Wednesday, December 17, 2008

a shout out to my RSS peeps

got'cha! check the updated race report, now with video.

Monday, December 15, 2008

12.13.08: Ice Weasels Cometh

Unfortunately, this is going to be a short report. 

I spent my alloted blogging time this week playing with iMovie on this here MacBook. It's incredibly intuitive, like everything else on this machine, and since the movie is made up of clips from the Ice Weasels single speed race it wasn't a complete waste of time. If I can figure out how to get that video up here, I will. 

Edit: Here it is. This is my first effort on iMovie, so forgive the over-the-top editing and gratuitous campy-ness, I was trying to learn the tool.

In a nutshell, I sucked eggs this past Saturday. I checked out for the season last weekend after the two RI races, but wanted to go to Ice Weasels figuring it would be a bit more "festive" than your average cross race. I made the mistake of actually racing though, and worse yet racing in the last field of the day so just when I was finishing up and getting ready to put down a few beverages, everyone was leaving the venue. 

On the way to the Wrentham, I forgot more than once that my bike was on the roof and that I was headed to a race. The last time this happened to me it ended in disaster. 

Three years ago on my way to work I decided at the last minute to bring my bike to the shop at lunch. Already late for work, I was rushing around and stuck the bike up on the roof racks, too lazy to take put the rear seats down and slide it inside as I prefer to do when the bike sits all day in our parking lot. After eating lunch at my desk I had to go to a meeting downtown and going out to the car I saw the bike on the roof, realizing at once that I'd forgotten all about it and the my hastily planned trip to the shop. At the end of the day walking out to my car I saw the bike again and realized I'd forgotten about it for a second time. I recall thinking right then "I have got to remember that thing is up there, this is not good." 

Maybe you can see where this is going.

Fifteen minutes later I was stopped at the last stop sign before my house, a scant .9 miles away. This guy in a Subaru with bike racks on the roof pulls up next to me to take a right hand turn, but when I look over at him his neck is cranked up and he's looking at something over the top of my car to my left. "What the hell is he looking at?" and I to turn to my left and look out the window expecting to see some sort of exotic bird or fireball in the sky. Then it hits me... he's looking at my bike. Ok, that's 3 times I've forgotten about that bike.

Ninety seconds later I drove the car with the bike still on the roof into our garage.

So Saturday I was having similar lapses in memory. Clearly I wasn't into the "racing" part of this race. 

I lined up with 20 or so others and was second wheel for two laps and in the top 4 for three. Then the lights went out. I had nothing. It wasn't lack of fitness, I couldn't make the legs turn over at all and the muscles were simply shut down for the day (Later that evening I got winded climbing the stairs just one time). I slowed down by 10-15 seconds per lap at least for the remaining 5 or 6 laps after that and watched as 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th caught and rode away from me. With two to go, Colin was gaining and would have easily passed me until we discussed our mutual desire to take a beer feed. With 1.5 laps to go and entering the beer feed area, there was no drink to be found. A few turns later Scott managed to dig up one cup of grog: and seeing the prize I easily out-sprinted Colin to it but shared it with him in the spirit of sportsmanship. 

We rode together through the bell and around to the beer feed area for the final time to discover that the feeds were plentiful. We drank, toasting a great season and took 3 or 4 turns to get the small cup of PBR down in an impromptu mid-race period of neutral racing. With the beer gone, I stuck my front wheel inside of the next turn to indicate I was prepared to throw it down for the last 3 minutes of racing for the year. 

So was Colin apparently, and he stayed in front of me all the way to the line. 

I was 8th or 9th overall, I forget, but 3rd 35+. My main nemesis in 2008, Mike Rowell, had raced earlier and despite that effort took 5th overall. He was also 1st master. Dave Wilcox from Cambridge bikes had the ride of his life I suppose, hanging with two strong elite riders for the majority of the race and finishing a well deserved 3rd in the end. All of that in a black and silver head to toe skin suit with a gigantic shark fin on top. 

It wasn't an epic course, the fields were not large, and the racing wasn't very serious, but there have been enough of those events this year. Ice Weasels was a perfect way to end a great season with all of the NE cross family. Kind of like a back yard cookout... cyclocross style.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holy Cow I Blew Up HARD Today

It was a well organized event today and after riding three strong laps I was D.O.N.E. My mind had checked out for the season last week, and at 2:20 today my legs followed suit.  

