Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ice Weasels Cometh

The Ice Weasels Cometh has quickly become New England's favorite farewell to the cyclocross season. It's a long kiss goodbye, an extra hug from your kids, and one for the road all wrapped up into one. It's as close as the serious New England cyclocross racer will come to the Portland cross experience where costumes, strange bikes and the party seem to be the focus more so than the racing. The competition is so good in New England most here don't want to make cyclocross into the quasi freak show it is in PDX, but it's fun every once in a while to take it all a bit less seriously.

That isn't to say that the racing at IWC isn't serious... it is... that's just that at ICW it's ok to take a beer feed even if you are in contention and snatching a cupcake in stride over the barriers will win you more cheers than any podium spot ever could.

Zanconato Racing was generously added as a co-promoter for the event by the likes of Colin, Kevin and Thom. Thanks guys, that helps us out a bit. As a result, we were all assigned volunteer tasks and comped entries into our respective races. Bonus!

100 riders registered for the 10 am Cat 4 race in 25ish degree weather... and 85+ of them showed. They put on a great show and broke up the crusty snow for the rest of us quite nicely. Thanks guys! The race was won by a guy riding a Surly Pugsley, a perfectly suited bike for the conditions.

Last year at IWC 1.0 I raced the elite field and missed the opportunity to party a bit... After the race everyone was packing up to go home you see. Determined not to repeat my mistake I swapped my entry in the elite field (2pm) for the single speed field at noon. The two kegs from harpoon were tapped at 10, but no way would it all be gone by the time my race ended at 12:45, right?

Wrong! More on that in a moment.

Having no single speed, I would have to zip tie the shifters on my bike to lock out my gears, but not before I took a few laps of the course to decide which gear to lock into. The approach was brilliant: while others had to race what they brought, I was able to take a lap in the 19, then another in the 17, and a third in the 21. Settling on the 19 the gears were locked and I was ready to race. My late number switch earned me the reverse call up... I was at the back of a pack of 50 riders when the whistle went off. Yahoo!!!



I spent the first half lap trying to work up to through the field, and the next full lap moving towards the top 10. Closing in on Kenny at the start of lap two, he went down in a muddy corner and I was vaulted into the top 7. This race paid top 5, so I set off in pursuit of the leaders.


This race was so much fun it is hard to explain. Having only one gear limited the damage that others could do to you, making the race more about bike handling and smooth pedaling. Gearing choice was a big factor as well, and I was pretty sure I had nailed it. Tall enough to get some speed on the straights but not too tall that I couldn't turn it over in the corners.


Once I made it to the top five and into the money I tried to take a feed. The handoff was captured by uber-photag Natasha McKittrick.


photo courtesy of pedal power photography via cxmagazine

With the donut gone, I came around next lap looking for a beer, but was told that both kegs were empty. Dayumm! My focus turned to catching ThomP who was unquestionally a better technical rider that me but appears a bit undergeared for the long straight sections. I nearly made contact with 1.5 laps to go when he flatted and put me into third where I finished.

That course was a blast. I had a great time for the first 6 or 7 laps trying to stay with Al Donahue, a strong elite racer who would normally drop me in an instant but was limited by the single gear. We drove hard into every corner, hoped for traction, accelerated when we got some, and tried to keep it upright when we didn't. Mike Rowell was long gone, he's a tank with lots of single speed experience, and won the race easily. He then won the 35+ race on the same bike, taking 3rd in the combined master's and elite fields.

It was a beautiful snowy and cold day... it was proof that racers can and will race when the conditions are far from perfect. Riders and spectators alike had a blast, we should do this again next year but stretch it into January.

27 comments:

G-ride said...

that is why I love SS. It tightens everything up and acts more like a govenor or handicap on the ridiculously strong guys, and puts a premium more on pedaling and being smooth. Its why I go to natz with a bike. I wish we had more here.

matt said...

I was thinking about a series free year next year, now I'm thinking I'll just race ss and see who decided to join me. Maybe in the 3 field rather than the master's. it was FANTASTIC!

G-ride said...

Um, that is what I thought this year, too. Just do 3s with the SS.

Till I tried it. Dude, its NOT fun. I dont understand how it can not be, but it aint.

Natz, with 130 other SERIOUS bikers on SS, is AWESOME.

matt said...

I'm not expecting to compete against any geared riders, but I think my chances of getting lapped in the 3 field are lower than the 35+ field.

I'm hoping that a few others will race single speed as well, creating a race within a race. Best place for that... the 3 field atma

G-ride said...

hmm, if i had others to ride with, like we did this summer on MTB, even if it was just a couple...and they maybe scored us...and colin tracked it on SSCrossresults.com...I would be all over it.

Especially since SS favors me and slows down people like you (ie people faster than me).

G-ride said...

It would be even cooler if we limited ourselves to THE SAME GEAR!!!

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