Results can be found here
Photos can be found here
Series standings can be found here
El Pirate leading out. Check out my low pressure...
For the second race in the 2014 MFG series we returned to where, for me, Cyclocross started. Steilacoom is where I saw my first race and was instantly hooked ten mud-filled seasons ago. A couple weeks later I was flogging myself riding a Craigslist purchased cross bike at Kelly Creek. Riding was even more fun than I expected. There was no turning back.
This time I lined up on my way-too-cool-for-me bike and even had a front row call up. Hot damn! Ten years ago I didn’t even know what a call up was. My training has taken a bit of a dive which in hindsight I attribute to a combination of too much, too hard with not enough recovery combined with neglected nutrition and a heaping helping of ignorance and/or denial. The result was a tired and likely borderline anemic Evo who didn’t bring a lot of power to race on a power course.
Taking the advice of El Chefe’ I had visualized myself having a good start and first two minutes as opposed to my typically having a half dozen riders shoot past me like I had opened a parachute following the opening straight. It kinda helped.
We had a long starting straight and when everyone reached terminal velocity I felt like I could go faster. I jumped into the big ring and moved into the lead. That was easy. When a Fisher guy pulled up just ahead of me I was happy to follow him into the first turn. I was down in the drops and wheel sucking.
I took the turns fast and wide and was delighted nobody tried to chop me by going inside. Later looking at the first lap photos I now know the reason was my teammate El Pirate was on my wheel and trying to pass two riders in brown has zero chance of success and a hundred percent chance of future regret.
Evo, El Pirate..
I maintained second wheel with El Pirate in tow until we reached the climb. This course featured a single sustained climb with the first half paved and the top half loose dirt. As soon as the climb began six riders shot past me and pulled away. WTF?
I couldn’t get going and looked at my HR and cadence to confirm I was redlined. Nope. Not even close. My HR was 20 bpm lower than I expected which surprised me. I picked it up and held the gap and on the dirt portion I started to claw back some of the gap. The loose gravel downhill was a white knuckle affair that featured a ninety degree left which was followed by a single track descent. At the bottom there was a loose 180 degree corner that was where the difference between having disc brakes and canti’s was manifest.
Not only did I not close the gap on the leaders but I lost another place here when a rider had power and I did not. I tried to accelerate and it didn’t happen. When we returned to the grassy slalom my bike, tires, tire pressure and level of effort kept my placing intact each lap. Then a real gravel section followed by a dirt road again once afforded my bike a chance to shine and I typically gained ground. I managed to avoid the quicksand gravel that awaited you if you went wide when you hit the finishing straight.
This was a course that should have suited me exceptionally well. The zigs and zags were more “Euro” (read faster) which suits my strengths and bike set up. The long climb was a chance to power past weaker riders. My discs allowed me to fly down the descents and still maintain control. I should have killed it.
I am not one given to constantly watching my HR during a race but I do look now and again. Nearly every race I hit my threshold three or four minutes in and it stays redlined until the finish. The last two races I have been about 10-20 bpm lower which is very unusual for me. While I was still catching guys from the 45 plus cat I was passed by riders in my cat on each of the first four laps.
On my last lap I was passed early and took it back on the last quarter of the big climb. There were riders on that climb on the latter laps who were blown up by the last quarter of the climb. Riders who were struggling to hold a line and keep moving. Although I didn’t have it in me this day I was able to smoothly go past those guys.
I could feel a rider on my tail on the downhill and I didn’t let up. Then I drilled it on the grass to open a gap. When we hit the gravel road section there was a Fisher Plumbing guy a good ways ahead who was in my cat. I looked down and to my surprise I was in the big ring up front. I took the first of three corners pretty hot and came out of the saddle and powered into the next corner.
The second corner had an island of asphalt with gravel before and after and I cruised over it all without incident. I was gaining on the Fisher guy who was still thirty meters ahead of me. He made it onto the finishing straight and I could see him turning to look back just as I went behind the bushes that marked the corner and guessed correctly that he didn’t see me. I went left to avoid the potholes then right to avoid the quicksand gravel and I hit the paved finishing straight in the big ring. I cranked hard and pulled up on the bars such that my front wheel came off the ground for a second. Off day or not I was going for it.
By now the gap was twenty meters with just over a hundred to go. My approach was drawing attention and spectators started yelling which alerted the rider ahead that I was coming. I was flat out and gaining but not fast enough to know for sure I could take him. He got out of the saddle and the race was on. I was now about ten meters and closing ever so slowly. My quads were screaming and if he beat me, he beat me, I couldn’t go any faster. He was digging but I was still closing. With a grunt that transitioned into profanity he conceded as I pulled ahead and held it to the line to claim tenth place.
I carried my speed across the line and by sheer luck didn’t crash post race. The Fisher rider congratulated me and I breathlessly retuned the sentiment.
El Pirate won and by so doing took over first place in the series standings. Despite a subpar performance I am clinging precariously to fourth place in the series thus ensuring at least one more week of call up glory.
My Sensei has picked up on my exhaustion and has reduced my suffering in the near term to allow my hematocrit level to return to double digits. I haven’t yet taken to eating blood sausage for breakfast, however, my intake of eggs, beef, spinach, turkey, pumpkin seeds and vitamin C has risen sharply.
Next week we return to the gritty purgatory that is Silver Lake. My hope is that the MFG version of Silver Lake will feel less like Lombard Street and more like LeMans. Sadistically I also hope the sand will require running. I am hoping a fresher Evo can lay down the hurt on his competitors.