Monday, December 04, 2006

BA Cyclocross 6 - Boughton Farms 2006

December 3, 2006

It's the last race of the season, and tight races abound. 3 points separate first and second in the A series. 6 points separate third, fourth and fifth in the B race, and I'm 2 points behind Bill for third in the Master's race, and Brent is 6 points behind Rudy for first. With double points on the line, these series points races can go any way. Brent and I both need to beat our guy and have someone between us to win our places outright.

The weather went from mid 60's last weekend to low (really low) 30's this weekend. We didn't get the snow that hit the rest of the Midwest though. So, Saturday I did a training ride. I had a little trouble remembering how to dress for 30's, I also had trouble getting motivated to actually do some work.

Sunday, I was a little afraid of snow fall, but in the end it was about 30, partly cloudy and dry. Beautiful clouds as well. A nice day for a leasurly ride in the woods... I think I'm ready for the season to be over.

Arriving at the farm, it's basically the same course as last week, only backwards and they had removed the backyard/pavement sections. We've had a bit of rain during the week, so the course is a bit slicker in spots. I took a pre-ride during the B/C race on my pit bike with Ritchey Speedmax tires and it all felt pretty slickery. The one water crossing from last week was removed, but the mud section that cause the B crash was now the new water hazard, and there was a new slick mud section on the field crossing before it, and it was much longer and slicker than last weeks section was. So I pretty much decided I'd be racing on the Muds instead of the Tufos.

I tend to dress about 15 degrees warmer than I would for a training ride, so I had two base layers and a long sleeve jersey on top. I had tights on over knickers, and I was on the fence on taking them off for the race. I wore the jacket for warm up, but was sure that I'd drop that at the line.

I did some trainer warm up before the race this week. So one lap around, and then on the trainer near the van. It turns out to be a good decision, as Ernesto is warming up close by, and I'm able to get his thoughts on running Tufo's instead of Muds, he thinks the Muds will pick up too much gunk and be harder to turn. He's more used to running the Tufos than I am, so he's going to stick with them. He also gives up some details on lines he likes. Listen and learn. In the end I'm sticking with the Muds. I just don't trust the Tufos when it gets slick. I'll leave them in the pit for emergency uses.

At about 1:15, I take off for another pre lap with the race bike and the Muds. It turns out they're slipping around also, and I'm picking up a bunch of leaves and stuff in the back woods section.... its tough to push that junk through the fork. A bit more muck, and I decide that the Tufo's actually may be a better choice. Through the wet stuff, and I make a decision... I'm swapping wheels before the start. The start... hmm, they're lining up now!

So, I jump into the pit and swap my wheels. I'm the last to the line, and I still have my tights on... I've got a minute between the A and Master's start... They haven't left yet, I've got time. Off with the tights, it'll only hurt the first time through the puddle anyway. Crazy prep for racing. The good thing is my heart rate is sitting at 120 as we move to the line. Last minute decisions, let's see how they do.

I've got a teammate this week. There's the standard top 5, and Tom Keller is out for his first taste of the pain that is 'Cross. I give him the only strategy that can possible work. If I'm in front of Bill, do whatever he can to finish between us. It's a long shot, but Tom is strong on the road, and I've never seen him off road. My only other option for winning third in the series outright is for me to beat one of the top three guys. If I can get between Rudy and Brent, that would also let Brent win the overall. Not very likely, but since I'm thinking big, I'll go all out.

One minute after the A's, and we're off. Brent, Rudy, Jeff, me, Bill and Tom. It's pretty obvious from the start that Tom is not going to be helping me out much. He's not dropped outright, but there's a gap forming pretty quickly. Bill is sitting on my wheel as we go through the woods and around the field. We're keeping things close, but the front three are opening a gap pretty easily. I'm going to keep my lines kind of close since Bill is right there, I just follow the front three and play a bit cagey. I'm working it hard to stay in touch... I want it to hurt a bit. It does, but in a good way. I'm certainly not over my limit yet.

Through just about everything on the first lap, I might open a gap of a few feet, but Bill is right on keeping it close. Through the second barriers, and the slickest mud section. Around and through the puddle. I was glad I was in front through that. I didn't have to eat wheel spray.

At the end of that run, we head back across the field, and I start to contemplate the next turn around. It'll drive us back across into a pretty stiff head wind. I push the tailwind section hoping for a gap, but I don't get it. Around the 180, and we're into the headwind. I don't want to pull Bill through this, so I try to force him to take some wind... and he sticks to my wheel I try again... nothing, so I let off the gas a bit.

