Wednesday, October 30, 2013

CX Racing Frenzy Recap

I'm so far behind on the race reports that I don't really think there is any point in trying to recap most of them. I think that I started on the big block of Holy Week(s) but only got as far as Gloucester, which at this point was like a decade ago.

Clean start to a big field.
After that came Providence. To quickly summarize, it was a pretty good weekend. Day one saw a lead group of four, of which I was luckily one along with Paul, Roger and Steve, escape and settle in early in the first lap. The course was bone dry and really fun and fast. We each took turns at the front trying, but nobody could dislodge anyone else. The most decisive move was simply getting to the front into the stairs on the far side. It was there that we hit the traffic that would pretty much decide the order. I was sitting third wheel with Roger leading, Paul in front of me and Steve behind me. I got caught up in traffic in the S turns before the stairs and then got T-boned by a racer trying to remount at the top of the stairs. This opened a gap and let Steve get past me. From there it was a myriad of traffic and frantic passes trying to stay attached to the group. A few bike lengths was all it took and Roger and Paul hit the final pavement together for the sprint, which Paul took. I came on behind Steve who crushed the finish sprint leaving me to settler for last man.

That was hard.
 Day two turned out to be a blessing for me. Just before our race started the rain began to fall. On the line it was a steady drenching and the course turned to grease. I wasn't feeling great, mostly from the previous day's effort, so adding the technical aspect would be invaluable in allowing me to fake it. As soon as we hit the first grass it became apparent how slick things really were and how decisive it was to be. People were hitting the deck left and right. I stayed near the front and when Roger drilled it out of the hairpin around the announcer's tower, I went with him. He was struggling a bit with the corners and having little to lose, I decided to attack in the fast stretch along the pit. I made the pass and cleaned the chicanes to the flyover. Roger did not and quickly a big gap opened. I went as hard and steady as I could and rode the front solo for what seemed an eternity. Unfortunately the conditions started to improve just as my legs started to raise the white flag. Steve had been chasing hard with Kenny Wynn just behind him for the entire race. I could see him getting closer and coming around for one to go, he caught me. Steve was driving the bike incredibly well, adapting to the improved conditions while I was still riding conservatively to the initial conditions. That was all it took and soon a gap opened. The order stayed the same and I unfortunately missed my opportunity. Still, much much better than I'd expected going into the day, a day I'd resigned to damage control.

Climbing aboard the McCormack train.
Thus ended the holiness and got us back to the normal season. The following weekend was a pair of smaller races, both of which were part of the Zanconato Single Speed Series which meant we would be all about the single speed. Check that, for some reason we've decided that doubling up and doing two races in one day is once again a good thing. I'd sworn it off in the past because it usually just leads to mediocrity in both races. However, the idea of two races for $35 appeals to the Yankee side so there you go, we were all in on the double. For Cathy that meant that for the Mansfield Hollow race she would be doing the women's 1/2/3 race and then the SSCX race with an hour break in between. For me it was the men's 1/2/3 race and then right into the SSCX race, effectively 90 continuous minutes of CX racing fun. In short, the course was great and super challenging. The elite race had some really fast guys who rode hard. I had an awful start but chased up to the McCormack train, eventually fighting through the family that races together but unable to get up to the remnants of the lead group. That left me in fifth place.

Family at the race is awesome.
Change bikes and it was right into the SSCX race where again, my start was lackluster. I finally chased to the lead group of Mark McCormack and Sean Rudzinsky after a long, long time and spent some time dangling off them. Eventually I recovered a bit and tried some some on the front, unsuccessfully. Mark apparently had some extra left from the 1/2/3 race and drilled it out of the sand, opening a gap which I had no answer for. Sean and I battled for second and at one point, I gave up and told him I was going nowhere so he should go if he can. He went to the front and within a hundred yards I recovered enough of my dignity to come around a continue the chase. We stayed together but never caught Mark and the finish literally came down to a very extended all out sprint. An excellent day and a pair of very fun races.

