Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Championship of the Universe Race Report Day 3 CX Nats

The most wonderful thing about tiggers is this is the only one !

The long drive down, the late nights and two days of racing and photographing all day had taken their toll. We were tired when we got up Saturday. We had riders in the first two races of the day and I grabbed some hot Joe whilst Hottie began documenting the day in digital images.

Our local hero U23 stud Zach McDonald was set to contend in the U23 race. By now the combination of SLIGHTLY warmer temperatures and the course having been pummeled by a thousand racers riding lap after lap had made the course change again. Mud was starting to emerge and the possibility of a dry Sunday for the pros was contemplated.

Zach broke a wheel (a la Hincapie) and had to run to the pits and was essentially out of it a minute or two after starting. While he was able to pit and change bikes, he lost too much time and was playing the part of me and found himself the lantern rouge. He wisely chose to accept his lot and hold something out for the collegiate race on Sunday morning.

Hottie shot the races and I toted the gear and while we were tired, the prospect of my 9:00 PM race loomed over both of us like a dark cloud. After the last race we made our way back to our abode away from home and really just snacked on Spaghetti and Pizza leftovers. They were, however, good leftovers.

I took out the bike for a quick test ride to confirm the repaired tubie would hold air. All was good as I dressed for my race and loaded the orange machine into the wagon. I was sensing the temperature dropping fast. On the way to the race venue I watched the temperature drop from 31 to 27. Any hope of avoiding ice was gone. Hottie pleaded for me to be careful, or skip it all together.

John “The Destroyer” and I passed our tests and were admitted to the race. They were handing out bike lights and I gladly took one. It turned out to be quite the light and for the time being has suspended my longing for the light & motion 150.

The race director had encouraged creativity and we responded accordingly. I had lights on my bike and a cape on my shoulders. I took some laps on the icy course and warmed up. In fact, I kept riding just to fend off the cold as long as I could. When the chosen hour was almost upon us I noticed riders milling around a section of the course that was icy. Summoning my leadership skills I said, “follow me,” and they did. We lined up and my spot became the official start line.

I got a good start and was riding about sixth. Someone tried to pass me on the inside of a tight turn and bobbled and went down and the riders were stopped behind him. I took advantage of the new gap and was riding well. The crown was loud and large. Fans were spraying beer on riders on the off camber and big sweeper turn. I held my spot all through the first lap and rode up and down the icy hill of death on this first lap. I came down and sprinted on the pave’ and was still holding my top ten spot at the beginning of the second lap.

On the second lap as I approached Satan’s off camber I saw what looked like a cloud but turned out to be some kind of liquid spray. I rode the off camber as I had thirty times before on this long weekend of racing and my wheels shot out from under me on the ice that had formed from the frozen beer spray. I hit my right side hard and heard “The Destroyer” shout encouragement as he passed me. I quickly got up and my hobnails gripped and I was back on and chasing. I was a few places behind The Destroyer and I was looking for opportunities to pass. I was pretty fast over the barriers and aside from a bobble on a hairpin turn was riding well.

When I was approaching the icy hill of death I could see too many riders in front of me. I guessed there would be a bump, or dab, or something, and expected riders would soon be walking up the hill. I hit the bottom fast and saw my fears materialize. I dismounted quickly and ran, shouldering my bike. I passed some riders and was working my way back up. I was behind John as we hit Satan’s off camber for the third time. The Destroyer slid out and I rode around him to the raucous cheers of an inebriated crowd. John and I hung together the rest of the lap and picked off more riders. We both managed to ride up and down the icy hill of death and then we rode together on the pave as fans cheers us on in our matching costumes. On the fourth lap we both successfully navigated the off camber and after hitting the barriers a second apart, it was all over.

We were like rock stars as the crowd continued to cheer as we stood around in the frozen night air. The fans were shivering, only the riders were warm. I assume we collected top ten places, but alas, perhaps we will never know.

The race with hypothermia began shortly thereafter and we changed and returned home and showered. It was close to midnight when we called it a day. I prepared a story for Andrew and sent it off at an ungodly hour.

It had been a long season and I had been looking forward to reaching the point where I could say, “done.” Now that the moment had arrived, I kind of wanted it to go on a little longer.

We had decided to skip the next morning’s races and sleep in. I tiptoed into bed, closed my eyes, and I was out.

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