Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Finally, Caught Up: Barton and USGP

In order to meet my goal of catching up on race reports before Nationals, I bring you my run-downs of the Cross Crusade Finale at Barton Park and USGP Day #2.

Barton: My first A race. There were two major things to fret about (because I always have to fret about something). First, sixty minutes of cross racing. Second, not crashing in front of, or otherwise interfering with, any of the A men.

This is the closest I'd be to the rest of the field for the entire race. See those ladies in the front? They win National Championships. See me? There I am, in the back:

My position would not improve over the course of the race.

I ride fast first laps. For better or worse, its sort of my thing. I rode the hardest first lap of my season and was still spit off the back, as in waaaaaay off the back, within a half of a lap. Those ladies are on such a different level that it may as well be another galaxy.

Barton is a course that you either love or loathe. Personally, even though I sustained a concussion and dislocated thumb here three years ago, I am fond of this course. Two years ago, Barton was the first B race where I didn't get pulled a lap early and it was my best race last season.

The course, in my mind, was divided into three parts. The gravel pits (80% of the course), the paved parking lot (18%) and the crazy whoop-dee lunatic mud single track and run-up that connect the two.

There were a couple of tricky sections. The aforementioned single track and a slick, off-camber downhill that had racked up a huge body count during the earlier races. I had spooked badly, three times, on this section of the course in the morning and hadn't ridden it. But this was the A race...I'd have to at least try and ride it during the race. Or risk being ejected to the beginner men. Even though they had changed the course after the pre-rides to make it less dangerous, I was not looking forward to the prospect of tumbling tits-over-ass in front of at least five dozen onlookers.

Turns out, I rode it cleanly six times (we'll get back to the "six" thing in a minute). In fact, I rode the whole race cleanly. Not gracefully, or quickly, but cleanly.

What eventually killed me were the run-ups. I was right with Margi for most of the first three laps, until the effort of trying to keep up with her on the run-ups finally wore me down. Margi is tiny and someone who has placed top five in the Portland Marathon or something equally impressive. In a run-up battle between mountain goats and monster trucks, the mountain goats will always win.

When we hit the places where I would normally be stronger (the straightaways and pavement) I was out of gas from the running. So, as much as I hated to do so, I let her go and concentrated on keeping a steady pace for the next 35 minutes.

If I haven't gotten this point across already, sixty minutes of cyclocross is a lot of goddamned cyclocross. The second time up the finish line run-up, the lap card read six laps to go.

My first thought: You have to be fucking kidding me.

My second thought: I just may throw my bike at someone.

Granted, six laps for the A men probably meant only four more for me, but still, we're talking about a race where I would usually only race four laps to begin with.

The last two laps were equally hard and hilarious. Hard in that I had little gumption left, but had to keep racing. Hilarious in that I was constantly berating my legs to keeping working. And they were constantly laughing in my face.

(Probably the only time I stood for the last half of the race.)

(Unable to hide how I really feel about racing an extra 20 minutes.)

In the end, I wasn't last and it felt good to ride a technically sound race. I didn't get lapped by my own field and didn't crash in front of anyone. And, for the little things that make me happy, I picked the right tire pressure and wore the right glasses:

(Green Rudy Project glasses: Esthetically atrocious, but perfect for the overcast conditions).

Barton was followed by two race-less weekends. It was glorious. I slept in, ingested a lot of junk calories, rode as much (or as little) as I wanted and helped R paint the interior of his new house.

USGP: Having recently become of bit of a cheapskate, I had decided in October to only race one of the USGP races and skip the Elite race in favor of the Singlespeed race. Not too much to say about this one other than (1) It was cold (2) I was severely under-geared and (3) some of the out of town B racers were total assholes.

(1) It was cold. Like 32 degrees with a wind chill of 32 degrees minus a bunch of other degrees. Because my body overheats so easily, this was the first time I had raced in my cross skinsuit, which is fleece lined and had previously only been used to commute in the rain when I hadn't done laundry for a few days.

For gear, I went with a wool sleeveless baselayer, thick wool socks, fleece lined knee warmers, windstopper gloves over embrocated hands and the skinsuit. Used a cotton cap, but kept my ears uncovered and used a heavy layer of Born #2 emobrocation on my legs, back and shoulders. This combination worked, pretty well but I should have also embrocated my feet right before the race. My toes were hovering on the border of "extremely uncomfortable" and "painful" by the end of the race. Going to have to adjust the strategy for the arctic conditions in Bend.

(2) I did a horrible job of picking the right gear on the Specialized. Mostly because I was lazy and cold. I think I just settled on 46 x 19 or 46 x 21. Whatever it was, it sucked. I was spinning at about 150 RPM on the pavement and packed dirt. And this course had a lot of pavement and packed dirt.

(3) Don't be an asshole. We're all out there to have fun...yelling at people to get out of your way is lame. I doubt that you will miss out on your opportunity for pro sponsorship following this extremely prestigious B race if you display a little courtesy.

There were at least five women in the race. Lindsay Jones was long gone after the pavement, the Signal rider crashed, but caught me again at some point and finished right in front of me. I spent the entire race chasing Anna and a Cucina Fresca rider. I'd catch them in the technical sections and they would ride away from me on the pavement. Lucky for me, the technical section was the second half of the course. My grandma touring gearing allowed me to climb the hills that they were forced to run and I was able to spin fast enough on the pavement to hold a small lead at the end.

Photos here, here and here from Cascade Event Photography.

Awesome Skinsuit Shot Courtesy of Oregon Velo:

There were seven HV riders in the SS race...I don't think we had an entry in any other race. Here is a good shot of some of the boys:

And Chris remounting in style:

And Bryan doing what he does best:

Although I could have easily been convinced to skip this race and stay in bed for an extra hour, I'm glad I did it. It was fun to line up with the menfolk. My legs needed the wake-up call before Nationals and my body needed to experience the shock of racing in freezing conditions. I fell twice, but am calling the race a clean race as both spills were caused to avoid a crash in front of me, not by a handling error.

It's been a lazy week. Unseasonably cold temperatures have driven most of us inside to get those last few workouts in before "the big race."

I have two goals: (1) Enjoy the experience and (2) Don't finish last. We will see how that plan works out.

See you in Bend. BRRRRRRRRR!


Paul_F said...

Way to make the upgrade! The difference between A and B riders is crazy - same story with us guys. Inspiration for next year is what I figure.

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