Sunday, October 2, 2011

Need More Cowbell

Don't fear the off-camber sweeper!
Cross The Domes

On Saturday I did my first-ever cyclocross race, Cross the Domes, at Mitchell Park in Milwaukee.  I got there early to warm up and to get familiar with the course.  Pre-riding provided me with valuable intelligence: watch out for the off-camber turns, take the run-up two steps at a time, don’t try to ride the sand pit, drop people on the biggest hill.  Unfortunately I didn’t position myself well at the starting line, so I spent much of Lap 1 getting around slower traffic.  Passing people is motivating, though, and I began to believe that I could have modest success.  Near the end of the first lap I saw Patrick Brock cheering for me from the sidelines.  At that moment I had just one word for him, “Hurts.”  And it didn’t stop hurting: I was fighting for breath almost the entire race.  But I kept moving up through the field, and I owned my pain.  If the race was hurting me, then it was positively killing a lot of the other guys.  I thought back to the Reforestation Ramble mountain bike race, when I trusted in my fitness to sustain me at an uncomfortable level of exertion for almost an hour.  Surely I could suffer for a mere 30 minutes on Saturday!

At the end I was 9th out of 18 in Masters 45+ Cat 4 and that was the result I deserved.  It was the product of a willingness to suffer, a reasonable amount of bike handling skill (the rear tire broke loose a few times, but I never went down), better-than-average performance going uphill and, on the negative side, a couple of slow transitions and a poor starting position.  My group raced at the same time as Masters 35+ Cat 4 and Masters 55+ Cat 4.  I picked off a lot of those guys along the way and I wish I knew my overall place within the combined field.  It was a very respectable first effort.

River Hill Park CX

I went into today’s race with considerably more confidence than I had at the start of yesterday’s.  I even had the race numbers of Saturday’s top five written on a piece of masking tape on my stem, as I was determined to start near them and to hang with them during the race.  Then Jeff Wren said, “You’re not going to like this course.”  I took off for a practice lap and immediately saw what he meant: lots of elevation change, lots of tricky off-camber stuff.  There also were two obstacles that clearly I wasn’t going to ride: a steep hill into which I would take little momentum, and a big sand pile—not a sand pit.  I had a marginally better start than yesterday’s but it wasn’t long before the top contenders—including Michael Meteyer, yesterday’s winner—were comfortably ahead.  I spent the first two laps moving up through the field, hot on the heels of Mr. Wren and his teammate John Senkerik.  As the third lap began, we were a somewhat isolated trio.  I was content to follow wheels until Jeff came to grief on the sand pile.  Early in the fourth and final lap, John crashed into the front barrier while I got away cleanly and Jeff moved up one spot.  The remainder of the lap was anticlimactic as the three of us preserved our positions all the way to the finish line: I took 8th in the 19-man Masters 45+ Cat 4 field, while Jeff and John finished 9th and 10th, respectively.  Meteyer won again.  Chris Tamborino of Hubertus took 2nd, so we had three Washington County residents in the top nine.

After the first two races of the WCA Crank Daddy’s Cyclocross Series, I’m in 7th place on points in my category and I’m feeling pretty good about things.  Grafton PumpkinCross is up next.  In the week ahead I need to keep training with intensity and continue to work on cyclocross-specific skills.

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