Three races in four days. Not exactly a stage race, but tiring nonetheless. But what fun we had.
To imagine Palmer CX, take Sterling and do the exact opposite. A small intimate affair on a lot of single track with roots, step run-ups, technical riding. Even Mr. Paul Curley was riding without his disc wheel in the back. It was like Bizaro-world.
I saw this course on the pre-ride and thought "What in the hell am I doing here?" Technical riding is not my thing, and this was definitely not my thing. But, you should never judge a course on the pre-ride, and a course has a much different feel "at speed" than just riding around. It is amazing how speed can transform a course. Not that I have a lot of speed, but you get the point.
I was wondering at the start of the day how long it would take for someone to utter the words "old school" or "before the UCI" or some such derivative. I heard it first right before the Cat 4 race at 9:00. "This is what all the courses used to be like before the UCI turned cross into grass crits." Bing, bing, bing. We have a winner!
I was glad I got there at 7:30am, even though my race wasn't until 10:00am. I was able to go around 4 times, each time picking up the pace a little bit. There were definitely harder and easier lines, and trying to discern which way to go.
You have to love low key races. Not that people don't race as hard, but it is a totally different vibe. You have about 30 guys toeing the line, all kind of laughing and hanging out (at least until the official say 30 seconds).
Got a moderately decent start and hit the single track. There was no crowd to speak of. We disappeared into the woods, only to miraculously reappear at the end of the lap. That's okay because there wasn't a lot of time for distractions. I was riding fairly well considering I suck at single track. I have been doing a lot of rides with other guys on the area trails, and that definitely helped. Had to ride light over the roots, balance through the corners, let the bike run downhill, sit back when climbing, etc.
There was one section where you rode down a steep grade into a 90 left which then became a steep run-up. I rode it a few times during the race, but opted to dismount at the top, run down, and run up. It wasn't a bad strategy. I didn't lose much time, and actually passed a few people who had to slow way down to dismount and then run-up. I had the advantage of cutting inside of them. It is important to know your limitations.
Oh yeah, can't forget the triple barriers, the river crossing over the palette "bridge", and the run-up from hell. This was like a 20 foot wall. By the last couple of laps, it was as if we were summiting some 8000m peak, one foot in front of the other, eyes cast downward. The people yelling encouragement didn't help either. One of my teammates was screaming to go faster. I almost hit him. But I was too tired.
There have only been two races this year where I was thankful for the race to end: Mansfield and Palmer. Both will absolutely kick your butt. The total body-wrenching pain is quite different from other anaerobic crit-type courses. Everything hurts. But, strange thing is that we call this fun!
Oh, and I finished 9th in the Masters 35+ 1/2/3 race. Basically I am very happy with that result. I got everything I could out of that course, and I left not bleed and not crashing (it wasn't for lack of trying). I got to race some guys hard, and experience a type of ride you really don't see all that much anymore. And the sad thing is that if you look at the New England Bikereg Cyclocross race section, we are down to one page. Three weeks left kids. Then what?