As race announcer Joel Brown said today "The New England Cross season is officially underway." Sucker Brook is simply the first real race of the year around here, and as good as it has been run in the past, they outdid them selves this year. New stairs and a bridge over the muddy dip, slightly longer laps due to more time spent riding the field, a better (ridable) path through the sand, stakes dressed with double tape and set into individual holes someone drilled into the asphalt, course crossing gates.... These guys invested some time into this event and it showed. Sucker Brook just joined Canton and the Verge races at the top of the schedule here in NE. Who drilled all those holes?! Incredible committment to improve this already great race!
Enough sucking up to the promoters...let's get to the racing and my first report of the year! I drove up early with Dr & Mr. Z for an early women's clinic to find the course similar to last year. The biggest difference for me was that they used much more of the field and set a straight shot through the sand. Also no barriers at 30 mph like last year. All good changes IMHO...
I lined up on the front row for the elite masters 35+ and had a great start, getting to the first turn 2nd or 3rd. There were some studs there and I felt pretty relaxed for a half lap hanging with the front group of 8 or so. I clipped a stake on the left hand 180 after the sand pit and lost contact with that group: I wasn't going to be able to stay with them for the full 45 minutes anyway. Those guys don't slow down... ever. I hovered around 9-10 going into lap 3, when the rear wheel goes soft right at the pit exit before the fields. I ran/rode to the other side and got a new wheel, then pulled back maybe 7-9 others to finish 21st. Not bad... the guy who told me I was going flat finished 12th, so in the end I really didn't loose that many places, but there were some guys ahead of me that are usually well back. (The winner of this race took 5th in the elite race later on.) But my day wasn't over...
Immediately afterward the master's race was the 3/4 and during the last lap of the elite master's I could see that those b@stards were already lined up three rows deep! I made my way down after crossing the line and settled in the back row. Another good but much more physical start: I passed a lot of guys and got to the first turns around 7th or so. The Huppers (MZ, SR, PVB, & JJ) were all right there and good friend KA was behind just a bit rocking the single speed. I was working just as hard as in the race before and my lap times were just a bit slower, but the front guys weren't riding away like they do in the master's race. It seemed like the group forming just ahead of me was composed of a different mix of the first 4-5 guys each time I looked up and they weren't going up the road very far. On lap 3 or 4 I noticed a Hup rider in the swamp and figured it was JJ right away. He had ridden the 4 race earlier and a series of mechanicals knocked him out of that race, so we had joked that he needed to find a way to finish a race. Well, there he was in the swamp surrounded by EMTs and getting strapped to a backboard. Great. I hoped that MZ and SR weren't thinking about their teammate too much because while they had gotten out ahead of me a bit earlier, I was bringing them back mid race. The next time around I was hoping to see 3 to go and when I saw it was 4 I took a bit of a mental hit. The legs were still turning but I was tiring from the day and they started to pull away. I was just a few seconds behind them and a few in front of Ziemba when I noticed my rear qr was unlocked. A quick stop to tie that down and wouldn't you know JZ and two others fly by. The Waterboy was coming up to, after winning the b master's earlier in the day. I ended up riding the rest of the race with JZ as the two others got away and stayed there and Waterboy seemed to drift back in the final two laps.
JZ & I worked together a bit... more to maintain our gap than make up ground I think. I tested him a bit on the s/f straight with a little sprint at two to go and he looked good. Crap. He flew by me easily in the woods on that lap but I brought him back and then passed him pretty easily in the sand pit when he bogged down a bit. I was thinking I shouldn't have shown him that speed just there, but he wasn't going anywhere so I knew we'd have a friendly but competetive battle on the last lap. At the bell I lead an easy pace up hill to see if he'd attack and when he didn't I felt relief because I was spent. I put in a little effort after turn one and he stayed with me. I kept the pace up through the field to keep him behind me before the stairs and over the barriers and then put in a defensive surge in the woods to prevent him from blowing by me like he had the lap before. One last sprint through the sand and he was still right there, getting through cleaner this time, but still just back maybe 4 bike lengths. Onto the pavement I gave it all I had and held him off for what turned out to be 10th. I congratulated him on a great battle and thanked him for a great race. Fantastic job Justin... Thanks again. SR & MZ ended up 6 & 7... excellent results. PVB was 4th, about what he should have done. He looked great. The first race was 8 laps and took 43 minutes which included a half of a lap running and time spent in the pit. The second race was also 8 laps and 43 minutes with the only mechanical a quick stop to set the quick release. That give you an idea of the difference in speed between the two.
Post ride I caught up with JJ who had been released from the board. He was fine but a bit woozy and sporting a nice shiner. That kid has a good disposition though and he'll be back. I pretty much spent the weekend with him, his friend Sara and the Zs... A great couple of days. Others spotted at SBC included Eyebob and his smokin' hot wife... I wish I had a few more minutes to talk to her! Wow... anyway... Waterboy as I said was riding well and RS rode a singlespeed for some reason. He must enjoy pain.
I'm so psyched the season has started and it was great to see you all.