Monday, December 7, 2009

Capitol Classic

The MAC series championship held at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, VA.had all the elements for a great cross race.  Frozen temperatures, snow, ice and mud were served in copious amounts this past Sunday and I couldn't have asked for better conditions.  Cross, in my mind, is about racing in adverse conditions. While not a huge fan of the mud, I can appreciate the skills required to race in such conditions. Throw in some off-camber turns in the snow and ice and the game changes a little.  It's less about the big engines and more about technical skills and handling.  Sure, you need something under the hood to power your way through the muck, but, a metric ton of wattage won't do shit if you can't stay on the course.

The day started an hour earlier than expected when David called and said he was going to race Cat4 at 9.  The previous days snow made traveling questionable and we got rolling early, just in case.  An uneventful trip got us to the venue early with lots of time to freeze are asses off and survey the landscape.  People were sliding all over the place and we saw several hit the deck hard.  We were still in the parking lot.  This was going to be an interesting day.

David registered that morning, so, he started pretty much at the back of the pack.  I kept waiting for him to ride by when his race started and the poor guy had a lot of traffic to fight through.  He kept pushing the entire time and I could see his progress with each lap.  In the end he finished 37th on the day in his first cross race. Not to shabby considering were he had to start from.  By the time he finished I had gone into pre-race mode and was getting ready for the Masters B race at 10.

Several hundred sets of tires were cutting through the snow and previously firm sections were quickly getting rutted and muddy.  Carlo and I took a casual lap over some of the course and it was quite different from the lap I rode earlier.  We rolled back to the start and line up on a solid piece of ice that once passed for a road.  Fortunately this was just staging and the organizers moved us to firmer ground for the start.  As usual, I hit it as hard as possible from the start and tried to gain positions before the grass, er snow, actually.  Oddly, I found myself moving through the pack quickly and I was in pretty good position for the first time.  Now, I just had to ride smart and maintain for 4 laps.  The first lap was by far the most enjoyable. The course was still somewhat firm in places and my legs felt pretty good.  There was one particular section that I really enjoyed. This was an off-camber, snow covered descent through an s-turn and around a couple trees.  There were a couple roots leading into this section and it was all about cornering and bike skills. It opened up briefly before a sweeping right muddy turn. Pure pleasure if you chose the right line, not so much if you didn't.  I nailed the turn on the first two laps and carried the speed into the next section.  Lap 3 was ugly and I took out a section of tape. I survived lap 4, but, it wasn't pretty.  I am, however, getting ahead of myself.

That put us down at the stream level and some sections of open running.  The turns were a little greasy, but, the ground was flat and you could really get the cranks spinning through here.  The there was a short steep run-up followed by several twisty off-camber turns....that were muddy.  The run would pack my cleats and more than once I had trouble clipping in.  Not really a problem as I'd have to throw an outrigger for the next turn that came up fast.  Through these trees it leveled out again, but now we had to contend with an icy sweeping turn on the road.  Lots of guys were going into this one with one leg out for balance.  Past this we were back at the start with three laps to go.

One particular section that bothered me was the long, twisty section in front of the pit area.  By the third lap this section was deeply rutted, peanut butter mud that sapped my energy. Running a 42x19 made it hard to get on top of the gear and several times I'd have to run most of this 100 yard section.  Mental note: my running on it.  Riding this section would have been better, if I could.  However, if I blew a corner all momentum was gone and it was time to run.  Did I mention running sucks and I'm not very good at it?

Through the peanut butter one last time, over the bridge and to the run-up.  I'm with a couple guys that all seem to have fresher legs than me. They sprint up the hill like a couple gazelles being chased by a hungry lion.  My only hope is to ride smart and minimize mistakes.  They caught me on the run-up, but, I got one on the descent and the other on the muddy turn.  The fast open section is coming up and should be interesting.  The gaps don't change much and we go into the last run-up with me in front. They both take the hill faster and I lose my position.  On the chase, I get a little power to the legs, but, it's not enough to close the gap.  I end up in 12th place in the Masters 2/3/4 category.  My best finish to date in this new found obsession called Cyclocross.

Additional photos by DKEG


pabiker said...

nice pictures

Bill said...

Nice racing, Sunday. You did good in the slop. I was too far behind to get in your way this week!

Todd said...

Thanks guys.

Bill, I was bummed I didn't make the video this time. I felt like a movie star after Rockburn. Hopefully I'll see you out at the Cross My Heart. BTW, you have a great site. I really enjoy the videos and interviews. Good stuff.