As my wife told me when I told her about going back down to Mansfield for the cross race, "That race is your Newman." I remember going down there last year and thinking, "This is a cross course? You've got to be kidding me." Dismount after dismount. Steep downhills. Steep run-ups. A crazy off-camber. I'm told "this is what cross used to be like." I guess the phrase is "old school." When everyone was caught up in the kumbaya moment of Gloucester, we were all going to race in CT this weekend. When the dust settled and the alcohol worked through the system, there were three of us from the club.
I was determined not to make the same mistake as last year, which was screwing the first off-camber. When I drove in, I saw my nemesis taunting me. After getting my stuff together, I went off to pre-ride the course. Pretty much the same as last year. Much of the pre-ride, I stopped at the lip of something that I would normally walk down (given my lack of technical skills). I was thinking to myself, "What the hell am I doing here."
But, I have a new bike, tubulars, a year worth of experience, and a can-do attitude. "No problem" I say.
Doing the off-camber the first couple of times in the pre-ride, I was able to work high and low no problem. I hooked up with Andy from Landry's and got his downhill advice. As he would go blasting over lips, trying to make things more challenging for himself, I would EASE my way down. But, at least I saw things were possible, and how to best attack it.
Got to the line-up in the front row. Not a big field with about 30 riders. A few familiar faces, some new guys who have never done cross before. One guy asks me, "How many water stops are there?" Water stops? "What pressure are your tires? About 80?" 80? Hmm. Better keep an eye on him. Important to get the hole shot.
As we line up, I'm brimming with confidence from my last races. I have my right crank at 2:00 (thank Jorge) and looking to go all out to the first turn. Bang! Away we go, with me cranking about second wheel. I keep digging to get the hole shot, and actually get to the first corner second wheel. I pass that guy going over the first barriers, and BAM, I'm in first place. Time to starting hammering the first lap hard and make people hurt. I'm going to sail through the off-camber, hit the down hill, pound the straight-away, and go all the home to VICTORY.
Wait, my wheel is sliding out. What's going on? I'm not going down on the off-camber. I am going down on the off-camber. Same spot as last year, people cussing behind me. I'm trying to unclip. I'm running with my bike. My bike is hooked on the course tape. I have to unhook my bike. People are sailing by me. Sh*t.
I finally disengage and start going like a madman. Of course no matter what else happens, I blew my first lead in a cross race by pulling the same BONEHEAD maneuver as last year. Priceless.
The rest of the race hurt like hell. The first place guy was off the front a good ways. I was able to pass everyone else on the first lap with my adrenaline rush, which wore off two laps too early. Coasted in for second place. You gotta love it.