In 38 years I've not heard the word Valhalla as many times as I did over a two day span in Providence this weekend.
RoJo's park was temporarily re-titled the "Valhalla of Cyclocross" by race promoter and announcer Richard Fries. I can understand his excitement, the park is perfect and he put on an event he should be super proud of, but...
Valhalla is actually a Norse term referring to a grand hall of the dead. It is a cool sounding word though, we should keep using it... especially if it will help bring an early season World Cup or Superprestige race to the states.
The second day of the Providence Cyclocross Festival included some interesting and welcome changes from my perspective, and with the advantage of day one reconnaissance we located out base camp at the west end of the course in a beautiful sunny spot right by the water. The race went right by our tent 4 times per lap and we were just a few feet from our cars. Perfect.
I felt better than on Saturday, though I was expecting for the fatigue to hit me some time mid-morning but it never came. I warmed up confident and happy to be racing, probably knowing that I'd have 13 race-free days after this to catch up on some rest.
The course Sunday was once again another masterpiece by Tom Stevens. Most people liked the second day's course better, and it seemed to flow a bit better to me. The start and first few turns through the off-camber were basically the same, though rather than turning left at the pit it went straight back to the pavement behind the start area and up a steep ridable hill, around a few trees and back down to tricky chicane, out to the pavement and then past the pit. There were a few new turns before the unchanged barriers, slowing the approach and adding a tricky left hand off camber turn as well. The three turns after the barriers were unchanged, but rather than climbing out to the pavement, the course headed up the hill towards the road and took two hard rights to drop into the half pipe like section from the day before. I was thrilled to see those cement stairs and the paved section afterwards left out. After the swoopy up and down sections, the same power climb towards the water was in play, as was the entire section near the backside of the pit and the gravel path. Getting onto the pavement for a third time was shorter on day two, with a steep climb back up to the trees, a long sweeping right hander into some super-high speed barriers, and then a rooty descent and off camber back towards the finish.
The track was dry and fast, with some well worn dirt paths around the place as well as some new and less tacky grass turns.
Once again I was first call up to the third row and got some heckling from the planet bike dorks... well, the two planet bike dorks that weren't already staged... I don't recall Curtis heckling me. The filed was 75 riders strong and at the whistle I was following Keith Gauvin when he got hung up in the rider ahead of him. I shouted some "encouragement" and we drove hard up the left side until the barriers creeped in a retarded our progress. The Sunday course featured a few new and relatively tight 180s just into the field, and as the group arrived a rider to my right went down and a turn later Mike Rowell overcooked a corner and put me in the tape, apologizing as he did it.
The transitions onto the pavement behind the Start area were pretty sketchy, especially with a the field thundering down the narrow path and temporary fencing lining both sides of the course. Everyone came through clean though, and after a half a lap I settled in with the usual Gauvin/Starrett duo. Damien Colfer and Erich Gutbier were just ahead.
The ride with Keith and Alan was pretty typical... I was at the back and would loose a few bike lengths here and there only to bury myself to catch back up. I need to learn how to be smoother or how to ride at the front of these little groups so I'm not always sprinting to catch up, because after two laps, once again, I fell off the pace. Half way through lap three I could see that Mike Rowell, Jon Bernhard, and Jon Foley coming up while the other group kept pulling away. Colfer had fallen back behind us all by this point.
At three to go (half way) they caught me and again I went straight to the back of the group like an idiot. Not that I could have done anything about it. I assumed I'd be gone from this group soon enough, but for some reason it seemed a bit easier and past the pit on lap three it was clear that we were making up ground on the group that had just dropped me. Foley was leading in the turns and Rowell was powering on the straights. We caught Gutbier, Gauvin and Starrett just before the end of lap 4, right around when this was taken...
This is the only photo from my race... consequences of allowing a 7 yr old to handle the camera duties
At two to go Foley gave Rowell a big push and we rode straight through the group we had just caught... I was as surprised as anyone to be back up there. Someone earlier said that we were around 22nd, so I thought that this group was fighting for the last few Verge points.
We were clean through the barriers but shortly afterwards I rolled up on Rowell and had to touch the brakes. Gauvin rolled up on me and crashed as a result, slowing Gutbier and Starrett in the process. I felt bad but there's nothing I could have done about it, accordion effect can be a bitch. Foley and Rowell kept trading turns and I hung on as long as possible. The legs felt good but I couldn't seem to match the speed consistently. On the final lap those two decided to take the race a bit more seriously than me and off they went, taking Staffo and Bernhard with them. I was gapped in the barriers and knew that trying to get back on would mean riding dangerously and I didn't want to crash out me or anyone else. In the end, I fell 1/2 a lap of energy short of being able to stay involved but knew that my spot was safe with the others relatively far behind so I packed it in and rode in easy to the line.
I ended up 19th, which was a nice surprise. Two top 20s is a good weekend in my book. Top 15 next?
This is the other picture taken from my race. Charlie has been describing everything he thinks is cool as "Valhalla."