Sunday, November 06, 2005

Lower Allen Classic 2005

Lower Allen Cross 05

Lower Allen is one of my favorite races. The course is always interesting, offering both physical and mental challenges. The venue is first class with indoor registration, flush toilets, and fantastic viewing of the entire track. Plus, this was my 1st MAC race (and second ever 'cross race) back in 2003. Mike Hebe does a phenomenal job promoting this race and I'll keep coming back for as long as he puts it on.

Usually I arrive really early and get a few slow laps on the course to figure out the lines and the appropriate speeds for the turns. This year I left the house a little later, but made great time, arriving at the Park in about 75 minutes. I registered, pinned on my number, and hopped on my bike for a quick recon prior to the start of the Masters race. I jumped on the course just after the barriers and crashed on the second turn, a tricky off-camber 180 to the left. It looked harmless enough, but I picked a crappy line and then lost it when I grabbed a bunch of rear brake...lesson learned.

That woke me up and got me focused. I did just about 2 laps on the track taking multiple passes at a few of the sections. With so many tight and tricky turns it's really important not only to figure out the line, but to determine how much speed you can carry. Too little and you're having to jump out of every turn. Too much and you're braking in the turn, losing momentum and traction. If you're screwing up the turns you're wasting a lot of energy getting back up to speed.

When the Masters race started I headed out on the road to warm up. I found a nice stretch of rolling road where I did some short efforts and sprints to prepare for the suffering to come. I made it back into the park and did another half lap on the course before heading to the starting grid extra early to get a decent scrum position. Waiting around for 30 minutes kind of undid the warm-up, but I think it was worth it to get a spot on the 3rd row.

The start was on gravel adding an extra dose of sketch to an already sketchy endeavor. The guy in front of me didn't get clipped in so I was back to mid-pack by the time I got moving. Once I got going I tried to advance a few places before the track narrowed. I got a little better position, but avoided digging too deep in the first minute of the race.

After the short prologue loop around a baseball field we dropped back onto the gravel and began our first full lap.

These guys were long gone locked in another mano-a-mano contest for the win.

I was focused on moving up one place at a time.

The first part of the sand pit was better to run.
The second pass through the sand pit had a tricky entry, but was ridable.

You could carry some good speed into the hurdles, which was nice. We've been risking injury all season long doing super high speed barriers in practice so these felt pretty comfortable.

The tufos hooked up very nicely on all the off-camber turns. I was running them in the high-30' s psi. They felt too squishy when I had to sprint at the end, but otherwise they were perfect.

The course was very twisty, but surprisingly there was still some good group racing.
There were a couple of spots where you could grab a decent draft, but for the most part it payed to lead the technical sections.


On the first lap it seemed like guys were crashing left and right either taking bad lines or carrying too much speed into turns. I was just trying to dodge the carnage and get clear so that I could pick my lines. I ended up solo for a while with a large group of about 8 guys close behind me. I didn't want to get absorbed by that group so I punched it a few times to maintain the gap. A couple of those guys ended up bridging, which was fine. One of them was my teammate Dusty.

When he made it up to me I got a second wind. He was flying and that motivated me to dig a little deeper. We worked together and picked off at least 5 guys in the last 2 laps. It felt good to get stronger toward the end of the race. Usually I start strong and then just try to hang on.

I think I have the bike dialed in. I raised the saddle a bit after Granogue and now feel like I can power the whole pedal stroke. The quick handling was really welcome with all of the turns on this course.

Thanks to all the people out there cheering on the course. Just when I was feeling bad and thinking about backing it off I'd hear someone yell my name, reminding me that people were watching. It's a lot harder to give up when there are witnesses so thanks!

Congrats to my teammates that tore it up at Highland Park on Sunday!
An injury at Lower Allen slowed Mike down, but he came back strong the next day to take 7th.
JH3 found his groove in NJ and pulled off a huge top 10.
Both of those guys are having fantastic season.

photos courtesy of Bill Deputy , Rob Campbell , and Kevin Dillard
Check out the links for many more photos.

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