Sunday, August 23, 2009

Race Report: Blunt Park Cyclocross Race 3/4-- 2009

I was pretty keyed up for this race. I did well at Blunt Park last year (5th) and expected a good result this year too. My big goal was to beat Chris Bailey, as this was the only race that I beat him at last year. I didn't rest particularly for this race, but I have been training through the heat on my Igleheart, which helped me continue riding through the high heat and humidity today.

I had a well planned and uneventful prerace, with the exception of tire selection. I had planned on racing on my Tufo tubulars from last season, but when I inflated them yesterday, one of them had a really big hole. I was forced to race on Michelin Mud 2 clinchers. These tires ended up being a good selection.

We arrived 2 hours early, I got in three course inspection laps, including one hot lap right before staging. The course was easier than last year. They took out two of the dismounts and moved the barriers to a slight uphill. Otherwise, it was the same mountain bike friendly, winding, rooty race as last year. There were isolated areas of mud, but that mud was mostly tacky and predictable. The recent rain held the dust down.

As a note, my little ring on my cross cranks is chewed. So badly that it makes grinding noises when I shift into it. I planned on replacing it, but I ordered the incorrect BCD. I have been training in the big ring and planned on keeping it in the big ring for the whole race. Since there are no real hills at Blunt Park, I was hoping that this wouldn't present a problem.

There were 50+ hungry riders who have been burning for a cyclocross race for 9 monthes. I got a front row position next to Bailey. Then I made room and pulled Scott Glowa up next to me so that he could have an opportunity at the hole shot too.

As usual, the tension was palpable. I made the usual urination jokes and disapprovingly felt the tire pressure of every rider within reaching distance, punctuated by pointing out where they were going wrong.

Our race started tamely. There wasn't much jostling on the pavement, as none of us wanted to pull. Except one guy. Some Canadian Cat 1 was racing the 3/4 as a warmup for the 1-2-3. I'm not sure why he was allowed to race with us. He rode off the front right away and eventually put over half a lap into second place.

We mercilessly heckled him through the entire elite race, calling him a sandbagger in French and pointing out that he may have gotten better than 3rd in the elite race if he hadn't spent all that energy sandbagging. In fact, we were so loud and mean that his French speaking female companion moved away from us and our heckles after we began yelling at the dude in French. But I digress.

After the first turn I was in 10th, at the back of a squirrelly group that was bobbling and skipping out on turns. I could see Bailey up the road, leading the next group. Instead of attacking, I passed people as it naturally happened, mostly in turns where I found that I was able to turn on a smaller radius while also maintaining more speed than the average cat 3 or 4. Mountain biking all summer was already paying dividends in the first lap.

After a lap and a half, I was on the back of Bailey's group, which Bailey led. I didn't like the pace, they were riding too slow and braking way too much in the corners. I made quick work of that group, passing one rider at a time in the corners and settling in on the straights. When I got to Bailey, who was still leading the group, I attacked harder so that he'd have trouble getting on my wheel. Bailey is strong and he got on the wheel, but he apparently fell off in the next series of corners. Again, the mountain bike racing was paying.

I thought that I was in second. I could see a rider ahead and I was steadily gaining on him. I knew that I would catch him eventually, so maintained a sustainable pace and reeled him in over two laps.

As I was about the catch "first place" a rider came up behind me. He rode my wheel for a half a lap, but didn't try to pass. I picked it up a little and reeled "first" in and my chaser attacked out of a corner right after we caught "first."

As my chaser attacked, I was faced with a dilemma. I felt like I could jump on his wheel. In fact, he dangled 5 seconds in front of me for another half a lap. I kept thinking that if I maintained my own pace, I would catch him when he broke.

Meanwhile, the guy that I had just reeled in got on my wheel after I bobbled a corner in the singletrack in the woods. He assured me that he wasn't going to steal my podium. I'm not saying that I didn't believe him, but he seemed to have no trouble staying with me. So I kept digging.

Basically, nothing changed. I kept chugging along in the big ring. Sometimes I gapped the guy on my wheel, other times he was stuck like glue.

"Second" place dangled out in front of me, just out of reach, but just one mishap away. This is cyclocross and shit happens. Chains derail, pinch flats are common and we all know how janky early season bicycles are.

Nothing happened. I finished in what I thought was third, followed very closely by my chaser, who I was able to gap in the last lap to insure that he didn't "steal my podium."

But this Canuck. Everyone forgot about him. He stole my podium spot by annihilating our field. He then went on to take the hole shot in the elite race and trade blows with Myerson for a few laps.

I finished 4th overall. I was paid $40, which makes a $5 profit after subtracting registration and gas from my winnings.

I achieved all of my goals for the race. To restate: do as well as last year and beat Bailey. Actually, I finished in the exact spot that I did last year, only David Wilcox upgraded, so he wasn't in my race to get 4th in front of my 5th. Wilcox went on to finish 4th in the elite race today, behind Adam Myerson, Alec Donahue and the sandbagging Canuck. Congratulations David.

I rode the whole race in my big ring, which I have never done before. It seems faster. In fact, I am not looking forward to getting my little ring replaced, since it will give me an excuse to ride slower when the real pain comes.

Also, I forgot how much cyclocross hurts. This is a serious wakeup call. When I train, I need to put more suffering into it.


Greg said...

Nice race.
How uncharitable, gunning for Bailey on his birthday!

RMM said...

I am sure that Pedro's/HUP/BRC/Svelte or whatever team Bailey is actually on will chase me just as hard on my birthday, considering that mine falls smack in the middle of our spring classics.

Chris said...

I'm pretty sure you beat me at Palmer too. Owned me would probably be a more apt description.

James said...

Nice job! Sorry to steal your podium. I thought I was in 10th place at that point. I didn't know I would get third.
I still had my road gears on too. I don't think I'm going to change either. It felt good to hammer it out in the big ring.
Looking forward to seeing you out there.

RMM said...


We'll have plenty of opportunities to duke it out over the season. Introduce yourself, next time you see me at a race, it would be nice to put a face to the name and to the wheel that rides away with my podium spot.