Monday, October 29, 2007
Spanish Lake CX
I've been thinking about trying some CX racing since I started racing mountain bikes in 2003, but always had an excuse. This year I sucked it up and bought a bike and for the first weekend since March was unable to find a MTB race within 5 hours to use as an excuse; so I went to Spanish Lake.
I was a little bummed before the race started because aside from some familiar faces and the AWESOMENESS OF THE MESA CHEER TEAM I was getting a little bit of the road racing vibe. There were some sly grins when I asked rookie questions like how fast do we go at the start, can we cut the course if we flat and is it more like a mountain bike race or crit? I felt a little relief when my buddy Rico Matthews lined up and we joked around a bit and talked about some quality MTB racing the weekend before. There was also a huge amount of support coming from the Mesa crew and extended family like Jen, Adrienne, The Adams Family, The Snell/ James gang, The FBC alleycat points series leader and the scary Hairyfella himself...
I started fast, too fast, and rode away from the other riders. The first turn was pretty tough but I was able to get through it smooth and fast and open up a decent gap right away. I was pretty surprised. I rode the first lap and a half with a decent gap and then was caught by Chris Harre and desperately tried to stay on his wheel but he dropped my ass. There was a chase group of John Matthews, Derek Loudermilk and a Team Mack rider so I eased up and jumped on. The rest of the field was pretty much out of contention at about 20 minutes in.
No coasting. I wasn't used to this. I figured that I could start the same way I start expert races, be up at the front and then rest on a descent. But there weren't any. Instead I had to power ride through peanut butter which I am not so good at. Rico was doing lots of work but I was being too realistic I guess; we weren't going to catch the leader, I needed to recover to hang in there and wanted to stay well out of sight of the chasers. The Mack rider sucked at the technical stuff and was attacking, with a tail wind, going into the downhill 180* uphill, only to screw the rest of us up repeatedly. Rico pleaded with me to take a pull. He wasn't giving up the desperate chase. If it had been either of the other two I would have told them to beat it; the Mack rider had been trying to get away alone all day and Derek seemed to be riding smart and playing the same game I was, but Rico was someone I respect so I pulled. I pulled hard enough for a lap to deter any counter attacks and prayed they wouldn't come.
They had put the lap cards in a corner I was taking off the brakes, full tilt boogie. I had no idea what was going on. Every lap I was hearing the bells and hearing my name coming from all my friends and it was pretty much AWESOME. I really had no idea what was going on though and my heart was just pounding in my ears. The other riders in the group weren't too pleased when I was asking how many laps were left and if there was a bell lap after the last lap? I mean, it is my first CX race I'm not responsible for knowing this stuff. I thought I was going to be dropped way before this.
2 to go. It happened as it always does. 45 minutes into the race and the legs are ready to rock. Crits were the same way. I didn't have to worry about the legs being there 45 minutes into any race I this season, more like 8 hrs in. Too bad they hadn't been there when Harre caught me... But they were there just in time and Team Mack went for the downhill, tailwind, attack a little too hard and went looking for one gear too easy on the uphill. He shift it into the spokes and bunged us up. Like a sweet Trey solo pulling itself out of the super space funk and drilling some high notes over the top, Rico and I hit the peanut butter and put it down. We dropped the other Big Shark rider pretty quick, he must have got behind the Mack guy, and we opened up a decent gap. For the next two laps Rico was telling me to settle down and take it easy; I kept asking him if we were going to get caught... he was calling me a rookie. I pulled pretty hard for the last couple laps and tried to reason with Rico. I wanted a truce to stay together until we hit the blacktop, which he agreed to. He later told me that I could have dropped him if I had attacked him so that's why he was cool with it. I pulled my ass off and was feeling a serious adrenaline rush I used to get racing crits; I have to admit that I had missed it and it felt good. I thought I was giving him the perfect lead out but didn't care... He's my buddy.
We hit the pavement and I began the kick. I only glanced under my arm once and didn't have that much of a gap. We were really racing for the second to last turn and I was a little worried with the speed we were carrying into it. I did the two wheel slide wide but made it, killed the last right hander and put in a couple strong turns of the pedals before the finish. We really were riding on the rivet and it felt great... John told me he was thinking about going inside on the second to last turn and I thanked him. We would have both been doing wheelchair races at Barnes that night if he had.
This is my first cross race. Deal with the drama-queen-going for second place report because I am exited about it. It feels good to have some motivation this late into the season... Maybe not be so fun when the big guns are there next weekend so I'll enjoy it while I can.