Saturday morning we were off to the venue for the races. It was grey and rainy and a quick recon showed that the mud is thick and sticky when you are trying to pedal but slippery when you turn. Riding through the mud was pointless, it stopped you in your tracks. So you tried to follow the deep ruts to reduce the rolling resistance but those were twisted and crooked, so as your tires hit the walls of the ruts they jerk your bars to the right and left, challenging you to hold your line. Meanwhile, your rear end was trying to hook up but the slick surface causes the wheel back there to break free. If a jerk at the bars and a spin at the rear wheel happened together, you were going down. There were two smaller bogs, soupy mud pits that guaranteed you were going home dirty even if you keep your bike up for the entire race.
Shino entered the C race flying the Quad Cycles colors of Arlington, MA. He looked strong and placed well taking 6th. Nice. Afterwards he was dressed appropriately for the weather in his muddy cycling jacket, jeans, down vest and canvas sneakers. This guy lives in Portland. Zank's race was next and he rides well in the slop to a top 30 finish. Our pals from NE all did well, with Marc Bavineau, Pierre Vanden Borre, Scott Rosenthal, Jeremy Dunn and Pete Smith all in the top 20. That'll teach all you Portland freaks! I love hearing Richard Freis calling the national races and beaming about the NE guys. Our juniors got schooled though, those PNW kids love the ick.
I was 4th row for the elite master's and the guy two spots away leans over, introduces himself and tells me he enjoys my race reports. I forget his name. I got bogged at the whistle as the guy in front of me throws a pedal. I slowed, then accellerated to the left to make up some spots. Just past the S/F line there was trouble to the right and the field starts to drift left towards me. This was where the course bends right and I'm deadeye at a huge blue plastic barrel. I hit that mother at nearly top speed. My world explodes as does the barrel and tape and a few other guys around me. Quick damage assessment showed the bike fine, the thumb fine, the right hip rashed and the left index finger jamed so I'm staying in this sucker... it's time to chase. I rode back up through the field in the first 1/3 lap to probably around 40th or so. The mud was thick and the bike is getting heavier with each lap. There was one section coming off the pavement into a downhill on the grass where you were flying at the transition but by the time you get to the bottom you were getting rearended as you had come to nearly a complete stop thanks to the thick mud. The rain morphed to snow, and the mud hardened a bit but not enough to change the experience much. The crash and subsequent chase back on left me a bit frayed, and I dumped two times in a row on a tricky downhill, collecting leaves and extra mud in the bike in the process. That was it for me, I sat up and rode easy through the finish, knowing that I would get hurt if I keep pushing so hard and that I could come back to fight it out tomorrow. I roll in 64th and after crossing the line someone yells "are you the muddy crumudgeon?!" Hmmm....
After the race I was treated to some yummy beer and good times with the Half Fast Velo guys. The parking lot scene was something like a miniature version of Rt. 1 in Foxboro. There were 3 dozen easy up style tents, half of those with heaters in them and half again with further creature comforts like keg beer, grills, sofas, fire pits and rows and rows of trainers. The Half Fast guys kept feeding me beer and after two or three I was feeling no pain from the wreck, clearly just what the doctor ordered. We joined the largest crowds of the day to watch the pro race which was odd. In NE the course is usually pretty empty for the pro event but here it seems people actually wait for it. After sobering up, I mustered the courage to present myself to Terry's family who had preparred a feast for us boys. We dined on pasta, salad and bread with some of Terry's pals and had a grand time. Outside, the rain was picking up.
Tomorrow... Part Three: "The Mud Crit"