Details to follow...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

NBX Day 2: 12.7.08

Sunday I rolled into Goddard park for VERGE race #9 feeling like a rock star. It wasn't the messy hair or hangover, it was the attention and adoration I was getting from people who had seen me gimp out of the place just the day before who looked at me like I had just rolled the boulder away from the cave. 

Vanity isn't my thing... well, maybe just a little, but these people were making it hard not to feel like a giant killer for showing up to this race. Yeah the hand hurt pretty bad and it looked even worse, but once you start racing at a heart rate of 175 BPM, something like this isn't going to bother you that much, so why not give it a shot. 

Before the racing started there was the little business of registering and pre-riding the course. I mentioned that once you started racing things like a sore hand aren't first and foremost on your mind, but as I rode towards registration and hit my first root of the day the wisdom of my decision was immediately put in doubt as sharp pain shot up my left arm. With about 60% grip strength going for me on that side, I decided to swap out the double front ring for a single ring to eliminate the need to shift the night before and it was probably a good move. One of many tactical equipment choices I've made in my brilliant career.

Free PRO tip: that toe clip strap you see others using to corral their pit wheels... get one.

With registration complete and pit wheels dropped, I kitted up and took to the course for a lap with pal and nemesis Mike Rowell at around 9:15 am. Kitted cannot possibly be a word but this sport is filled with unusual expressions that are meaningless to the unbaptized, like "Brownie Feed" and "Dollar Preem" (that's how I spell it because it is the only spelling that makes sense to me - deal with it). We'll get to those... 

Typically a grass crit kind of guy, I tend to like my power courses. Why you ask? Because with long sections of road like riding one can expect to enjoy long sections of wheel sucking rest. NBX day 2 was no such course. For one, it had snowed about 2 inches over night and into the morning. Usually the formula for calculating RI snowfall is to take what we get in Sutton and multiply it by 0.1. With just a dusting on the ground at home I was surprised to see snowballable amounts of it in Warwick, time for a new snow estimator. Check out this kid's ball.  

I've raced this course in the snow before and it can be icy. If they add the switchbacks to the west side of the course... an area called the "intestinal tract"... and it snows, the half-dozen 180 degree turns in there get packed down and glaze over. Sore hand and all, Mike and I headed out to check on that section and yup - 6 icy switchbacks. Mike is railing these turns, and I'm scared $hitle$$... How is he going through them so fast? Just as I'm about to say "Mike - I'm going to ride this race, not race it" I hit the deck on my left side. A great deal of pain returns to my left hip and knee, but I never got my hand out so that was spared additional discomfort. 

The rest of the course was fun, with similar paved sections to the day before with the exception of the long run away from the beach and the relocation of the barriers to an uphill area near the carousel bldg. Some additional sections of forest floor trails were added to make up the length of the the missing road section, and the course was much more technical than the day before, even without the snow. The pre-ride dump left your beloved author badly spooked. Badly. I had figured out a good place to hold the bars so riding wasn't a problem, I was pretty much terrified of falling again. Nervous and confused, I sat in the back of my car trying to stay warm while the sound of knobby tires buzzing on trainers filled the air.

At 10:15 it was time to head to staging and get ready to go. I decided to ride the intestinal tract once more and it must have warmed up a whole 2 degrees or something because while it was still slippery, it wasn't icy any longer, just tacky damp snow and parts of it were even worn down to dirt.  

Here's what the park looked like more or less, it was really nice.

How's this for sour grapes: I am so over the silly VERGE points thing now. The call ups were ridiculous, when Atwood was finished there were only two dozen or so of us left. They give points to anyone who can finish a race I swear. Except me. I've got to be the fastest guys with zero lifetime VERGE points. It's a badge of honor. Like how it was cool to be a Red Sox fan because they sucked for so many years. Now they sell pink Sox hats.

Yeah, I'll get to the race report.

