Sunday, September 28, 2003

BA Cyclocross 1 - 2003

The 2003 Bike Authority Cyclocross Series

September 27th, 2003

After my first cross race the previous weekend, I figured I could do better with a bit more planning and experience. I originally hadn't planned on racing this race. With my kids soccer season in full swing, saddling Peg with all the game run around again didn't seem fair. However, the Jewish holiday came to my rescue and had the games canceled. Since the family was free, we decided they would come and watch the action. Being the race was at the park, I figured they'd have plenty to do, if they got bored. Besides, what could be more fun than watching your dad suffer.

The Course

We arrived at 11:00 for a 12:00 start time. As we pulled into the park, I realized that this course was not setup like the 'cross on the lake. A big part of me getting the family to come was an assumption that they could watch almost the whole race from one location. This course covered the grounds a lot differently.

The park was the local football, baseball recreation area as well as having the local pool and the community center. A creek ran through the center with a couple of sledding hills on the other side. Between the buildings and wooded areas, that park was divided into many different sections

The course started in front of the community center, went over the grass and through some trees around one baseball field and the football field, to a short section of sidewalk. Back along the other side of the football field, between the two baseball fields and over the first set of barriers. After the barriers was a short gravel section, then back onto pavement across a couple of parking lots. The parking lot exit was semi dirt/gravel section to the second set of barriers, a downhill set that lead to a bridge across the creek. Once over the bridge a left hand turn took us up the sledding hill, where we turned around, and headed back down.

At the top of the hill, we had a choice of the way down. We could just head down the grassy sledding hill, or use the gravel path that was used to climb the hill with sleds in winter. We then headed to the end of that field, to a short climb and descent back to creek level. We then climbed back to the bridge, which included a short steep run up, to get to back on. Back across the bridge to a gravel rise that took us back to start.finish level. We then went around the outside of 2 large fields with some really tight switch backs and one set of barriers. Once past the third switch back, we were dumped onto a small paved section again, and back to the start finish line.

With all the rain we got on Friday night/Saturday morning, the creek was really more like a river. Originally, the course was supposed to cross the creek, and head up some more sidewalk to the fields we went around. The excess water put in the 2 way bridge (which was a bit nervy) and the one section of gravel climb that I seemed to have trouble on.

The course was 1.5 miles long, and very, very wet. I took one practice lap and was totally drenched. The fields were saturated and water was pouring off my tires.

The Pre-Race

I got in a couple of laps in the pre ride and had pretty much decided that I would not have to shoulder the bike at all. Which was good, because my shoulder was a bit sore after the previous weekend. I had my plans laid out and was ready to go.

The race started with a parade lap where the organizer took us around to show us the course. It was nice to know why we had the two way bridge and what was allowed on the hill. Peg and the kids setup with Don around the sledding hill to watch the action.

Last time, I had Don hand me up a water bottle. This time I decided to carry a bottle, and try it that way. I had already taken the cage off the bike, and wished I hadn't. The cage would have been nice since I wasn't planning on shouldering the bike. Oh well, the bottle was in my back pocket, and I'd just fight with it when necessary. Don had an extra bottle for me, in case I lost the one I was carrying. Turns out I didn't need it, but it made me more comfortable knowing it was available.

The Race

We got back to the start/finish line and the last of the instructions were given. B race starts at 12:00, the C races starts 5 minutes later. I lined up with a guy I knew from the Saturday group rides and Tuesday night crits. It turns out a lot of guys I've seen on Tuesday nights are here. And we're off.

As we started, if you weren't in the front, you got a shower.... and I got even more drenched. We made it around the fields and over the first set of barriers with most of the pack intact. Through the parking lots and over the bridge. I pushed my bike to the top of the sledding hill and was back on immediately. I had to ride the turn at the top a bit wide around a guy running his bike. I had to tell him I was going down the grass side as I cut in front of him because he still wasn't back on his bike.

