Monday, October 02, 2006

Getting there

Yesterday was the Ed Sander 'Cross in Buckeystown, MD. The venue is gorgeous and the promoters (NCVC) do a first class job. I always enjoy racing here.

The track is fast most of the way, with one very technical section 2/3 of the way around. There's really not a decent place to recover without losing ground. Drafting and group riding plays a big role so you cannot afford to make mistakes because they will be magnified if you lose your group.

My teammate JH3 taking a good line on the high-side
photo by Michael Kirk

I'm trying to race my way into fitness which means racing smart and measuring my effort to have something to give in the last 2 laps. Fortunately a front row starting position allowed me settle into a decent spot without having to waste a lot of energy.

The start
photo by Gina Harshman

photo by Michael Kirk

The first time around the ponds fastMarc was on the front setting a solid, but not unbearable tempo. With little room for passing and a lot of race left he was too experienced to bury himself early just to tow the lead group around.

Onto the gravel and the festivities commenced. I got passed by a couple of groups looking to get to the front. I went from top 10 to top 20 in an instant. I clawed my way back onto the wheel as we entered the technical backside of the course. Some dude lost it in a slick turn opening the gap as we squeezed past.

The run-up and subsequent difficulties really opened up that gap as the fast kids (one of which being my wunderkind teammate Morgan) decided to light it up.

Early leaders Morgan (14 years old) & Todd (eventual winner)
photo by Gina Harshman

photo by Michael Kirk

The rest of the lap was typical first lap craziness as guys freaked out to move up in the line. I didn't want to get passed, but I also didn't want to blow up either so I rode my pace and slid back a bit.

photo by Gina Harshman

The next couple of laps some guys faded from the early effort and I ended up in a nice group that included Zach Adams and Brian Fouche. These guys are strong and they crushed it on the fast parts of the course. I was determined to not let them ride away, but I had to dig to hang on.

My group on the evil U-turn runup. We rode fast & smooth to close the gap
photo by Michael Kirk

We were putting time into the chasers and bit by bit making up ground on the guys in front of us. Coming into the barriers Brian bobbled while the rest of us made it through cleanly. Zach took off while me and another guy looked at each other, hesitating to see who would lead into the headwind around the first pond.

I lost this game of chicken. Zach was riding away and I didn't want to let Brian catch back up. I put my head down and drove it into the wind and around the turn. When I looked up I could see that Zach was slowing. I got around him and put in a brief dig to get some space.

I needed to get a gap through the winding ponds before we hit the gravel again and I did. Seeing that I had a gap gave me a shot of adrenaline. I was suffering, but I was also starting to feel pretty good. This was probably my best lap and I caught up to John Brewer and Mike O'Hara with 2 to go.

Brewer put the hammer down on the gravel, gapping Mike, who in turn gapped me. On the backside we came back together and I managed to pull up alongside John after one of the steep up's. He was having none of it and immediately accelerated leaving me in his dust.

I hurt myself trying to stay with those guys as we hit the downhill, but I had to soft-pedal and grab a little recovery. Most of the last lap I was dangling behind those guys and peaking over my shoulder to see if Zach was closing. This was strictly self-preservation mode.

Cresting the last short steep ride (run) up.
photo by Michael Kirk

I got a moment of hope when O'Hara bobbled on the run-up, but I was in the process of getting around a lapped rider and couldn't quite close the gap. On the last run/ride Mike opted to run while I rode it. I passed him as he remounted and I thought he was cooked. That was definitely not the case.

He let out a yell and put in a monstrous attack up the grassy slope to quash any hope I had. That was an incredible show of sheer will...I was impressed and crushed at the same time.

I looked back to see that I still had a decent gap on Zach so I licked my wounds and rolled down to the finish in 7th for the second week in a row.

Given that I've hardly raced this season I'm pretty happy with my fitness. Hopefully I can continue to get stronger heading into the MAC season. The MABRA fields have been huge, almost like MAC fields from the past 2 seasons. These races are a lot of fun as there are so many riders around you that you're battling from start to finish. If you let up briefly or flub a section you're losing multiple places. It's intense!

The tires were amazing. This was the first time riding them in the mud and they hooked up better than the Michelin Mud2's. I was running them pretty low and they felt really fast & smooth on all the grass and gravel sections. They're not cheap, but they're worth possible upgrade on a 'cross bike.

Next up is the AVC Breast Cancer Awareness 'Cross in Hagerstown this Saturday.

***Thanks to Gina Harshman & Michael Kirk for the great photos!


Anonymous said...

Great write up Chris. I don't know how you can remember all those details. It's all a blur to me most times. This was a super fun race though. I'd have to say it was almost as fun as Beacon last season.

Great job on another 7th place, this is going to be a great season for all of us; I can feel it.

Chris said...

I have to replay the race in my head and think about what happened before I can let it go, relax, and start thinking about the next race. I didn't sleep worth a shit last night because I was still keyed up on adrenaline from the race. 8-)

Jim said...

I was impressed and crushed at the same time.

Man, that perfectly sums up so many little moments in so many races for me. You probably inflict the exact same thing on other people from time to time - call it awe & awwwwww.

Nice riding to finish 7th, sounds like a tough field going at it really hard. Bummed I wasn't there to see it.

StevenCX said...

What tires were they?

Chris said...

Dugast Rhino 34's

They rock!

Zach said...

Nice riding chris, you have been haunting my dreams. You were usually in sight but never within reach. Thanks for the motivation.