Last year I did 7 races total. This weekend I did 4 and on Wednesday I'll do 2 more...back to back. Its addictive, I dare you to try it.
Last year was an experiment that went pretty well. An attempt to salvage a year screwed up pretty decently by injuries and health issues. This year I'm hitting the CX season with a solid block of MTB riding and racing in my legs as well as some new bikes. I was interested to see what that would mean for my results. Spoiler Alert!: I'm a bit faster now.
I love the NH double weekend. Two days of racing close to home on some great courses, both pretty difficult in their own different ways. First up was White Park on Saturday in Concord. Probably one of the cooler city parks I've seen. It incorporates a lot of cool things for the community in a tight little space and is really well maintained. (Just watch out for dead bodies every now and then. We have a heroin problem in NH right now ok?! We're dealing with it...hopefully)
Started the day bright and early with the 4/5 race at 8am. Grass was still wet with dew and a bit slippery. Temps were mild, pretty great racing conditions really. I was staged a bit better than mid pack maybe 3rd or 4th row thanks to last years points right behind teammate Eric. It was a pretty big field of about 63 riders or so. Turns out being behind Eric is a great place to be at the gun. He is real good at lets call it riding with purpose and establishing his line such that other riders sort of need to get out of the way.
He went motoring up the left side and I went right along with him through the first chicanes. Easily moved two rows up and had a bit of room by the turn around the baseball fields. Got a good lead out and came around him heading into the climby chicane turns. I remembered to grab some gears before we hit it and got real lucky and found gaps as people got bogged down and was able to sneak through and make several passes. I think this ultimately was the move of the race for me as it got me clear of the bottleneck and into some space where I could ride the difficult back portion of the course without needing to worry about squirrelly Cat 5s.
riding to 7th a few laps in to the 4/5 race
They made some slight changes to the course this year including adding a much steeper loose run up. I started to realize this last year but it is now fully confirmed...I'm good at running in a CX race. No idea why. I passed 3 people the first go at the run up like they were walking and at this point I'm all of a sudden in the top 10 with plenty of room to take the lines I want and settle into a bit more of a TT ride as opposed to a punchy sprinty race where I'm reacting to moves etc.
I was really pleased with the way I rode the rest of the race. Real clean, good pace management and I was actually using my gears at the appropriate times. Although I did have one moment coming into a turny bit where I suffered from a classic lack of oxygen to the brain moment. Light was changing as the sun got higher in the sky and the course tape was yellow. Coming into a left hand turn I couldn't see the tape in the sun (even though I had done that turn at least 3-4 times already) and basically just went straight and almost plowed through the tape and off course. Then I proceeded to basically completely forget where I was on the course and couldn't figure out where to go for like 2-3 secs. #DERP
SS race did not go as smoothly. Like in most disciplines SS is an Open category so there are some fast dudes in there. These races are more fun/training for me. Not really anticipating much on the results sheet. About 2 laps in I came to the realization that I did not quite snug the bolt that affixes my left brake to the handlebars adequately. I could feel it sliding up and down a bit as I would pull and torque on it. It quickly got progressively worse until ultimately this happened with about 2 laps to go:
Bolt completely backed itself out and the only thing holding it on was the cable to the brake itself. This made racing a tad difficult but not impossible. Just started riding everything in the drops and only using my rear brake. Needless to say I got real sloppy. Eric swept me up but surprisingly no one else did and I still managed to beat a few guys.
still fully functional at this point.
Finished the day up with 7th/63 in the 4/5 race and 18th/28 in the SS. Not a bad days work and dropped my points from 491 to 471.
Sunday was supposed to be a little wet in the morning and be cool and cloudy the rest of the day. Instead it was bone dry and sunny and dusty and windy.
Sucker Brook usually draws slightly bigger crowds probably mostly because its a bit closer to Boston and I suppose it would probably also be considered a bit friendlier of a course to most CX riders (especially those who trend more roadie). The 4/5 field was over 100 racers but split U35 and Masters 35+. Even though my racing age is 35 (eeeeeeeeekkk!) I'm not mentally prepared to race Masters yet so I toe'd the line in the U35.
I was third row which I'm starting to find is just about all you need in a 4/5 field. Gets you in front of just about anybody that might be slower off the line and most everyone in rows 1 and 2 are way less likely to have crashing issues early on. I had another decent start and moved up a few spots to high teens or so. Luckily no massive explosions in the field like last year. There are A LOT of turny bits in the early part of the course and I made good work of them moving up several spots early to just outside the top 10.
club row was a good time
I have noticed I can close a lot of little gaps just by needing to use my brakes less. Free speed folks! I was trading spots with a few guys between the front and back half of the course sitting about 11-14th or so. I was opening up gaps in the long sand pit running section (I love running! (no I don't!)) and eventually the gap finally stuck. Last lap and a half I noticed I was also slowly clawing back the guy in front of me and last lap I got very close in the turny stuff only to have it extend back out on the long fire road. But it didn't extend enough and I was fairly confident I could catch him near that sand pit again.
Unfortunately I learned a cyclocross lesson the hard way. I had estimated everything just about exactly right. I came into the sand pit just behind him and caught him before we exited. In that moment I had to decide: dig deep and pass him now even though you are red lining and will be pretty dead on the remount OR rest a bit now so you can try to get him in the sprint. I chose to rest and I chose poorly.
I stayed right with him through the lead in to the finishing straight and I had a solid sprint but he had a similar sprint top end in that moment and had just enough to hold me off by half a bike length. If I had made the pass when I had the chance even though I would have been gassed it would have been hard for him to pass me back in the lead in to the finish without taking a bit of a risk and I would have had the half bike length to take 10th instead of 11th. LESSON: If you've got the pass, take the pass.
Sam is very good at yelling at people
The SS race was just hard. 4th race of the weekend. Flat, fast, non-stop hammering. This was the last race of the day so the course was good and chewed up. Interesting to see how a course changes over the course of a day, hadn't experienced that last year.
I realized something that in a way I already knew but I had never really been cognoscente of until this race. My SS build is heavy as shit. There was a good amount of dismounts and running required and my arms were getting tired by the end of the race. Luckily this whole SSCX thang is really more training than anything else and if I'm towing an anchor around thats pretty good training. Surprisingly enough I held my mid pack position and even gained a spot late on the last lap. This time I didn't wait. A sand pit pass was the plan but he let up heading into a corner and went a bit too wide so I dive bombed and railed through.
My advantage in the sand pit netted me close to 10 secs and I was good to cruise into the line. Good for 14th/24. Sunday got my points down to 453 which should keep me near the front of the start grid for most 4/5 races from here on out. My points would be lower but I've still got a 500 point race dragging me down from last year. Crossresults only takes the lowest score from a multi-race day otherwise I would be a bit lower. Should take care of that Wednesday.
Midnight Ride of CX is next!