Sunday, October 25, 2009

New Gloucester—Maine Verge—Day 2 Cat 3: RMM FTW WTF?

All Photos are Courtesy of my lovely wife, who spent our first anniversary photographing this race. For Reals.



Those of you who know me know that I have perfected many ways to suck on a bicycle. Poor bike handling, lapses in training, general lack of fitness, advancing age, inability to produce and maintain adequate power, mechanical failures, chronic dehydration, under resting/poor sleep schedule, lack discipline, inability to lose weight, love of fine foods, un-preparedness, poor planning, attacking at the wrong time, inadequate warm-ups, going out too hard and blowing up: these are all part of my regular repertoire of bicycle racing maneuvers.

Somehow none of that applied on Sunday. Note: I ate poorly on Saturday night: meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy, fried samosas, coconut and chocolate mousse, and caramel and salt gelato; I had less than 6 hours of sleep that was interrupted more an average of once every 20 minutes (seriously); my bike was not running properly 3 hours before the race; and I didn’t feel warmed up on the starting line.

I got a front row start and was about 5th when we hit the mud. Serious mud. Deep terrible mud.





The whole race was a slog. While there was a woods section with hidden rocks and roots, for most of the race we were riding so slow through 3-5 inches of thick mud, that the penalty for crashing was nil. Since I had finished a solid 3rd the previous day, I was more confident than normal. I attacked riders and didn’t hesitate to leave the less-deep-mud (two inches and less viscous, as opposed to the 4-6 inch deep peanut butter mud in the less desirable line) to pass, often swerving wildly and burning huge matches.

I have a new power dosing strategy in cyclocross. I go out hard on hole shot and spend about 5 more minutes in the red zone. Then, instead of staying on the rivet and inducing the well-known gentleman’s slide, I dial it back to a sustainable pace. I still

But my real strength was the climbs (I never thought that I would say that). By sheer force of will and savvy line selection, I was able to ride all of the climbs, while most of my competitors were forced to run some of the climbs some of the time. As I am believer in the psychological side of cyclocross, I attacked people hard in the woods, on both the sketchy descents and on the tractionless climbs. To my way of thinking, if you are going to attack someone, do it with panache, make it convincing, make it look painful. My goal when I ride away from someone is to shut the door decisively. If you really dig in and accelerate through a difficult section, such as a muddy climb and your competitor can’t answer, you have dealt them a blow.

In lap one, I passed Cary. Despite having bested Cary the day before, it felt like a foolhardy move. Before this weekend, every time I have attacked Cary, I was made to regret it within minutes. Actually attacking Cary is usually the point in a race that signals my inevitable implosion. This time when I looked back over my shoulder a minute later…nothing but daylight.






Somehow after a lap, I was third or fourth on the road.

Chris La Flamme of Embrocation went off the front early and got a good-sized gap. When I finally realized that I was a contender, the gap seemed like an insurmountable minute. Greg Burbridge, Saturday’s winner and third in the Cat 3 Verge Series was in second.

La Flamme fell back. I could tell it was him by his bright orange gloves. I made fun of them on the start line. Then the announcer was making fun of them. Anyway. I caught Chris in the pit area heading towards the barn. I accelerated and moved away from him, but he swerved and got on my wheel. Unfortunately for me, this was leading into one of the few sections where a draft would help him.

I drilled it through the barn took the greasy cement corner at speed (lots of riders crashed here) and hung it out on the hard pack descent. At the bottom was a hot, wet right-hander studded with sharp rocks in the apex of the turn. I had been practicing railing this corner BMX style with my right foot out and both tires in a full drift. This corner led to another right that fed into to a speed-scrubbing mud bog followed by the start of the greasy forest climb.

My goal here was to take the corners at a higher-than-prudent speed (for a B rider) in order to enter the bog with enough momentum to carry me through it. I got the gap, but La Flamme stayed close at the base of the climb. La Flamme PVB’ed, but held on for a hard fought and well deserved podium spot. Interestingly, Chris’s gloves allowed me to monitor my gap. They were so bright that I could pick him out of a bunch of riders even when he was more than a minute back.

I’ve never beat Burbidge in a clean race. And after his convincing win on Saturday, I didn’t think that today was my day either. I was more concerned with getting passed than catching Greg. As I have stated before, I’d rather accept 2nd, than gamble first and end up 7th.

