Oh the humanity!
I'm coming to realize that sometimes you just miss the giant race changing pile up and sometimes you don't. That's life and that's racing. And sometimes the entire race is a massive mess of pileup after pileup where your only hope is trying to minimize the damage.
I exaggerate a bit. Today wasn't quite that bad but it was probably the closest I've seen to that in my short CX career. Hanover is probably the most technical course I have seen to date and it was apparent that many guys in the 4/5 field don't spend a lot of time on singletrack that has roots and leaves and short/sharp hills.
The course had several singletrack sections most of which had a steep incline into the trail and then a very steep but short descent dumping back out onto a path or road. So gearing was key, picking the right line was extra key and the knowledge of when and where to apply pressure so as to not spin out and fall over was at a premium. There was also a huge beach section next to the pond in the park that was really interesting. This weeks heavy rain had created these little drainage fissures running through the sand as well as these pretty deep depressions where water had pooled. It was three sand straightaways with corresponding 180 hairpins. The straightaways were pretty easy but the corners were chewed up soft/deep sand. Pretty easy to ride early but got harder and harder and ultimately probably got faster to just run.
The first lap crazy was a bit extra crazy. There wasn't quite enough of a run out before we hit the first chokepoint which included a steep run up straight into singletrack. I got to the top and was greeted by a parking lot. Standing room only, guys just milling around waiting for their turn to move. Luckily I'm pretty good and making passes in singletrack parking lots so I started hauling up the side running past people as they tried to clip in in traffic.
Got up to about where I wanted to be at that point somewhere in the 15-20th range and got into a small group heading into the sand. Had to run a lot of the ups and downs into singletrack because of the traffic. Made a few more passes but also got passed here and there. I REALLY need to work on my power at threshold. Far too many of my hard earned passes in technical stuff come right back when it flattens and widens out. GOTTA MAKE THOSE STICK.
Second lap was my fastest. Things had spread out and the group I was in was working pretty well. I was able to ride most singletrack sections that lap due to clean paths to make a solid attempt. At that point I was fairly certain I was in for a good day. I was racing for top 15 and legs felt pretty good. Then we lapped through and got up and around the first little chicane and were heading down to the sharp 180 into the first run up aaaaaaaaand our group exploded. Quite literally.
I was taking a wide line in the middle of the group and getting ready to dismount heading into the turn. Just as I clicked out some sort of something happened back and to the left (BACK AND TO THE LEFT). I'm guessing some guys got tangled trying to turn and ended up going straight. Right into me. Basically got sideswiped and went down pretty hard on my left side. Picked up even more rash on my left leg to add to my shin gash but the biggest casualty was my left brifter. The next time I tried to get into my big ring it was no dice. Almost seemed like the two paddles were stuck together somehow. I was stuck spinning to win and was having a hard time holding the tail end of the group.
Then I finally got into the big ring and things were fine...for a bit. Until the next time I had to get off the big ring. Rinse and repeat as necessary in order to loose almost ten places over the next 2-3 laps. Lost all rhythm and got bogged down or spun out repeatedly for the rest of the race. By the last lap I think the paddles finally freed themselves and it seems fine now that I've cleaned the bike up. I made two or three passes on the last lap and was about to make one more but ran out of race. Came in 23rd of 60ish? (exactly where race predictor said I would). I was staged 30th so even with all the strife I'm ok with the outcome.
It was a really fun course. Although I would have loved to race it with maybe half the people. Now its back to racing for NEMBA tomorrow and Orchard CX next weekend! #braap