Sunday, December 5, 2010

MonkeyCross CX at Franklin Park, Santa Rosa: Dec 4, 2010 (B 35+)

Overnight and day-of rain made for a fun race that was somehow muddy without being too sloppy. The mud was exactly the kind I like. It wasn't sloppy and deep and splattering all over but it wasn't thick like peanut butter either. It was slippery and on many corners there was a very fine line between control and sliding out.

The rain stopped as I warmed up on my trainer and by the time I had my wheels ready and was all spiffied up in my fancy bike racer togs there was no rain. I took more than a few laps around the grass of the neighboring soccer field and was feeling good enough so I watched the last two laps of the C race and the men's 55. My buddy Ray was having a great duel for first place. Just before the third turn from the finish he made a decisive pass and got a decent gap through the second to last turn. I was prepared to shout up a huge congratulatory whoop when horror of cycling horrors the poor bloke slid out in the final turn going down on his hip and having difficulty freeing his right cleat from the pedal as he was passed. He righted his ship and rolled in for second but damn, that was hard to watch. I can't think of anything worse than having a race end like that. Here's the closest I've ever come:

In the Summer of 1992 I had just gotten back to Maryland for my Summer Co-op education term at Goddard. I entered a three-stage race out in Southern Maryland (Patuxent County Stage Race or something or other). On the initial time trial I rode well enough for a fifth and went into the road race stage fairly confident. There was a stiff wind that day and my Arizona mountain legs were more than up for that and the short climbs that peppered the course. With about eight miles to go I attacked into a headwind and took two guys with me. After about ten minutes I started to get frustrated with my breakaway buddies. I yelled at one of them to put in the effort or we were going to get caught. He just turned to me and had sweat and snot and spit running down his face and I knew he was cooked. So I attacked those meatheads and was solo with no pack in sight behind. I clearly remember repeating "out of sight, out of mind" over and over and over as I drove for all I had toward the finish. As I hit the final 500 meter climb before the finish I could taste my first road victory. I'd been close before but this was IT. I buried myself into the red zone but was fading hard just digging as deeply as possible to get to that damn line. TWENTY feet from the line, two guys sprinted out of nowhere and passed me leaving me slack-jawed, cross-eyed and in complete disbelief that I had come so - damn - close. Believe me, patient reader, it is not easy to live in your own head for awhile after something like that happens. The third and final stage was a silly criterium with no technical challenges to it whatsoever and I must have attacked the field every other lap in order to punish myself and exorcise the demons in my head but I was reeled in time after time. I ended up fifth overall in that race but I would gladly have traded in my winnings for having won that road race stage.

But back to the present (wherein I am sadly just a mere shadow of the guy who once could do things like attack a field and stay away for a significant amount of time in a significant part of a race ...).

The Franklin Park course was the most fun CX race I've done this year. After the start was a steady climb that was deceptively hard for those who were either overgeared or picked a slippery line. A surprisingly high number of people actually dismounted and ran this hill. I seemed to have its number and was able to ride it every lap. After this there was a flat section and a steep short climb that was quite rideable. A short descent following that had
a tricky right-hander at the bottom. As soon as surviving that there was another two-stage hill. The first part was rideable but the second was not. For me the best tactic seemed to be to just go ahead and dismount on the fast flat part at the bottom and used that running momentum to just go ahead and run the entire thing. (Maybe "run" is overstating the waddling I do while using my bike as a walker: seen over there --> photo by john schmier).

Then there was some more winding around on the same little hill. I found I could ride most of the uphills if there was no traffic and that, ultimately, turned out to be good for me.

On the final time down out of the little hill there was a swooping turn around a swing set (I love cyclocross) with some sand followed by some barriers. Then there was some flat-ish winding through some muddy off-camber turns and then back onto the straight. This ended up being about six minute laps. That's more in my comfort zone. I really think sometimes the race organizers go a little overboard with the courses and ultimately the race suffers with a course that just repeats itself without offering any additional challenges. Maybe that's putting too much thought into it but the fact is that I just enjoy the short technical courses MUCH more than the long flat slogs across the grass that most of the Sacto Series races have turned into.

I had an okay start and headed up the first hill maybe eighth wheel. With the traffic, some of the riding sections ended up being dismounts but when I'm fresh I can handle that pretty well. It isn't until later in the race when I start getting clumsy that my dismounts and remounts get slower and slower. There were some good races for position between three or four of us for the first three laps when things finally sorted out. I was happy to catch one rider before the finish but the last three laps were just status quo. Once the traffic was cleared out and I was able to have clear track to ride the climbs I noticed a very large gap behind me and that's how it stayed to the end of the race. My lap time show that I started to fade with my last lap being very slower. But that was more a function of having no one breathing down my back than anything else. I was very happy to stay on the lead lap and despite a not great placing (11th of 16) felt I rode a good race and didn't feel quite so stuffed and frustrated. Maybe things are coming around? Who knows but it was fun and that is the best thing to report. Ray took some video during my race and it's about as entertaining as watching a garbage truck (with a large ass) work its way down and alley but I appreciate it and the link is ...

Two more last things that are probably more entertaining than the previous blahblahblah. The announcer was heckling me for being too clean, which is kind of funny since I kept thinking that I was probably trashing my VSRT whites. As you may hear in the the video, they were playing Weezer's Blue Album during our race. Out of nowhere my brain began to sing

oo wee oo I look just like Muddy Holly
uh oh and you're Muddy Tyler Moore

Despite that ending up on an endless loop in my brain I thought that was pretty funny.

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