Monday, September 24, 2007

CX Kick-off or a Bad B Movie

Yesterday was the Pork Chop Challenge in St Cloud. First B race for me which meant 45 minutes of sweet hell as opposed to the mere 30 minutes of euphoric suffering I became accustomed to last year. Johnny K showed up at 9:30 to ride to the race with us. We loaded up the whole family. To be honest I wasn't feeling much like racing. A ride to Surly to replenish growlers and a birthday party the night before made for a late night. More on that in a later post.

Once we arrived in St Cloud I tried to get into the pre-race routine. My mind and body were not connecting. It was already nearly 80 degrees. Plus, I was completely distraught that I had forgotten my camera. Eventually I managed to register, get my kit on, and hit the course for a practice lap. It seemed I still knew what to do -- stay loose, ride up to the barrier, off at speed, smooth pick-up with the bike, is this going to be a run-up or will I try to remount and ride? Okay, I think I can do this. This was Johnny's first cross race ever and he was running his single speed Peacock Groove. (BTW He's hooked and I hope to race a few more events with him this season. Check out his play-by-play.) I watched him go off with the rest of the C pack. They had a huge field with a lot of familiar faces. I thought to myself that I really ought to be in the C race, but it was too late.

Cyclocross is just so cool. I am not going to attempt to sound anymore intelligent than that at this moment. But racers are going 'round and 'round the course and they are all hurting -- a lot of them really bad like they want to quit. You're shouting for (and at) those you know and ringing the cowbell. Kids play nearby on the playground. A few spectators are sipping beers. The race organizers are grilling awesome food for a potluck style lunch. And then, before you know it, it's your turn to go make it hurt for a while.

I saw a lot of mechanicals including one broken derailleur hanger (that sucks, Ray, but it was pretty impressive looking with your derailleur peacefully nestled inside your spokes!) and a bent chain (that sucks as well, Sean, but that is only the second chain I've ever seen bent into the shape of a DNA helix). My bike did pretty well considering I hadn't ridden it since April in the Oxbow Classic. The seatpost did slip though. It turns out I was riding about 3cm too low. I knew something (besides my entire body) felt weird. And my seat also migrated back on the rails. I was basically racing with a BMX posture, which is oddly funny actually. The course was challenging. I made up positions within the field by running the hills after the two sets of double barriers perched strategically below the steepest hills in the park. Lots of folks were pretty good at remounting and riding the steep sections following the barriers. But a lot of them weren't. I decided it wasn't worth burning out my legs, so I just shouldered my bike and went for it. I passed so many people using this technique that I wanted to pause and give them a lecture on the merits of old school, Euro-style cross techniques. (There's a reason the Belgians are called the "hard men" of 'cross.) I also have a theory that the psychological advantage of running past someone in a bike race really breaks them down -- like a mental frame pump shoved into the spokes of their front wheel. I'm going to work with it and report back.

Hooray for 'cross season -- perhaps the only legitimate segment of the sport where it's not uncommon to show up for the race with a hangover. Thanks, Nacey, for finally making an appearance. Sorry I flipped you off on my third lap. I really appreciated your heckling on the last hill!

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