Tuesday, November 3, 2015

VT Double: Paradise CX and Putney West Hill CX

I did the NH double in Sept so it only made sense to also do the VT double in Oct/Nov.  I did Paradise last year but Putney was new to me.  I've heard all kinds of great things about the course and I wanted to get in another SS race before the end of the year.

I needed to do some stuff around the house so I decided to only do the late SS race at Paradise this year.  Its a pretty good course for SS and it was riding perfectly this year.  The grass was matted down and super grippy.  The turns were very rail-able and fast.

It was a smaller field of about 13 or so.  I got a pretty good start and was siting just off the front group of 4 and was ahead of Griggs and Spencer who I figured I would probably be battling with. Spencer disappeared (mechanical?) but Griggs was still creeping just a few seconds off.  Front group also crept away so I was in no man's land just trying to ride hard and get a good workout and high speed cornering practice.

pre barrier explosion

Little did I know my streak of issue free racing was coming to an end this day in a pretty spectacular fashion.  The barriers were a tad awkward.  You came in at pretty high speed and there were some irregular patio stone type things right before that required some attention and steering to counteract the bumpiness etc.  Nothing too crazy but just enough to possibly mess up your rhythm if you weren't being 100% attentive.  Do you see where this is going?

Third lap I came into the barriers staged and ready to go and this all happened really fast but best I can remember I went to clip out my left foot to start my run/jump sequence and when I thought my foot was free so I could pull my foot off and go it was not.  Foot stuck, weight shifts and I get all flustered.  All I've got time for in that moment was to throw the bike down and hope that my foot came out.

Luckily it did and I avoided personal injury and sadness but unfortunately I threw my bike down and directly into the barrier at speed.  The wheel took the brunt of the forward impact and my right drop / brake lever took the brunt of the downward impact.  Broken spoke, trashed brake lever and it was even brutal enough to bend my handlebars. Bike wasn't exactly rideable in that moment so I had to DNF for the first time ever.

Luckily a drunk guy in the beer garden had a super strong heckle game and was immediately ready with a "that wouldn't have happened if you had gears you filthy hipster!". Well played sir, well played.  I immediately rolled back to the car, called Eric and said I was en route to the shop straight from the race to try and get it back and race ready for Sunday.  We had to do some weird stuff involving a breaker bar but we pulled it off.

I believe Putney West Hill has the title of longest continuously running CX race in New England with this year being the 25th edition.  Its a well balanced course with an iconic run up right before the finish.  The top section has some really fun MTB-esque features with a ripping descent down to the bottom corn field section that is a bit more roadie / power oriented.  Although this year they added a ton of turns down there that limited the extended threshold work which was better for me but made it hard to close gaps.

There was a decent gap between the 4/5 race and the SS so I figured I'd double up.  I was hoping to do well in the 4/5 race and maybe get some more upgrade points but I could tell there were some day of sleepers in the field as well as some fast folks who just don't have that many crossresults points.  At the gun I did a great job of negating my front row start by slipping my left pedal about 3 secs in (I think I might need new cleats).  Luckily I didn't crash but it was touch and go for a sec.  I lost probably 5-6 spots and really had to dig deep to get back up to 5th/6th wheel heading into the course after the start chute.

I was stuck in some frustrating traffic early on, getting jammed up in corners and having to soft pedal with nowhere to go.  That continued through the corn field, I got stuck behind a kid who didn't corner very well but had good power out of the corners so I couldn't get around in the short straightaways.  Front group got away and I was in my familiar just off the front group no man's land.  I got caught by Adin Maynard at one point but was able to get away again and distance him.  I had a group of 3 that seemed to be closing on me late in the race, which is always a delightful feeling.

I felt like I had just enough heading into the field but they were close enough that I'm sure they could smell blood.  I hit the stretch of road with a gap and put down as many watts as I could manage.  About 100yds from the run up I snuck a peak under my shoulder and the dude was head down in the drops hammering about 1 sec behind me...uh oh.  I was worried / not worried.  He obviously had a bit more in the tank in this moment but we were also coming to a huge run up that I was going to hit first AND I don't know why but I KILL run ups.  Particularly steep hard run ups.  So long story short I put 5 secs into him in the span of less than 50yds and held on for 7th.  Not a bad result but not good enough for any upgrade points.

The SS race was more fun. Per usual. Not sure why really but its probably the same reason I was drawn to SS mountain biking.  Its just simpler, more pure, less noise...hard to explain accurately.  This race soothed my soul a bit because I was still feeling a bit stupid from my crash the day prior.  But low and behold the guy winning the race at the time exploded at the barriers in much the same way! Fast guys do it too! they are just like me!  The difference being he didn't DNF. He ran to the pit, changed bikes and still beat me #sadtrombone.

I feel like racing with faster guys brings the best out of me.  Even with the fatigue from the first race I felt like I raced the SS race better and faster although looking at the numbers I bet that isn't quite the case.  But I'd be willing to bet when fresh I'm just as fast or probably faster on my SS bike. Stayed relatively consistent and finished strong for 10th of 21 in a field made up of primarily Cat 3's so I'm happy with that.

That may be just about it for CX racing for me.  Body is definitely calling for a bit of R&R and my soul is calling for a bit of low key fat bike shred.  We'll see how it goes.  Might be writing up my application for my Cat 3 upgrade soon...

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