Monday, October 19, 2015

Hanover CX and Casco Bay CX Double Weekend

After two weeks off its back to business with another multi race weekend.  On tap was Hanover CX on Saturday and then Casco Bay CX in Portland Sunday.  I was feeling decently rested and looking to get some good results.  I've decided I'm making a full run at a Cat 3 upgrade this year.  I feel like I'm close to having the resume required and I might as well try to get it while I'm close.

Hanover CX

I did Hanover last year and didn't have an amazing day due to a crash and some resulting bike issues but its a challenging course that in theory should suit me and with the smaller field I was hoping I might be able to battle for a podium spot and some actual upgrade points.  It was going to be tough, there were some sandbaggers present and I was predicted just off the podium but I had a front row start so no excuses.

Got a good jump off the gun and the only two in front of me heading into the first turny bits was the Cat 3 roadie and the Cat 1 mountain biker (who went on to finish 1-2).  I was feeling pretty good and holding my position heading into the large sandy beach section.  You have to make 4 passes across the beach with 4 180 turns.  Sand was mostly rideable with really soft corners.  If you went wide the sand was holding up and you could keep momentum well.  My lines worked pretty well first time through and I was holding in 3rd in a group of 3-4 or so.

I was feeling confident heading in the main grassy chicane turning sections leading into the barriers and shredding pretty hard.  Unfortunately I think I may have gotten a bit too over zealous and overcooked a turn and went down at speed.  I think I may have had a tiny bit of help due to a crossed wheel by someone behind me but that's racing and I wouldn't fault anyone, they just finished what I started.  I slid across the course and that small group was right on me and they all snuck by as I was getting sorted.  Luckily no bike issues resulted and I was right back on it.

I was having a bit of a time clawing back up to the group, its a hard course to make up time due to all the rhythm stealing techy stuff.  I finally caught the dangler of the group on lap 3 coming through the start.  He made a good pass back heading into one of the steep ups to singletrack followed by an immediate steep down.  Shortly after I plowed through a techy section trying to bridge back up and dropped a chain.  Couldn't pedal it back on and spent 10-15secs getting it situated.  That was about it, after that I was stuck in no man's land behind the front group but with some space to the rest of the race and came in for 7th of 50ish starters.  Not bad but I felt like I should have been a bit farther up.

Casco Bay CX

This was my first go at Casco, last year I had opted to do the 'No Brakes' MTB race in Stratham but seeing as I'm making my Cat 3 push I figured I would stick with CX this year.  Plus I've heard a lot of good things about this venue/course.  Course is setup on the Eastern Promenade in Portland, another great ocean locale kind of like Gloucester.  I did Hanover completely solo but this was a full team affair, we all loaded into Sam's truck for the drive up.  Sam and Eric were taking on the Masters 1/2/3/4 in the morning and I was doing the SS, 4/5 double in the afternoon.

Sun was out but it was really breezy right on the coast and pretty damn cold first thing in the AM.  I was very glad my races were a bit later in the day. Those Masters races look hard.  Those old guys still go real fast and Eric and Sam had to do all kinds of traffic battling through the early parts of the race which makes it hard to get in a groove.

Eric probably red lining shortly after getting over the long run up

The course was really cool, probably one of my favorites now.  Pretty well balanced all told.  Longer power sections, plenty of turning, some technical stuff, lots of off camber, some climbing.  Eventually it came time for me to have a go at the SS race.  Promoters combine the SS with the Men's 1/2/3 race (probably to save some overall time because part of the road is closed during the race).  Luckily they gave us our own start 1min behind the 1/2/3's so we didn't have to worry about getting caught in any scrum but that also means we were 1min closer to getting lapped and possibly pulled.

I was actually ok with that because it meant I wouldn't have to ride a full 50mins and initially I was just planning on using the SS race as a warm up.  PRO TIP: This never works.  When the whistle blows you are gonna race hard, there is no escaping this.  It was a small SS field but I got a good start none the less.  Things split fairly quick on the false flat drag up the pavement.  If you can spin you were up front, if not see you later.  I think my 42-19 gearing was pretty ideal as well which helped.  So by the end of the initial spin fest I was sitting in the front group of 4 with some pretty heavy hitters.

this little bermed turn was super fun to hit at speed

I was a bit surprised to be hanging tough through basically the whole first lap.  Donnie Seib crashed towards the end of lap 1 and for the end of lap 1 and part of lap 2 I was sitting in 3rd until he caught and passed me.  I was extending my gap on 5th and feeling pretty good.  I was keeping Donnie close but wasn't making up any ground and eventually that elastic snapped and he got away.  Late in the race I was waiting to get lapped but it wasn't happening and it was looking more and more likely that I was going to make lead lap.

I even caught the back end of the 1/2/3 field and actually made some passes.  Low and behold I made lead lap (even with a 1min deficit to start) but unfortunately that also meant I was looking at a full race and being at the end of the field it was going to be 50+ mins...about 55min to be exact.  They were only offering 10mins between fields so my next race was in 5mins time when I rode into the finish.  The 4/5 race was actually already completely staged and ready when I crossed the line.

Eric was waiting with my other bike, swapped my numbers out and I rolled straight into my front row staging spot to some cheers and some "wait you're racing again? right now?" from other racers.  Sam had some black coffee for me to hit to warm up and get a little caffeine spike.  Certainly pays to have teammates present that's for sure.  Thanks guys! I couldn't have entered that deep deep pain cave without your assistance!

The 4/5 race was a bit of a blur.  All I remember was being really tired and trying not to crash.  I also remember Eric and Sam screaming at me constantly.  Eric was very good at finding me whenever I was basically drained on the bike soft pedaling and was quick to offer the advise of standing up and sprinting.  Which for some reason I did every time.  Sam also kept reminding me that no one on the course with me was my friend and that I should swallow my vomit and not allow them to beat me.  Also great advise.  I was thoroughly toast and fading throughout the race but teammate heckles are key to suffering successfully.

All things considered I held tough for a top 20 finish at 17th in a field of 73.  Not a horrible result and a great day of training that's for sure.  Got some great points from the SS race with my 4th place finish in a field of mostly Cat 3's.  My points are now down to 393 and I'm now one of the sandbagging a-holes I like to point out in the 4/5 race predictors.  I'm predicted at 2nd for this coming Sunday at Orchard CX.  I don't like that kind of pressure!

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