So I started on the fifth row far right and at the whistle we were off across the slushy parking lot that did a first-rate job in getting your feet soaking wet and frozen stiff within 30 seconds of the start.  Lazily through the first two turns the realization that I needed to be further up front hit as we reached the sand. I ran a flank pattern and passed a bunch of guys on the far left, and remounted right around 25th spot at the top of the hill. The snow kept the race from stringing out too much, but we were going faster than I thought we could considering the conditions.

The crowd was thick at the barriers, it was a great spot to watch as a few dudes lost it on the frozen ground trying to begin their run. The left hand turn after the planks was the trickiest of the day IMHO, it was packed pretty good with icy snow, super tight, and slightly up hill. I never figured that turn out all day while others seemed to have it dialed. I found that the section of track from the first crossing of the road back to the second time through the pit were really working well for me, a part that includes the intestinal tract. I was opening up gaps on those behind me and closing in on those ahead of me in those spots much to my surprise.

Top mount brake levers and unclipping around turns run counter to the spirit of cyclocross in my estimation, but for this day I made an exception to my own rule. During pre-ride I'd decided to unclip the inside foot on each slippery turn no matter what. Not only would it save my can if I lost traction, it allowed me to ride more aggressively knowing that I had a leg out to catch me. 

Nearly two laps in I moved past Rowell and asked him if he was feeling alright. He managed a groan in response. I hooked up with Mike Bernard and we traded turns for a lap until I let him drive the bus for a lap. We were pulling back some strong guys and Mike's lines were smooth and clean. So much so that I yelled encouragement at him to keep going cuz he was doing a beautiful job. We caught and passed Chris Borrello and Paul Curley, though I hesitated to long to get around Curely for some reason. 

Heading into the intestinal tract for the third time I realized the unclipping for each turn was getting harder because of fatigue. My chances of falling were likely going up for the same reason so I made a pinky-promise to myself to keep doing the unclipping thing right to the end no matter what. Smart move. It's called "Strategy." 

With 3 to go we caught Kurt Perham, who had no business being down in the mid to high teens. Mike rode by and I hesitated again, not sure how to pass a guy that is usually 3-4 minutes and 10 places ahead of me. I actually asked him if he was alright and if he minded if I got by because Mike was riding away a bit. I should work on my confidence.

Colin was giving me splits up to 15th spot and the gaps were coming down. First 15 seconds, then 3. Mike began to slow with 2.5 laps to go so I moved past and set my sights on Shattuck and Hornberger. Through the intestinal tract I was gaining noticeably,  but being together they would pull ahead on the pavement and the faster trail sections. Finally I caught them just after the bell heading into the sand, but Bill decided he wanted the 15th place points for himself and he countered the moment I arrived. Brant stretched it out and though I had felt pretty fresh the entire time I had been reeling them in, I had no ability to step it up to the next level and the gap grew quickly. I finished 17th with a hard charging Perham just behind.

Sticking around to animate the 2/3 race a bit I offered racers in that field tasty home-made brownies aka "Brownie Feeds"...

We declared a few "Dollar Preems"...

and handed up gulp sized portions of Opa Opa IPA from a growler of the stuff I had won in a Yankee swap Friday night. 

It was another great weekend of racing. 

Saturday, December 6, 2008

NBX Day 1: 12.6.08

For years to come, I'm certain to remember the 2008 NBX Day 1 cyclocross race as one of the greatest races I've ever had. 

I left home later than I wanted: getting there at least 90 minutes before my race stars allows me to ride the course before the race immediately before mine starts, then gives me time to register, warm up and get staged with plenty of time to spare. Driving through the center of East Greenwich and loosing time until the 9:30 field went off, I was pulled over for speeding. 


In this car.

Speeding.... it's kind of funny.

This car is great, but my lawnmower has more power than this car. Not the ride on mower, the push one. Ali's hairdryer is more powerful. So it wasn't the best start to the day. 

I did manage to pre-ride, hustle through registration, and drop wheels at the pit before staging. The course was a combination of the two different days from last year. The start was in the lower parking lot and headed towards the east side of the course. Off the pavement and onto the beach, where the sand seemed harder to ride this year. Running up a sandy hill, you'd remount and start riding a series of trails back towards the old carousel building, around which they had a set of barriers. There was a power section here that went past the pit and out onto the main road leading away from the beach area and into a field. A sweeping turn out there and we were right back to the woods. A long rooty path led to the second beach section, then a final run back through the woods before crossing the road and heading towards the pit for two final 180s and out on to the finish straight.

