The Plymouth cyclocross races are, from what I understand, some of the longest standing events in New England. The Sykes family has been involved in cycling and cyclocross for years, promoting and organizing in that area. Bill, George and the whole family are staples in the cycling community. This is the 5th year that I’ve made the trip to historic Plymouth, every year since I started racing cyclocross in fact. Let me first say that this isn’t one of my favorite courses by any stretch but it is relatively close by and it's nice to support those who support the sport. It is also nice that the event is on the smaller side and as such there are not the logistical hassles of some of the larger events
Saturday was beautiful with sunny skies and unseasonably warm, early fall temperatures. There was a bit of wind as always near the coast and it certainly came into play as you were making your way around the exposed playing fields. Sunday was cooler but still with temperatures on the warmer side but it was cloudy and raw all day. The wind seemed to be even more of a factor throughout the course of racing and made it feel cooler than it actually was.
The course on Saturday was the same basic course that has been used at Plymouth South for the past couple of years. There was a good mix of dirt road, a couple of brief woods sections and a heaping helping of going around the perimeters of the open playing fields at the schools. There was also one sandy and loose climb that was challenging for most as well as a few other steep climbs that worked the legs over pretty well. The Sunday course was effectively the same course as the one used a few years back and saw reuse of certain parts of the Saturday course as well as minor re-routing that distinctly changed the flavor of the course. There were also two deep and loose, but short, sand sections that proved mainly a nuisance for me but were great for spectating. The result was a feeling that Sunday was a grueling battle with the wind with little reprieve where as Saturday had a few more technical aspects and short climbs, affording more shelter but with a punchier course.
[Plymouth Day 1 – Masters 35+]
Saturday’s race started like so many of the small local races, with few pre-registering but nearly everyone showing up. By this I mean many of the core guy’s in the masters were on hand. Corner Cycles fielded a strong squad with only one of the primary team absent. The start was tough, a flat pavement section into a hard right hairpin off the road onto grass. No crashes but lots of hard braking. I didn’t have great position and found myself maybe 10th. I knew that I needed to move up before the leaders motored away so I worked hard and made some passes, getting by Mark G. who had won the 45+ race earlier in the morning, and setting in behind Pete S. on the way toward the sandy ride-up. I contemplated burying myself before the hill to try and pass as Pete sometimes has bad luck with technical features. This turned out to be an omen as Pete didn't make it over the top and I rode right into his rear wheel, got tangled and fell into the scrub brush, getting trampled as people funneled by me. Once righted I started to work the lost spots back. Unfortunately the gap was there and although I was able to chase back to the position I was in prior to the incident, I could not re-attach to Pete. I’d used too much to get to where I was. The next couple laps the gap remained constant but as Pete reeled Bill S. back in he attacked hard and went right through, and away from me. I tried to get to Bill but never could.
[Plymouth Day 2 – Masters 35+]
Day two was somewhat lighter in terms of the racers that showed up. That said, we still had a core group of really strong competition with Kurt P., Curtis B., Jamie T., and Bill S. all taking the line. In addition to these guys who always beat me, Alec P. was also racing again and was full of rage after being taken out by a spectator while leading the 45+ race earlier that morning. Alec and I have done battle numerous times this season and had an excellent knock-down drag-out on the MTB this summer at the state championships where the pace was high enough to take the overall category by almost 10 minutes on the next guy in the field. The Sunday start was a longer road section to a 90 degree right over the curb into a playing field. Once again I was unable to get to where I really needed to be in terms of the pecking order though I was in the lead group. The problem was that I was behind a couple of guys who can start really strong but then tend to fade off. Unfortunately when they fade, gaps open that need closing. I managed to get by and into the lead group and dangled for a lap but the pace proved too high and I eventually lost contact with what had been the second group. The lead group of Kurt and Jamie were absolutely killing it and just rode away. Curtis and Bill were just out of reach for a couple laps until Jamie came back to them and then the attacks started and they pulled away from me. Left alone, in the quiet and lonely wind once again.