Sunday, October 4, 2009

Race Report: Great Brewers Grand Prix of Cyclocross Day 1 cat 3 2009

I had a front row call up and my father was at the race. I knew that I was screwed. I always, always do poorly at things when my family comes out to watch. Ever since I was a little kid. Its not like I get nervous, there just always seems to be bad luck.

We sat shivering on the starting line. Looking at our shoes, taking what little shelter we could from the salt-water-filled wind whipping, literally whipping off of the water. When I licked my lips, I tasted salt. The weather was severe, even by New England standards. Rain mixed with the swirling salt spray and sort of stung as it pelted us. The tension was thick; no one spoke after the official called "One Minute;" I even refrained from my usual jabbering. Cary somewhat ironically (or not) wished Brain Wilichoski "good luck" in his loud booming man voice.

There's not too much to say. Diane blew the whistle and I blew my front row callup and slid back. I'm not really sure what happened. I just didn't push all that hard when the whistle blew. Maybe I did push hard and it didn't matter. Either way, I was in a inopportune spot going into turn one and it just got worse from there.

The course itself was a trecherous beast. Mud filled ruts, greasy corners and energy sucking squelchy grass. Roots threaded under the mud. The course was so soft that it changed every lap. Preriding the course gave me a rough idea of what it would like once the race was on, but not really.

The corners weren't too difficult, but back in the pack, riders were jostling, shoving and pushing for any advantage. It has been awhile since I have been in the scrum in the first lap of a major cross race and I forgot how cutthroat it could be. Instead of an orderly movement through the course like at the front of the race, riders would chop your wheel in a tight corner and then blow apart and sit up. You'd have to pass them on the next section.

I fumbled in the mud with the riff raff, jamming on the brakes, sprinting only to jam the brakes on again. People were popping off the course all over the place. It was mayhem and I was frustrated and angry to have fallen back so far so quickly. The leaders got a minute on me in the first 2 minutes of the race. Meanwhile, I was fighting for 40th spot with some gibroni who was just going pop seconds later and slide back to 67th. I couldn't believe how much wasted energy there was at mid pack.

I am training nothing but starts for the rest of the season.

The run up was hell. It was steep with a thick coating of mushy peanut butter mud. You slid back one step for every 2 you took. Add screaming fans (read hecklers) and you can imagine the confusion.

On the runup, I felt the rear of my bike getting caught on something. I pulled to dislodge it. Oops.

After the remount, my rear derailleur stopped working. I spent the requisite quarter to one half a lap messing with my shifters while pedaling tempo. The derailleur was making for funny noises, but otherwise the pedalling seemed smooth.

I opted not to stop and have a look. I figured that just continuing to ride would be the best choice. I mean, could I really have diagnosed and fixed the problem in a timely enough manner to justify stopping?

I had 2 gear options, 46 x 25 and 38 x 25. But getting into the big ring was difficult, so I effectively had only the 38 x 25. Of course, as the drivetrain became progressively more gunked up, it, became exponentially more difficult to get into the big ring. The little ring was fine for riding the course, but I was unable to really drop hammers, since shifting to the big ring wasn't possible (I think that I only succeeded in getting into it once. I thought about going to the pit for a bike, but decided that if Parsons can race single speed, I could race with 1.25 gears easily. Not so much.

Instead of mailing it in, I raced the best race that I could. I used my lower gearing to my advantage and accelerated hard out of corners. I rode uphill sections that other riders were running. My cruising speed was lower than other racers in my category, but I really concentrated on taking good lines and keeping momentum in turns.

I was even able to pass a few of my rivals. Chris Bailey seemed to be having trouble when I passed. I didn't have the heart to tell him I was riding single speed. Not so sure what happened there, but after the race he said that he didn't like cross anymore. Bailey beat me in all but one CX race last season and pimped my teammate Spaits in a breakaway in the Attelboro Criterium this summer, so beating him is a high priority in any race.

I had trouble passing the newly upgraded Jeff Bramhall and my team mate Nick Mashburn (also recently upgraded). They were both riding strong and taking good lines. These will be guys to watch later in the season, as they are on an upward trajectory.

In the final lap, I started to feel bogged down. The sucking mud was taking a toll. Was my lower gearing actually an advantage? Would I have slid even further back if I had had the option of over gearing throughout the race?

On the last two laps, I was really only quickly walking the runup. My spirit was broken. I realize that mechical failures are going to happen, but when they do I take them very personally. Like Campagnolo singled me out for a failing derailleur.

I got 29th. Which, under the circumstances, seems acceptable.

My rear mech had a number of problems, some of which did not become entirely apparent until day two. Check back to hear about how my rear derailleur nearly ruined day two also.

4 comments:

Drew said...

I like the cliff-hanger.

S Davis said...

da da DUH!

Cary said...

Did you retire from blogging? There has been no inflammatory material from you, SandbagNECX, or Rosie in over a week. Things are getting boring. I may have to wear a Cambridge Bicycle kit tomorrow...

mrotown said...

The current issue of Christian Science Monitor weekly has Gloucester as the feature for "in pictures" Lots of Cambridge kits on a run up shot.