Photos of everyone else can be found at Spotshot !
No Mud Today !
Last week was so hard that only half of my teammates who braved the misery of Tall Chief showed up this week for a follow up pain treatment. Guy, Feral Dave, Seph and Mr. T. all leveraged their wisdom and/or schedule conflicts to avoid this week’s allotment of suffering. The race this week was challenging but did not necessitate Davo digging into Evo’s Big Book of Adjectives in order to relate the experience.
Once again we had a pre-dawn departe’. The venue and race this week was a “compare and contrast” exercise. This week and last week were similar in that both were in foggy/cloudy conditions. It seems like weeks since we’ve seen the sun. While it didn’t rain for either race, the ground was wet with morning temperatures below the dew point. Both courses featured lots of grass and were, at their heart, power courses. The temperatures were again cold enough that after finishing you had to change quickly to beat the onset of hypothermia.
There were other aspects that were starkly different than last week. We covered almost twice as much distance in the same amount of time. This race took place at an urban lakeside park complete with modern buildings and modern art. Last week’s race was off in the sticks and even the moss was old. Last week featured lots of smooth (albeit slow) grass and this week the grass was bumpy and there was pavement, gravel and cement to round out the course.
Despite being a power course, last week’s event rewarded bike handling skills and Cyclocross race experience. This week required only a minimal skill set.
Evo whistling while he works..... using minimal skills
Where last week was muddy, this week the course was fast and generally dry. By the end of the day the grass in some of the corners was getting pretty mulched, but there were no wheel-eating bog-like conditions. Our bikes were still recognizable at the conclusions of this week’s festivities whereas last week mud hid your bike’s identity. Last week the course favored runners and this week only required you to unclip to step over barriers.
Last week we were in the bottom of a valley and the fog felt like a lid closing the valley walls around you. This week featured a small hill that would have afforded views were it not for the low clouds and fog that kept the sky a nondescript flat grey.
Last week tent set up was haphazard and this week our tent locations were controlled with an iron fist. I’m not advocating one approach over the other, I’m just pointing out the contrast.
The temperature wasn’t supposed to reach ten degrees C (50 degrees F for my imperial friends) all day so we brought along a heater. We didn’t bring just any heater, we brought Mr. Heater. We had a strong showing of juniors and when they weren’t racing their lack of body fat had them gathered in front of the heater not unlike the way men gather in front of a TV to watch a football game.
El Jefe’ brought some Fuel Coffee and we were darn glad he did.
My build up to the race was also different than last week. I had a good week of training including a Thursday Thrilla. On the Thrilla I felt like I could hit the power when I wanted and was feeling strong. I did, however, also spend a chunk of my Saturday working in my yard moving and stacking firewood, cutting grass and raking leaves. As a result of the yard duty my back was aching Saturday night and felt only slightly better Sunday at race time.
My warm up was slightly better than last week. I had a decent starting position as well. Last year for this race I was tired from racing the day before at Wooley Cross and remember my legs feeling heavy on the first lap.
As this year’s edition got underway the outside of my right quad revealed a sore spot that I had never felt in a bike race before. If you have ever bruised your thigh by crashing into something and then felt it during exercise you can understand the feeling. I still have no idea what caused this, but it hurt. After the race I rubbed the area and sure enough, there was a lump about the size of half a hot dog. Oh well, I thought, something is always going to hurt.
Rolling on cement
After the initial curvy grassy section we approached the first of four long power sections where I had historically done very well. As I approached I was counting down in my mind as I prepared to ramp up my effort, “ready…set…go....Ah shit!” I had no power. Between my back and my quad my accelerations would be pretty poor today.
“Time for plan “B,” I thought to myself. Then I settled in and spun my way toward the back of the course. “Okay, ride steady and smart,” I thought to myself.
Unclip, run up and over some steps on a fifteen foot hill, remount and then down and back up again.
Up, up and away..
Then a left turn on to the only corner you had to pay attention to and then you were on the second long power section.
If I pass you, this is what it looks like !!
This led to the sustained climb (the third power section) and then a loose gravel descent and onto the starting/finishing straight (the final power section) and you had completed a lap.
On the second lap, as we sorted ourselves out, I noticed Spinner John who had been sidelined with a shoulder injury, behind me by about fifteen seconds. His eyes were bulging with his jaw jutting forward. While I am sure he would deny it, he was flogging himself to move up. If ever there was a day I was vulnerable today was the day and if ever there was a course that favored a less technical power rider this was it.
Spinner John chasing
Today was John’s big chance. Please don’t tell him. Really I'm serious, don't tell him.
On my Thursday Thrilla I had ridden with too little pressure in my tires and had to alter my riding style to avoid getting a pinch flat. In this race I had to alter my riding style from power accelerations and late braking to flowing and spinning. When I saw four laps to go I was feeling the rip tide on the power sections as I was losing ground to other riders. I usually am passing people during this stage of the race and it was disheartening to get passed by some fast young Cat 4’s. Despite my lack of power the gap to Spinner John seemed to be growing slowly. A review of my lap times in the evening on STRAVA would yield remarkably consistent lap splits.
When I see one lap to go I am always happy. In addition to meaning that I will be done soon, it means I didn’t get lapped. I can always suck it up for one more lap. I did all I could on the power sections and my sore spots prevented me from hitting my max heart rate as I usually do. Spinner John finished nearly a minute behind me but was glad to be back mixing it up.
Go Evo Go !!
I spent much of Sunday evening working The Stick over my tender right quad. Monday morning found me tired and my triceps inexplicably sore. I bike commute to work on Mondays and count that as a nice pair of recovery rides. It is always a bit of a treat to enjoy an easy ride after putting in a hard effort on Sunday. As I replayed my race in my head on the way in I could not help but think on the complexities of the problem of Cyclocross.