Written by Mike Benson Wednesday, 21 September 2016 00:00
There is something about early morning cyclocross that I like. It matches my mid-week training schedule of super early workouts, for the most part. Saturday September 17th wasn’t any different. Alarm clock goes off at 4:45, I tap both of my kid’s shoulders, and hit the shower to wake up a bit. Fast forward to 6:45 AM and my family and I are rolling into the parking lot at White Park as the first to arrive. My race was at 8:30 that morning and I always like to get a good look at the track without a ton of people running around affecting my ability to look at and re-run turns at my own pace. On top of that, I like the smell of Mad Alchemy embrocation. I couldn’t resist adding a little medium embro today as it was 47 deg when we arrived.
Call up time is always a time when the nerves start to hit. Did I do this, did I do that. Usually those nerves are subsided by a little chit chat at the start line. Today wasn’t any different. I said to the guy next to me, before we staged, "those are some pretty sick bars for CX", and the guy says, "I'm more of a gravel racer". I was thinking, that is pretty cool as I looked at his carbon bars. We chatted for a while and he introduced himself. It turned out to be Anthony Moccia who founded both the Dirty 40 and Rasputitsa gravel races. You never know who you are going to meet at New England CX events.
On to racing... I was staged on the second row. When the whistle blew, I had a great start and made it to 4th wheel at the first turn. This was good because that turn was like marbles and required the right speed and focus to make it through at high speed without washing out. In my race, a large group behind me crashed there on the first lap.
The White Park course was completely different from the last few years, which turned out to be a good thing. The new track went in the opposite direction to maximize all the benefits of the varying terrain. Today’s race course included 2 run-ups (one rideable in practice but faster running while racing), one rock wall that was rideable but sketchy, and one off-camber that couldn’t be ridden all day. The course had you red-lined every lap with little time for recovery. There were areas of the course that required more tire pressure than you might think which, I think, led to more flats than expected. I planned ahead and ran my Carver C38's with Challenge Baby Limus Tubulars at 34 in the rear and 30 in the front.
The first two laps had me trying to pull hard efforts to keep up with the top 3-4 guys, which I did. But, I blew up in the 3rd lap and bonked pretty hard. I dropped back a few places and spent laps 3 and 4 recovering and settling in. Towards the end of the 4th lap I was feeling good again and started to push harder. I found myself dueling with a mechanic from JRA cycles that was 6'5". He had a lot of power and pushed me pretty hard. Luckily, he let me rest behind him on the long straights to help me continue my recovery for the final lap. At this point, I was 9th wheel. I needed to make some strong efforts to move up. The first "Wow, that really happened" occurred about three quarters through the 4th lap when we came up over a rise to find a photo crew smack dab in the middle of the race course. I screamed and the girl froze (grey photo umbrella open) in the middle of the trail. The JRA guy swerved right into her and mowed her down. I hit the gas and didn’t look back. By lap 5 (my fastest lap of the race) I finally caught up to one of the guys that dropped me earlier. I could also sense that another rider (cowbell racing) from our category was also catching up as the pace quickened. As I got to that awful off-camber I kept telling myself to stay smooth and fast and not make any mistakes before the last sand descent to the grass field before the finish.
Thankfully, I was able to do just that. I finished 7/63 which I was happy with. My Kona Major Jake performed flawlessly today. I really like the 1x11 SRAM drivetrain. It's much more simple than worrying about whether I should or shouldn't shift into my top chainring.
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