I kept the hammer down and looked over my shoulder on straight sections. I got mixed up with the juniors and had to make a bunch of sketchy passes. While I tried to be safe, the whole course was greasy and rutted. you could point the bike in the general direction that you wanted it to go, but you had to allow it to steer itself. Right after I passed Ryan Packard (seriously classy kid), I swerved wildly from one side of a sketchy descent to the other, chopping every possible line that Ryan could have taken to avoid me. Unflustered, Ryan braked and passed me while I bobbled and then allowed me to pass him after I was back under control.

I was surprised when I saw Burbidge up ahead. Seriously, I was about to take the lead in a VERGE RACE!





I passed on a climb, riding hard. Greg cheered me on, stand up guy that he is.

I rode alone the rest of the race, passing juniors, eventually overtaking the junior leader. I dialed my effort back to hard tempo, saving energy for a late attack if I was reeled in. I kept looking back, waiting for Cary, or Hustin, or Wissell, or La Flamme, or Burbidge to shut it down.

After the race, someone asked me what it was like riding the last lap of the race all alone, knowing that I was about to win a Verge B race. Well, it was like the first time you have sex. You are thinking “Oh. My. God. I am really going to have sex! This girl/boy is going to let me hump them! This is seriously going to happen! Wait, do I have condoms? Do I know what to do?” You get idea.

Turns out I knew what to do. I looked over my shoulder, zipped up my jersey and and pointed at the photographer while making a stupid face.




But the aftermath…that I don’t know what to do with. Some have strongly suggested that I upgrade.

Am I really elite race material? I don’t feel any different than the dude who blew his front row start at Gloucester a couple weeks ago, the dude who was never able to beat Cary, the dude who…Anyway, I have the points, but have not entered “mandatory upgrade” territory. Also, while I raced well today, I didn’t crush anyone. I am not even close to approaching the point where I am dominating the B race.

I’ll spend my rest week thinking about it, but I don’t feel like an elite rider yet.

13 comments:

James said...

Nice job!
Don't listen to anyone telling you to upgrade. You will know when to upgrade. In the meantime have some fun with your victory and win some more!

Matt Simpson said...

Veryy happy for you McKit. Well deserved over 2 days of racing. Bummed I missed the racing after reading your report - well raced it sounds like. Sit in, I agree with James, more racing ahead. See you Wednesday.

Colin R said...

Dude, there are only two explanations! (1) you are fast (2) you are a mudder.

Either way this is good. You'll knw which one it is after Noho.

Chris said...

Nice work RMM! It sounds like you put together a solid race with few, if any, mistakes, some smart moves, a good dose of balls. No need to upgrade either, unless you REALLY want to.

Cary said...

Phenomenal racing all weekend, my friend. Keep the momentum high!

Drew said...

Super Tight!!

SandBagNECX said...

Congrats RMM. You're having a breakthrough season. Now it's time to cash in those 21 upgrade points you've earned this season (and put the money where the mouth is).

On the bright side, it won't cost you anything since you can take the intermediate step and race with the fast old guys.

RMM said...

SandbagNECX:

I am glad that you are still active.

If you can successfully make the case that I am unfairly dominating the cat 3 race...I'll upgrade. A few decent results and a single win don't really make that case.

If I win another race this season, I'll man up and buy a UCI license. Otherwise, I'm still just another Gibroni who sometimes has good luck.

Sandy Baggins said...

RMMck, Chapeau on your recent podium and win from the REAL SandBagNECX. U are not a sandbagger, yet.

Cary said...

For the official guiness records, I just want to clarify the fact that you did not actually pass me, but were ahead of me from the very start. I missed the clip in off the line. Then I flatted my front tire on one of the thousands of hidden rocks in the woods. And not crushing the competition? Results say you were 43 eternal seconds ahead of 2nd place, 1:19 ahead of 3rd and 4th, and a ridiculous 1:39 ahead of me. Not sure BW has ever beat me by that much!

RMM said...

Cary:

A guy came and visited me on Friday evening. He had a cape and a pointy little beard. He told me that if I signed his scroll, I'd beat you. Not sure how he did it, but...

He didn't offer me a chance to beat Murphy though, as CHM signed the same scroll for bike handling skills.

If you contact me offline, I can send you this dude's contact info.

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