turn back onto the road.
The loop continued as described above.

Overall the course was not technical, but required a lot of power to keep momentum on the soft grass climbs. There was a lot of climbing packed into this course with a couple of downhill sections that allowed you just enough recovery to hit the climbs again.

The Race
I got a good starting position on the second row right side, but I hadn't felt good in the warm up and had nothing to give on the start. I just didn't have the acceleration to take my place near the front. As I struggled to get up to speed a bunch of guys passed me. Then we slowed as the huge field had to squeeze through the gravel turn with the narrow opening...not good, but there were no crashes. Of course we drilled the long climb and the field was strung out immediately. Those with bad starts, but good legs were hammering up the climb trying to make up places. I did not have the legs so I settled into a rhythm so as not to blow up early. It was still very hard and even harder to watch guys pass me so early. However, I knew it was best to race my own race. When you have the legs you open it up and push it to the limit early, but when you don't it's more about damage control.

After the starting loop we pretty much settled into postion and began all the small group 'races' that make 'cross so much fun. A couple of guys would pass and I would dig and pass them back. It was a game of leap frog out there as we'd each play our strong suits to full advantage and try to hang on where we were weaker. On about the second lap Zombor came past me as we started the climb. He said something about catching the group ahead, but I was suffering badly at that point. As he flew up the hill spinning a fast cadence I was grinding in my 39x25 just trying to keep moving. He caught and passed the next group looking very strong in the process.

There was a good group out there cheering. Morgan and his Mom, Auer, Meg, Kami, John Hostetter Jr. were all super helpful. Having people you know out there cheering makes it harder to ease up or give up. With a couple of laps to go I was chasing a group of four, catching on, but getting gapped on the climbs. A little behind me was John Hostetter III with another 4 riders right with him. I was hoping that John would make it up to me, but I didn't want to wait and have to deal with 4 more guys so I kept pressing trying to close the gap to the guys in front of me.

On the last lap I took some extra speed into the barriers and hustled up the run-up to get on the heels of the group of 4. On the descent Auer yelled at me to catch them and drop them. That fired me up so I got in the drops and ripped the downhill passing one guy through a high speed turn and passing another on a tight turn just before we hit the pavement. Next up were two Wissahickon riders that were trying to push the pace.

I was glued to their wheels on the pavement and got a little bit of recovery before we started the hill. They led up the first half of the hill just hammering trying to drop the rest of us. I was hurting, but I could tell that they were suffering as well. To be honest I was at my limit but I told myself that I wasn't just going to follow these guys around and settle for finishing behind them so I decided that I would attack. This seemed like a stupid crazy thing to do because I was hurting so bad, but I knew I had to try. As we started the second half of the climb I sprinted out of the saddle up the inside line (where it was a bit less soft) and hit the dirt part of the climb. As I came past the two Wissahickon riders I could tell that they were not responding. That gave me just a bit more adrenaline and I gave it a maximal effort up the rest of the climb. My legs were so full of lactic acid and pain but I now knew I had a chance to drop these guys for good.

As I made the left around the tree I could see that I already had a nice gap of a few seconds so I shifted up and powered through the grass trying to ignore the pain. I had practiced the next twisty section a lot and knew the best line so I felt confident now. I kept the speed up and hit the twists perfectly keeping my momentum into the last soft grass section before the uphill sprint. One of the guys was giving it a go to get up to me but at that point it was too late. I was able to cruise across the line solo for 35th as the 4 guys sprinted up to the line for the next place.

Hostetter finished shortly thereafter and Phil was a little ways back. Shawn Johnson was also back out there after months on a ship and off the bike. He got lapped, but hung in there and will get his legs back after a few weeks I sure. Zombor rode strong to get 29th. This was a very fast, hard race up front. The leaders were on another level.

35th place is nothing to be too proud about, but on a day when I had bad legs, sore lungs, and not a lot of mental fortitude I still rode hard the whole race and surprised myself by catching and dropping 4 guys that had been gapping me on the climbs all race. I really pushed my limits and gained a lot of confidence from the effort. Overall, it was a hard race and a fun day. I got to hang out with Phil and his Dad by the barriers as we watched the Elites fly around the course. Those guys are fast! There was a lot of attacking, aggressive racing up front and many smaller battles further back. It was a lot of fun to watch.

The ride of the day was Morgan (12 years old) taking 2nd in the Juniors against fied of 15-16 year olds. He laid down an awesome attack last lap to get second and come pretty close to the kid that won. It was impressive. Now I'm ready for some recovery. I'm still bruised and have a swollen ankle from my crashes at Granogue.

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