Perfect, Bill starts to come up next to me and says "You're making this hard." Aaaaahhhh! My replay... "That's the way it's supposed to be." and I attack! All I really wanted was for him to get off my wheel. He was, so I went. Perfect.

I had about 10 yards going through the start finish, then I drilled it to the first wood section, once out of the woods, I used every line I could and put everything into opening the gap. Around the field I'd opened a nice big gap. I then concentrated on opening it more, and maybe catching Jeff or Rudy. Rudy was looking rough over the barriers, and through the mud. So I was wondering what would happen. Off in the chase!

Finishing the second lap, Rudy is up ahead with Jeff in front of him. I'm pretty sure Bill is out of the picture. I keep checking on him, but I'm focused on bringing back the others. Third lap, and Rudy has recovered and past Jeff. Brett is the back end of the A race, and he's staying with Jeff. I'm gaining on them slowly. I'd like to be on their wheel through the headwind... but I'm about 20-30 meters back. On my own. I pretty much maintain the gap, but I'm no longer closing it up.

Three down, two to go. We're running a little under 10 minutes per. Still the gap is constant. I'm really happy with the Tufo choice, I'm floating some turns, and I'm getting used to the loose feel of these tires. I'm sure I'd be having trouble with the muds in some of this stuff. Then in the back woods, I must have taken a bad line, cause the front wheel packs up with crap. I stopped and cleared it out, basically let Brett and Jeff go. Bill was out of sight behind me, so I wasn't really worried about him catching me. It just sucked that I was letting third place go without a fight. Over the barriers, and I had packed the fork again. I cleared it out before remounting. Something has got to change now, or there may be trouble holding Bill off.

Through the slick mud, and I bobble again and loose some time. Then through the puddle, and I traverse it so poorly I have to hop off and run the bike half way through the water. OK, I must be getting tired, but I shouldn't panic. Bill has made up lots of ground on me, but I can hold this position if I can just execute clean for one more lap. One more lap and I can call this season done with a solid race effort. Finish strong.

Shifting is getting pretty bad. The chain is skipping over the cassette pretty often, I'll have to look into that. It seems that shifts are getting sluggish also... it must be getting time to recable. 'Cross is tough on equipment. Last lap, and the bike is not shifting at all. So, 42/25 is what I've got. I keep trying to shift, the bike just doesn't listen.

Into the head wind, and I can still see Brett. Jeff has left him behind. So let's see if I can execute and catch Brett. Through everything, I concentrate on my lines. Don't worry about where people are, just work on being technically clean. In the back woods section, I adjust my lines a bit to stay away from the leaves... that worked much better. Float through the mud, and get through the puddle cleanly... well, OK, i get through the puddle with a only minor bobbles. Jeff is a length of the field in front of me, so I won't get him. Bill is more than a length behind though, so I'm through for fourth and tied for third overall.

After I crossed the line the line I figure I'm about 2.5-3 minutes in front of Bill. A nice finish and a nice season in the books. I then tried to clean the mud off the bike, but it's frozen to the frame. Must have been enough ground heat to keep it liquid but once on the bike, the air temp froze it solid. No wonder the bike wasn't shifting. I rode it back to the van and then went and got the pit bike. By the time I went to load the race bike up, the chain wouldn't turn through the rear derailleur because of the ice. Pretty wild conditions. Of course storing the bike in the van, with the heat on, all the mud fell off before I got it home. Well, I already promised I'd clean the van at the end of the season.

I must say this season has been a blast. We've had small fields in the Master's races, but it has been competitive, at least between the first 5 of us. It would be nice if the fields were bigger, then it we might be able to get into three or more way races. But for a first run this season, it was a reasonable field. Next year people will know better what to expect, and I hope it gets the old guys training to be competitive with us.

Special thanks to Team Lake Effect for doing tons of work setting up and tearing down the courses week after week. I've been really pleased with every one. They've all been challenging and yet open enough and with enough transitions to be true cyclocross races.

Overall I'm content with how everything ended up. I still don't feel like I'm running at 100%, but I have been improving over the last couple of weeks. I'm thinking it's time to take some rest, and lots of turkey, then pick it back up after the holidays to prepare for next year. It's probably time for me to think about next years goals, and maybe pull the trigger on a coach.