This years edition of the Northeast Velocross cyclocross race, the race promoted by NEBC and taking place at the Northeast Velodrome property saw a few changes year over year. No, the changes were not in the course layout but in the attendance. A massive show of support by the good folks of NECX made for much, much deeper fields. It was awesome to see all the folks there. From what I could see, most everyone had a smile on their face after sampling the course laid out by Kurt and his crew at the Velodrome.
Cathy and I arrived at the venue early Saturday morning to volunteer as well as to get a good parking sport. We weaseled our way into the venue and scored the absolute premier parking, forcing the Shimano guys to move their tents which they were in the process of setting up so we could sneak by. We simply pretended that we were official and those saps all bought it. Score! From there we sought out the volunteer coordinator to see what needed to be done. Parking was the first on the list and then we settled into course marshaling and generally getting crap done that needed to be done. Not exactly rocket science but good stuff.
The hours flew by and before I knew it, Tipsy was asking me if I was planning to race or just volunteer. That seemed odd as I had the perception that I still had hours before my first race. The truth was that we were only an hour away from the start and I hadn't began to think about getting ready. Panic sat in, I pinned up, ate some stuff and got suited. Quickly I pulled a bike out and onto the trainer and started spinning, all the while pounding the water that I hadn't been drinking. Soon the start time neared and I got the good bike down and ready to go. Cathy volunteered to take my SSCX bike, which I needed for the SSCX race and would also serve as my M35+ pit bike, to the pit for me.
On the line NEBC got a front row start so we all lined up right on the first row. Quickly got the count and shortly after that was the start. A mad dash around the track portion of the course saw teammate Scotty drill it. I settled behind him and when he swung off wide in the first corner as we came off the track and onto the infield, I hit it hard. Soon I had a gap and kept changing hard. I could sense that people were holding back and letting my run but like any fat tuna on the hook, I led with all I had. This held for the first couple of laps but coming through the start/finish I had been bridged up to by an unknown to me racer. He attacked hard and gapped me on the track but I kept close.
Soon I could see another racer coming up, none other than Mark M., who had done thew same the previous weekend. Shortly thereafter Mark was with me and then came to the front. I was intent to stay with him but soon noticed a problem. My rear tire was feeling a little squish as I came around the BMX course. I couldn't tell the extent of the issue until I hit the track, at which point I was quickly flat. I rode it out around the track and on the infield without much issue, jsut a bit slower than I would have liked. After the 2nd set of barriers the chain jumped off and wedged in between the spokes and cassette. Ugh! I carried the bike up the track and down into the pit, which was only 30 yards away. Unfortunately I had trouble locating my spare bike and by the time I found it and got back out on course, arch rival (not really rival as much as guy who always finishes ahead of me) Billy had caught up to me.
The two of us worked together and although I was faster in the technical stuff he would school me and my one gear on the track and on the steep uphill, which I was forced to run. Bill made multiple offers to let me switch bikes back, as the neutral support had fixed my bike, but I was stubborn and refused. In reality, that was a really stupid move but I never claimed to be smart. On the final lap I go by Bill before the hill and killed myself to stay ahead of him running through lapped traffic but he made it through and got by me. We hit the track together but he easily crushed me and my wimpy gear. It was a fun race still.
A couple hours later was the SSCX race. I was disappointed at my performance in the first race but had high hopes for the second race. When race time arrived however, the sun and the temperature had dipped and I was freezing. I literally couldn't stop shivering. I even raced with leg warmers on. The start was almost surreal. I hadn't touched the bike since finishing the first race and was as cold and stiff as possible. My only hope was that we would all go really slow the first lap so the race would be as short as possible. This is because they use the first lap time to figure out how many laps you will be doing. It worked for the most part. I never saw the front of the race and just followed wheels. Scotty at first with the hole-shot, then Doug and then Curtis. After a couple laps I was solo chasing Curtis, who wasn't working nearly hard enough but which was OK by me as it meant I didn't have to work harder top maintain the gap he had. We all got spread out and it was basically a bunch of solo races taking place at the same time on the same course but that's racing some times. In the end Curtis easily stayed ahead of me, but I was OK with that. I felt pretty good for both races and had respectable results on both counts. I can live with that.
All in a great day of racing. This was a very feel good event, with ample smiles of joy and excitement. Why not after all, this was such a unique course, how could you not have fun? Only the most technically inept would see this as something less that it was, a cyclocross funpark. Many thanks to the good folks that made this event a reality. I'm proud to be part of the club that promoted it.