Tuesday, October 28, 2008

All Dressed-Up and Going Nowhere.

Another weekend or riding around in circles jumping on and off a bike is in the history books. However, this wasn’t your normal weekend of Cyclocross racing, not that such a thing exists. This was the annual Halloween Cyclocross weekend, and for the first time it was also a two-race weekend, guaranteeing lots of pain and mayhem.

While not quite the norm for the Oregon coast in October, or any other month of the year, the weather was sunny and warm, figures. The result was another round of back bruising bumps, and it was brutal. How does dry ground get so bumpy?

Saturday was the ‘non-costume’ race. I was finally feeling better health wise and my legs were real fresh from the rest I had gotten. The course, aside from some gopher holed fields, wasn't too bad and had some good elevation gain, including a brutal barrier at the bottom of a ridable hill, requiring an uphill remount. It was torture, followed by riding through a series of barns then an extended climb up another bumpy hill. Out of the start I was around 5th or so. Moved up a few on the first hill, then went right to the front on the second one and got a great line from the top to open a bit of a lead. I felt great and was ready to just kill it and try to take the race the rest of the way. No such luck. Coming around to the six pack I clipped my bike on the first barrier, but luckily grabbed the front wheel and carried it with me, unluckily the chain fell of. I quickly got it mostly back on as the lead group came through, only to have it come right back off. I got off again, fixed the chain for real and was now way behind the front. I dug as hard as I could and managed to move all the way back up to 3rd place with about 2 or 3 laps to go. By then my legs were telling me they had given me all they could and on top of it my chain wouldn’t stay on the big ring, it kept falling to outside, forcing me to stay in the small ring. Not something I like as I tend to just mash away in a big gear. Either way, the end result was two riders got past me and I came in 5th place. Not bad considering, but I am really sick of all the asterisks I keep putting after my results. I really need to get my crap together and have a solid race from start to finish. Prove to myself what I can do.

Unfortunately Sunday wasn’t the day for that either. It was, however, one heck of a circus atmosphere, with people dressed in all sorts of outfits and costumes. There are really some incredibly creative people out there. There are also some really uncreative people who just ride in their normal team kits. I don’t get it. It’s like going to a costume party in regular street clothes. Lame. OK, I can understand if you have a job and a family. That makes it pretty difficult to keep training, work and fulfill your family responsibilities, but can it really be that hard to go to Goodwill and buy a little skirt and some fairy wings? Wear an old torn-up kit from road crashes with some white face paint and fake blood? Yet I digress. For my costume, I went for a play on my category, Masters A 35+, and dressed as the hip-hop artist known as Mix Master A. This included a white hoodie, gold bling, a dumb hat crooked on my helmet and even taping my MP3 player and speakers to my handlebars and racing with some classic rap music blaring. I actually liked having the music, much better than the garbage they normally play on the PA system. I might just leave the sound system set-up for the rest of the season. On the other hand it probably inspires my competitors as much as me, and they can hear me coming. Maybe not the best idea.

As for the race, the course was altered for the day. A lot of it was run backwards with a stretch of road thrown in to lengthen the laps. But to continue the pain and torture, they put in a good hill right after the six pack. It was brutal, maybe even worse than the day before. I had a slightly better start than Saturday, and was third coming out of the start. I sat there for awhile and waited for my legs to come back to life. Meanwhile I quickly learned that the bill of the hat I was wearing was covering my right eye, taking away my depth perception, maybe I should have warmed-up with it on. Stupid costume, but atleast I wasn't lame unlike most of the other guys in the lead group. I had already ditched the sunglasses and was contemplating ditching the hat. Luckily I was able to rotate the bill a little more to the side. Problem solved, AND I was still stylin'. If only I could do something about wearing a sweatshirt on a warm sunny day. Man I was roasting. Where was the barmaid with a cold beverage?

As we were going through the barriers on the first lap I realized I forgot to downshift before dismounting, meaning I was in a gear that would be way too big to get going again on the uphill remount, so I just ran it up the hill. Eventhough I was heckled mercilessly, it actually paid off as I moved up to second, then took first place on the off-camber after that. By then I was beginning to wonder if my legs were going to come back to me. I was far from feeling as fresh as I had the day before. I decided my best bet to stay at the front was to control the pace as best I could. I had figured out where my strong and weak parts were, so I decided to try to keep the lead to control the pace to my advantage and make it a battle of attrition. Sometime in the 3rd lap maybe, a couple guys got by me, one was Tim Butler. On an off camber rough section I made a desperate attempt to move back to the lead. As I was passing Tim on the left, our lines quickly came together and one of us must have hit a bump resulting in us bumping into each other pretty good. I heard Tim curse and looked back to see him crash. I immediately stopped and got off my bike to see if he was ok. I saw him get up and remount the bike, assuming he was ok, I got back on and cruised along waiting for him to catch up, so I could apologize and hopefully we could work together to bridge back up to the rest of the leaders. Tim was justifiably pissed and only grunted when I apologized and asked if he was ok. In hindsight my move wasn’t the smartest in the world, and I felt real bad about screwing his race. I’m real used to screwing myself, but I really don’t think it’s cool to mess up someone else’s race.

Tim was obviously riding stronger than me and eventually got around me again, which I gladly let him do. I tried to stick on his wheel, but between being physically beat, and having lost some of my mental drive, I just couldn’t find it in me to really dig after him.

Tim was able to get by one more guy and in the end I was 5th once again and Tim took 3rd. Based on how I felt on the day, I am not sure I lost a whole lot on the incident, maybe one spot. On the other hand it may have cost Tim the win. Who knows. Luckily he and his bike are ok. He has since told me he was really ticked because he had a horrible start, got caught behind a crash and was at the end of the field to start the race. The fact that he made it back up to the lead group in three laps is a feat in itself. When we tangled and he went down right as he was about to take over the lead, it was more than he could tolerate and I don’t blame him. Lucky for me I know Tim, and he would never go for revenge. Right Tim?.......Tim?.......hello?

Next week, Barton Park. I’m not sure I have ever had a good race there. Last year I dropped my chain and it got wedged in my crank. The year before I had two flat tires. The year before that I ripped my derailleur out of my frame and ruined my back wheel. Hmmm….maybe I should take a week off. I’m suddenly feeling under the weather.

Speaking of weather, the current forecast is for rain to start on Friday, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Cool vid of the barns: