The Canton Cup. Part of the VERGE series? Nope. How 'bout USGP? Naw. As big as Gloucester? Not by a long shot. Steeped in history like Putney? Not even close.
Canton isn't alot of things, but the one thing it may be is the best cross race in New England.
Excellent parcours, well organized, timely results, attentive organizer, good food, great tee shirts, and it all takes place in a central location at the peak of the foliage on a lakeside venue with clean rest rooms and hot showers.
What could make Canton better? Only two things I can think of, both of which are possible: it needs a long sand pit and they should hold a 2 lap race during the break before the elites go off with haloween costumes required. Here's my race recap.
I got there at 10, thinking if my noon time race was actually at 11 I could still pull it off. It was at 1 pm. I got to watch a few good races before mine though, and had plenty of time to warm and check the course: lots of asphalt, lots of mowed fields, three sets of barriers, and sweet run up and lots of wind. This was the first race of the season where "the crew" was all racing together... I'm usually in the master's field and on most weekends at least one person is missing.
Here's the line up, and PVB & RS appear to have gotten the shaft, three rows back. MZ, JJ, KA & I are all on row 1 or 1.5. KA clearly had the best slot, dead front center. The whistle and clipping in doesn't happen for me until 10 pedal strokes or so. Somehow I'm top 10 despite that. No doubt KA is top 2 or 3, but I can't see him. Off the pvmt and into the woods and I make up a few spots. The pace is fast, but not killer, and by the first barriers I'm 4th. Auwerbach is off the front a bit as we settle in to chase on the asphalt path. I'm second at the track and feeling relaxed and fresh. The leader is stretching his advantage and I'm cool with that, things are coming relatively easily. I see the crew back just a few seconds, sitting around 10th place. Each lap I get maybe a second on them... not much. One spill and it's grouppo compacto.
So after two laps this bike barn rider who won both B races at Gloucester comes through at the pit barriers and I've got a clump of mud keeping my cleat from making sweet music with my pedal. A Cambridge Bike rider and single speeder TP from IBC ride by as well. A NAV rider is there but stays behind me. By the fields I'm back on terms, and the four of us ride off in persuit of Auwerbach and Bike Barn guy. We share the load for a lap, but at two to go the Cambridge rider drops a chain on the first barrers. TP takes us to the path with some strong pace setting, and we reward that with a bit of rest through a fast stretch that just has to be killer with one gear. The NAV rider is hopping the short barriers easily but i'm runnin'... not going to try that now, with a potential podium spot on the line. He's getting an advantage in that section though, so I keep that in mind. He also seems super strong in the power sections, but seems to over cook it in the grassy turns and is a bit brake happy on the descent before the run up. I log it all.
The pace on the track at two to go is just a bit to much for TP and his single speed, he's two or three seconds behind and getting no advantage of a draft. He and the Cambridge rider settle together as I do with the NAV fellow. Up ahead, Bike Barn has caught Auwerbach and is riding away from him with ease. I see MZ and occasioanlly spot JJ, but KA is gone. At the bell NAV and I discuss things, and agree to keep our placing. I lead through the field, he takes the path, back to me behind the horses and up the run up, and he takes the track.
Flashback to 2006. I was in a chase group of four fighting for 2nd place. On the final lap I put in a massive effort coming off the track that created enough of a gap to hold on to that placing even though there was still 700 meters of racing to go. A well timed and executed move ATMO. So here we are in 2007, fresh off the track and a bit of rest and I make the same move. Old dog, same trick. I sense the gap, but the NAV rider hangs strong. Perhaps had there been others around for him to worry about he would have given up 3rd to take his best shot at 4th. This wasn't the case, and over the barriers he was three bikes back. Up the hill and with a glance I see he isn't going to make the catch. I look up to finish the sprint and he sails by and pips me at the line by a half a bike. A great effort. We talk during a cool down and he is a really nice kid. His lady friend is jacked that he got 3rd, and I'm honestly happy for him as well.
JJ took 9th... he's really riding well. Zank was 8th and just behind CM, which had him excited until afterwards CM confessed that he "sucked" at cross. KA suffered a puncture, ran the Canton 5k and pulled out after realizing he didn't come to the event to run the 3 miles course. RS and PVB were lower in the placings, not sure what was up with those guys. Halloween parties perhaps?
Side note: The zank is finally dialed. No more slipping post, and the new bars are glorious. The cables have all stretched and it purrs like a kitten. This bike is everything I've thought a race rig could be and a whole lot more. It carves the turns, pops the sprints, slurps up the bumps, and completely dissappears beneath me in the process. I want another one. Maybe two or three. Would four more be unreasonable?