The course was dry, frozen and fast. I lined up third row thanks to no points and early registration. The start was pretty mellow, and I moved up a bit on the extended paved section so as to not handicap myself too badly early on. 

Half way through the first lap there were 7 guys in a lead pack, then a small group of 3 or four  stragglers, and a second group of 7 after that. I was just off the back of this second group of 7, struggling to get back on to take advantage of the draft on the fast road sections. Mashing the pedals, I could see the guys at the back of the group just 20 feet ahead of me coasting... but still pulling away. That has got to be one of the worst feelings in all of sport.  

Half way through lap two Bailey made another one of his signature announcements... "Myette you are loooosing this raaaace!!!" He was right: this was not going to be a good day for me. It was F.A.S.T. today and I didn't have the punch needed for racing at these speeds. I was over my head, which is a dangerous place to be, and it was maybe 11 minutes into a 45 minute race. 

Being in that second group of 7, rather than off the back of it, would make such a huge difference. I had to try and get there.

I lowered my head and drove it across the back side of the field, hoping to out-brake the bunch and make up some spots in the turns where I wasn't spending energy. Marc Boudreau crashed and I got through clean while Stephan Marcoux and Todd Cassan, who were just behind me,  got hung up. I knew that I had one last chance to reach that group and try and catch a ride around this course before things blew to smithereens. I laid down a finish line sprint to close the gap because I knew that this very well could be the end of the race for me. I got within 5 bike lengths before taking the final left turn towards the beach, and as my thoughts drifted towards the beach run ahead where I would surely make contact, I slid out in a loose turn and lost the group for good. In an instant, Gaudreau et al were on me, then past me. I chased again, now trying to catch them for 20th and frustrated that I had spent a lot of energy for nothing. I held the gap through the end of the second lap, but this was not going well.  

Into the beginning of lap three I noticed Mike Rowell was missing just as I spotted his wife Cathy. "He flatted" she told me. Damn, I could use a ride back up to these guys right about now, and this was usually where Mike would be catching me. Out on the road towards the field for the third time the 2 Canadiens and Cassan were pulling away. Bailey again reminded me of my predicament: "you gotta catch those guys!" to which  I responded "but they're going so damn fast!" 

I decided not to try and catch them with one effort like the lap before, but to ride on "the edge" for an extended time and try and bring them back slowly. The group of 7 ahead of them was stretching their lead, so even if I caught these three I was looking at 18th at best. There was no hurry to make it happen all at once. 

But tired riding is tired riding, and that's when the danger goes way up, especially on a course like Warwick, with so many technical parts. Lots of off camber, roots, mulch, sand, and transitions onto and off pavement. 

Going past the pit with just over three to go, I took a fast left hand turn that transitioned up onto a paved path that was about 3" higher than the dirt. The pavement cut across the course at an angle, and with the turn the transition between surfaces was tricky for a rested rider and a disaster waiting to happen for a tired ol' guy like me.

The front wheel disappeared, and my left hand smacked into the tarmac at the same time that my left shin and hip started to slide across the road. My right hand stayed on the bars, and as my left arm was pulled out from under me, my chest hit the ground and the skidding continued. I think the rear wheel hit that lip on the pavement, because the bike kicked up in the air, still attached to me at the feet, and its weight and momentum carried me further forward in a nipples-down slide. My back arched and as the bike hung over my head it was driving my face towards the ground.  I distinctly recall straining my face up and to the right to keep my teeth and chin intact. I came to rest in that position, and it took me a second to uncoil and get the bike off my back and on the ground

Here's the post race photos...



People in the pit who had given a collective and loud "OH!" when I crashed were now yelling "rider down!" as other went by. Quitting seemed like a good idea. Standing at the side of the course I was sure my wrist was broken, but past experience in cycling and hockey have taught me that once you stop, the pain doesn't get any better. It was nearly the last race of the season anyway, if I needed a cast another 25 minutes of riding wouldn't kill me as long as I could hold the bars. My left leg looked like I had just come out of skin graft surgery and my chest was stinging with the burn of (mercifully mild) road rash. I got back on the bike and waited for the shock of the initial pain to subside or get worse while I rolled around through the start finish line and watched the majority of the field go by.

