Monday, November 03, 2008

Barton Park

The weather forecasters got it right for once and we were rewarded with a nice wet day of Cyclocross. It was the annual return to Barton Park, a misleading name as most of the race takes place at the County’s gravel quarry, next to the park. And as you’d expect, there was no shortage of rock. And while there was a good amount of mud, it was more if the gritty, eat your shift housing alive, kind of mud, as opposed to the stick to everything make your bike weigh a ton variety. Either way, it made for an enjoyable ride for some. Unfortunately it was really mean to some others. I think it was at the end of the B/SS race that somebody crashed real hard on an off-camber decent, requiring an ambulance trip, and a change in the course to keep the lawyers at bay. This took out the tricky off-camber and the long run-up afterwards, replacing it with a flat section and another big concrete barrier. The course was also mean to Margi, who crashed hard and wisely dropped out. She has a pretty nasty abdominal bruise. Hopefully she’ll heal quick, or is it quickly…no quick…no quickly….let's just say get well soon.

As for me, I am pleased to say that I didn’t have any mechanicals, flats, loose bolts, slipping breaks or any other of the myriad of maladies that seem to follow me like hippies on tour with the Dead (knock on wood). The course, similar to last year, was a pretty flat and fast course, and before the race I was predicting that the race would become a duel of group riding tactics. With several long flat stretches, any advantage someone could get in the technical parts, could be easily brought back by a couple of chasing riders. That being the case, I felt it was going to be important to be near the front to jump with an early break. Unfortunately I had a bad start, going from the front row to 15th or so. I frantically moved back up to the top 5. Got caught behind a little slip on a slippery slope, losing a little (see the 1’06” mark in the video below). This had me riding fast, fighting back to the front just as Tre made a break. Good timing for me, as I had the momentum to catch up to him quickly and we were able to separate from the pack, with Erik Schultz bridging up to us a half lap later. We opened a pretty sizable gap from the next group behind us, and it quickly became clear it was a battle for 1-2-3, something like a game of 5 card stud, it would be a matter of playing your cards right. To be honest I know less about this type of racing strategy than I do about poker, which is to say absolutely nothing. This is only my 5th year racing cross, and I have only raced MTBs for 4 years. I don’t do the road thing. For this reason, I just don’t get it. So now I find myself racing with 2 other guys and I am trying to figure out how I am going to not finish 3rd, while trying to remember my history of mechanicals on this course and realize I should be glad if I can keep it together and finish 3rd. For the next few laps, every once in awhile one of us would attack, and the others would respond, while alternately accusing the others of doing too much wheel sucking. Then with 3 laps to go, as we got mixed up with a rider from the A field, Tre attacked on a stretch where we couldn’t immediately get around the A rider. Once we got around him, I realized Tre’s lead didn’t seem to be growing too much, so I worked on closing the gap without putting in too much of an effort to kill myself. I guess Tre started losing air in his rear tire (that’s what you get for riding Tufos) and we were able to close the gap within a lap. Sometime later as we were all taking it a bit easy, another A rider caught us from behind, I jumped his wheel then attacked. Tre, with his bad tire couldn’t respond, and Erik and I opened a gap. Now it looked like I wasn’t gonna get 3rd! So, how not to finish 2nd…. Good question. I tried to go too early on the road by going around Erik as he sat on someone else’s wheel. He was able to respond, then went around me on a section I rode a little slower, giving him a small 20 foot gap with a half lap to go. I worked to close the gap, but just couldn’t get the job done and came across for 2nd. Yes, I have every reason to be psyched, unfortunately I am left with a good case of racers remorse, a “what if I had….” feeling, where I sit here and rerun the race in my head like an episode of Twin Peaks, trying to make some sense of it, to figure out what I should have done to pull out the win.

Like I said, I know next to nothing about strategy in these things, but I think it is safe to say, it is more of a fine art, than a science. Too bad I suck at art.

Here’s video from yesterday’s race, you can see me at the 1’05" and 1’36” mark.

Links to a couple photos and if you buy one I’ll autograph it for you :)
Over the barrier:

Into the finish