Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Heaven and Hell
AKA, The Iron Cross VI. That pretty much summed up Liz's description of the race and I can't say I'd disagree. You were either grinning ear to ear or cursing the sadistic bastard who designed the course.
This was my second year racing the IC and my first doing it on a SS. Like last year the race started off on a traditional CX course and the dizzying "vortex of death". A spiral near the center of the course with opposing traffic on either side. AC/DC blaring over the PA system, this has to be one of the coolest ways to start a race. Somehow the vortex didn't implode and all the riders were spit out to the roads and trails throughout Michaux State Forest in PA.
The cool Autumn air and perfect weather made for an exceptional day of racing. DKEG and I had talked the race up to a number of people we knew and quite a few actually showed up. It was awesome seeing a few more familiar faces this year. I had the pleasure of spending a bit of time with Aaron (HO) and Stephen throughout the race. Always a good thing when you can ride with some buddies.
Liz and Becky both raced in the SS division, which was not separated by sex. Liz's commuter was still sporting a fender and was switched from fixed to free early that morning. Baler was rolling fixed, JoeP on his Cross Check. DKEG, Aaron, Stephen and Camp (can you believe it!) decided multiple gears were the order for the day. This decision would come back to haunt David as numerous problems with shifting resulted in his early departure from the race. Through an interesting turn of events I'm the proud owner of a Specialized SingleCross and decided to race it instead of the new La Cruz. I'm not sure I made the right decision, but, it's a damn fine bike and was fun to race.
The great thing about the IC is the variety. You hit a little bit of everything during the race. CX course, roads, gravel, double track, single track and "run-ups" that require a climbing harness and ice axes. Well, that may be a bit much, but, the run-ups really are VERY steep and VERY long and a single mistake can result in serious injury. Just ask the MBM rider who broke her leg training for the IC. For me the best part is the single track. Popping through the woods on skinny tires, banging down loose rocky descents while in the drops is just silly fun. Sure, the roadies would crush me with their long trains on asphalt, but, I was grinning like a fool as I passed them on Lippencote while they shouldered their bikes over the smallest obstacle. Paybacks are hell.
Speaking of hell, the hills just demoralized you. Last year, when I had gears, they sucked and they weren't any better on Sunday. Still, you gotta pay to play and that was the toll exacted on the participants. Once you got over a major climb you were rewarded with a screaming downhill, sometimes on loose gravel roads. More than once I came into a turn and saw many skid marks that went off into the trees. More than once I was damn close to being one of those guys. Thankfully my brakes worked well and they kept me upright and on course for the entire race.
After the last "run-up" I knew we didn't have much left and most of it would be on the road. Pushing through some minor cramps I put my head down and turned the cranks as best I could. I caught up to two single speeders I had been playing leapfrog with throughout the day and was able to pass on a long road descent. I thought my gain would be short lived as both guys were very strong riders and much better at the road portions than myself. With a small gap on them I hooked up with a geared rider and we worked together on the final stretch. I kept looking back expecting to be overtaken at any moment, however, I didn't see the other riders for the rest of the race. As a matter of fact, after I crossed the line I kept an eye out and didn't see either rider cross the line at all. I'm still quite confused about that aspect of the race. Post race daze....maybe. Anyway, I ended the day in 9th place for SS class with a time of 4:54. A cold beer and warm burrito topped off a perfect, painful day of racing.