Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Late Homework, season end wrapup, Part I

Whew! Its been a crazy couple of weeks. I’ve got a pretty substantial back log of race reports to write. I’m going to attempt to survey my final three weeks of Cyclocross racing, Season 1. If it is too long, I’m sorry. Maybe I’ll just ‘twitter’ the next on.

I didn’t include a race report from the USGP at Mercer for a couple of reasons. For one, by the time I recovered from the physical and mental shock that that race unleashed, a number of people had already adequately summed up the experience. My experience was in no way unique. It was muddy, I ran a lot, and I hated myself for the full three laps that I raced on Sunday. I had sacrificed the Saturday race in order to study, and one look at the C race in progress on the following day made me wish I had bagged the whole weekend. Secondly, nothing very interesting happened to me, aside from getting the chance to finally see how masochistic and illogical cyclocross racing can be. Sunday was not only a great chance for me to participate in an “EPIC” cross race, but also hone my snark with team mate Eben as we prepared. My only regret from Mercer was that they didn’t run the course into the lake to make the damn thing into a triathlon. One other highlight was when Eben and I were passed on the highway by a Lamborghini and Porshe turbo-something. They were traveling at nearly double our velocity and squeezing through smaller holes than one of those sketchy racers in Central Park that nobody knows exactly how he got a cat2 upgrade all those years ago. Supper “aggro.”

Anyhow, I took my exam on Monday. Nobody has instructed me to clean out my locker and turn in my ID badge, so I guess I succeeded in passing. On with the show…

Whitmore’s Landscaping Supercross of Southampton (or something like that):

I had intended to title this post, “A Touch of Gold” as we were racing in none other than New York City’s own classy country cousin—The Hamptons.

This location had always filled my head with wonderous visions of solid gold plumbing, foreign luxury automobiles and those fancy striped beach tent things that you see in old grainy photos from the 1920’s of wealthy Manhattanites summering at the shore in black wool bathing coveralls. I was excited to see if the Great Gatsby was still out there somewhere (I know, it wasn't the Hamptons, but I apply my Literal references liberally, OK?). I know sub-freezing temperatures are not the ideal way to experience a glamorous beach destination, but heck, I’d only ever been to Long Island once, and that was for a college lacrosse game at Pace. I tagged along with a rag tag group of young up and comers to our weekend rental home in Easthampton. It came equipped with a garage, knock-off Viking stove, huge chandelier and authentic faux gold-plated silverware in the kitchen drawers. The non-racing activities of the weekend generally included one comical folly/ near disaster after another. I will just say this to the young people out there—fire safety is important. To protect others' identities from potential future embarrassment/litigation I will only say that our group included 2 members of a local team famous for their orange jumpsuits and gas-station-like team branding, a well known promoter of NYC cross racing and bacon chic, a fur-toting DJ and a very fast female racer once profiled on this site. Oh, and I won’t say who, but one of us (not me) knowingly loaded up the car with a PARTIALLY assembled bike to race on.

As for the racing, it was cold and windy. The course was very cool. Both Saturday and Sunday’s races utilized the variety of terrain available to the site. There was pavement, grass power sections, very steep off-cambers, punchy climbs and sandy single track. One of the nicer parts of the course was that it was rather spectator friendly for the few brave souls who ventured out in to the cold (or were forced by guilt-tripping friends/family/spouses). Sunday ran a “traditional” course for the site, from what I was told, where Saturday had us racing the course in reverse. It didn’t make a lick of difference to me, as I had never seen the original, so I just tried to make the most of my warm up laps, which were hastily done to avoid getting too cold. The race organizers were kind enough to provide a “warming room” for us in the large rec center in the center of the course.

