Written by Don Seib Thursday, 24 January 2013 16:03
Team Bikeman-Seib decided to head to Madison again this year for CX Nationals. We raced at the Chicago New Years Resolution CX the weekend prior and went to Madison Sunday night for the week. When we arrived, Madison still had 12-18” of snow everywhere, it looked like full on winter. They had used a heavy duty front loader of some sort and plowed the course down as close to dirt as possible.
We rode the course each day that week and it evolved as the temps warmed up and re-froze each night. The course got its first real impact on Wednesday during the non-championship races. Temps warmed up enough that the first mud began to show, but for the most part you could still stay on top of the snow. Wednesday was also the first day the perma-frost layer came into play, basically black-ice that you did not want to turn on. It looked like it would provide traction, but was wicked sketchy at any speed or turn angle.
Thursday was race day for me and as the temps rose I was pretty psyched thinking we were heading into full-on mudder conditions. I had a great night's sleep, the bikes were totally race prepped, did a solid warm-up inside the trailer, and headed to the start. I opted to skip a pre-ride that day as the pressure washer availability/up-time on Wednesday had been really poor and we ended up at the local car wash. Anyhow, head to the start and was watching the end of the 55-59 race and noticed, no Paul Curley and no Al Blanchard in the top 10. Hmmmm…that’s not right. Both IMO were at a minimum, podium contenders, if not bringing the stars-n-stripes home. I asked a few people and they said the 55-59 race was a crash-fest and the course was really showing its fangs. Should have lowered my tire pressure to absolute minimum at this point, but felt confident in my preparation and was trying to stay low-key.
Had a front row call-up and was determined to make it count. Left the line hard and slotted in 3rd place right behind Steve Tilford and Danny Warner, exactly where I wanted to be. An outside line came by me heading into the soccer field loop and adrenaline took over and I passed everyone but Steve and moved into 2nd. Coming into the right icy turn before the pits I carried way too much speed and blew right through the turn. No worries, was up quickly and back in the game. As we came up the long snow filled straight before the hill a rider to my right got pitched hard left in a rut and cleaned me completely off my bike. Got passed by a bunch more as I couldn’t get going in the corn snow. Coming down the hill I went down again on the black-ice turn just before the stair run-up folding over my rear shifter. Needless to say, three crashes in the first half a lap of a CX race is not the hot set-up for a good result….
So now I’m back in the teens somewhere thinking I’ve totally blown it. As I came through the pits for a bike change, the volume of noise and cheering got me focused again (and some kind words from Derek Griggs telling me to get my act going). For the next two laps rode very clean, passed a bunch-o-folks, and while I didn’t realize it at the time was up to 5th place right behind Sam Morse. As we came through the twisty section before the short grinder hill, I got into the deep snow and deposited myself off the course. Took a second to get un-tangled from the course tape and several people went by. Buying real estate once is hard, having to do it multiple times in a race is really painful…
Lap 4 – Got going good again and with two clean bike changes passed another 3 riders. At this point no one is giving up space easily and each pass costs a lot of matches. Lap 5 - Climb the big hill for the last time and can see Sam only a bit ahead. I knew Sam was in the top 5 somewhere and figured if I could pass him I’d be on the podium. I put in a monster effort out of the saddle and when I sat back down I heard a crack and saw my saddle flying off the bike (carbon rails snapped on each side of the saddle clamp). Thinking to myself, you have got to be kidding. Two sketchy descents and the hurdles later I’m back to the pits for a bike change and the last half lap of racing. Danny Warner catches and passes me in the pits and on the last short snotty climb we dueled to the top. I made the right corner first and killed it to the finish to hold 6th place.
All in all, okay with 6th but pretty certain I had top three legs that day. In hindsight not pre-riding the course was a bad call. For certain I should dropped my tire pressure during the race. I had my pit bike set a pound lower front/rear and the difference was noticeable during the changes. I could have gone much lower, like 19/20 and been way ahead of the game. I’ve always been too hesitant to go that low for some reason and won’t ever have that problem again.
A huge thanks to my wife Kristen and team-mate Sheldon Miller who pitted for me. I changed bikes at least 6 times and without the mechanical repairs and clean bikes there is no way I could have recovered from my poor start. Also thanks to Bikeman for everything they do for me and the family. We get killer support from Al, Darcy, Steve and everyone back at the shop. We rebuilt the entire fleet of bikes before nationals as just about every bearing, cables, etc… was toast from the long season. Looking forward to next year. We may trade nationals in Boulder next year for a week in Belgium. Still working through the logistics on that one. If I can get my lower back issues resolved, maybe both. I still think a stars-n-stripes is possible in my future if I can match fitness, good decision making and a bit of luck all at the same time.
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