This weekend was the StarkVelo Kent State race. As everyone has stated, they put together a really nice course, lots of long stretches to test the fitness and some technical twisty bits with elevation to test the handling. Very nicely placed together.
I like to get to the venue early. It gives me a chance to scope out the course and test some stuff out. Usually I get about 2 hours before the race to change anything I need to. On the way down, it poured, but at the the University, it was dry but overcast. Certainly a tubular course, I got out the grifo's and took a lap.
Being a non-PRO, these tires are expensive... so I don't like to take them out on pavement unless necessary. That said... it forces me to race them without a lot of practice. This year, I've been practicing more on the Vittoria tubs, just to get that feeling, but it's not the same. On the first time around, I stacked it right at the building turn. Oh, how do these work again? The only other problem spots I had were the drop after the "pain climb", which required a quick 180 to climb back up, and then the off camber descent. The back tire just broke loose and would drift. I threw the Vitto's in the pits, and headed off for a second lap. Better, but after drifting the descent/off camber section, I rolled the rear tire.
I had a feeling I needed to reglue these tires, but I had hoped I could go longer before I had to do it. I guess not, and I should be grateful it was during warm up. It would have been a nasty run to the pits from there. So... swap out the Grifo's for the Vitto's and I'm back to rolling.
The sky opened up on the B race... seriously. Then the lightning... and they shortened the race to 3 laps in 29+ minutes. The rain stopped almost at the first sound of thunder, so I hit the course again to see the changes with water.
About 35 racers lined up, and I had a reasonable start, sitting somewhere in the top 20 I think. First lap mess caused a split between the guy in front of me, and the field, so I went after it. And that seemed to be the whole race. Once we got into the technical stuff, a couple of guys got aggressive to gain a place around me... which really ticks me off... and then they would loose it on the climb. I was literally pushing some guys over to get space on the climb. Nicely, not knocking them down mind you.
Into the descent/climb, and through the off camber. I think I've got that dialed. I just need to hold my position, and start making things up. Not to be though, I get by a few as their fitness shows, but for some reason, my handling is crap today. It's either to much tire pressure, or just a bad driving day on my part. My wheels seem to not want to turn, so I'm loosing time in the technical bits. I can make up some in the long straights but not enough. Without my technical advantage, I'm loosing places that I should NOT loose.
I end up reshuffling into about 20th, then the wheels start to come loose about lap 4. I loose space in the technical section, and a couple folks pass me on the hill, with a couple more close behind. We're gaining on 17th place, but it's grouping up... and I screw up the off camber section and go down. Two guys pass and open a gap while I try to get off the ground.
And that's pretty much the race. Sitting in 25th place, I can keep everyone at about the same place until I get into the technical bits because now my confidence is gone. Physically I feel fine, and I'm still pushing the pedals.... I'm just having trouble making the turns...
With 3 to go, I can see Paul and Matt about a half lap back, and I start to calculate if I'll get caught. With 2 to go, I'm pretty sure I'll get caught.... so now I go into the calculation mode. Push harder if you don't want this to be your last lap!
It's pretty clear that everyone else has figured out the course... and I'm actually getting better myself, just not quickly enough. I'm still loosing ground on 24th place... who actually moves ahead of the next guy up the road. Through the technical bits, Paul is gaining... so I go into my sprint mode. I'm am running from getting lapped.
Paul hits the descent, as I'm picking my way through the off camber section. I make it into the 180 before the start/finish, and I know he can catch me... but I also see that Matt is far enough back that Paul doesn't NEED to pass me.... so I just need to work!
Paul gives me the mercy lap. I'm the last one to finish on the lead lap.... He follows me along the course to the pit... where I can wave and say thanks before I continue on to the barriers.
Heading out that straight Paul came along me on the road and said.... "They told me not to lap that Spin rider cause he really wanted to do another lap." ...and I honestly did... which was evident by the way I was running from him at the end there.
It didn't matter at all, except that I got to stay out there for another 10 minutes. I couldn't catch the next guy on the road... and it's not like I did any of the sections any better, I just got in a little more work. I backed off the effort as I got to the technical bits and just rolled it in.
In hind site, I ran to much pressure. I did finally figure out some of the turns... but I really need to figure out how to practice that stuff in wet conditions. In road racing... you always run about the same gear. My tires are almost always at 100psi, I just drive the corners a little different in wet than dry. It's just wet pavement or dry pavement. There are so many more variables in cross.... grass, mud... whatever. What type of mud? How much pressure? And I don't ride this stuff enough to know what would really work, or how to adjust if I've chosen incorrectly. I'd really like to have a nice practice area closer to my house that I can try different equipment in different conditions. I need to buy a farm somewhere.
As far as the series goes, I'm thinking hard about the points system this year. The system is stacked in favour of a top 20 place. If you are in the 20-29 places, you get a flat 50 points. So fighting for a position here is strictly on a "bragging rights" basis. Outside of the top 30, you only get 5 points. It kind of indicates that if you are not in the top 30, you are in the wrong field... which I disagree with, since I like racing in a bigger field so that there are people to race against. You can drop 3 of 9 races, so that does negate some of this.. because 1 race does not hurt as much. But I can see some guys dropping down a category after the third race of the series... or earlier depending on their schedules, simply because of their overall point total.
I'm pretty happy to see 35-45 folks in the A race. and the 45-70 in the B's are also fantastic. I guess the only folks that should be moving down are those that end up 2 or more laps behind the leaders.... but if we held that as a real rule, then a lot of guys that raced in Vegas would not have even tried.... what fun would that be?
Next up Leroy. What's up with those start times? ... always a critic I guess.