Monday, October 5, 2009

Catamount Cross Day 2: 9.27.09

I'm a week behind here so I'll make this one quick... Got to get to the Gloucester reports.

No proofreadin either... its' late.

The best thing about the VT races are that there are only two of them. This course is so hilly it's hard to put into words. It is stunningly beautiful up there but the pain of doing these races makes me yearn for the flat lands of Southern New England cross racing. 

Depending on how they lay it out, you either get 10 of the short punchy 5 second climbs per lap or one or two long minute plus. Saturday's dry track had the punchy climbs, so Sunday's rainy parcours was going to feature the leg busting climb to the clouds right at the beginning of every lap. 

With the points from the first day I got a call up... no big deal but it was something that I had been looking forward to.  I was happy to be relatively close to the front and shared some nervous chuckling with this Handlebars rider from NY who had two great races on the weekend.

The first lap hurt. Hurt like stomping baby shoes to the crotch hurt. The climb wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, there was enough draft to make the effort getting up the hill disproportionate to the speed I was actually traveling. That is always a plus. This course was wet last year for the Sunday races as well, making the well worn main path around the place a dangerous spot to ride. Where the worn path was deep was the worst: if you got in there you'd damn well better keep it straight because it would suck your wheel to the side if you clipped the edge. Think of it like the cycling version of the game of "Operation" but instead of getting buzzed you'd get to face plant over your bars.

On lap two I got lazy and rolled into the groove on the upper field where the speed was high. I glanced the side of the track, tried to correct, and found myself pedaling forward with my front wheel turned 20 degrees to the left. There was no hope of saving it and I went down after what seemed like and endless fall. This tossed my chain and the whole thing probably took me 45 seconds to correct.

I started to make my way back up but it should be said that the guys towards the back of the field aren't slow. They may finish 3 minutes behind but getting through them isn't easy... not for me at least.

Eventually I moved up and was joined by Ryan Laroque who had crashed on the first lap but made his way back. While he was eating my lunch in the fast pedaling sections and up the hill, he was riding way to conservatively on the descent. He dropped me badly on the uphill portion of the course, but I caught him relatively easily on the descent. I began to wonder about how we could work together to move up with such a wide disparity in strengths, and then we discussed it.

"Come on, keep up" he said to me on the lower field about 1/2 a lap away from the beginning of the hill. "Then stop pedaling so fucking hard" I responded. I sat on his wheel and somehow managed to keep up with him to the top of the course with 3 to go. "I'll show you the fast way down" I said, and we dropped of that hill like two rocks, catching a few more riders and edging closer to the top 30.

But talent and ability always trumps recklessness, so he kept gapping me coming through the finish straight and up the hill. We were bringing back a group of 4 guys that were just ahead of up by a few seconds each lap and with just over two to go I told him to go, that he could catch them and he shouldn't wait for me. Again I managed to stick with him to the top of the course and took the lead back down the hill, getting us closer still to that group.

At the bell we stuck together again somehow, Ryan attacked with 3/4 of a lap but didn't get far, he was trying to reach that group to catch a draft but didn't make it before the descent started again. Taking way to many chances we dropped again, this time I actually put some distance between us and I made it close enough to latch on to the group ahead. Looking back Ryan was coming, but not close enough to get on the train before the final time over the barriers and off into the field. I sat on and tried to rest, but this group was well rested and at the finish I was unable to contest, finishing 28th. Laroque almost caught me in the sprint and probably deserved the placing.

Whatever. Afterwards we laughed about what a great race it was and how much fun you can have on your bike in the rain. It was truly one of the most enjoyable races I've ever done. The hill sucked but that technical descent more than made up for it.

So, not so short, but there you go. Gloucester next.

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