Third cross race, and it was going to be a chilly one. It is interesting to have a up-close and personal view of the weather and lighting changes as we plummet toward winter. We are now scrambling to get our rides in before sundown, which in New England is now around 6:00pm. Come daylight savings time, it will be around 4:30pm. Ouch. The air is getting a bite to it, and those humid days of training early in soupy air is over.
I had no idea what to expect from this race, but had heard that it was a good, low-key affair. I was hoping for a confidence builder as my cross skills get better. The C race was going to start at 9:00am, so I was there are 7:30am, one of the first cars in the lot. By the time you get there, get oriented, get the bike out, set the bike up, get your stuff sorted (what to wear, etc.), get to registration, get your number, get to the bathroom, get to the car, ride the course a few times, get back to the bathroom, tune the bike if necessary, get back to the bathroom, 1.5 hours doesn't seem like a lot of time.
I asked one of the guys on our team who pre-road the course what it was like. At this point, a significant pause before his answer can mean only a few things. A) it is soo good that it is beyond description; B) we're all screwed. It was B. He then proceeded to tell me it was not a cross course, but a MTB course. Great.
I tried to pre-ride the course with another teammate, but we couldn't figure out which way to go or where the course was going. Not a good sign. There was no less than 6 points where you HAD to get off your bike (unless you are that breed of psychotic cross rider who things everything is rideable). Two barriers, two beaches (one downhill and uphill), and two run-ups (one of which you should have roped in and used ascenders). Then there was a particularly sadistic off-camber which was otherwise known as a road embankment. During the pre-ride, I actually managed to crash and cut my knee open. Not a good sign.
At the start of the race, I actually had a pretty good hole shot and was placed well going into the first barrier. No problem. Then the off camber. At this point, I am positioned around 5th and trying to hammer this thing and get through it. No such luck as I slide down, taking about 90% of the field with me. Trying desparately to unclip, the front guy were rapidly getting away. Luckily for our team, we had two guys placed in the "break". No, this was not a plan ahead of time, but it worked out well for those guys.
After scrambling back on my bike, I was able to give chase without having lost too many positions. The effort was HARD the entire way as we caught the field in front of us. I went to that primal place of survival as I went around the course. At this point, finding a "line" gave way to staying upright. Everyone in my race was suffering as we went up and down and through sand and woods and other unspeakable horrors. The funny thing was, as the first lap went by, the course actually became fun. I don't know if I was happy or upset at the one lap to go sign from the officials. This would mean we only had done two laps of the course in a 30 minute race!
After seeing one lap to go, I figured it was now or never as I tried to up the tempo and pass whoever was around me. This strategy was working, and it was an interesting case of fitness versus skill. I have a lot of fitness (althouth not as much as I would like) but not alot of skill. There are folks in the race with a lot of skill, but not as much fitness. One this course, fitness was prevailing for me as I was able to keep it together and pass a few more people in front of me.
I actually almost caught the back of the breakaway, and given one more lap I would have made it. But, I'm not going to complain. I was able to do the off-camber the next two times around and not kill myself on any other section. As a team, we did very well with three guys in the top five of the C 35+ race. Other people had decent races as well, although one person vowed never to race in CT again.
Now, onto Canton Cyclocross this weekend.