Monday, November 19, 2007

Pit of Despair

Sand more than any obstacle on a cross course changes from lap to lap. Right when you think you have the perfect line to smoothly negotiate a sandpit, it changes, resulting in the bike coming to a stop and possibly the rider being thrown to the ground. You then pop up with a mouth full of sand, pick up the bike and start running before you know what happened, only to do it again a few minutes later, hopefully with better results.

The fifth stop on the Chicago Cross Cup tour headed south to Lansing, IL and was a new race for the series. Upon reaching the course I was greeted by teammate, Brian Boyle the Good. He had already raced the 30+ event and said the course was flat and fast, with no real technical sections besides a long sandpit. Brian was spot on with his assessment. There were a couple of 180 degree turns, but also a lot of swooping high speed turns, a super fast single barrier and triple set of barriers.

My main goal for this race was to get a good start and see how long I can hang with the 5 or so guys that have been dominating the 3’s this year. twenty-two riders lined up for the 3’s, and I was able to get a front row starting position. The first section was really tight, with only about 20 meters before it narrowed between some trees and a baseball backstop.

Race started, had a slight bobble with the pedal, but got moving quickly. Jumped in behind Jason Knauff of Team Clif Bar, and we were off. I was sitting in 6th place as we headed into the fast single barrier. Over the barrier and we had already opened a gap on the other racers. This is right where I wanted to be. The pace was really fast, and sitting on the back I was definitely getting a bit of a draft. I went through the triple barriers smoothly and was back on the gas. The course had a couple of really cool roundabouts on the asphalt that we were really cruising through. Now we were heading to the sandpit. Everyone was saying, stay left and get up on the grass halfway through. Into the sand, and I bogged down. Quick remount after the sand, and back on the group, snaked through the final sections to the start/finish line. One more time through the course and back to the sandpit. To the left once again and I bogged down once again. Off the bike and running but a gap had opened. For the next half lap I buried myself to get back on with the lead group of five. I was able to make contact before the single barrier, and was back on the train for the time being. Next time through the triple barriers and I pop. I was done and a gap was opening, I had blown and I was in no mans land. I was quickly joined and quickly passed by teammate Adam Clark. I was pedaling squares.

It took another lap until the next guy caught me. I was able to recover a bit while he set the pace. I then sat on his wheel for a half a lap until I was feeling like I could contribute to the pace. By this time we were joined by another rider from Bandit cycling. For the rest of the race the three of us would stay together. I could tell the rider from Bandit was the strongest. When he would go to the front he definitely was making us hurt. By this time I was following the Mob rider through the sandpit on the right hand side. On this side it was sand the whole way, but not as deep, and rideable. It definitely took muscling to get through the last 5 feet or so. Heading into the last lap the three of us were together. As we headed into the single barrier, the rider from Bandit didn’t unclip and went into the barrier really hard, flipping into the air, landing on the ground on his back. As I rode by I asked if he was OK, and then took off. It was apparent that he wasn’t going to chase back on, but while slowing down to miss him the rider from Mob, had latched onto one of the Cat 1 riders and was gone. I chased hard, but couldn’t close the gap. My last hope was he would bobble through the sand, but it didn’t happen. In the end I rolled in for 10th place.
While I would have like to finish a few places higher, I was happy that I could ride the pace of the top guys, and was able to chase back on after a couple of laps. I don’t think I could have kept their pace the entire race, but if I could have stayed with them for a couple of more laps it would have meant the difference between 6th or 7th place and 10th place. I also learned that sometimes you need to ignore your ego. After the 1st lap bobble in the sand I should have been running the sand to keep contact with the leaders instead of wanting (not needing) to ride the sand. Lessoned learned.

FYI: I was also sporting the old school Briko Sunglasses at the race. They really are some cool shades.
Photos courtesy of Ed White

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanks Kelly!!

Kelly ordered a bunch of Belgian beers for my Birthday present. A big box arrived yesterday direct from Belgium. She also picked up some sweet glasses from Piraat, Duvel, and La Chouffe. Can't wait to try them out.

Belgian beers have some really intersting labels. They seem to really like to use elves and other mythical creatures on their labels.