Written by Travis Williams Thursday, 27 October 2016 00:00
Day 1 – Chimborozo Park
The temperature was warm if not almost hot. It doesn’t feel like cross season but here I stood at the starting line. Being that this was my first cross race in about two years I guess I should have been a little nervous at the start. But I wasn’t! I knew my fitness was lacking. I was bringing a butter knife to a gun fight but, I still planned to fight. Chimborozo is one of my favorite cross courses because it lends itself well to my mountain bike handling skills with some fun off camber switchback turns and choppy sections as well as my love of climbing. I had gotten a terrible spot at the start because I messed up the start time and rolled up as the 30 seconds to go whistle was being blown. Oops, well still I came to fight.
They blew the start whistle and that eternity of waiting for every racer in front of you to take three crank rotations and get clipped in settled in. I saw a hole forming in the string of racers on the left as everyone was looking to take the first right hand corner to the inside. I went wide and sprinted for 30 seconds to make a pass on a good 12-15 racers. It also set me up to take the next left turn to the inside. I had just went from almost last to at least in the top 30 or so racers. Things were looking up in the first 2 minutes of racing already. I was able to pick off a few other racers who made poor line choices and were getting held up by a rider in front of them. Next up, the barriers. I should have practiced these. The dismount was great, the barrier hopping and running was average and the remount was classic double hopping for glory. Now with my heart rate firmly in the red zone it was time for a quick downhill before that drawn out climb that leads to the never ending stairs that top out at the bottom of another climb. Take it easy I thought, don’t blow up on the first lap. I stayed on top of my gear and kept the legs spinning around 90 RPMs. The climb was muddy and soft. I was glad that I had a 2x10 drive train. I shifted into the small ring and spun furiously up it making 3 more passes on riders who were grinding and slipping tires on their 1x drive trains. A little bit of a bottleneck at the stair run up gave me a bit of recovery but the paved climb that immediately followed put my heart rate back through the roof. Mmm I quickly remembered the taste of blood. A few turns later we crossed the start/finish line for the first time.
I took a mental note of the mistakes that I had made on that first lap and quickly developed a plan to not make them on this lap. It worked! I made some more passes and was pretty confident that I was at least in the top 20. On lap 3, I found myself riding with a friend and it seemed like neither one of us had anything more to give but neither of us wanted to lose any ground either. We traded places several times throughout the rest of the race but we seemed to be in no man’s land. No one to chase but each other. We finally crossed the finish line 15th and 16th respectively. I was still hyperventilating. I was hoping someone had a brown paper bag that contained liquor that I could put my face into. It turns out someone did. I was supposed to double up and race the single speed race as well but my body hurt entirely too bad from the first race to waste money on an entry fee. The side stitch that I had lasted for a good 3 hours. That was a new feeling but then again, I’ve never raced this out of shape before. So let’s call that a draw. Sunday’s race would be held on the course where I typically perform the worst.
Day 2 Sunday– Bryan Park
For Sunday’s race I made sure to double check the start time and even get to the line a bit early. I had a pretty good start position. When they blew the whistle I was able to sprint off down the road and duck into the grassy two track in 5th or 6th place. The course went right beside a temporary construction fence that was holding some hungry looking goats into a small habitat area. Someone in 2nd place got a little close and snagged his handlebar in the fence, sent him over the bars and left him laid out in the middle of the single track blocking the trail.A few of us stopped to make sure the guy was OK after we had just ran him over while a good portion of the field went around us in the briers and brush. Okay, run the hill, through the barriers then remount and let’s reclaim that top 10 spot.
After a few more turns and a wide open power section we were faced with a barrier/sand pit mix. This was actually a large railroad tie retainer full of sand. Some people might call it a child’s playground but today we called it a sand section. In my pre-ride lap I attempted to bunny hop the railroad tie and ride the sand but failed at it 3 different times. So this time I ran it while most everyone around me rode it. It was quickly obvious that riding it was much faster and while running it I noticed a line on the left hand side that I had missed earlier. Mental note for the next lap “Stay left, average speed approach and weight back.” The next several sections were a mix of pavement and flat grassy double track. This is where my lack of road power really shines. You need to be able to maintain some top end speed and I just don’t have that right now. So you have to do the best you can. It’s never pleasant watching people ride away from you but it’s a reality some days. Mental note number 2 “Break out that trainer and work on some power.” I mashed on down the pavement, through the barriers and further along some grassy double track before reaching the start/finish line. OK 4 more laps of this? I’ve got this!
With the field a little more strung out I was able to take better lines through the first 1/3 of the course that favored my skill set and make up some of the time that I had lost on the road section. I caught a few guys and hit the sand pit on the left line this time. Bingo! “That was money” I thought to myself. The only downfall was that it set me up tight in the corner of the left hand turn around an oak tree that was a fertile with acorns. There were some choppy roots right up next to the tree and a good 10,000 acorns to slip and slide on. I managed to stay upright but it felt like riding a fixed gear on icy roads. Mental note #3 “Exit sand pit and immediately veer right to setup for a mid apex turn around the oak tree.” With my legs a bit more warmed up and my adrenaline firing, I was able to put a little more into the road section this time. I caught a guy and was able to hold his wheel up to the start finish area where I was able to pass him in the twisty stuff. For the next two laps I was out in no man’s land again. There is nothing impressive to say about that except that I did nail the sand pit and exit on both laps. I finished up in 10th place.
Single speed Race
About 2 hours after I finished my first race of the day I found myself lined up for the second race of the day, the single speed division. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it, I love this category because it’s anyone’s race. You can be a CAT1 Road or MTB racer and race a single speed cross bike against a total beginner and everyone in between. I typically try to think of myself as someone who’s “in between” in that comment. Today would not be one of those typical days though. As we lined up for the start I was surrounded by top local talent. It’s always nice to be surrounded by friends, unless you are hoping for results and your friends are way faster than you. Still it’s always fun to ride bikes with friends.
When the official blew the whistle the pace went from zero to extreme. I spun up my gear as fast as my tired legs could turn it over and I was still barely staying connected with the last guy in the pace line. I was able to hang through the first 1/3 of the course but when it turned flat and fast again I just got spit out the back. I was way under geared for this pace. The group was gone and out of sight for the better part of the entire race. I did manage to catch several of the Masters racers that had started a few minutes before us and I also managed to not get lapped by the faster Masters guys. I also managed to clean the sand pit every lap. So while I did finish last with a 7th place there were several positive take away points.
The new tubeless ready tires from Bikeman.com arrived just in time to mount before the weekend and they were a game changer with respect to traction and compliance on the courses. Also, even though they are a few years old (and so are the shifter cables and housing) my SRAM Force 2x10 drive train performed flawlessly all weekend. The new team kits are very comfy and have just the right amount of compression. I feel very fortunate to ride for Bikeman.com and have the support of all of our wonderful sponsors. This fall will be the season of the comeback! I promise, even if I wind up racing my way back into fitness.
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