Monday, December 03, 2007

MRC Cyclocross Wrentham, MA

The day before this race a few of the IBCers and special guest star Colin Reuter of fame had met up at IBC Newton for a little ‘Cross practice. For me it was as much about figuring out what to wear while ‘Crossin’ it up in the severe cold as anything else. I also proceeded to demonstrate that the only time I can keep a ‘Cross bike upright is during an actual race. “Hey kids, follow me, check out these great natural barriers, like this big log, what’s that? You don’t see it? O.K., let me point it out…with my head!”. I don’t really know what happened, but I found myself lying there with a brake lever lodged in my back and my head resting on a log as C Todd and Colin stepped over me going “how does this guy even get to work alive, never mind finish a ‘Cross race?”. Then I found out that my Solutions for Cyclocross DVD didn’t teach me absolutely everything there is to know about transitioning (the getting on and off the bike bit). One dismounting technique which had heretofore eluded me was the very popular with the Pros it seems “Step around, unclip at the last second but land with your left foot forward” style. I’d always done the “unclip left foot, step through” dealy…now I was confused.

Eating right on schedule driving 80MPH with my right knee

It was cold Sunday, I mean it was kill a Ton Ton, eviscerate it, and crawl inside it’s stinking body cavity cold (Check out Gewilli’s blog for tales of Ice Goatees and Phlegmsicles). Do I warm up or sit in the car with the heat blasting? I did get out of the car long enough to do four practice laps. I wanted to figure out how to ride the giant log on the course, but my warm up gloves were too big and bulky, I couldn’t get a good enough grip on my hoods to even attempt it. Hopefully during the race I’d be able to work it out. “If you can’t do something ten out of ten times in practice…try it during a race”. Isn’t that what they say?
The course was 90% the same as 2006, unfortunately they’d removed one of my favorite natural obstacles, the giant rock. We also didn’t go as far down the dirt road before heading back up the hill to the field. The conditions were significantly different as well, what was a soft, semi-boggy field was now frozen solid and rutted, the corners were tricky, they had all these little steps, probably tire tracks from pre-rides in softer conditions which were now as hard as rock. The ground was so hard that when we dismounted for the barriers our bike shoes sounded like horse hooves on asphalt.
We lined up according to our rankings, which put me in the second row, next to fast Circle A guy Dan Langlois. I wasn’t on the start line long enough to get nervous, I took off my jacket, took one last swig of coffee, and we took off. Dan jumped ahead of me falling in line behind all the guys from the front row, his was the wheel I was watching and I jumped on it as we came into the first few turns. Riding at the front of the race is much easier than my normal M.O. of starting at the back and working my way up. Usually I have to ride the entire race like a fighter with his eyes swollen shut, swinging blindly for the fences (always good to insert a Baseball metaphor into your fighting metaphor), as he gets used as a human punching bag.
There were a few legitimately fast dudes at the front of the train including Toby Marzot, I think I was sitting in about tenth first lap, not sure if the gap to the top five opened up first or second lap, I do remember that I was in contact with the Marzot group for longer than I thought I’d be. The gap opened after the uphill corner onto the dirt road, there were a couple guys in front of me, they didn’t close it down, I didn’t have the horsepower to come around and do anything, then Kevin Hines jumped up out of nowhere and blazed across solo. This after he had just won the Masters race, the nut.

For the next lap I was hanging onto a group of five or so by a bunch of sheets knotted together, only I had forgotten how to tie anything but a granny knot (I got my Arrow of Light a long ass time ago) and my sheets were coming apart, leaving me dropped off the back repeatedly behind Ryan Laroque and Dan Langlois. There was another guy in the group who was letting big gaps appear every time he was in front me, I’d pass him back and close it, then he would pass me…and let a big gap open. On the awkward run up (which I never mastered, I felt like a Giraffe on rollerskates every time we hit it) I bumped his wheel and grumbled “run faster”, not a very nice thing to say. Eventually he and the other couple guys in the group popped and it was just me, Ryan, and Dan. The pace had become more tolerable or I had finally warmed up, either way we were holding the gap to the leaders at about thirty seconds.

In Step

Throughout the course my fans (my family) were rabidly cheering me on. My niece and nephew yelling “Go UncleThom!”, “Go as fast as a Jet!”, “Make me some eggs!”, and “I want Mickey Mouse Pancakes!”. I had to show off a bit so I went for the log jump, I now had lighter gloves on, but my fingers had gone numb, they wouldn’t do what I told them to do. Dan was in front, Ryan behind, I did kind of a chainring bonk, teetering over, almost eating it, and putting my foot down, not ideal. Hmm, that went well, I’ll try that again next lap.

It was slightly faster...if you did it right, I didn't always do it right

A little less than half way through Dan led into the downhill/uphill hairpin, he slipped in the corner then had a gear issue, Ryan moved to the front and upped the pace, I sat in, just riding around without anything like a plan yet. The five in front were extending the gap while the gap to Dan was increasing behind as well. I went to the front and tried to pick things up but the leaders advantage only grew. “Hey, this is just like the Vermont 50” Ryan exhaled (We had ridden the last hour of the Vermont 50 together). In that case, I was in a group that had left the line five minutes after his, I was wishing that I had that five minute advantage .

By now I had figured out the log jump and I was getting small gaps on Ryan coming out of it, my style wasn’t nearly as smooth and clean as Jerome Townsend’s method from last year, but it got the job done. There were a few other areas where I could open some real estate between us but his cruising speed was faster and he’d reel me back in. My attacks became more frequent, I’d up the pace after the corner onto the uphill in the woods, then gun it at the top, threading the needle between the tree and the tape without touching my brakes…and still I could not get the guy off my frickin’ wheel. I could hear him making kind of distressed noises so I knew he wasn’t just comfortably sitting in waiting to make a move while I did all the work.

On me like a rat on cheese

With two laps to go I was getting desperate, I didn’t want to leave it up to sprint, historically those do not go well for me. Coming into the penultimate lap I still had not put any distance between me and Laroque. He was back there planning something, I was sure of it. I kept my left ear cocked waiting for the click of gears, trying to preempt any sudden move, trying to keep the pace high to discourage any such shenanigans. We came down the finishing stretch, I expected him to come around me here and block my log maneuver to be safe, but he didn’t. My heart was hanging out my nostrils approaching the log, this was where I’d faceplant for sure…but I didn’t. Ryan made a cheeky move, coming through on the inside, running like a mad man, my hopes of beating him sunk, but I was already in my pedals, I stomped on them, getting up to full single speed, er speed and crossing the line first…for sixth place.

Set up for the sprint

It was a great day, the course was killer, I had a good ride, went one on one with a bad ass competitor, it was awesome having my family there, and I left feeling that I did as well as I possibly could have done. I suppose I could have done without the frozen “Gentleman’s Area”. I think just post race I actually said “Um, my weenie’s frozen”. The part of my brain that houses euphemisms for the male anatomy beyond what a five year old would use was apparently frozen as well.
Thanks to Miriam for the videos and photos.

1 comment:

josh said...

yea man, the frozen nether-regions were the only downside of the day...great write up.