Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, September 6, 2010

2010 Labor Day Cyclocross Championships

Road season just ended last weekend and this year (after my teammates beat me into submission) I decided to give cross a try. I purchased a nice, used Redline and I was ready to go. I watched several races last year but didn't really have a clue about everything that is cross. I went to clinic put on by two teammates which was really insightful. Now all I had to do was put in some time on the bike and go out and race.
I hadn't planned to do this one so I could have a week off from racing but at the last minute I decided to give it a go. Since it was my first I decided to race in my category and age group which I'm not embarrassed to say that for cross it's CAT 4 - Masters 45+. Yes, I'm old but.....
I had become used to racing in the afternoon during the road season but when you're in the lower categories you have the pleasure of getting up early. I was up by 6:30 and it looked like it had just stopped raining. It was only 48 degrees out and it wasn't what I was hoping for on Labor Day. Denise decided to head over with me and we were on the road at 7:30. The registration line was pretty long and by the time I got through it my warm up time was cut down quite a bit. I managed to get out on the course and took a couple of laps. It was not exactly what I expected and I was glad I had time to see it beforehand. The course was still damp but not too bad. The rain was threatening but was holding off. We lined up with the Masters 35+ and 55+.
There were about 100 of us total and we were all doing four laps. I don't think I've been this nervous and anxious for a race in quite a while. The 35+ field went off first with us starting a minute followed by the 55+. Since I'd never raced this course (or any for that matter) I was hesitant to shoot off the front even though I had a great start and I was in position to be one of the first at the turn. Sitting back proved to be a mistake. I was in the top ten through the firt turn. The course starts on a wide dirt section before hitting a grass section with a lot of tight turns and then back onto a flat, fast dirt section. After another short grass section with more tight corners we came up to the one area where you needed to dismount to climb a long, steep flight of steps. As we approached the steps we were already on the tail end of the 35+ field and it was basically a slow walk up. At the top we remounted and went down a short paved trail and right into a hard right turn that led into a long single track section. It was an awesome trail but since we had already caught the 35+ guys we were stacked up like the 520 bridge during rush hour. It was slow going and a little frustrating. I still managed to get by a few guys but really couldn't pour it on. The only obstacle on the trail was a log you had to get over but it was easy to just ride over it. After the main single track section there is another couple of paved/dirt trail transitions where I was able to move past more guys, most of them being from the 35+ field. By the time we came through the start/finish for the first time I had no idea what place I was in. I was feeling really good and passed more guys before we hit the steps. It was pretty stacked up as we climbed. The single track section was still really bunched up with racers and I could only pass a couple more guys. I was starting to get frustrated but tried to remember that it was my first cross race and tried to keep my cool. As we approached the start/finish the field was finally starting to spread out. We were only half way through and a lot of guys were already hurting. On the third lap I was able to get by a ton of racers. I still had no idea how I was doing but I was having a blast and feeling good. This time I was able to fly up the stairs and got a nice gap on those behind me. I was able to fly through the single track section with no one around me. The tired riders were getting careless and I saw a bunch of them crash. I almost got taken out several times but managed to get around them with the rubber side down. I was finally noticing that I was catching guys from my field. As I approached the start/finish for the final lap I heard the announcer say that some 35+ guy was in 15th place. I rolled through and when I was almost out of ear shot I heard him say that I was in 3rd place. I looked behind me and there was no one close. I looked in front of me and saw the 1st and 2nd place guys just ahead. They had about a 10 second gap. I was feeling great and dug deep to try to make up some time before the steps. I pass a large group of 35+ guys but there was probably still five more between me and the leaders. I got up the stairs fast, remounted and sped down the paved section. I came really close to going down at the transition to the dirt. Again, I flew through the single track section with no one around me. I left the single track and caught the other 35+ guys. If I could just get by them I would have a chance. Just then, BAM!! the guy in front of me went down hard. I had to basically "bunny-hop" him and somehow managed to stay up. Then the guy in front of him went down and I had to put a foot down and maneuver around him. Crap! I was losing time. I quickly remounted and got back up to speed. When I hit the next dirt/paved transition I almost went down again. "Settle down idiot!!" I passed another guy but hadn't seen the top two in my field for a few minutes now. We came out of the woods and I caught a glimpse of them. I could catch them if I dug deep and rode clean. Just then one more guy in front of me had a miscue and overshot a turn. I had to slow to avoid him. I got around him and then realized I wasn't going to catch the leader. I looked back and saw no one close to me and slowed up. I just needed to make it through error free and I could still make the podium. I went though the finish and got validation from the announcer that I did finish third. . To top it off Jitka and Vern won their races!Mark M. took 2nd in his! Wes, Mark T., and Toni all finished in the top 10 in their fields! I think I'm hooked!!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Shaun! Gld to have found your blog while I was looking for Labor Day results. Congrats on your conversion to 'cross and on a great result in your first race. It won't be long until you are climbing up the CX categories. My money is on you for at least one win this year, especially on more of a roadie course! Do you have enough upgrade points to upgrade to cat 2 on the road yet? You've had some great results this season...