There seems to be two personality types that race cross and they manifest themselves in the equipment that you see rolling around the course. Some guys have glimmering, silent machines, perfectly matched and currently styled shoes, helmet, skinsuit, gloves, saddle, bar tape, spotless cotton sidewalls, the perfect race support vehicle, and a second set of everything in equally pristine condition. Others have raggedy bikes that creak, skinsuits with holes in them, shoes that barely stay fastened shut, and some nasty ass looking wheels.
I'm clearly in that second group.
Perhaps it is a function of income or spare time, I don't have enough of either to outfit myself with the latest or to maintain my equipment to look shiny new. If it a matter of desire, well, I guess I don't have enough of that either.
My bike is usually a mess functionally too. It creaks and doesn't shift as smoothly as most, but it's cross, I figure I'll find some gear that will turn the rear wheel. I'm just not too hung up on it.
Kenny and I arrived Friday afternoon to inspect the course. We felt super pro and discussed the best way to maintain speed on a layout that was much twistier than in years past. We rode on section of 8 or 9 switchbacks a least a half a dozen times, trying to find the best lines around the circuit.
Arriving at the course on a rainy Saturday morning proved that all of our expert reconnaissance work was wasted effort. The place was a track of think, sticky mud snaking around the park. What happened to the dry gravelly soil that this place was supposed to have being so close to the ocean? I felt better knowing that I hadn't bothered to glue up the file treads, they would have been useless.
So it turned out that my dirty, creaky bike was perfectly suited for the task ahead. I dove into the mud for a few warm up laps without thinking twice, while I noticed a lot of pretty boys and their glimmering white bar tape sticking close to their cars and the paved roads.
The pre-ride before the race only served to get me cold and wet, but it did give my new gloves and opportunity to shine. They are kayaking gloves a guy I work with gave me a few years ago that I had lost track of until recently. My body was cold but my hands were warm despite being soaking wet. If you have the means, I highly recommend you pick some up.
At the start of my master's 35+ 123 race, I took a middle lane, different than the usual right hand side position I like at Gloucester. There were 70+ racers in this field, the biggest of the year so far by quite a bit. The new start position and slightly less aggressive strategy didn't seem to change much, I made it off the pavement around 25th, just a bit behind my normal spot.
Somehow there were very few crashes that I saw, despite the mud. There were a lot of turns for Gloucester, and the haters were probably happy that it was no grass crit. I was not. Mud gets in all sorts of places in a race like this. Everywhere. By the end of the first lap my skinsuit was hanging below my arse it was so heavy with water and dirt. Felt like one big wet diaper. I think.
Unfortunately I recall very few details of the race. There was a lot of mud. More than I thought there would be. Despite this the run up was easier than I expected. Apparently it stopped raining during our race for a short time, but it was difficult to tell. Bill Shattuck was clearly coming back during the last three laps of the race and I was committed to passing him with a bit of conviction when I finally caught him... that happened with about half a lap to go. Ryan Laroque had a good race even though he said before hand that he hated this kind of slop and he "sucked at it." He passed me with 3 to go and I stayed with him until the very end, where he kicked into another gear and got three spots on me in the last 5 minutes of racing. His sucking is apparently 3 spots better than my best effort! My last remount after the barriers resulted in me smashing my sensitive bits off the back of my seat not once, but twice much to the delight of the beergarteners. That damn heavy chamois was holding me down!
During lap 3 I was reminded how strong Mavic wheels can be and why I may never race anything else. I learned first hand about how strong Ksyrium wheels were way back in 2005 with a set of Ksyrium Elites I owned. They are Mavic's entry level clincher wheel that I raced for my first 3.5 seasons of cross. I also raced them on the road and never once had them trued. At a race in Lake Pleasant, MA that fall, I hit a stump and was thrown sideways at full speed in a wooded section of the course. I landed sideways, crashed spectacularly, and was sure that the rear wheel tacoed. Not even a wiggle in the damn thing.
Fast forward to Gloucester 2009. I'm hauling ass across the long back stretch of the course when I get a bit to close to a course stake and suck it into my rear wheel. It jams into the spokes and up against my frame and left leg, bringing the wheel to an abrupt stop and causing me to leave one sweet skid mark in the dirt. I pull out the stake, notice the mangled spoke and give the wheel a spin: dead on balls straight.
The stake in the wheel incident caused me to loose contact with Keith Gauvin and Jon Bernard. I eventually rolled in for 22nd. My best finish so far in 2009 according to crossresults.com
No photos of my race, but here are a few of the elite men and women.
PVB at the top of the run up Spinelli in the switchbacks
The Ladies of October Racing Fellow Zanconato Racing rider Karen Potter on her way to a solid finish. We like Karen because she's super cool and rides a bike really fast.