Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nothing New

I hate to say it, but there really isn't much of anything new to talk about. We are deep into the end game of the regular cyclocross race season at this point. In fact, it is really starting to come down to the wire; where we are starting to look at just how many more races we can squeeze in before the season comes to a draw. Binge racing.

I can not believe that we only have four more weekends left. It is crazy how fast it flew by, yet it feels as though we have been racing cyclocross every weekend for an eternity. I've come to find over the years that cyclocross really punctuates the season and as much as it is only a small portion of the full year, defines that year. This is probably because cross is the last thing we see, freshest on our minds when we close our eyes and go to bed for the final time that year.

On other fronts, we are deep into the plans for the Bikeway Source/Bell Lap Racing team for 2014. For the upcoming year we are mildly expanding our existing masters men's squad with one key addition for the elite cross discipline (road, mountain biking and cyclocross) pool. Beyond that we are trying to beef up the U23 representation, male and female, to help balance out the team's median age. We are hoping to compliment the younger members we currently have and give them more of a team with whom to race when the rest of us are doing masters level events. We also hope to find people onto whom many of us old crusty cyclists can disseminate some of the lessons that we have learned over the years.

To further round the squad, we are hoping to find a couple additional masters level women, with whom Cathy can train and race such that she doesn't have to always ride with, well, me. She never complains and she always works so hard but I can tell, it isn't always all that much fun for her. That said, I suspect that Cathy has ridden with me, and the men on the team, more this year than any other. Arguably, Cathy is having the best race season that she has ever had. Coincidence? Anyhow, trying to get women who are the right fit and dynamic is a huge challenge. We have a great team put together with a really good dynamic and we are not willing to jeopardize that. Frankly, we are and can afford to be very selective. Maybe we are too selective but frankly, I'm treating this just as if I were hiring someone for a job.

In terms of racing, yea, we are still racing. A few weeks back was the Cycle Smart Verge Series Northampton race weekend. For some reason, everybody and his brother decided to show up for the race. We had almost all of the fastest guys in the East plus some of the fastest guys from out west and Canada show up. Tack that onto fairly non-technical courses that are not very good at breaking up the field and you get big groups forming during the race. On both Saturday and Sunday the lead group never really thinned to much less than six men. Most of those took tuns launching attacks at the front, mostly to no avail.

The Saturday course did have one awesome woods section (thanks JD) that did force gaps. It was about 2/3 of the way through the lap. I knew that was where I needed to make a move. A few laps into the race I gave it a shot and could see that it was possibly to get some space, but not much. With one to go I hit hard there on the front and pried a small gap open. Onto the lower field I had maybe twenty yards. Unfortunately I got into lapped traffic in the sweeping corner over the train tracks before the barriers. This racer decided to take the good inside line leaving me the wide line, which I took, but then came across right to left and put me into the tape. Thanks buddy! That was it, I was caught. I hit the pavement for the sprint in third and that was where I stayed.

Sunday saw a dumbed down course with no real technical aspects, just lots of straight flat power into hairpins and then back out. No my forte at all. I struggled with the huge ten or so person front group for the first few laps, getting accordianed off and having to sprint back. I finally recovered enough to move to second wheel. Instantly I could feel the difference and recovered some more. I planned to do the only thing that I could think of, attack hard with one to go and make the last lap brutal for everyone. Apparently Roger and I both had the same idea and attacked literally in the same spot at the same time. I slotted in behind Roger and as we came through for the last lap, more attacks occurred.

We all rode together into the top section with Paul controlling the group at the front. On a wide hairpin around a tree I took the wide line and came onto the paved path first. I wanted to get onto the fast rooty section first and try and pry a gap in the few remaining corners on the top section. This worked very slightly yielding a few precious bike lengths. Unfortunately by the time we hit the turn at the pits I was caught and left on the front. The only option was to go hard the whole final section and see what happened and that was what I did. I hit the pavement for the sprint first and instantly Paul came around. Shortly after Kenny came by absolutely flying and just at the line Steve got a wheel by me as well, leaving me fourth of the six in the lead group. I was a bit disappointed in myself for the weekend's results but honestly, with that group on those courses, I need to be realistic.

The next weekend was the Plymouth weekend. These are not by any stretch our favorite courses either, but the races are close and are run by some great folks whom we love to support. Cathy and I both decided to do the elite races each day as the time worked out well. The course Saturday ended up getting shortened at the last minute because of a field conflict with the venue. They did, however, add in the mud section from the previous year. Luckily it wasn't quite as bad, but it was still fairly miserable. In short, I was unmotivated, fat and lazy and it showed. I wanted to quit and had no will to push hard. That summed it up in a nutshell.

By Sunday though I was now pretty angry at myself for being such a sloth. The course that day was much longer and more interesting with some actual technical sections. The start was chaos fighting with guys in the first corner for position near the front. It always amazes me how hard they will fight and the risks they will take when statistics and past performances show they have no chance of maintaining that position for more than the first 500 meters of a race. It isn't just young guys either. the masters do it too. Part of racing I guess but I've found this year that within reason, the start really isn't that important. That was something that I observed long ago from Kevin Hines, one of the strongest races ever yet a man plagued with some of the worst starts I have personally observed.

After much chasing I made it to the Boloco train of Mike and Kevin and after a bit of a rest, started driving the bus up the road. We caught Max who had an ill timed dropped chain and then caught Ian and Manny as well. From there we took turns pushing hard. Unfortunately for me, coming around the backstop after the pits I either caught a pedal or slid out and was on my back looking up at Max, Kevin and Mike trying not to run over me before I even knew what happened. I did feel the searing pain in my left knee though. When I finally stood up, the knee screamed. That didn't seem just right.

After a bit I got moving, slowly and tried to ride it off. All I could think was a tear and it certainly felt like it. I yelled to Cathy as I passed that I'd wrecked my knee and considered abandoning but kept moving. I've never had a DNF in a CX race and didn't want to start. While I was contemplating my future and feeling sorry for myself, Dan and Adam passed me. That got me a little fired up again and I went back to racing as best I could with the bum knee. In the end, Dan got away but a managed to get by Adam thanks to my awesome braking performance allowing me to move faster in the technical downhill section. And that was that.

The knee was pretty sore but didn't really swell or black and blue. After a couple days I decided to see and doctor. Just a sprain they said and should be fine in no time. Excellent I said, because I plan to race on it in a couple of days. I'll tell you just how that turned out at another date.

This brings me to my last point in this post. All through this section of racing and in fact, all throughout the course of this season and this year, Cathy has been doing very, very well. She has had countless podiums and I believe we counted half a dozen wins this year between MTB and CX. Pretty impressive given the categories she competes in and the competition she has in those categories. She has worked so hard to be where she is now, not just this season but cumulatively over the past seven or eight years that we have been racing bikes. I can't tell you how proud of here I am every time she lines up and not just when she makes the podium or wins a race. It is when she shows up week after week for the Turkey Vulture rides when so many men, do not. She is often still there on the ride after so many men, are not. It certainly has made her stronger though.

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