Monday, September 09, 2013

Monson CX

Not the optimal starting spot
I know, I know, this happened like weeks ago back in the pre-season and he we are into the actual regular season. I've been busy. Being unemployed is hard work.

For the I can't tell you how many exactly year in a row, Cathy and I decided to do the official kickoff to the cyclocross pre-season, the Monson cyclocross race out in Monson, MA. The race occurs the weekend before Labor Day and is usually a rude awakening to the reality that is cyclocross. Still, it is good to get the shock to the season and to see how man and machine are working after the long hiatus. Long being a relative thing of course as my last race of last season was this past February 1st.

Not exactly my best start ever
Cathy and loaded the bikes up and headed west on Saturday AM. The weather was a bit atypical for this race with cool temperatures and sun. Usually it seems to be either brutally hot or wet and nasty. This year however it was darn near perfect. We arrived and spent some time chatting with friends that we hadn't seen since last season and then got our race numbers. I decided to do the mid-day 35+ race as that race was running in conjunction with the Elite race, assuming it would be a good test. Cathy did the combined women's race which would be held a bit later in the day.

Catching Al and Mike
The Elite/35+ field was not huge but had some good solid competition and people that I'd raced closely with in the past. I got to the start a bit late so my position wasn't all that it could have been but still not bad. Off the line I got an OK start and hit the dirt climb to off-camber in 10th. I made some gains on the off-camber rolling low and continued to make progress. The shock of the first steep run-up was incredible. I felt spastic and awkward and incredibly slow but got moving, making forward progress once again. Down the technical descent, through the rocks, hop the root down the bank around the corner and up the silty side-slope climb things were going well.

Just a few more to go
At that point Mike Wissell was leading with Al Donahue in second and Rob Stine ahead of me. In the switchback corners I managed to get ahead of Rob and made my way in behind Al and Mike with a chase lead by Rob nipping closely. As we came around for the first lap I was feeling good and came around to hit Mike hard. I carried a ton of speed into the dirt and banked at the top to move quickly across the side slope. This dislodged Mike but did nothing to Al who was glued directly to my wheel.

Cathy through the woodchips
For the next three laps that was how it played. I kept charging hard to gain time with Al sitting in. I knew the likely outcome but also knew I wasn't racing him and that my competition for the 35+ race came from Rob. Still, I really wanted to take the overall. Coming around for three laps to go, Al made his move. I tucked in and tried to hang but fell victim to my inherent inability to follow. For some reason, I need to lead. When I follow, I tend to flail. I'm guessing it is about picking lines and seeing the trail. On the side-slope I slid out which opened a gap. After the run up and barrier tree I fumbled remounting on the bumpy surface into the downhill which extended the gap. On the technical descent I picked a bad line which further extended the gap Al had on me. In the course of 1/3 of a lap he gained a big, big advantage.

A little dusty
I quickly managed to regain focus and composure and over the next couple of  laps and either Al slowed or I gained a little bit of ground. When we came around for the finish we were within twenty or so yards. The gap behind me to Mike and then Rob was constantly increasing so I suspect it was a little of both. At that time I thought that I probably could have gone a little harder and done a better job of trying to challenge Al. After looking at my effort data, who knows. I saw the highest HR numbers that I'd seen in years on three different laps. That was a clear indicator that I was working pretty hard already and probably didn't have much overhead still. Regardless, it was a good test and a good indicator. I'm hopeful.

Cathy lined up with a huge group of women later in the day. The start was crazy fast and like me, she only managed an OK start. However, she made her way steadily forward over the first couple of laps gaining good ground before settling into a group of two or three with whom she battled throughout. In the end, a solid finish and a great performance.

 A good day on the bike all around.

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