This was advise I gave to fellow Mission Cyclists who were contemplating their first cyclocross race. And by that criteria, I had an amazing race. The Lion of Fairfax, a one-off race the same day as Biketoberfest, was supposed to be a small field and low-key warm up (especially with a Pilarcitos Super Prestige race the next day). After a top-half finish at Folsom, a 54 of 76 finish was less than encouraging.
post race – just because you’re race number is low, doesn’t make your placing low…
Things that went right for me were sparse. My skills were good across the race with lots of small improvements taken away from Barb Howe‘s clinic for Mission Cycling. Over the barriers grasping the top tube during the dismount scored me a few seconds. Efficient shouldering made the run ups easiers. All around, my remounts were good. Not a big surprise these were bright points as they’d been a focus of mine since last year’s studder-step filled efforts.
Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the course just wasn’t meant for me. The course [see here] started on the grassy baseball field, with a couple barriers, that lead to the official finish. Then it led over some pavement to the backside of White Hill School, up a off-camber single-track, down some dry grassy trail, and back up a steep run up. This led immediately back down, with a few circles through more dry grass. Down a gravel road, with a sharp left turn in loose gravel, short travel in a gully followed by a short steep section up to the road. Effectively single track paralleling the road before it looped back on slightly downhill pavement. Last zig-zagging through the school itself in between pillars, on pavement, bark-dust, dirt, and loose gravel.
Things that went wrong: thanks to pinch points around the back of the baseball backstops, this is where things first transitioned into a follow the leader experience. Once we made it over to the off-camber section things slowed down and required dismounting all except for my last lap. Luckily, if you were good tactically (got off your bike before it was a clusterfuck), it didn’t matter, because there was effectively no where to run around people. Atop this section it was also to narrow to pass, so deciding to remount immediately or where things opened up was a wash.
wait your turn like a good boy (photo via nickgaetano)
The section leading to the run-up seemed to have one good line with bumpier riding on either side. This made passing challenging but possible. Then the run up. This part of the course I still have trouble understanding. I can understand if you didn’t preride, then you learn about it on the first lap. Ok, it’s going to be a mess. But every single lap there was a pile up of people know can’t figure out how to get off their bikes and carry them. One lap I am literally standing with my bike shouldered having a discussion with 6 or 8 others waiting for two of them to get untangled. I guess I need to be faster and then these people won’t be around me. (Note to self – find some fitness).
Riding down the steep section was also a mess. The flat section at the top was short enough that remounting was basically a single-file process. For that reason I decided to run down this section for better or worse. I didn’t crash (which I heard happening around me) and I didn’t pinch flat (which I heard about after), but it did wear me out a bit. I always passed people on the way down, and was passed in the flats as I recovered.
sticking to my tactical strengths or blocking for the other MCers? you decide (photo via nickgaetano)
The section that was effectively single track that followed was frustrating as well. Whether being paced behind a slow rider or delaying a relatively efficient remount while a studder step is happening in front of you. No chance to capitalize on a good dismounts/remounts here.
The last bit of fun I experienced was in the zig-zags of the school. A rider in front of me was just being erradic, while I thought I was in decent position, my front wheel slipped between sidewalk and barkdust. Suddenly I’m off my bike and strangely landed on my two feet. At least 6 passed me at this point. Story of the day I guess.
others who know what they’re doing (photo via @youenncolin)
My whole race lacked points to gain positions, but had plenty of opportunities to loose them. Several others on Mission pretty much crushed it (@itsdanno 6th, @youenncolin 7th, @greg101 9th, @zach_bass 16th). I will sleep well with the knowledge that I probably did a bit of blocking on their behalf. Moral of the story for me – be faster.