No fewer than 10 guys asked to be sure I was ok. I'd list their names, but for fear of missing anyone, I won't. It doesn't matter who they were anyway: this sport and my field in particular is filled with great people, and I was truly moved by the concern everyone expressed for me. After about 3 minutes of crashing/getting up/riding slowly the pain wasn't getting any worse so I started to ride a bit. By the end of the parking lot I decided that it was time to start racing again so I got back on it, and passed a few of the guys who had just seen me favoring my hand. One yelled "yeah Matt! go get em kid!" 

Working back up through the field I got similar comments from others like "He's back!" and "Alright Matty! go man!" and even "I thought you were dead!" Ken Scott was in the pits yelling "You're my hero!!! I can't believe you're up and racing!!!" 

Over the next two laps I caught and passed probably 15-20 guys including GeWilli, and a guy riding a sweet SpeedvagenJerry_in_VT who was riding pretty well up ahead and would be tough to catch but I made that my goal going into the bell lap. I got past him sometime before the paved road out towards the field. I was going pretty hard, yelling at Jeff Ferraro to get his a$$ in gear because I was coming to get him next (he was way to far ahead for me to catch, but I was gaining on him). Jerry began to mock me from behind: apparently he had stuck on my tail, and he was mumbling something about being cold. I'm glad he managed to stay with me, he's really got some good speed, I'm not sure why he doesn't place higher. 

He went to the front, and led through the last turns before the return to the woods when it occurred to me that he probably wanted to beat me and here there was only half a lap to go. I moved back in front of him and rode hard to the beach, had a good run and stomped on it towards the pit and that treacherous turn. I made it through clean to roll over in 44th. Jerry slid out on one of the last turns to finish 46th.

Coming to the starting area I was greeted by Brant Hornberger who somehow knew I was hurt, had collected my jacket and was guiding it over my shoulders moments after I stopped. Cathy and Mike Rowell reminded me to elevate my hand and offered to fetch some ibuprofin. Several others offered water, help with my gloves, or extra clothing. John Meerse took my bike and escorted me to medical, then sat there for a good 10 minutes while they checked me out. I'm sure he had better things to do but he sat there until they gave me the all clear.  

Then this guy I had met briefly in Portland last year approached and asked how I was. It was Dan Werle from Tennessee, and he offered to take my bike back to my car while I carried my pit wheels in one hand an held an ice pack on the other. Dan was the guy on the Speedvagen and had introduced himself to me in the grid at last year at PDX, leaning over a few racers to say "You're Matt, right? I'm Dan. I like your race reports" (third paragraph) just before the whistle. He was in Warwick after contacting me this summer about which NE races he should do. I figured a guy from Tennessee might like the chance to race in some snow so I suggested Warwick over the better attended Gloucester and Northampton races which are good but had no chance of the white stuff. 

After about an hour, I was feeling better and managed to enjoy a few beers with my extended cyclocross family.

I only know these people from cyclocross, and it is usually just a few words pre-race, a pat on the back during a race, and a few laughs afterwards before we head to different corners of New England. I rarely if ever socialize with any of them outside of weekends from September to December. All of these people who would otherwise be strangers were there first with concern, then encouragement, and finally tons of help precisely when I needed each of those things that day. 

To say I was touched by everyone's kindness would be a huge understatement. It is the reason why I'll remember NBX day 1 2008 as one of the best races ever. 

Thank you all!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Palmer Cyclocross: 11.30.08

Old School... Jungle Cross... Technical... Mountain Bikey... simply: Palmer

Yeah, I'm talking about the most challenging course in New England, a course that you either hated, loved or felt both ways about it at different times, but there was no sitting the fence on this one. For all you grass crit haters, this was your chance to race cross as you could only otherwise dream. Palmer makes Putney look like Gloucester, makes Gloucester look like a flat 40k TT on a sunny day with a tailwind, makes a flat 40k TT on a sunny day with a tailwind look like a ride on the bike path with your kids. The famous course at the Pathfinder Regional Vocational High School.

