Monday, November 14, 2005

Race Pace 'Cross Photos & Words

Race Pace 'Cross
Sykesville, MD
B race
weather: 70's and sunny

My training has been spotty so I'm really counting on the races to build some form for Nationals.
Sunday was a good power workout. There weren't a lot of places where you had to use the brakes so there weren't a lot of accelerations like we had at Lower Allen.

This track was very fast with a mix of paved paths, bumpy grass, and deep grass. The first half was crit-like --> fast, with some no-brakes turns, and one little chicane that brought you almost to a halt. The middle part of the lap came by the pits with a few fast grassy curves that you could rail. Then it was a downhill leading to a set of barriers that were spaced pretty far apart. The high speed barriers were fun, but not a distinguishing aspect of the course.

After the barriers was a fast and fun downhill into a sweeping left to an "S" turn transition onto a paved path. The path wound downhill before bending back up the slope going right into the difficult part of the course. First up was a bumpy, deep grassy uphill that eventually leveled out before a quick drop and off-camber left immediately into a short & steep hill.

rpcx steep hill kd

This was tough, but ridable as long as you didn't blow the line in the turn or crash. At the top was a seemingly long, gradual grassy climb with one short steep pitch.

Coming back by the pit the course returned to a paved path for the last 50m of the climb. This climb was very draining with a couple of steep bits to hurt you. It was hard to stay on the gas up this climb lap after lap. Once at the top it was a high speed downhill "S" curve back to the grassy finishing straight.

Laps were fast at around 6 minutes.

Based on previous MABRA races I figured that the scrum was the way to get a good starting position so I loitered near the course entrance for a good 20 minutes prior to the start time.
Sure enough, there was talk of call-up's, but none actually happened. I got a spot on the front row and got into the pedals cleanly on the whistle.

rpcx start 2

I was happy to be up front, but didn't want to go too hard and blow up pulling the whole field around the first lap. I went just hard enough to keep it single-file, but hoped that someone else would take the reins. Thankfully, FJ Hughes, rocking the sweet Duvel kit, passed me and led it out. He was pushing the pace on the straights, but slowing too much on the turns.

rpcx lap 1

I took the barriers really fast to pass him approaching the tough part of the course.

rpcx barriers 3 kd

I still didn't want to be on the front, but I also didn't want to get stuck in traffic. I hit the grassy climb at a pretty good pace and was feeling the hurt, but a handful of guys attacked and took off up the climb. I tried to be patient since it was first lap. Trying to stay with them would have blown me sky high a few minutes later.

I finished the first lap in 7th in a nice group with my Alan teammate JH3 and NCVC's Erik Leaver. Both of these guys had gotten top 10 the week prior at Highland Park so I was happy to be riding with them. My LSV teammate Mike O'Hara was way off the front setting an insane pace. He was flying.

rpcx moving up

The 3 of us settled into a good rhythm and chased after Harley's Steve Fife and HVB's Sean Mealey who were working together in 3rd and 4th. John was setting the tempo of our group and I was sitting on Erik's wheel.

rpcx leaver and me

We were gradually gaining on the 2 guys in front and a mystery rider had overtaken Mike in the lead. It really helps to ride with guys that are good bike handlers and can push the pace. It keeps you moving forward and makes it harder to ease up.

Eventually John got a gap on Erik heading to the barriers so I attempted to bridge. I came into the barriers hot and managed to get alongside Erik.

rpcx barriers 1

I jumped prior to the downhill and got a little gap on Erik. I made it up to John and got in front on the downhill path.

rpcx downhill 2

rpcx me and jh3

rpcx jh3 me leaver

We just about closed the gap to Steve and Sean on the climb. Of course, once we hit the second part of the grassy climb I found a new level of suffering and John and Erik passed me. I stayed just behind them and really should have closed the gap immediately, but I started to drift mentally.

rpcx hurting

rpcx focused

The next lap I kept drifting further away, but didn't seem to realize it at the time. That was my worst lap...I had zero focus and just wasn't pushing myself. John Brewer had been a good ways behind us a lap before, but all of a sudden he was passing me.

rpcx chasing

This woke me up and I dug a little deeper to close the gap to Brewer, who was absolutely motoring. I managed to catch and pass Mike, who had gone out a bit too hard early. 8-) On the last lap I closed the gap to J. Brewer and was ready to attack prior to the steep bit, but I just didn't have the jump. Cresting the top I was just behind him, but he sealed the deal on the next gradual uphill, pulling away from me and getting very close to catching Erik and Steve.

rpcx home stretch

I finished up 7th and aside from that one lap where I zoned out I was happy with my race. I'm better on a course that emphasizes bike handling and 'cross skills. On a course like this where it's all about putting out power I'm typically weaker. In the end I got a terrific workout and learned more about the mental side of bike racing/suffering. Congrats to JH3 for a huge 3rd place and I think Leaver held on for 5th and moved a little closer to first place in the series standings. John Brewer scored 6th. Watch out for this guy as his bike handling skills improve. He's got the motor. It was great fun racing with you guys!

Big Thanks to Kevin Dillard and John Brewer for the photos.


gwadzilla said...

a play by play with pictures to tell the tale

I wish I was out there doing some races...
not quite on the agro level as most
just out there for the competition of it all

Chris said...

Reston is coming up the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Awesome course and a well organized race.
Bring the family.

Go to right now and register.

If you're pre-reg'd it's harder to bail.

'Cross is too much fun to go a whole season without doing a race!