I almost bailed on this race. Part of me is glad I didn't, part of me wishes I had. There are only so many races in the season, and I'm glad I got this one in, but I'm spent.
Before I get to the report though, there's a few thing to cover.
#1: Kevin Hines is NASTY.
He raced my 35+ master's race, and won it. Besides me... *snicker*... he beat Johnny Bold, Curtis Boivin, and two guys named McCormack. He's 45 years old... at least.
That ain't the end of it.
Two hours later he lined up for the pro race. He only got 3rd... *humph*... behind Luke Keough and Adam Meyerson. He finished in front of Toby Marzot, Johnny Bold, Kyle Wolfson and a cast of other strong pro, 1,2,3 racers.
#2: Luke Keough is NASTY
He's 17 yrs old and he destroyed the pro field today. I'm not sure, but I think he lapped everyone outside of the top 10. Fast and smooth that kid is. He's going to need some more coat hangers to hold all of the national championship jerseys he's going to accumulate.
#3: Karen Potter... also NASTY
Karen is a good friend and great rider. She's so unassuming and laid back about cross (endurance mtn bike races are her thing) it's refreshing. It's cool how none of the other women have any idea who she is. They all roll in with two bikes, expensive tubular wheels, the latest components and big time team sponsorship deals. She's got one bike (granted it is a pretty sweet ride), rides mid range clincher wheels dressed with the one set of clincher cross tires she has and some old hand me down components. After her second place today (she was passed by Rebecca Wellons with 1/4 lap to go) she asked me if tubulars are really that much better. Ha!Yeah... just a little bit. Girlfriend doesn't even own a skin suit.
#4: Coonamessett Farm is the kind of small farm every town should have
The venue for this race was at the Coonamessett Farm, which is like a farm stand on EPO. They sell farm memberships, serve food, and have a farm animal area that you can visit. It wasn't the ideal venue for a cyclocross race, but it is a cool place nevertheless. The pizza was out of this world, and the pavilion right behind the farm house was a great place to have outdoor functions. With today's rain, that pavilion was pretty crowded but having the race go through there was great for the fans.
#5: Cyclocross and beer go together like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis
Every race should have beer served by the organizer. Especially if it is Harpoon or something tasty like that. There will be an Erdinger beer tent at Gloucester next week, and AHM has some sort of beer tent lined up for NoHo in November. Add waffles and or frites and it would be perfect.
Ok... time for the race report...
Once again, my carpool plans disintegrated at the last minute, and facing a long lonely drive I almost bailed until I managed to talk my mother and son to come along. Weather for Falmouth was 40% chance of showers, but I figured that the race wouldn't be muddy as the soil on the cape is notoriously sandy.
Wrong. Being at a farm, there was plenty of topsoil and the course got muddy quickly. I was going to run some new file treads but made the switch at the last minute to a set of Michelin Mud clinchers. That was a smart move.
There were no call ups or staging, so I lined up with the rest of the over-anxious masters 20 minutes before the race started. We ended up waiting 45 minutes though: an ambulance was on the course to tend to a rider from the previous race. The start here was critical: there was perhaps 150 yards of gravel road before the course dove right into the tight, twisty singletrack that made up the majority of the course. At the whistle, I was pretty much boxed in by some slower guys that had lined up on the front row and headed into the woods in 25th position or so.
This course would be a great training course, but it doesn't support fields of more than 25 people or so that well because 75% of it is one rider wide singletrack. The barriers went through the beer pavilion though, which was one of the greatest features of any race I've ever done... ever.
With a mediocre start I was at the mercy of the riders in front of me to make a pass, there was simply no room to move up for the first 1/3 of lap 1. Approaching the pavilion I moved up to the top 20, and after some more singletrack I moved around another group and into 17th. The rain had been light earlier, but after a lap it was really coming down. The corners through the orchard were getting greasy, and the finishing hill was loosing what little traction that had been there. Fortunately, the second half of the course was under some decent tree over, and that section remained firm throughout the race. This would be the area to make a (safe) move later in the race.
