My third complete cyclocross race coincided with the third race of the Santa Rosa series. After mangling my front wheel at the Sierra Point and getting busy with work/vacation, this would be my “triumphant” return. Luckily we got there early to check out the course prior to race time and discovered the two muddy ditches. One started out being very ridable and the other was a mud pit. So basically if you hadn’t rode the course ahead of time, there’s a good chance you will find yourself either (a) stationary spinning your rear wheel in the mud or (b) sticking your front wheel and giving yourself a nice muddy facial. In addition to the ditches the course included a stretch of dirt road, baseball field (including red gravel warning track), sloshy grass, and a decent stretch of bumpy field. If nothing else, the course was a bit messy and things were starting to feel like proper cyclocross.
No call ups here, so showing up at the start early means as a second row start for me. Three other mission guys in the front row ahead of me. I get a decent start to the race, but there’s a fair bit of the field that’s just faster than me and I get passed by a decent number of racers. I get over the two sets of barriers pretty well the first time around but can tell the boggy grass and little riser leading up to the second set is going to get tougher as the race goes on. It’s not pretty, but that’s sort of my calling card:nickgaetano)
The first ditch, everyone has success riding. Second ditch, I get to see the aforementioned (a) and (b). For instance, how not to do it:
As I’m running across the ditch, on my right a guy spinning his rear wheel and on my left a pair of legs pointed skyward. Another rider just ahead of me make it through the ditch but lost a lot of momentum out of the mud, so I was able to run past him, take his line away, and remounted ahead of him in the narrow s-curve that followed. I don’t think I finished ahead of those 3 guys at the end of the race, but it felt damn good making a little technique triumph over actual riding fitness.nickgaetano)
The next couple laps are fairly uneventful aside from yelling some encouraging words to @itsdanno who’s ahead of me in the race and a short discussion with another friend who is riding a similar pace. I’m all about the class. The only thing missing was the 9:30am beer hand up. The previously ridable ditch get muddier with riding and by the third lap and beyond I’m running it (mostly it was the other people crashing ahead of me that sways my approach).
The last couple laps, a guy ahead of me is obviously faster on the bike than I am, but hasn’t figured out the dismount/mount. His dismount involves stopping and stepping over the top-tube. Getting back on, it’s a leg over the handlebars just like he was hopping on his fixie to ride around the city. I bet all his hipster friends were proud. Every riding stretch he easily pulls away, but by the end of the two sets of barriers I’m remounting with or ahead of him. In the second to last lap for me, someone even yelled “Nice Job” on my dismount, ditch jump, and remount. Love it. Luckily, earlier in that lap I slid off my pedal getting clipped back in and somehow managed to give my groin a solid shot in the process. Thankfully, a spectator was there to laugh at me. It’s moments like this, that truly keep my grounded.
About half way through what became my last lap, race leader (and our pall Jonathan from Mission Cycling) kindly let me know “on your left” as he rode past. If I hadn’t been lapped, it would’ve meant another lap. A mixed blessing. Didn’t realize my Edge 500 wasn’t on for about 5 minutes of race time, but here’s what my race looked like from space:
At the end of the day, a 26th place finish out of 30 is not my best, but not the DFL I’m always sure I have secured. It definitely felt like a slow day on the bike. Maybe I should have had a couple fewer beers the night before… Of course, my dream of bringing an Oregon-like sense of community to cyclocross in California means post-race grilling is paramount:@itsdanno)