Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Double the Pain, Double the Fun

ed. note: I wrote most of this a week ago and never got around to posting, so here it is, a little late...

My personal crusade to finally get a victory at a Cross Crusade Race continued this past Sunday at the Portland International Raceway. For those of you familiar with the locale, the race took place outside the race track at the site of the 2003 Cyclocross Nationals. I’ve raced here twice before and really liked the course.

The weather leading up to the weekend was good cross weather, nice and rainy. Race day itself was relatively dry, but being that PIR is located on what used to be a huge wetland associated with the Columbia River floodplain, it doesn’t take much rain to saturate the place, and it stays wet for awhile. The result was some sections of really thick peanut butter like mud, and lots of good slick off-camber riding.

Being the same day as the Single Speed Cyclocross Word Championships (SSXCWC) it was quite a bit rowdier than the normal ‘cross race, which is anything but normal.
For some really stupid reason I had signed up for the SSCXWC in addition to my normal race. This meant I would race two races back to back. Yeah, like I said stupid.

With all the excitement, we got there early and had plenty of time to hang out and take in the scene. One thing I couldn’t help but notice before the race was how many broken rear derailleurs I was seeing. My friend Ken Pace, celebrating his 40th birthday, broke his in the Master C race. It was all I could do to not think about it, and hope I wouldn’t suffer a similar fate.

Race 1:
After a seemingly long time, it was finally time to race. Once again I feel the need to apologize to anyone lined up behind me as I managed to screw up my start again. Lately I have been having problems finding my pedals, and yesterday I think I figured it out. A few weeks ago, in response to some back issues, I had a bike fit, and moved my seat forward significantly (about 4cm), the result is no more back pain, and maybe some more power, but with that I think I am missing my pedals. Now that I am more forward I keep overshooting my pedals, not just in the starts, but after many remounts as well. At least I figured it out, so now I just need to spend time practicing.

Anyway, back to racing. I muffed the start was around 15th, Mr. Butler was once again at the front driving the pace, and I was convinced he and a couple others were about to ride away off the front, leaving me stuck behind 10 or so other riders and out of the race. However, a half a lap later I surprisingly found myself in second place sitting on Butler’s wheel. As the laps went on Tim and I slowly pulled away from the rest of the field, while at the same time I was slipping further from Tim. Then with about 3-4 laps to go while riding through the thick peanut butter mud, my pedals came to a dead stop. I instantly knew what happened, my derailleur had snapped off! The most embarrassing part was my behavior right afterward. I cussed up a storm and even threw my bike. If anyone that saw my outburst reads this, I apologize for being a twit. You should have heckled the hell out of me for that, I deserved it.

Shortly after my outburst, I realized that no Master A’s had gone by, and I wasn’t too far from the pits, only a couple hundred yards. I could still salvage some series points if I hustled. I was about halfway there when Tre Hendricks and John McCaffrey passed, and as I entered the pits Erik Schultz passed. Now since I was planning on racing the SSCXWC after my race, my pit bike was set-up as a single speed. The gearing was enough to keep anyone else from catching me, but not enough for me to be able to make up any ground on Schultz, resulting in yet another 5th place finish. That’s my 3rd time finishing 5th this year.

Race 2:
After finishing the Master Race, I collected my dead soldier of a geared bike from the pit and went to line up on the Single Speed. At least I knew it working ok. For those of you unfamiliar with Single Speed racing, it is as much a spectacle, if not more, than actual racing. Single Speed racing likes to think of itself as the James Dean of the cycling world. A bit of a rebel that likes to make a parody of normal racing. To where taking it serious and actually competing is frowned upon by many. To that end, a soap sud machine and giant putt-putt like windmill were added as additional obstacles to the course.

While there would be a handful of guys off the front actually racing for first, the remaining 200 or so participants would be doing nothing but riding for fun, myself included. Even if I hadn't raced already, I wouldn't be able to keep up with the winners, so this was nothing more than a time to have fun. The start was pure pandemonium. We started lined up side by side, 200 wide. It felt like a scene from Braveheart, with a pack wild maniacs charging for the hole shot. It was just crazy, but a blast. Although after about 30 mins, it started to become a more torturous than not, at that point I had been going for an hour and a half, and I was a bit tired of barriers and run-ups. Luckily I got some beer hand-ups to ease the pain and help me finish the race, coming in around 26th.

While I didn't get the victory I have been searching for, and suffered yet another mechanical/mishap, I had a blast, although I think next year I might stick to spectating the SSCXWC. Then again, maybe not.