13 November 2005

The ups and downs

Pics from the Joliet Men’s B and Single-speed race are here: http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/scstrout/album?.dir=/1dfa

I was flying high this week, on a major adrenaline rush from all the Nationals craziness, all the way into today’s race at Challenge Park in Joliet. I won this race last year, on a pretty wide open course with some fun single-track, and a field that didn’t have very many people in it. But it felt good to cross the line first, and although I was realistic about this year, I had hopes for a pretty high finish.

Unfortunately, it was not to be … but that’s ‘cross for you. The course this year was super-tight, with more than 50% singletrack, including an opening section with three log hops and a cement foundation ride; the same fast descent as last year; and a short section that included a one-lane bridge ride. It was a mountain-bike course, and I suffered the consequences!

Andy Anderson and I drove down together, as he prepped for his first-ever ‘cross race in the men’s B category. I dragged him down there super-early, wanting to duplicate my schedule for Nationals – one hour course preview, one hour of gathering/equipment/warmup, stage 15 minutes early sans bike, and then go-time. My body works in strange and mysterious ways, so I wanted to be sure to get the eating, drinking and warmup schedule all set before heading to Providence. Andy was good about it, and seemed to have fun checking out the course as everyone got ready for the Masters races.

Thankfully, the warmup went well for me, and seems to be dialed in. The race, on the other hand, was quite forgettable. I got a pretty good start, thanks in part to the wide-open grass/parking lot combo, and was sitting in fourth place as we entered the singletrack the first time. As expected, I lost a little ground, but not as much as I would have thought, and held my own through the open field before the wicked-fast downhill. I think I heard some swearing behind me in the forest, as I know I’m no competition for the guys raised on MTBs …

But I’m strong on the open sections, and made up quite a bit of ground. In fact, after the long uphill, I was closing fast on Lou Kuhn, intent on getting a leg up on our little rivalry. We had a small group going into the second lap, and I was going well when I could power … until the base of the hill. In a sharp 180-degree, flat turn, I lost the front wheel, and plowed head-first into the black dirt. Someone landed on top of me, and we lost a place in the blink of an eye …

Back up and going hard, still in with a chance. Until a short section just before the start/finish, again on loose single-track, again losing the front wheel. I was sprawled on the ground, helpless as the back of the pack sped by … I collected myself again, and started rolling, only to notice that my handlebars had rotated backward! There was no way I could handle the bike in this condition, so I rolled into the pit … but no one had allen keys. I waited a good minute before someone handed me a set from his car, and after another few seconds of fumbling I was finally back on track.

I had obviously lost too much ground, and at this point was just riding for points. Someone had cracked, though, and so I wasn’t last … Of course, when it rains, it pours, and at the base of the hill on the fourth or fifth lap I found that my front wheel was going completely flat. That’s hard to do with tubeless tubular tires! So I ran half the lap with my bike slung over my shoulder, and switched out the offending wheel in the pit. From then on it was training, as I was hopelessly alone for the rest of the time. But I felt good, despite the bruising on my thigh -- definitely an encouraging sign! If only we have a true ‘cross course in the near future …

I headed out to take photos of Andy’s race, which can be found here: http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/scstrout/album?.dir=/1dfa. He seemed to have fun despite working with new shoes/pedals, never having dismounted before, and running a hardtail MTB ... All in all, a tough day, but that’s ‘cross for you!

2 comments:

David Johnsen said...

No Allen keys in the pit? Sheesh. Isn't that the most basic bike tool you'd expect someone to have? At least 4-5-6 mm. What did they have, duct tape?

Chris said...

There was no neutral support at this particular race, unfortunately. And technically, I don't think I was supposed to accept the aid of the spectators, even in the pit ... as I understand it, you can only use what's in the pit at the time the race starts. Which is why guys have spare bikes -- something that would have really helped this time! But I just have wheels in there, and didn't put any tools in myself, so only myself to blame ... It just bums me out, since a) Lou creamed me; and b) I was last of the finishers again -- not a very auspicious way to race! But I only got lapped once (while running half the course, no less!), and I had fun anyway ...