Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, September 13, 2010

MFG #1 - Cycle-U Kick-Off Cross

After racing in my first ever CX race last weekend and getting a podium finish you would think that I would go into the first MFG race with some confidence......Wrong!! I still felt like this was my first CX race and was plenty nervous. This course was completely different than the Labor Day course. There were only two short single track sections, a short hill to climb, and barriers. There were no barriers in last week's course so this would be my first go at dismounting the bike, hurdling the barriers and remounting in a race atmosphere. The nice thing was there were more sections to pass slower riders.

The race was at Big Finn Hill Park near Juanita. The weather was almost identical to what we had at last week's race. It was mild, rain was threatening, the ground was a little damp in places but not bad. I rolled in at around 8:15. My start time was at 9:30 (old guy, rookie races) and got my series numbers at registration. By the time I got back to my car I found that I had already lost my arm number. How the hell did I lose it walking 50 meters back to my car? For some reason I got obsessed with finding it and kept retracing my steps to look for it. I stopped by registration and asked if anyone had turned it in. I was wasting valuable warm up time. Finally, Vern finally came over and told me that as long as I had my main jersey number to not worry about it. I did find it in my car later that day.

I got in a couple of laps on the course and felt it could be a good one for me. We got lined up and I saw Brian G., now racing for Stanley, and I knew he was one person to watch. He got 2nd last week. For the first race in the series they lined us up randomly by calling out last digits of our race numbers. From now on, they will call up guys that are leading the series. 3, 5, 4, 2, 6,....I am 558 and I just kept watching guys line up in front of me. Oh well, that's how it goes. We started on a wide, paved section that was slightly downhill. On the first lap instead of making a sharp right at the bottom, which we would do the rest of the laps, we continued straight and turned left to just do the 2nd half of the course. It was a long, fairly wide start so I was hoping to just go into the red, burn a match and see if I could at least get to the turn somewhere near the front. The first field was off and a minute later we were set free. I got clipped in fast and hammered on the pedals. At first I wasn't able to move but as we got up to speed I was able to fly by guys and managed to get right on Brian's wheel before the turn. At least I knew I was with one of the stronger riders. I was feeling really good and just got into a nice rhythm and stayed on his wheel. My first go at dealing with barriers was right at the beginning of the race with a lot of guys around me. I got through them just fine and that calmed my nerves even more. Right after the barriers a guy went flying by us and even managed to get by a couple of slower riders from the field. I decided to stay on Brian's wheel and we were able to keep him in check. We got through the first single track section without incident and came to the climb. All three of us flew by a ton of guys on this short climb. As we turned the corner and headed down the fast, paved sections I looked over and managed to see at least one other guy from our field that was close. We hit a fast, dry, bumpy grass section and then into the woods again. It was slow going as it was pretty stacked up. We went through it and hit another grass section with a lot of tight turns. I think it was here were someone yelled at me (I think it was Jiri) to GET IN FRONT OF THOSE GUYS!! Being new I guess I'm still used to racing on the road and drafting off guys to conserve energy. NOT IN CROSS. That made me realizd that I shouldn't just sit in so I quickly stepped on the gas and flew around them. I went onto a wide, dirt path and flew down to the start finish as fast as I could. I could hear all my teammates cheering and it gave me more incentive. After going by the finish we turned right this time. I heard that there was an issue in front of us with the 35+ field. They forgot to put up the tape and a handful of guys kept going straight like we did on lap one. They had it up by the time I got there. I put myself in the red to try to get some slower riders in between me and the rest of my field. I hit a section that directs you through a big square and I was able look over and see that I had a nice little gap. They were still driving hard and were within reach. I kept a hot pace knowing that they would at least have to work harder than me to bridge the gap. The rest of this lap was spent going really hard to get by as many slower guys and gals in the other fields. Again, it was a little slow through the singletrack section with no one going down in front of me. I still wasn't completely sure if I was in first or not so treated it like I had to catch someone. As I got to the end of the lap Ed yelled out from the sidelines that I was in first and had a gap. I couldn't tell where other guys were behind me but since the Stanley team is new and was racing in brand new kits I could pick Brian out every time I turned back. He was still in striking distance. As I went through the finish this time the fields were getting really spread out and I was able to pour it on, only having to pass a few riders here and there. I looked at my computer and we were at 27 minutes. I thought we were only doing 30 minutes but as I came through the finish on the next lap the board said we had 2 laps to go. I was wondering if someone forgot to flip it over. I was ready to be done but still had some left in the tank. I put my head down and kept the pressure on. This time as I came out of the woods and into the grass section I could not see Brian. I found out afterwards (and saw pictures) that a guy went down hard on the singletrack right in front of him and he couldn't avoid the carnage and went down. He lost a lot of time. I went by our team tent right before the start and Ed yelled out that I had a big lead and to just get through the last lap safe. I was happy to hear that. I really concentrated on not making mistakes and even waited to pass slower riders until when I knew there was no way I could get tangled up if with them if they went down. I got though the last lap clean and as I hit the pavement leading to the finish I heard all my teammates cheering. I looked back and saw no one behind me. I sat up, put my hands in the air and enjoyed the moment. I know it's only the CAT 4/Masters field and I have a ton to learn. There will be days when I crash, flat or just don't have the legs to go 40 minutes all out or whatever else could happen. Mark M. had a flat before his race and two during which put him out of contention. Right now I'm having fun and I am going to enjoy my little victory.
We had another good day out there with plenty of teammates racing and others just out there to cheer us on. It was great. Jitka won her race and Vern finished

3rd in his. They were having trouble with results so I'm not yet sure how others finish.

Photos by Amara Boursaw, Wheels in Focus

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