Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vegas Bob's CX Update!

Hey Chris!
Last weekend was a cyclo-cross double-header in the SoCal Prestige Series. And it was a great one for me.

On Saturday it was down to San Marcos . On the way to San Deigo, it was a quick 45min from the house. Yes, this actually allowed me to show up well in advance of start time! I was able to get registered, run one pre-lap, warm up on the trainer, and since the races were actually running a bit late, another 2 pre-laps. I’m totally serious. Stop laughing.

I hadn't gone to the three previous races because of big drive times, so I had been knocked out of the top ten in the points, but was still able to get a good starting spot in the second row. It was a beautiful West Coast day, with high clouds drifting across the sky and a perfect 70 degrees. The starting bell rang out and with my good warm-up I was able to speed up the long grass straightaway and into third place. We angled into a sweeping left and then over the only set of barriers. After that was a hairpin right and another long straight. The rest of the course was mostly a soon-to-be construction zone for the UC campus’ athletic fields, which meant lots of hard-pack dirt, but also some super-slow speed tight turns over gravel.

After the first gravel “S” and another hardpack fast section was the “run-up”. It was only terribly loose on one side and I had successfully ridden up the other side every time in practice, but with my heart rate over 190 and the other riders it was much more difficult and I only made it ¾ up before I had to awkwardly dismount while someone passed me. After that we wound between trees in a complete bed of gravel. Unfortunately, in the last of these turns, the second place guy spun out his back tire and flopped to the ground right in front of me and the 3rd place guy. We were able to skirt around him, but only barely and slowly, allowing first place to get a big gap on us. I got a little jump being first one out of the turn, but the guy who crashed was angry at himself and strong on the flats and was able to bridge to me and leave the now fourth-place guy well out of our wake.

We tried to carry our speed through the next section, a crazy little mix of bmx whoops and almost-dried wheel-sucking mud, it was a toughy. One of my friends in another race later snapped his aluminum downtube in that section! Luckily without any injury, as the intact top tube kept everything together. Before figuring it out it was a complete frame fracture, he actually thought he had a flat tire.

After that were the most turns of the course, with switches from dirt to sidewalk to grass to parking lot asphalt, to gravel to dirt and then back to grass for the last chicane before a sweeping right to the finishing straight. I kept 2nd across the line for the start of the second lap, but after the barriers my cohort did a couple massive attacks on the straightaways and passed me. I stayed a bike-length behind though, and even after trying unsuccessfully to ride the run-up again I was right behind him. Unfortunately, yes, this was gravel-impaired guy and he on this lap he tried again to take us both out in that same turn. Track standing and creeping, I was able to barely get ahead of him, but again he attacked like crazy and caught me. He apologized profusely, too, by the way. This was how every lap of the race went, however, with him unleashing a mad attack on the straightaways, getting in front of me just before the gravel section and then flailing again.

With first place well distanced from us, and not willing to pop my eyes out with a heart rate over 200, I decided it was best to let him continue to do his thing. We did 8 laps, and ¾ through the race it became clear to me I could capitalize on this consistency. On the last lap I waited until after the whoops and decided to make my move. The first two turns were 90 degrees, and with a two foot high embankment on one side and a chain-link fence on the other it was impossible to get around. The next was onto concrete and then an “S” into a singletrackish dirt-between-grass. He swung wide for the first turn and I had plenty of room on the inside to brake late and make the pass. I swung a little wide into the next one, trying to keep my momentum, and then stood up and gave it everything as I bumped up onto the lumpy grass. I shot out onto the pavement and then took the last gravely section at the very edge of traction, trying to maximize the gap and not let him draft behind me. Midway through, I caught sight of the race leader. He had seen us though, and stepped up his pace. I flowed through the last turns as fast as I could, my heart pounding, trying to figure out whether I had to worry more about trying to stay in front of 3rd, or if I could catch 1st. Immediately I realized that these two required the same solution: stomp on the pedals! Around the course barriers of the last turn I couldn’t see first so I did a quick look-back and knew I had second locked up, but kept on the gas. As I got to the finishing straight I saw 1st, but wasn’t close enough to challenge. I ended up 4 seconds behind him, 8 seconds in front of 3rd, and very happy!


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