Yes, Cathy took the sprint.
The next day was the Minuteman Road Club's race. Again it was all about the SSCX for Cathy and I and this time, only the SSCX. Cathy's folks were also visiting and decided to head out to the race with us so we decided to make a day of it. We packed food and beers and chairs along with all of our gear and headed to Lancaster, MA and the Bolton Fairgrounds on a splendid fall day. We spectated and cheered as many teammates raced and soon it was time for the premier and ultimate race of the day, the SSCX event in which we had a large number of teammates. We all took off together as one big group of single-speeders. I took the lead but was quickly overtaken by Sean Mottram with Matt Myette just behind me. We quickly got a gap from the chase and within a lap Matt fell off the group leaving Sean and I ahead. I tried to overtake Sean a few times but he was having no part of it. Finally a few laps in Sean's zip tied bike, which he opted for over the dedicated SSCX which had too much gear on it, shifted and jumped to a smaller gear. This left him way spun out. I seized the opportunity and attacked hard up the power section into the hillside. This proved enough to keep ahead, narrowly. Coming into the final stretch of the race I could see Cathy just up ahead. She was going like mad to stay ahead of me. Coming in to the finish straight I passed her and she jumped on my wheel. As we approached the line it came down to a sprint finish. She came around perfectly at the last minute and got me on the line, earning her final lap. It was a great day and wonderful to have family there to be part of it all.

Cathy working the sand.
Moving forward a week we decided that for the first time in a long time, we would only race one day of the weekend. This was in part due to the fact there the race choices were somewhat limited. Imagine that, a lull in the schedule caused by the absence of one of the best races all year, the Downeast CX Race in New Gloucester, ME. This allowed us to check out a race that was new last season and that we missed out on, the Hanover Cross Race in Hanover, NH. A bit of a drive but put on by a good local guy, Mike Whitfield and the HUP United folks. The course was absolutely awesome with a ton of sand and some very challenging woodsy sections. Because we were only racing Saturday Cathy and I doubled up on the 1/2/3 and SSCX combo.

Front of the 1/2/3 race.
The 1/2/3 field saw some good local KMS talent take the line as well as Bikeman's Sheldon Miller, who has been doing really well in the elite 35+ field at the big series events this year. I looked forward to the challenge and the opportunity to race some new folks. The KMS kids led by Ansel Dickey killed it off the line, literally punching out ahead. A few of us started the chase and soon Sheldon made his way to the front. Within a lap the kids stopped gaining and we started pulling them back. I also was able to gain time on everyone else by hopping the barriers. It was no faster but I could get back to speed significantly faster and gain a few bike lengths each time. I could already see how the race was going to unfold. Sheldon and I worked in tandem to steadily chase back to the then, sole leader Ansel. We stayed together a while and then started with some attacks which ended up dislodging Ansel. With a few laps remaining I hit hard every place I could and managed to pry a gap on Sheldon. The rest of the race was a hard fight to maintain but it did indeed hold.

From there it was a quick bike change and right into the SSCX race. Again it was Sheldon and I, who also did the double on his zip-tied bike, vying for the lead. We traded off and on until a gap opened when I was able to ride a steep uphill section that Sheldon had to run. The race was brutally hard the who time with little, or rather no respite throughout. It was a battle to the end but the gap held with Sheldon only feet behind and Kip Roberts not far behind him. The single-speed events have truly proven to be some of my favorite and most fiercely challenging races of the season. I can not say enough good stuff about them. Top that off with awesome trophies and an unadvertised payout for the elite races and Hanover Cross is a race not to be missed.

