Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Putney West Hill Cyclocross Reportage

This is one of the few 'cross races I've actually done before, it was
two years ago and I did it on the mountain bike, it was a killer
course and it didn't go too terribly wrong, so despite the forecast
for sub-fifty temperatures and rain (or especially because of it) I
set out for Putney Vermont. I arrived just as the C race was going
off, I watched as this poor dude got the hole shot only to trip over
his bike and fall shoulder first into the barriers, completely
destroying his front wheel on the polar opposite side of the course
from the pits, ending his race after just about twenty seconds. Note
to self: unclip your left frickin' foot!
By start time there was still no rain, it was downright
balmy out, not the ideal conditions for the single speed but whatever,
I'll take it, they'll be plenty of time to freeze to death later on in
the season. I squeezed in three pre-laps, the course was even better
than I'd remembered. The start is on an uphill dirt road (not bad for
the S.S.), you hit some pavement then enter the course just before the
first set of double barriers, the uphill road business only happens
the first lap, then it's replaced with the run up from hell (more on
that in a moment), you enter some slippery single track, come into
this really hard to figure out forced run up, basically a muddy lump
broken up by two logs, you loop around the newly expanded West Hill shop)
(lookin' good guys), hit some more singletrack, drop into the
treacherous downhill which spits you out onto a muddy, rutted
"arrhythm section", then out into a cornfield, which was not as flat
and fast as I recalled, in reality it was soft and kinda slow, just
as the field has sucked away the last bit of your lifeforce you hit
the second set of barriers before the one paved section of the course
which leads up to the loosest, steepest run-up you will likely ever
see (and I speak from experience, I have seen at least FIVE 'cross
courses FIVE!), then you do it again, but it hurts worse.
My start was not my worst, I tried to stay with my single
speed brother Ethan Parsons, he's not really my brother but we share
the same last name and a predilection for pushing one gear, that and
I'm a stinky hippy who goes around calling everyone "brother". He got
a much better start, falling into third wheel as I battled for 20th
going into the cornfield. As usual I spent the entire race playing
catch up, moving from group to group, getting a little gapped on the
one paved section, then making it back up on the run-up. I never did
figure out a graceful way to tackle the weird birch log run-up thing,
but it was a consolation watching the elites do it later on showed me
the only the very best riders like Johs Huseby (the winner of the
day) could do it with any semblance of style.
Early in the race I passed a Dartmouth rider sidelined
with a mechanical, he battled back, blowing through groups of riders
like a Buick Skylark with a geriatric driver succumbing to a massive
coronary behind the wheel, his spasming foot mashing down on the
accelerator as he plows through a crowd of shocked pedestrians in an
open air mall. I tacked on as well as I could and hitched a ride into
the top ten. The gearing was feeling spot on, 38 X 17 seems to be the
combination, I only got spun out on the pavement, everywhere else I
was having no trouble keeping up or passing for a change.
The lesson of the day was this: take note of where the lap
counter card is before the race begins and all the blood and oxygen is
diverted from you brain and you devolve into a pair of legs and lungs
with the sole purpose of turning over the pedals as fast and hard as
possible until you crash into a tree or someone tells you to stop. The
fact that I paid no attention to the lap cards until the last lap, and
I mean the last ten seconds of the last lap may have cost me a place
or two, I should have been sprinting it out, not asking the announcer
"how many to go?" as I cruised the last few yards of the race,
watching the guys in my group blast across the line in front of me.
Even still, it was by far my best 'cross ride, all the
skills I've been working on came together and I felt all natural and
crap out there, I can't wait for Lowell and Plymouth this weekend.


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IF Chicks said...

great riding thom !!!!!
see you at both races this weekend.