I (double) dipped my toes into the world of CX this weekend! First go at it was White Park in Concord NH on Saturday and Sunday it was Sucker Brook down in Auburn. I think it was just about as perfect an introduction as I could have hoped for. Saturday was cold and dry and Sunday was wet and wild. Aaaaand I'm pretty much hooked.
As I'm trying to think back on things now I'm realizing CX races are going to be very hard to recap. Fast and furious and at your limit the whole time are not the ideal conditions for remembering accurate details. But here goes I think I at least have most of the good / relevant / funny stuff in my memory banks still.
The 4/5 races seem to usually be the first ones to get the day started. Start time at White Park was 8am, luckily I didn't have to drive that far. It was still pretty crisp at that early morning hour, somewhere around 40 degrees at race time. My fingers and toes got a bit cold but other than that max efforts warm you up real nice, real fast.
I don't have any crossresults.com points yet (but I do now!) and many races stage based primarily on points. I found out the importance of call-ups and staging almost immediately. I was square at the back of a 65+ rider field at the gun. My original plan was to maybe try and shoot up one of the sides but the particular nature of that start chute made that tough combined with the fact that EVERYONE had that idea.
I got pinched at a few of the early corners and was fully entrenched in some pretty hilarious traffic. All while the front two rows waved bye. Then we got to the first tiny little incline heading into an immediate hairpin 180 turn back down and some guy went 3/4 of the way up and then just straight up tipped over right in the middle of the course. Still clipped in. TRAINED.
Things finally opened up for a bit as we worked our way around the baseball fields. Made it through the barriers pretty smoothly and rounded a corner into the first steep S turn climb. More clipped in tipping over. More ridiculousness like this ensued for most of the rest of the first lap and much of the second as well. Towards the end of my second lap I was settling in and getting a bit more comfortable with some of my lines etc. bombing down a short little steep hill into a sharp 90 I took a line a bit more inside and hit some kind of bump or something. It was a sharp enough impact at speed that my handlebars rotated forward in down in my stem and the tip of my saddle wrenched down.
Luckily shortly after I was able to push down and forward on my drops hard enough to get my bars back to just about normal but I had to deal with a cock-eyed saddle the rest of the race. I lost a few seconds trying to get situated after that as well as a few places. Seconds are HUGE in cross. Little mistakes are big mistakes. I got back to business but had a hard time getting into a good rhythm. Not sure if it was the course or me. Probably a combo. I was having a hard time 'putting everything together'. I kept forgetting to shift at the right time and was getting over geared in spots.
I was in a small group for most of the rest of the race. Passing in the technical spots and getting passed back in some of the more open stuff. Last lap I was able to get away from them pushing it a bit through some corners and got in for 26th. Just a bit better than mid-pack. I was kind of expecting to do better in the 4/5 field but I was basing that on nothing and no experience. I learned some lessons, had a good time and was even back home with most of my day still in front of me. I'll take it!
The forecast for Sunday had been great all day Saturday and then Saturday night I check again and things had shifted around to 'rain all day'. Oh good. And It wasn't even really a sarcastic 'oh good' I was glad I was going to get a full blown muddy cross race in my first weekend. I had a feeling I would do better in conditions like and probably have a ton more fun. I was also told that Sucker Brook was much more open and fast than White Park and I figured some adverse conditions would hold up some of the watt factory guys that like that stuff.
Luckily the temps were higher Sunday so the rain wasn't all that uncomfortable and it actually let up for the most part during our race but the damage was done. Slick mud in the corners, standing water in spots...a good ole time! The course was certainly more open than White Park but I thought it had a bunch of interesting turny bits and cool features. Stairs, bridge, one set of barriers, big log step-up, sand pit. Plenty of places to take advantage of and or suck at.
I was again staged on the back row of a slightly smaller field because they split the Open 4/5 and the Masters 35+ by 1min this time. But I still had a solid 50 people in front of me. This start chute had a bit more promise for me. False flat pavement hill to a left hander onto gravel and then right into the grass/mud. Gun went and I nailed my clip in and the guy right in front of me did not. Just like that, up one row. The road was wide and some pockets opened up and quite a few guys started off a bit over geared and as they attempted to get up to speed on the false flat I was able to sneak a bit farther up.
many thanks to teammate Sam for taking pics!
I was maybe about mid pack heading into the turn onto gravel and shortly after that there was a small depression that had some standing water and just a bit of mud. I have no idea how this happened but somehow a guy about 5-10ft in front and to my left EXPLODED. Full flip, bike in the air, dirt nap. Two guys to my left plowed into him and got tangled up and everyone immediately behind him was held up. But I was just to the right and snuck by. Now I'm probably top 25 with a slight gap to the rest of the field.
The first part of the course was all the turny bits and very early I realized I was gonna have a better day than Saturday. I was holding speed better than a lot of riders in my vicinity and making passes here and there. I was making the right gearing calls, navigated my first go at the stairs cleanly and even made a pass there. Some of the passes I would make would come back on the tail end of the course with the wide open fire road haul. Definitely need to work on my leg strength and raw WATTS.
post sand-pit hammering
Shouldering and running through the sand pit went ok. Shouldering the bike is a bit hard with the wrists but its a quick motion so it wasn't too bad and I didn't seem to be loosing any ground on the run. Much of the rest of the laps were a bit of a blur. I kept it upright all day which is more than I think most of the field can say. I even had a mini battle with a guy on my last lap. I passed him in the turny stuff but he closed on me in the longer straight sections and passed me back. I was able to get on his wheel and passed him back in a quick down/up with a 180 degree turn that he tried to ride and stalled; I had been running it all day which I think was the right call. I got a tiny gap that he quickly closed and we went into the barriers side by side.
why does my ankle look like its broken?
I did them a tad cleaner than him and got another tiny gap heading into the LONG fire ride haul. He passed me but I was able to just barely grab his wheel. I had to dig pretty deep to stay there and almost called it but then I remembered WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU SAVING ENERGY FOR?! I gained a bit of ground on the log step up and I was right on his wheel heading into the sand pit. I had a slightly cleaner dismount and the tiniest of gaps on the run. I think I must have had a better remount as well but I didn't waste much time taking a peak back. I got back on put it in the big ring and put as much down as I could muster. I got out to the pavement climb coming into the finish and opened up my sprint. Still had some decent power and figured I had it but snuck a peek under my shoulder to see where he was. I had maybe 20-30ft and that was all she wrote. RACING BIKES! For a mediocre finish in the 4/5 field! But who cares, we both enjoyed it. Shared a fist bump after the line and I look forward to stalking him on crossresults.com in short order.
I have to pour over results a bit more, but I think I beat a good amount of people Sunday who beat me Saturday. I'm gonna call this weekend a 100% win. A marginally successful entrance to a new discipline and a whole ton of fun.
all clean. lets do it again.