Sunday, October 11, 2009

Providence Cyclocross Festival Day 1: 10.10.09

I'm an analyst.

Basically that means I ask an annoying amount of questions about a person, process or thing until I understand why that person, process or thing is the way it is. 

That's the part I'm good at. I'm not so good at documenting the results, but I'm usually good enough at the first part that everyone recalls the annoying question and answer sessions sufficiently and doesn't need or want to be reminded of them.

Regular readers know that I'm pretty much a lock for a 21st-26th place finish in any Verge series race where I don't crash or have a mechanical. Good days, bad days, muddy, dry, cold, hot, big field or small, it doesn't seem to matter. Line me up at the front or the back... If you want to make some money, put a few dollars on me finishing right around 22nd. Vegas would never give you odds on that, and if they did there would be no payout because it's a LOCK!

So if you don't want to read on, my analysis of this race is as simple as this: 22-5=17.

Curiosity peaked? Grab a cup of tea and read on...

After two full seasons of no racing at Roger Williams park in Providence, the cyclocross community descended once again on the site of the 2005 & 2006 national championships with a first year event timed to take place in conjunction of Interbike's Outdoor Demo East. It was a perfect marriage of trade show and the best fall spectator sport around: Cycle Cross!

I had a terrible week of sleep and felt flat flat flat Saturday morning before the race. Working with JM, MZ, and KA, we did have the "base camp" down pretty tight: ez up tent, an entire bike shop worth of tools, several chairs, a table, grill, sausages and hotdogs, kiddie and adult beverages, water... everything. We're going to have to work on a heat source as it starts to get colder, but it was mild this weekend so no worries yet.

Brief Day 1 course description: Exactly the same as 2006 nationals course.

Long Day 1 course description: uphill paved start to a right hand turn onto the grass. Two or three turns and a long sweeping gently up hill left-hander that emptied out along an off camber straight away. Hard turn left past the pits, left, right, left and over a set of barriers. Two 180s after those with some elevation changes, the turns being at the highest points. The course then ran along one of the bankings and up further still to cross the road (an extension of the road from the starting pavement), then head down hill (on pavement still) to a 90 degree right turn off the pavement and around a tree or two. This dropped down to the base of a set of 5 or 6 concrete stairs (3' deep stair treads, these were not stairs like the ones in your house) that ended with a left hand turn back onto that same road. 200 meters later, a right off the road again and back towards the swoopy section near the barriers. The drop down the hill and back up the first time included a forced run, the next several half-pipe like drop ins and hills were all rideable, weaving back and fourth before you had to climb a long gradual power section towards the water.  A few gentle turns, a pass by the pit, a gravel section of path near the lake, a long paved section of road (start line behind you here), and a final section up two hills (one a run up) and around a few trees before dropping back onto the start pavement for the run to the line and you were done Easy, right? 

Warming up on the trainer was tiring me out and I didn't really want to race. Well, I did want to race, but not as hard as it was going to take to keep from getting lapped never mind finishing in the points (top 25). The points that I have managed to scrape together did get me a call up to the third row and I lined up on the left behind Mike Rowell and Johnny Bold. At the whistle I didn't go hog wild, but kept the pace high as we crested the hill and slipped up a few extra spots as the field was setting up for the turn. I hit the grass 12th wheel maybe, feeling surprisingly good. Smoothly through the first turns, I settled in around 14th and rode a bit ahead of where I usually am but didn't feel taxed. Keith Gauvin was just ahead, he also just a few spots further up than normal. Jon Foley was around as well, but he pulled away in his usual just-as-fast-in-the-corners-as-in-the -straight-aways kind of style.

Through the barriers things were good, and I moved up a few spots, teasing the top 10 but as we turned off the pavement before the cement stairs I heard a loud crash behind me. "Was that someone who should be ahead of me or behind me" I thought, not having time to look. Onto the upper section of pavement Kevin Hines passed me and I knew I was over my head. I only see that guy in warm ups. Ryan Rumsey is having a great early season and he left me with his buddy Alan Starrett who is fast again as usual. 

I managed to catch up and latch on to Keith, Alan and Erich Gutbier and felt pretty good through the first two laps. It seems that I was even a half a step ahead of Keith at one point.... 

note: these are the kind of photos you get when you let a 5 yr old do the race photography. 