The first day went well for me. I got off to a strong start. I decided to hold back and sit in the top five instead of my usual impatient surge to the holeshot. I rode with the leaders who included Brian Lawney, Rob Collins and Andrew Crooks. I was happy to pace myself off of those guys until I made my usual brainless bobble on the first lap and crashed in a 180 degree turn. Brian rode right into my back and also went down. We got back together, though I was a little shaky. The other three guys have been riding consistently fast this season, and I knew Brian would power away if given the chance. Unfortunately, I felt the normal bad lap coming on number two. I noticed Andrew was also having difficulty. As I followed his wheel, Rob and Brian began to gap us. At some point, Andrew yelled to me that he was having mechanical problems and that I had to go for it. I tried to pass him, but even when I did it was too late for me. I was already in no man’s land. I don’t yet have the mental or physical conditioning to fight back a lead group when I’m suffering in a cross race, its enough to try and keep from crashing. I’ve noticed recently that when riding at the front, the fast guys are really fast, and once I’m dropped, its about damage control. That was pretty much my race, right there. I rode alone for a while until I was caught by another rider. I let him around and hung on his wheel for the last two or three laps. As I geared up to unleash a mighty sprint as we turned onto the pavement, my companion just sat up. Whitmore’s day 1, first MAC podium, I’ll take it. As I had expected, Brian Lawney powered away for a convincing win.

Day two was a similar race. The competition was a little more stacked, though and a few fast guys showed up who weren’t there on day one. Among them was Will Duggan, a rider on the Richard Sachs team who’s had a heck of a season in the UCI races. Apparently he needed to race with us under the banner of UVM in order to qualify for Collegiate Nationals. In any case, he was not going to be easy to follow. Again, I went out with the fast group. As usual, I was gapped at some point on the second or third lap and went into my miserable existence-questioning spiral and began getting passed while trying to hold on. Eventually, like one always does, I put myself back together. It was not before dropping well out of a podium position, however. Eventually I engaged in a private dog fight with another rider for 6th or 7th place. Over the loud speaker, I heard that Will Duggan had mechanical’d. As we rode up the steepest climb, I saw a broken chain in the grass—bam. Moments later, Duggan was on the side of the trail in the woods passing on words of encouragement to me and sparring partner. For the last three laps of the race, I began to notice something. I had a lot of unfamiliar faces cheering my name. I shrugged it off, though it intrigued me the whole race. This rider was definitely faster than me through the technical stuff. I gauged his speed for a couple of laps. For a while, he pulled away and had some decent ground between us. However, as we closed in on the last lap, I fought hard to regain his wheel. As we neared the killer climb for the seventh and final time I though about passing him. Instead, I just stuck his wheel. I took as many risks as I had to maintain contact through the single track in the woods. I felt surprisingly fresh and knew that the finishing stretch, with two long pavement sections separated by a 90 degree turn on grass about 75-100 meters from the line, would be my friend. I was exactly where I needed to be when we hit the pavement. It had been a good couple of months since I got a chance to really sprint, and I couldn't help but let a little grin sneak onto my face. With the 6th placed rider right in my sights, he began playing games. He slowed down, brought us to the barriers and then put on a little surge just to test me. I waited. With about 200 meters to go, I downshifted and stomped it. I came around and took the front and sat back down, still mashing. The little gap was all I needed as we turned onto the grass. Once back on the pavement I dropped another cog and put in my second burst. I had my tiny win for sixth and it felt great.

It turns out that my duel for the minor placing was with Colin Reuter, the architect of the amazing Crossresults.com website. So, he was just as confused as I was at the number of people cheering for “Colin” during the ride. He has a great write up of his race on his blog. He has also gained some notoriety for strapping a camera to his bike during races, he’s also a nice guy with a great sense of humor. In his report, he mentions that he hadn’t lost a sprint in a while. I don't like to end streaks, but I like knowing that I was able to finish strong against a fast finisher. However, I was pretty hungry to let one finally unwind like that.

Whitmore's Cross Cup Handlebar Cam Day 2 Part 2 from colin reuter on Vimeo.

In the above video, I appear about 6:05 in. Thanks again to Colin R.

We stayed to watch the elite race where Ryan Trebon impressed all who witnessed his ride from back of the pack with a flat to the podium. Read about it, or find a video if you can, those guys can really move.

Before heading home, I stayed with the gang to help collect "step ins" for the Staten Island race course.

Stay tuned for Thanksgiving, PA state championships and SICX...

1 comment:

Colin R said...

I learned a valuable lesson about trying to be cute with a sprint there. If only I wasn't so afraid of pain, I would have attacked in the woods earlier on the lap.

I think what I'm trying to say is, nice ride. See you next year... in the UCI race?