Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, December 5, 2011

2011 Washington State Cyclocross Championships - Arlington

A long season of racing road and Cyclocross was about to come to and end.  After missing the podium for the SCX season series by one point I was hoping to go out and make some noise at the State Championships.  I had seen the course map and a recon video of the course and it looked flat and fast......Perfect for me! 

We woke up to a cold, heavy fog that stayed with us off and on as we made the trek North.  Just before we arrived at the venue we were greeted with clear, blue sky with a great view of the snow covered Cascades.  It was only 36 degrees out but I wasn't complaining. 

The Course:
Course Map

Chris and I  got out on the course and soon figured out that even though it looked flat and fast the Berg's and the rest of the course crew worked their magic it was not just going to be a hammerfest.  The start was on a straight gravel road that transitioned onto a short wooded section.  Shortly after was the first obstacle.  It was single barrier followed by a short deep rutted uphill in thick grass.   This transitioned into a short, fast section on another gravel road.  After a sharp left we found ourselves on the fasted part of the course.  It started on a long, double track trail.  At the end there was a sharp right turn quickly followed by the second single barrier section.  After that we were back on another long, straight double track section.  Instead of just letting us fly down this section at top speed they threw in three areas with multiple, tight turns to slow us down.  Next was another fast section on a trail.  We ducked into the woods again for some more tight turns accompanied by large tree roots.  After exiting the woods we entered.....The SAND.  Yes, out in the middle of a random field in Arlington was a had a large sand box.  When I watched The Berg's video it looked like they were riding though it pretty fast, even with the zig-zag style turns so I didn't think much of it.   But wait....They couldn't just leave it like that.  They went out the day before with a rototiller and turned the hard packed sand into something a little more beach like.  As we were riding through during warm up it was packed down from previous races so there was a nice single track we could ride.......BUT....We soon found out that there was a guy out there between races with a pick-ax chopping it all back up....NICE!  After leaving the sand we had a few more long sweeping turns before the straight shot to the finish. 

By our 1:30 start time the temperature had climbed to a balmy 39 degrees.  It felt nice in the sun but keeping warm during staging was tough.  The silly speeders took off and a minute later we were sent on our way.  For the third week in a row I got an incredible start and entered the infield sitting third wheel...Perfect!  Mark(Audi) was right in front of me and Steven(Old Town) was leading the way, setting a blistering pace. 
He actually got a small gap on us right away.  This was going to be brutal!   I soon figured out where the run-up was.  The section after the first barrier that I had ridden during warm up was not as easy when going at speed in heavy traffic.  I ran the whole section and decided that was how I would take it the rest of the race.  When we entered the first fast section of the course Chris(Audi) and I managed to squeak by Mark.  Steven still had a gap but Chris and I worked hard to close.  By the time we reached the sand for the first time we were just off his wheel.   The sand was still deep and choppy the first time through and Steven had a miscue and went down.  I was just far enough behind to be able to avoid t-boning him.  All of a sudden I found myself in the lead.  I decided to up  the tempo to see what would happen.  I had shifted into my small ring for the first trip though the sand and for some reason I was not able to jump back up.  Shit!!!  I had to ride down the next fast, flat section my 42X12.  Can you say 130 RPM's. 

Everything was going well at the start of lap 2.  I entered the first tight section in the woods and had a quick chance to look back and check out the scene.  Chris was right on my wheel with Brian(Stanley) and Steve  not far behind.  Others were there but I couldn't tell who they were before I had to refocus.  After the first long straight away I tried to get Chris to take the lead but he wanted nothing to do with it.  After the second barrier I finally got Steven move around me and take the lead.  Chris took second wheel. 
This is where I wanted to be.  Steven was setting a nice pace and Chris and I were right on his wheel with Brian close behind.  Everything was going great until we hit the beach.  This time we did have a hard packed trail to follow.  Because of what happened on lap one I decided to back off just a bit just before we entered.  We made the first turn and all of a sudden I saw Steven go over his bars, bike flying in the air.  Chris could not avoid him and he had the same result.  I had to swing wide into the deep sand and was somehow able to stay upright and continue on.  I don't think others were so lucky.  I decided to attack!

I started lap three with a small gap.  I figured If I could get to the first speed section I could gas it and hopefully keep anyone from catching back on.  But.....I forgot about the traffic from the field in front of us.  I caught to single speeders right at the start of the tight turns in the first wooded section.  I was able to get by one of them but had no room to get by the other.  I didn't make it by him until after the barrier and run-up.  By that time Bob( and Ken(Fischer Plumbing) had grabbed my wheel?  We hammered it hard through the flats and once again I did not want to keep setting pace.  I slowed a bit and Jim took the bait and moved by.  I wanted to stay second wheel but Bob hit the gas and got by me as well.  I looked back and we still had a gap so I decided to sit there.  We were nearing the sand when Bob made a move to get around Ken.  Ken didn't respond to the attack and Bob started riding away.  I decided I had to get around Ken before we reached the trees or Bob might be able to get a gap.  We were starting to catch a lot of slower and lapped riders I didn't want anyone to get an advantage.  I was able to get around just before the first tight turn.  Bob's lead was bigger than I thought.  I had to really push hard to catch him before we reached the infield for the start of lap 4.  It wasn't easy without the use of my big ring.

Nothing really changed on Lap 4.

By the time we hit the fast sections on lap 5 Bob and I had a nice gap.  Baring any mistakes it looked like it was shaping up to be a two man battle for top spot on the podium.  Bob held the lead for the rest of the lap.  Game on!!

The final lap started and things were looking good.  I was trying to just sit on Bob's wheel and conserve as much energy as I could....Easier said then done?  I was trying to figure out when I should attack.  I figured I needed to do it before we reached the sand but wasn't sure where.   We had just made it though the first barrier section when I decided to take a quick look back.  Holy Crap!!! Where did Brad(20/20 Fuel) come from?  He is strong but I hadn't at all on the previous laps.  I wanted to get by Bob but he was riding super strong on the flats.  I could have passed him but didn't know if I could accelerate and pull away.  I didn't want to just make a move to get in front of him.  I wanted to make it count.  We still had a small gap but during the last few turns in the trees I could see that Brad, Paul, Steve and Chris were really selling out and if I made any

mistakes I could easily go from 2nd to 6th. That would totally suck.  As luck would have it Bob and I caught some lapped women right before the sand.  He made it by just before entered and I had to go off the beaten path to get around her.  Shit!! He had a gap on me and we were running out of real estate.  I looked back and realized I was not going to get caught.  I actually had resigned to play it safe and hold on for 2nd.  We swept through the first set of wide turns and after a few seconds of letting Bob go I thought, " What the F' am I doing?"  I had worked to just give up now?  I decided Bob was going to have to earn the win.  I dug deep and took tight lines through the turns.
At first I wasn't making up ground but all of a sudden I found myself closing fast.  By the time we reached the last turn before the finish straight I was only about 8 meters off his wheel.  I could out sprint him to the finish!  I decided to try my big ring again and it was a no go.  Shit!! I tried one more time before I had to just go.  I was spinning like a cartoon character and was actually closing on him.  He ended up holding me off by about half a bike length.   I was a little bummed that I couldn't get my full sprint on but that is how it goes in cross.  I'm lucky it wasn't a mechanical that put me in the pits.  Congrats to Bob for a great win!!  I am happy as hell with 2nd! The medals they created are awesome!

We had a great field this year and I enjoyed battling it out with all of you.  Time to head to Maui for some R & R.  See you for the 2012 road season.  Happy Holidays!!

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