I can't say how great that pavilion was. The barriers were set inside of it on a soft gravel path right after a fairly sharp turn, and that combination meant plenty of guys stacking it up to the delight of the crowd. You could hear "Oooooo!!!" and a few seconds later "Yeah!!!!!" from clear across the course. I somehow made it through clean each time despite being cross eyed and heavy legged, but wouldn't have been too upset had I flipped a$$ over tea-kettle as long as the crowd was pleased.
Three laps into the race I took a stab at getting to the front of the group of four riders that I had caught up to. I gave it a bit extra to get through the group, and came out at the front feeling pretty bad. I backed it off a bit and tried to recover as we reached the singletrack knowing that it would be difficult for them to pass me back. I got to rest (relative term) for 30-45 seconds but when we got to the open section where I had to defend my position with speed, I had nothing.
I knew I was in trouble. Glancing at the HRM the news was bad: 175 avg. heart rate for the first 15 minutes of the race. Awww damn!! I'm not even working that hard and I've got now power for the second race in a row. I considered dropping out, but the fear of a bad crossresults.com score kept me going. I figured that since nothing is worse than a DNF, I'd suffer as much as my legs would let me and see what that that was good for in the end.
Sometimes you race the race in front of you. You're focused on being smooth, checking for any sign of weakness in the riders you are chasing, and trying to be as quiet as possible so that you can move up without causing an unnecessary counter attack. You're powerful and focused.
Today I was racing the race behind me. Riding defensive. Trying to stay upright, turning the pedals as hard as possible just to keep them from catching up. You feel sloppy and spent. That kind of racing sucks.
Mike Rowell from NEBC caught me on lap 4 and asked me to come along. "No legs" I yelled and he rode away fairly easily. The group of 4 I had passed on lap 3 hung around me for 2 more laps and I swear that they were gaining time. The mud was freaking me out, and any advantage I'd take on the power sections evaporated when the course would turn this way and that.
With two to go the group of 4 behind was finally down to just one CVC rider, and a short time later he went by with a powerful move after the orchard. I thought he was gone. He didn't get far though, and through the technical section on the back half of the course I managed to keep him in sight. We came through the pavilion just before the bell with a comfortable lead over the guys behind and someone to my right offered a beer feed too late for me to take it, but it did sound like a good idea. Next lap I thought, since in all likelihood I'll get dropped in the orchard this final time where I had been most vulnerable throughout the race. At least there was a beer waiting for me.
I pulled up along side of the CVC rider at the bell to see if there was a chance to get in front of him before the orchard but I ran out of room. Trailing him through that section I wasn't loosing ground, and I finally figured out the descent from the orchard after 6 race and 4 warm up laps. Recalling that the back side was the spot I had identified earlier as the best to make up spaces, I settled in and rested (mentally more than physically) while we cruised through the middle parts of the course.
As I held his wheel, the CVC rider noticed me sticking close and said "I thought you had no legs?" Hey pal, you're not going as fast as Mike, what can I say. This was getting to be serious, clearly I wasn't going to get dropped and if we were too close towards the end of the lap I wouldn't be ale to grab that beer. The harsh reality of this hit me then and I knew it was time to go. As we came out of the tight path before the last run up I reached deep punched it with everything that I has. By the top of the run up I was 15 yards in front of the guy, and my thoughts once again turned to that beer up ahead.
I kept my gap through the second half of the course and coming into the pavilion I searched out the extended hand. I saw none. There was no beer. Perplexed, I asked "Where's the beer?" to no one in particular. Notice the confusion on my face in this photo taken at precisely that moment.
No answer. Apparently the officials had told the feeders to stop their shenanigans.
My final position was 14th, I was spent but more concerned about the dead legs. I'm not sure what to do about it.
The beer feed guys sought me out and handed me a cold PBR right after I finished, apologizing repeatedly for leaving me hanging. not quite Harpoon, but it was effective.