Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, October 25, 2010

SCX #3 - Silver Lake

During my first season racing cross I have learned a lot and I still have a lot to learn. I've received great advice from seasoned vets and have figured out a few things on my own, some obvious, some not. One of those in the "obvious" column is that if the venue has the word "Lake" in it and there is even a grain of sand in the park then the organizers will find a way to incorporate sand into the course.

Check out Kenton Berg's video of one lap of the race. It it awesome and gives you a great visual of the course.

It was a beautiful, chilly, fall morning and I arrived to the venue early so I could get some laps in on the course before the first race started. The course was set up to use as much of the beach as possible. We basically had to negotiate the full length of it twice per lap. Not only that, but the rest of the course was all up and down with only a few, flat sections. Bike handling skills would be key for making it though unscathed.

After taking a slow lap on the course I noticed that my headset was extremely loose. I usually go over my bike carefully after every race but didn't have time this week. I would not be able to ride with confidence if I didn't get this fixed. No problem, I have my tools in my car. I broke off the course and started heading for the car to get it fixed. On my way I passed the Gregg's tent. They are doing neutral support for the series so I decided to let them check it out. For some reason they could not get it tightened all the way. The bolt seemed to be bottoming out. I didn't have a lot of time so he decided to go "Old School" and got another guy to push down on the bars while he tightened it up. It didn't completely fix the issue but it was at least rideable now. (Thanks guys!!) I headed back to the car to do a good 30 minutes on my trainer. With about 15 minutes until my start time I headed down to get ready for staging. The sun had finally climbed over the tree line and it was starting to warm up.

I am still sitting in first in the series so I got called out to the front row. Jeff (Cycling NW) and Brian(Stanley) were there ready to battle but both had missed a race so they were starting a few rows back. Hopefully I could use this to get a lead on them at the start. The whistle blew and off we went. The organizers were cruel. After just a short spring we hit the deep sand and instead of doing a full lap they had us take a u-turn half way through and go back the other way. I got a good start and hit the sand right in front. I thought I was in the clear but someone tagged my rear wheel and caused me to falter. I was still able to keep pedalling (maybe I should have jumped off and ran) but I'd lost momentum. Right then Jeff and Brian and a few others went flying by on my right. (how did they move through the crowd that fast). I guess there was a huge pile up right behind me and it caused a mangled mess that made it hard for guys to get though. When we hit the u-turn there was no way to keep momentum and stay on the bike so we dismounted and started running. The sand was deep and it wasn't easy to get though. As soon as I could I remounted and we headed for the technical section in the woods. As we climbed uphill we hit one of the two barrier sections on the course. There were two barriers and they were set up right as we were making an uphill turn to the right and the barriers were set at an angle which made them feel awkward and tall. The first time through I felt like a dork while jumping them. I was able to pick off a few of the guys that passed me in the sand. I was putting myself in the red while climbing the hill. I couldn't let Jeff and Brian get a big lead on me this early in the race. As we got to the top of the hill we started into a windy downhill section that eventually led us back down to the start. I was bunched in with a bunch of guys and figured I would try to pass them when we hit the beach again. I was right on Bob's(Cycle-U) wheel when all of a sudden he went down hard after a turn. I'm not sure how I missed plowing right into him but luckily I got around him without losing any momentum. I think Francisco(Byrne) was also able to get around but others were not so lucky. By the time we the start/finish I had managed to get most of the guys that passed me at the start but unlike most races I wasn't sure what place I was in. I could see Jeff and Brian when they passed by me on sections but didn't know if there were guys from our field in between them and me.

We started our first full lap on the course and I was able to fly all the way through the two long sand sections. I think this helped me pick up some time. We exited the sand and headed down a short single track section before hitting the second barrier section. It was on an uphill and once you cleared it, it was easier to just keep running with your bike until the hill leveled out a bit. I jumped back on and as I figured I needed to go full on again to see if I could pick up more time. Just then I hit a sharp, fast right turn and I heard my tire fold. BAM!! down I went...WTF!! I got back on fast and no one went by me. I got back up to speed and as I hit the next turn, same thing. Down I went. I was OK and jumped back on. As I started around the next turn I could hear my tire folding again. This time I let off and took the corner carefully. I looked back and $%$#!, my rear tubie was going flat. This sucked. Because of these crashes I noticed a few guys had come up on my wheel. I would just ride safe until the pits and grab a new wheel. As I went through the start I heard Mark M. cheering for me and I told him I was going flat. He and Jeff ran to the pits to help me. I hit the sand again and I was flying. The low pressure was actually helping me in the sand. I looked up and Mark was yelling that it I was in 3rd place and not too far back. Wow, I thought I was farther back and in 7th or 8th. I couldn't stop now. If there were any issues swapping out my wheel I could lose too much time. I waved them off and kept going. It looked like I could at least make it one more lap.

During the next lap I was able to fly though the sand and was able to get only within a couple of seconds from Brian. Every time we hit the technical sections I couldn't take corners aggressively and they would get a small gap. As we got ready for the final lap we started lapping riders and this actually helped me and I was able to get within striking distance. I'm not sure when but at some point Brian passed Jeff and took over 1st place. I hit the beach again to start the last lap (Thank God!) and again, was able to fly through. I made it up the hill, over the barrier and was ready to hit the gas. No such luck. My tire was folding under on ever turn and I was using every ounce of energy to stay upright. Brian and Jeff started to pull away. I looked back and didn't see anyone so my new goal was to stay steady and not drop any places. It was hard and I had to use every ounce of energy to stay upright on tight corners and still keep up a fast pace. I was never so happy to see the finish line. When we started the last lap I was right on their heels. When we finished I was 2o seconds back. I was extremely happy to be able to hang on for 3rd and I still have a nice cushion for the series lead.

all photos by Denise Phillips

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