So two laps/15 minutes into this I realize I'm going to die a quick death if I try and keep this up: I back off the gas a bit and take my rightful position at the rear of this group. I decide to rest for a lap but still keep in touch so that I'm in a position to draft (read "rest some more") in some one's wake on the paved sections. This strategy consisted of spending energy when needed by punching it on occasion, taking unnecessary chances when the opportunity presented itself, braking as late as possible most every turn, and riding "within myself" the other 1-2% of the time. 

It worked I guess, because thought I felt like $hit I managed to stick with Alan and Keith as Erich slipped ahead through two more laps. I spent a good deal of time 4-6 bike lengths behind them, but did stick around. Here I'm leading Alan up the stairs on lap three... maybe 4.  

more photography by Cory

Seeing three to go I was on Gauvin's wheel through the finish and he gave me the thumbs up, indicating his approval of my ability to make the impossible possible by sticking with those two despite feeling like crap. He also probably knew I was no threat in a sprint finish and was happy about that as well. Through the infield onto the off-camber Scott Rosenthal yells "you're about to pass Mark McCormack" and sure enough, there he is, former US road and cyclocross national champion soft pedaling just ahead. Mark's soft pedaling is just a bit slower than my full-on race pace, but it is slower, and I blew his doors politely passed Mr. McCormack... just a few turns later. (Mark later commented to an acquaintance that he was "just cooling down for tomorrow." Whatever, just stay in the race and don't slide back too far - I want this minor victory to at least appear legit!)

During my "Tour of Roger Williams park presented by Alan Starrett and Keith Gauvin's a$$e$" our group was caught and passed by  Peter Sullivan, who you can see here in black preparing to catch and pass Gutbier and ride away from all of us.

He was gone at the start of lap 4 and I felt like dropping out. I came off the back of the Gauvin Starrett duo before that lap ended and around that time Jon Bruno came through me as well. I asked him to wait but he was going so fast he didn't hear me. 

That marked the point where I ceased to race the people ahead of me and started to race the ones behind me. On the pavement after the cement stairs on lap 5 Jon Foley was riding a flat rear tire, so here I was running 16th on the road with 10 minutes of racing left and thinking "how the hell can I hold this?" &  "how many positions am I willing to give up here?" & "this is fun exactly how?" 

I was alone and feeling increasingly bad but recalled how a bit of "rest" earlier on had helped me recover a bit. I turned it down to 10 from 11 (spinal tap reference) for a few turns else death was imminent. I also needed to know who else was behind me that was fast enough to catch me and pass me as easily and steathily as Bruno had... I sweah he came from outta nowhere! 

During those couple of turns I took inventory of who was back there and saw Mark the Shark was still soft pedaling. I had opened up a massive...  3 or 4 seconds at least... gap on him. There also was Curtis Boivin... and Mike Rowell... and Jeff Molongoski... and Jon Bernhard... and Todd Burns. (BTW... knowing this much detail about who is behind you in a race is a bad sign - a "red light" to success if you will - a clear demonstration of the wrong mindset) Boivin was softpedaling like Mark, but Rowell looked angry and Molongoski, Bernhard, and Burns were on the charge. I'm usually ahead of Burns... directly ahead of him... but ahead none the less so while he could have caught me it was likely he was tired too and catching me was going to make him more tired.... He wasn't my biggest problem - it was the others that were coming. 

Here I am running scared...

Down by the pit I saw Molongoski and Boivin head in for service and figured they wouldn't come back to me. Small relief. Bernhard was coming next and he caught me after the bell in the off camber. This was my ticket home I thought, and I turned my self inside out to stay with him, keeping my distance ahead of the others. 7 minutes of agony later he outsprinted me to the line for 16th place.

Hardest effort I've ever put in at a cross race from start to finish. 

So... I'm usually 22nd. Now subtract 5... 
1) Mark McCormack (sat up, because he can)
2) Mike Rowell (he was the one that crashed on the first lap and that's why he never got back up to me)
3) Jeff Molongoski (two thrown chains)
4) Curtis Boivin (general bike problems and didn't really chase as hard as he could have) 
5) Jon Foley (late race flat)

and you get my finishing position... 17!

Here's one more from Cory's portfolio... 


G-ride said...

excellent analyses and I love it when the data proves solid. these outliers really mess with my engineer head. gotta trust the data.

still. 17th, most excellent. I too finished that race the most spent I have ever been. I rolled around the corner onto the grass and flopped like colin. it was sad.

ok, i expect a similar detailed analyses to explain sunday's result. dont fail me.

Rob said...

Haven't had a chance to chat with you yet, but I saw the results and wanted the scoop....Nice job...