Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cyclocross is Hard

Why (oh why) do I race cyclocross?

A question I've been pondering heavily over the last week and change after two races of pain, blood and disappointment. Let's face it racing cyclocross is hard, I mean really hard in more ways than one. It's not like a crit or some road races where you can just hang in with some moderate fitness and finish mid-pack or a mountain bike race where technical skills can keep you competitive. Not at all, simply put there is no hiding in cyclocross, it's just each rider giving it their all and with some good skills and fitness (along with a bit of luck) they'll get a good result. But what about those who are lacking one (or all) of those key elements for success? Over the past week I fell victim to both my fitness and some bad luck.

Fitness - Last week I hit my season opener, QuadCross in Bedford MA. I decided to do the race at 11 the night before whilst hanging with the UVM MTB squadron out in Greenfield MA and spending the day at the UMass MTB event. So I got up at 5:30, ate some chow, got in the car at 6:15 or so and arrived at home at 8. Then went to sleep for an hour, got up and scurried over to the venue arriving about 1 hour before my start. Of course I walked around, checked out the course and tried to get my timing right. After a short warm up I got to the start and had my usual hope for the best thought. After a pretty good start I managed to stay in the top half of the race for a while.

After a couple of laps I had a few harsh realizations.

  1. It was Freaking Hot and Humid
  2. Cyclocross is hard! A small detail I had forgotten in the 9 months since my last CX race.
  3. I'd not done enough intensity training and I was paying for it.

Then when just as my eyes were starting to bleed and my inner monologue changed to, "Ouch it hurts, I wanna go home" I had a crash while dismounting and cut up my left leg in a few spots around the knee. Then I got back on and basically started to go backwards in the field eventually finishing on the lead lap, good enough considering I was often lapped in the B race last year and I had crashed. But still had the feeling in the darkest sections of my soul, that I don't belong in a cross race and why do I do this nonsense because I involves two things I hate most in bike racing, a combination of fitness and the desire to make it hurt, (a lesson I should have learned this spring in the Collegiate A field).

Skills & Luck - After a week of anger and frustration remedied by some hard training and skills rides I was ready for cross adventure number two at Sucker Brook Cross in Auburn, NH. This race was total disaster in many ways and a complete success in another.

  • 20 minutes before the race I realized that my brand new open tubular had portion of the tread that was peeling off the casing and had to change it out for the stock tire I had from the Tricross (which folds over a lot).
  • I had a front row starting position.
  • When the whistle blew the race organizers forgot to remove the piece of tape that kept the racers at bay and we all slammed to a stop.
  • During the restart I was in the second row, but then I double slipped out of my pedals and lost 10-15 places
  • For the beginning of the race I was feeling really fit and thought I could be competitive
  • I made it to the woods in the bunch when I hit a stick/rock/root, had my hands knocked off the hoods and I lost control of the bike.
  • As I was crashing I sliced my knee open and knocked my handlebars askew.
  • After spending a minute or two straightening out my bars and assessing my knee I got back on the bike.
  • I spent the race of the race chasing, eventually going from 58th (last) to 44th. Not bad considering the timing and lost time of the crash.

But after this race I was actually in a pretty good mood. So what I had crashed hard, and yeah I have a big slice in my left knee cap, and I spent the whole race chasing alone. There was still some reason that I kept going.

Why?

The fans, the atmosphere, riding the long sand pit clean, Dick Ring announcing the race and of course keeping Colin from destroying my cross results page.

Next week: Green Mountain Cross, Verge Series #1 & #2

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