Cathy pushing hard, as always.
So this brings us to last weekend. We were back to racing both days of the weekend but both Cathy and I were battling colds and feeling a bit run down from the season so far. As such we decided to go with just one race each day. Slackers. On Saturday it was all in for Canton Cross, which was local. The course is pretty nondescript and fast but brutally hard in the amount of power required. We both decided to go for the elite races which were late in the afternoon. On the line it became evident that not only was there a bunch of talent who waited until the last minute to register but also a bunch more that waited until that day. The men's race had nearly fifty guys of whom I'm pretty sure I was by far the oldest take the line. I garnered a front row start some how and remarkably had an awesome start. I hit the first turn off the pavement in about 4th spot and picked up a spot in the chicanes of the field. On the downhill run in to the mini-barriers I moved around Mike Wissell and Adam Myerson to slot into first spot. I did this in order to get a clean run at the barriers, which I planned to hop. I hit the first at nearly full speed and easily cleared it then somehow managed to clear the second cleanly as well. Wow, it worked and I got a small gap. I stayed in the front through the run up, and the ride up and over the barriers.

Leading the race until everyone passed me
At that point I heard Cathy exclaim "nice work, remember, it's a long race". This I knew as well but thanks for the reminder and with that I fell back into line just as the pace ratcheted up. Not surprisingly I was pretty gassed and started the death slide. Adam flatted at that point though and there was some mayhem in the slick grass chicanes of the field. I probably fell back to 10th or so before recovering enough to chase back up to the Mike, Charlie and Brendan train. More wheel sucking recovery and then I could eventually get back to racing. Mike and I started hitting it hard which dislodged first Brendan and then Charlie. With a few laps to go I could see Adam chasing his way back up and dragging a whole train of guys with him so we continued to flee. Just as he was about to catch, in the barriers, he tripped and stacked hard. We again began the mad scurry and avoided the inevitable for most of that lap. The good thing was that this time, only Adam was coming up to us. I kept the pressure as high as I could for the final lap, knowing that if it came to a three person sprint I wanted everyone to be at least a little tired. This ended up gapping Mike off the group and left me bringing Adam to the sprint, where he easily beat me leaving me in 7th. Still, a pretty solid effort. I was really pleased with the start though as well as the barrier hops. That is coming around as well. I'll take it.

The team post races with a 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
The next day would be all about fun at the Orchard Cross race in Hampton Falls, NH. This is a great venue with a fun course and a wonderful place to spectate and cheer on your friends and teammates. We decided to spend the day there and do the final race of the day, the SSCX event, which was another series event. the day saw a win by our teammate PJ as well as a second and third place finish for teammates Kyle and Skip. Later we watched teammate John battle a great race and then Noah work super hard in the elite race. Soon it was time for the SSCX race to begin, just as the sun dipped low behind the clouds as the temperature fell. I convinced both Kyle and Noah to double up and do the SSCX race with Cathy and I. Suckers. My plan was to just follow, which of course lasted exactly until the whistle blew. I went out hard and tried to get a gap but Matt Myette and Matt Sousa were glued to me. Just before the silty run up they passed me and then I stumbled and a gap opened. I closed on Matt S. but Matt M. was able to claw so running room. It took half a lap but I finally bridged up and followed a bit. In the same spot Matt passed me the lap before, I passed him back and by riding the second run up, was able to get a small gap. Over the next few laps the small gap got minutely larger until with two to go, Matt put in a hard charge. I saw him coming so sped a bit as well but he halved the distance between us. Unfortunately, the effort left he tapped and he was unable to close the deal. I was just glad to finish safely.

Best costume ever.
So, it has been a long string of racing and truth be told, we are not nearly done yet, fortunately. I'm not ready for the season to end yet. I still have many unmet goals and aspirations left. Frankly, I'm having too much fun with this and simply can't get enough.

A long winded blurb about me but I don't want to close without bringing attention to the fact the the other half of the Two Adventures team, Cathy, has been having an absolutely incredible season. She has won a number of key races and has been consistently beating ladies that she historically has not. Congratulations. Your hard work is really paying off. We have both been very lucky this year. We've had stellar competition and more often than not, things seem to work out very well for us. Honestly, that holds true in many, many walks of life. I recognize that. I appreciate that and I am dearly thankful for that and for all those who help and who encourage so avidly at each and every race. Thank you.

No comments: