Sunday, October 18, 2009

Race Report: Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross Race: A Winner

Most race reports focus on the race and the action therein. This post represents a departure from the (my) normal format. While I will roughly outline my race, I think that my readers will appreciate my observations about the race in general more than my usual ramblings about my performance in comparison to others’.
This race has received many good reports from friends. It was highly recommended. With 3 other races in immediate driving distance on the same day, rider recommendations tipped the scales toward Mansfield Hollow.

I wasn’t disappointed.
From the moment you arrive until when you reluctantly leave, it is clear that the organizers of Mansfield Hollow race love putting the race on and are concerned that you enjoy yourself, whether you are there to race or support/watch a racer. The organizers had a huge table/tent with free homemade pastry (including cupcakes), coffee and hot cider. They made sure that everyone knew about it. Racers were encouraged to have a hot drink, chat and eat a brownie. And when stuff ran out, they restocked it! I should mention that the cookies and brownies were great. There was even a cup of coffee for the road after the last race.
There was a prime on the first lap of every race. A pair of Tifosi sunglasses. The first rider to go past the dude in the chicken suit won the glasses. The chicken moved all over the course, so it was unpredictable and great. Furthermore, there were signs all over the course, “Cluck, Cluck Cluck,” “Where’s that Chicken?” etc. When you were in oxygen debt, these signs become puzzling. Nice effect.
And one of the organizers (sorry, I am terrible with names) circulated around when top riders were collecting their prizes and pay. He wanted to know if we were happy with what we got! Seriously. After having so many promoters grudgingly hand me a gargantuan sized Vanilla Pepsi T Shirt and some expired Clif Power Bars (real talk), I was shocked that an organizer cared so much what I thought of his prize package. For the record I received $40, a cyclocross specific tube, a Men’s Medium Louis Garneau rain cape (which fits well and replaces the one that I misplaced at Gloucester), a cycling magazine (commuter focused) and a pink LG mussette bag for my 3rd place in the men’s 2,3,4 B race.
Then the organizer asked how we liked certain sections of the course. While we were discussing this topic, I was made to feel like he would actually take MY suggestions into consideration when laying out the course next year.
The races all went off on time and ran smoothly.
The course is conscientiously laid out, taking note of feedback from prior years. The effect is a fast, challenging course that has a great combination of power sections interspersed with some sketchy off cambers turns and long deep sand sections and a ridable runup.
My race went off as expected. I shouldered my way though gaps in the staged riders from the last row to about 2nd/3rd row. While it may have offended the riders who had left me room to do it, this turned out to be the best move that I could have made.
I was about 5th after the initial shaking out. There was a huge crash on a long off camber section behind me that took many riders out of contention for a top placing. After the race, I was told that 2/3’s of the racers were forced to awkwardly dismount and run a long section, which caused them to lose considerable time.
By the end of the 1st lap, I was in 3rd and chasing hard on second place. 4th was nowhere in sight, so I didn’t bother thinking about getting overtaken. Every so often, Rosey and I would pass each other on opposing sections and I’d get worried that he was reeling me in. I’d grit my teeth and drop a cog.
Meanwhile, 1st was burying us, eventually putting more than a minute into the rest of the podium. Basically, I spent the whole race yo-yoing behind 2nd, about 10-20 seconds behind. In the sandy running sections, I would gain a couple of seconds, then I’d bobble a corner or the ride up (I had trouble with traction on the climb since I was running file treads). In the final lap, I dug in and closed the gap considerably. On the final grassy straight away, which was about 500 meters, I laid down some serious power (feeble by objective standards, but for me it was WATTAGE) and really started closing it down.
My competitor was cooked and had sat up, thinking that he could just mail it in. Someone cheered for me, causing 2nd to look back. He feebly got out the saddle and gave it just enough gas to hold me off. I passed him 10 meters after the finish line. I am convinced that I would have overtaken 2nd before the line if no one had caused a ruckus. In retrospect, I should have made my move 500 meters earlier. Live and learn.
After my race, I went over to the goodies table and ate more than my fair share of brownies, while the locals offered me more. I was getting cold fast, beginning to shiver. A nice lady fixed me a hot cup of coffee. I was thanked for coming out to race at every opportunity. I considered doing the Men’s Elite race, but by the time I felt recovered enough to truly make a decision, the big boys were staged and getting instructions. I changed out of my damp chamois and began cheering encouraging things to passing racers.
Though not very emotional, I was touched by the genuine happiness of the locals at this race. They clearly loved hosting us. They were gracious and friendly, quick to offer a smile and to help you out if they could. While I knew that I had been missing the grassroots, local races, I had forgotten why. Mansfield reminded me. These guys aren’t putting on a race to make money, to get UCI points for Pros or to promote a product. If I had to guess, they are putting on the race because they like to see people race their bicycles. My second guess is that they plough any profits back into the race.
This race is a winner.
Mansfield Hollow is already on my calendar for next year.


Il Bruce said...

This is nice to hear.

I think Ron Manizza still has his hand in this race. He is a good guy.

Next year try the Willimantic Brewing Co. for lunch afterward. Make a good day even better.

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