I'm told Palmer once was a premier event on the New England calendar, part of Tom Steven's prestigious Spin Arts Series at a time when VERGE, the USGP, the Cross Crusade, and the National Trophy of Cyclocross were twinkles in a variety of different promoters eyes.  This was back in the day when Page was a Junior, the elite field was 10 guys (all national championship caliber), and the sum total of the day's racers was less than 50.

I once lived in Ludlow (Mass, not Vermont) and have a generally poor opinion of the area just East of Springfield. Sorry if you live there - not sorry for dissin' your town, actual sorrow that you have to live there - but this opinion was formed around the time I moved away from the area to RI in 1984 at the ripe old age of 13, so clearly I'm holding on to some bitterness towards my parents for ripping me out of my childhood home. It's not you, it's me...This isn't relevant information of course, but I do tend to get a bit uneasy when I'm in that part of the state. I feel the same way about Ludlow/Palmer as I do about people with dogs: they aren't bad to visit, but I'm looking forward to leaving sooner than later. 

My mountain biking career started in 1994 and I added road riding in 2002. Everyone that I raced with in 2002 and 2003 told me that cyclocross was something I should try. I wasn't especially fast nor especially good handling a bike, but decent enough at both that maybe I could leverage those mediocre skills and do well in cross.

So on November 21, 2004, using a borrowed cyclocross bike, I headed towards Palmer to race my very first ever cross race. I didn't have a blog back then, so here's that 2004 Palmer cyclocross race report... 4 years late. 

Pre-Ride? Warm-up? Hadn't heard of those things yet so let's skip right to the good stuff: call ups. A few minutes before the race started I rolled over to the start area (it was on the practice field behind Pathfinder) and noticed a bunch of guys there and they were all looking pretty serious about this. Guys were clearly testy about who deserved to be where on the front row. I'd done crits before and didn't understand the big deal... line up and let's go right?  I figured any starting spot would be a good one, just stay with the group. The gun goes off and HOLY CR@P! Why is everyone pedaling so hard?! We make two left hand turns in the field and as we get to the end of the grass I see these two planks of wood, right across the course. Say whaaa????

So my first cyclocross barriers were in my first race, within the first 30 seconds, and I cleaned them like a seasoned veteran: never understood the practice barriers/remounting thing. The course that year went right into the woods from the athletic field, then out into the meadow for a lap around the perimeter before returning to the woods for the second half of the course. I discovered my first run up on that lap one, and also that it was really hard to ride in soft wet soil with tires barely wider than a road bike, despite the little knobs on the there. 

I was locked in a battle with an up and coming rider: a college student from Holy Cross in Worcester that had a bright future ahead from what I'd heard. This kid has the stuff to be a pro: the engine was strong and the mind sharp for cycling. Cyclocross would be something to keep the legs strong for this Cat 1's inaugural pro season in 2005. I'd battled this rider several times before earlier in the year at the Wednesday night training crits in Lincoln RI. We even got in a break together with 5 other riders: a break that stuck for a long time until first I, than a few others fell out as the pace was just too high. The prodigy was setting that pace and was also the last one standing before the pack swallowed the remnants in the final dash to the line. The phenom had bettered me 4 times in 4 tries at Lincoln. That rider... was Mackenzie Dickey.

She was good but somehow she was behind me that day at Palmer for the beginning of the race. With two laps to go she pulled me in and rode past in the field like I was standing still. She was on a black Lemond Poprad looked like she had picked it up on the way to the race, reflectors and all. It very well may have been her first cross race but it didn't look like it.

Mackenzie had the advantage on the power sections, and I in the woods. I managed to hang with her until the bell lap and made a move to get past her after the field on the quick ride/run up mini-hill. That led to a short woods section and I went as hard as I could. I was riding over my head, and the ensuing lack of control made me hit a stump, which lurched me to the left and into a tree. Dickey breezed by and I lost to her... again. I took 29th. Here are the results.

