Monday, October 06, 2008

Alpenrose 10/5/08

The Crusade Begins

This past Sunday was the first Cyclocross race of the 2008 Cross Crusade Series at what has become the traditional kick-off venue of the Alpenrose Dairy, a favorite course for many. Making it extra special this year was the first real rain of the season. We had a good 3 days of on and off rain leading up to the race. Didn’t quite lead to any epic conditions, as the ground was so hard and dry, but it did soften it up a bit, and provided lots of slick sections, especially after nearly 1300 racers had a chance to tear up the course.

As normal, leading up to the race, I was nervous. I really had myself wishing I could feel eager and excited, instead it is more of a sense of nervousness and even a touch of dread. It really makes me wonder why I do this. I chatted briefly with Dean before his race and he echoed my sentiments, even wistfully wishing he could just retire from the sport. Hearing the same feeling from a guy who has been racing much longer than me helped to ease the pre-race stress, but only a little.

We were there plenty early to cheer on friends, and get in some warm-up laps, plus catch up with all those who we only see in the wet and muddy cross season. Being the fourth race of the year, I am starting to get my pre-race routine down again, but I am still feeling a bit unorganized and rusty. After checking out the course a couple times, it seemed like it would be a good one. For the most part it was rideable, but the slickness kept you on your toes. Pretty much the same course we’ve seen for the past few years, with a few small changes here and there, but nothing major.

After the warm-up laps, I got ready for my race and cheered on Margi a few times. I could tell she wasn’t happy with her race, she had that look of frustration, even though I thought she was doing great. In only her second year she was in the top third of the B’s with an injured shoulder. She’s gonna do great, and I think will be in the top 10 by the end of the season. As for me, my nervousness kept me from doing too much in way of a real pre-race warm-up. I did a loop on the road and a couple laps in the field, then went and hung around the start area. It is a funny dynamic. We all circle the start area ready to jump in and line-up, but no-one wants to be the first! It’s like the swifts at Chapman elementary, circling the chimney, waiting to see who will make the first move, then…Bammm! We’re all lined up.

I, unfortunately, was a bit slow, but still got a second row spot. We were lead to believe we would get called-up but Brad didn’t have a list so that was it. Not a problem. I was real indecisive about my start gear, and slyly kept checking everyone else’s choice. I settled on the 36-21. After waiting for what seemed to be an eternity, and then another two-minutes after the A Men started, we were off!

First, let me apologize to anyone line up behind me. The gear choice was fine, the ability to find a pedal…not so. I mashed on the pedals, got in a few turns trying to get my left foot clicked in. I got a little close to the wheel in front of me, then my left foot slipped off and I had to step down and push off right away, gapping me from the wheel in-front, and I am sure pissing off a person or two behind me, so sorry. When I was finally back on and moving I seemed to be in 20th place or so. Not so good. But I was pissed, which is good, so I just rode real hard. Pushed it more than I would through wet pavement turns and just killed it. I really don’t have any memory of the first 1/3 of a lap. I think someone crashed infront of me on the first muddy corner and was lucky to be the one of the last to sneak around it without slowing. From there I guess I moved up pretty well as by the time I got up to where all the team tents were lined-up along the road, I could see I was in 5th or 6th place (I heard some tell Trey he was 7th). Over the next third of a lap I managed to move up to 2nd. The only thing I remember from that is coming out of the infield at the track, I heard Trey Hendricks go down pretty hard after going wide onto the painted surface. Once things settled down it was me, John McCafferty and Tim Jones fighting for 2nd, 3rd and 4th, while trying to chase down Tim Butler. John and I went back and forth a few times, and, had I been thinking clearly, I should have suggested we work together to real in Butler, but in my blind competitiveness all I could do was try to get ahead of these guys and focus on catching Butler. We stayed close for a few laps, but it seemed like once we hit the riders at the back of the A race, things started to spread out. At the turns I was noticing that I was just as close to Butler as John was to me, and lap by lap that started to spread out even more. I think I kept up with Butler more than the chasers were keeping up with me, but it’s hard to tell. While I like to think I cut a little into Butler’s lead at one point, in the end he continued to pull away. With two laps to go I knew that without a crash or mechanical Butler had first locked up and I would be second. While some epic crash or mechanical allowing me to catch Butler for a sprint at the line would make for a good story, the last few laps were pretty uneventful and I took second. Not too bad.

Not a bad way to start the season, even though I hate getting beat by Tim Butler. Looking at, you would think I would be used to it by now. I guess that is why he is my nemesis. Tim Jones had a great race. I think this was his first race in the Master A field, after putting on a clinic in the singlespeed category last year. He’s gonna be a tough one this year. I do have to admit that I was a little bummed to see Benno, Bannik and Enderle racing Men A’s. They are all tough, and had they raced Masters yesterday I am not so sure I would have been 2nd, as they had great races. So I guess it is a bitter sweet thing.

Next week we’re racing in Wilsonville on the grounds of a former State Mental Hospital. This should be good. I’m gunnin’ for you Butler, and looking out for all the other fast guys that I managed to beat this weekend.

For some really awesome shots from yesterday's race check out if you haven't already. Great stuff there.