While my second cross race wasn't as good (from a results perspective) as the first one, it was still a great day and a ton of fun.
Pre-occupied the day before with my new Spot frame, I didn't anguish over pre-race preparation. After a morning filled with paperwork, I spent the rest of the day building up the new frame and playing with the belt drive. The cross bike really didn't need any attention. Hell, it's a single speed, short of some oil on the chain, she was ready to go for the race Sunday morning. Now, if I were a more serious cross racer, I would have had my spare wheelset set up with different tires, just in case. Well, not being "that" serious (and not owning a spare set of wheels), I thought the SB8's would be fine and I'd rail through the turns, just like I did at Roseryville. Rockburn, however, is a slightly different animal.
A very tight, punchy course with soft off-chamber turns and a couple muddy sections to deal with. The Small Blocks were not a good choice for this course and they hurt my ability to push through the turns and attack the hills. I found myself taking turns wide or losing control all together. One particular section was a sharp, muddy right turn followed by a short climb. This section killed me every lap. I'd come around the turn wide and would spin the rear wheel as I tried to grunt my way up the short hill. By the last lap I realized it was faster to simply run up the section than waste precious energy trying to ride it.
I am, however, getting ahead of myself. The morning started out great and the weather forecast looked incredible. Sunny with a high temp around 60. Barb and the kids didn't get motivated early enough and decided to meet me at the venue before my race at 10. Jonathan was going to race the Lil Belgium's race at 1 and was really looking forward to his first bike race. To think it was only a couple months ago when he required help riding his two wheeler. Now, he's entering his first race. Makes a daddy proud. So, I roll out solo, get lost when I got near the park and finally made it to the park by following a car loaded with cross bikes. In the small lot I see Seibold, Gwads and Carlo. Jonathan bums a tube off me and Carlo continues to have seatpost issues. I kit up and head down to the registration tent, wherever that may be. A serious lack of signage didn't help the rookie racers like myself. After crossing a maze of taped off lanes, Carlo and I finally make it to registration. Number in hand and waivers signed we head back up to grab the bikes for a little spin. I dumped a little tire pressure when I saw some of the muddy tires coming off the course. I also get a chance to walk around and see a few of the sections I'll be racing on in a little while. This course was very different from the Tacchino course. Less open running, tighter corners, off-chamber sweeping turns and a little mud thrown in for good measure. Boy, I wish I had those Conti Twisters hanging in my garage right about now. As a wise man once said, "run what ya brung", so, that was the motto for the day. I'd make the best of the situation and in the end it really doesn't matter, I was going to have a good time.
Cross is a little different from mountain bike races in that they line you up in the order you registered. The "early bird gets the worm" as it were. I registered late, 69th to be exact, so, that put me pretty far back at the starting line. I was gonna have to work damn hard to move up through this field, on this course. From the start we have a couple hundred yards of asphalt with a slight climb to weed out the field. I punched it hard on this section and cleared through a good portion of the early registers. The tires weren't going to do me any favors, so, I had to ride smart and not push them too hard in the turns. A small pile-up in the sand pit, I ran around the bodies and twisted metal to get clear of some more riders. Just prior to this I caught up to the In The Crosshairs guy and followed him around this twisty section, through the sand pit and into the wooded double track. On a slight left turn I go for the inside line and he promptly shuts me down with a nice elbow/shoulder lean towards a tree. I didn't realize this was NASCAR, but hey, I'm new at this stuff. Hindsight being 20/20 it was a smart move. If I had botched the pass, I would have taken us both down. It reminds me of my old BMX days where we'd scrap around the entire course, banging shoulders through every turn. Something you don't see at the MTB races, at least not the long ones I enjoy. No worries, I found a good hole a little later and continued to munch on new carrots when possible. I did make the video this week, watch for the prison stripes around the 2 minute mark and for a couple minutes after that. Video credits go to Bill @ cxhairs.com. Check out his site, lots of great pics, videos and interviews from the local Cross scene.
As I slide around a few of the turns I'd traded positions with a few guys and kept the tempo as high as possible. The short steep climbs were doable on the bike, but, slow and energy sapping. With this in mind, I'd run-up a few of them and usually made up a place or two in the process. Now, with one lap down I knew the course and how to ride it. Each lap was about pushing my comfort level and riding smart. By lap 3 the muddy corners were becoming downright nasty with more guys opting to attack off the bike. This strategy was working for me and I should have employed it in a few more places. The off-chamber corners were also becoming rutted and slick. You couldn't attack them at the same speed without losing traction or control. It was by this lap I was cursing the tires that could do no wrong just two weeks ago.
3 down with one to go, ride smart, keep up the intensity as much as possible. A couple guys catch me early in the lap and I have a couple carrots to munch on for the next 10 minutes. Not much action going on behind me. There is a small pack about 20 seconds back, but, I'm not letting up and pushing hard when I can. Some mud packs up my cleats and makes getting clipped in difficult. Frantic about losing time, I slam my feet into the pedals and get me feet set. The turns were getting lose now and the tape had been torn away in several turns. I'm sure other guys are having similar issues with traction. Coming through the barriers one last time and the big push towards the finish. The front wheel started to break free and I reel it in before completely washing out on a sweeping right turn. Only a few more turns left before the final sprint and the finish line. Nearing the tennis courts, I've caught my carrots and I'm on their wheels. The next couple turns are tight with little room to pass, but, I catch one on the steep climb and another on the final stretch of asphalt. We go down to the wire and I'm not sure who placed where. In the end it doesn't matter I guess. The race leaders were already done for the day and we were battling for the low 20's. I ended up with 21st out of 88. Not as good as the 18th I got a couple weeks ago, but, I learned a few more things and will employ them at my next race.