The field at the bottom of the hill was also drenched. There was one section that was practically a creek crossing. Every time I went through it, my bike was squirreling around. It's also the one place I got mud into my eyes under my glasses... on just about every lap.

The short uphill that followed required standing on the pedals and hitting that balance point to maintain rear wheel traction... I used the 27 on this every time.

Starting the C race 5 minutes back, pretty much guaranteed that there would be 2 way traffic on the bridge on the first lap. As I came up the run up, a race official called clear or rider, and directed us up. Once over the bridge, I had to climb the gravel hill.

The gravel hill was a big drag on me. For some reason I didn't have enough gears to smoothly get up it. Every lap became more of a grind up this section. If we do this in the next races, I'll be shouldering and running this section. I think it'll be faster.

By this point in the first lap, the field is already pretty strung out... and again, I think I'm pushing to hard. I'm following one guy, just trying to hang with him. I make it through the first lap or so with him when he starts to put some distance between us. On the second lap before at the top of the gravel hill, I see he's catching the next rider in front of us. As I come around on of the switchbacks, I hear them both go down... and then the cussing starts. The guy I was following somehow turned into the guy ahead of him. The guy I'm marking, jumps back into the race, I passed the other guy, and he's slow getting back in.

Once things spread out, they start calling our times as we pass the start finish line. I'm starting to wonder how long we've gone, and how much longer to go, when the guy calls "23 minutes". OK, I'm half way through. I shout this to Don and the kids as I go by. "31 minutes", ok, I'm working about 8 minutes a lap. Where am I? Who's behind me?

I got caught at the sidewalk by one guy. So I latch onto him, and try not to loose him. I've already faded off the first guy I was chasing, and haven't seen him for a while (well not in striking distance anyway). So this new guy starts to put distance between us. As we hit the sledding hill, he shoulders his bike, and I run right by him, pushing as I go. I again hit the downhill, and hope I've got enough to hold him off for a couple of laps. I'm hoping my transitions will be better than his.... maybe they would have been, but this course is more riding than transition. He passes me before the run up to the bridge, where I'm right behind him. Then he really puts distance on me in the gravel hill section, in which I ran the steepest part and then ground the pedals for the rest.

"38 minutes" Ok, two more laps.... don't let anyone else pass me. I've lost the guy right in front of me... Then at the sidewalk again, a guy POPS UP on me. I didn't even know he was behind me, and he's calling "On your left!" Woah. He flies by me, and I've got nothing to catch him. I've been watching my back at the turns, so I really have no idea how he jumped up on me. The guy I passed at the wreck is still a hundred yards back.

As I turn to hit the sledding hill again, I hear Vitor (my son) scream, and see him start running up the hill... he's racing me! He won, too! I tell him, he did it. Then tell Don, one more to go.

The kids are fun, they scream every time I go buy. One guy says I've brought a personal cheering section. I try to make a face or something as I go by... for entertainment value. I hear a few of them get some good laughs.

Last lap, I've got to make sure I don't loose anything else. I hammer as best as I can through everything. I don't see anyone at as I hit the top of the sledding hill, but my descending is my advantage here, so I keep pushing it. I make it through the gravel climb, though I'm still grinding through it. Then through the last set of barriers. I see one guy in front of me, but he's got about 100+ yards on me. I've probably got at least that on the guy behind me.


So... 7 laps in 56:01. Good enough for 11th out of 21 with 1 DNF. Plus I got points! They run these races as a series, with awards at the end of the season. results

Something is a bit funny about the results. There was no one right behind me as I crossed the line. They asked for my number (it was covered in mud), but I didn't know it. So one of the officials had to get close to read it. And no one passed in all that time, so I'm not sure the 12th place guy was really 5 seconds behind me.

The good news was I was less than 5 minutes off the leader. I'm pleased with those results for my second race.

Next race is October 18th. How can I get closer to the front?


Up the sledding hill

At the top, back on the bike.

Top of the second run up...

How many more times...

More to come...