Back to 2008. Since November 2004 I've got 60 cross races under my belt, my own bike, and tubular wheels even. I know why a pre-ride is important and barriers still seem silly but aren't quite as surprising as they were that day. This past weekend I arrived at the venue early to check out the swap. It boils down to this with these swaps: Mavic is either there with the box truck or not. They were no, so I was relegated to sorting through bin after bin of "period correct" parts for bikes no one would want to ride. I did get a set of old school Time ATAC pedals and a nice stem, but the whole thing seemed like a handful of guys hauling a bunch of junk onto the school cafeteria only to have to drag 98% of it back out some 6 hours later. 

I pre rode the course, and it was significantly different that a few years ago. The start was in the parking lot, and after a short section down a path through the woods and over a fallen log, we were in the meadow. It was cold enough to be frozen, making it fast in the straights and super slow in the turns. The course then returned to the woods through some very rough trails, the same mini-hill ride/run up, past the same section where I crashed out trying to drop Dickey, and into new trail sections including a stream crossing facilitated by a handful of wooden palates. There was a four pack of barriers in the athletic field as well - a great feature IMHO. The course was 100% frozen, and there were deep ruts along much of the trails from some ATV use.

I lined up in the second row behind the speedy Curtis Boivin, predicting he'd take the hole shot and open up the right hand side of the course. That's exactly what happened, and as we approach the log my good pal Matt Domnarski and I were talking some mini-trash and laughing about who had worse barrier technique. We gave each other a friendly shove, I didn't want to mix it up with him too much as I was pretty sure he had passed the rigorous State Police fitness test and could either kick my a$$ or simply shoot me. Into the field we set off towards the guys up front. Dan Coady and John Foley were up there, along with another guy in green and Todd Bowen from CVC riding a straight bar bike with disc wheels. I had no idea where Boivin went, but apparently he had injured himself hurdling the log. 

Through the first lap I was in 5th spot, and at the start line professional heckler Chris Bailey (don't bother with the link, he never updates his blog) said "you're loosing to a guy on a mountain bike!!!" referring to Bowen. I had seen a lot of the guys in the cat 4 race using fat tire bikes, chalking it up to inexperience. Turns out I was the inexperienced one: that upright position and sure handling of the straight bar was looking like the way to go. 

After initially hating the course, I started to warm up to it soon after I caught up to Foley. He was so smooth on the trails and gave me a great deal of confidence that my bike was not going to be the thing holding me back. It is interesting how far you can push an overbuilt road bike if you just checked your fear at the door.

Shortly after the start of lap three and Bailey's third reference to the guy on a hybrid bike who was up the road, Foley and I were past Bowen, battling for second and gaining on Coady. Dan's a nice guy, and was cheering me on from the other side of the course in spots. Cheering me to catch him. He's either nice or very confident that I'll never actually be able to ride up to him... probably both. Boivin had appeared behind us but was loosing ground each lap, much to my satisfaction. I'd never beaten Curtis and was feeling that this was going to be a good day for me. 

Foley and I traded turns on the course, he leading in the trails and me on the straights. At two to go I bobbled the remount over the log and lost 5 bike lengths, but rode a bit harder in the field and by the ride/run up I was back on his wheel. Moments later, while transitioning my fingers from the sides of the hoods to the brake levers I hit a rut. The hands came off the bars and they were under my armpit in an instant. The crash was loud and John wisely attacked while I had to get my chain back on. Post crash racing is ugly, filled with fear and tentativeness. I hit every root and dip on the course and by the bell Boivin was clearly closing in on me. 

Damn I can't seem to put a full race together!!! 

He caught me in the meadow and went by like a flash approaching the barriers. I tried to respond by my legs were cooked: there was no fight left in this dog. They paid three places, so of course I got fourth. My road team promoted the race, so I'm sure they wouldn't have actually paid me, but being on the podium would have been nice. Well, there was no actual podium, but being top 3 would have been my best result ever. It was still fun.

Post race I changed in the warm team RV and helped myself to a pulled pork sandwich, a steaming pile of baked beans, and a few beers courtesy of the roadie guys. I put in a pathetic 30 minutes of post race clean up, which did nothing other than make me feel a bit better about having eaten their food.

Pro Tip: Get eyebob to pin your number if you can. Pay him to do it if you must. I've never had a faster, cleaner pin job. He got 5 pins in without catching the base layer in the time it would take mere mortals to get just one. I've got to show him the double stick through the number technique, but the guys is PRO. Thanks Bob!