Sunday, November 2, 2008

Mud, Money and Beer

Today's race had it all! The course laid out for us today in St. Charles by the Chicago Cyclocross Cup was a doozy. Not necessarily very difficult, but there was no place to let your mind wander. From the winding climb just off of the start, to the off-camber section on the back of the course, to the twisting downhill and of course the best section on the course for me was the improvised beer garden. This section was an absolute blast to ride through everytime. Riders were shouted at, heckled, encouraged, some beer hand-ups were given out, bells were rung, pictures were taken, money was handed-up, you name it, it happened all within these 25 yards. Incredible fun!


As for our race, I managed a front row line-up for the second week in a row. Elvis and Tony filed in right behind me. Numbers were checked, tires were squeezed, and at the last minute I remembered to shift into the big ring. I wasn't going to get swarmed like I did at Bartlett, at least I was going to try my hardest not to. At the whistle I clip in instantly and begin putting the power down. Through the first few corners I am sitting 5-8 or so. Up the climb still with the leaders, hoping Tony and Elvis had as good a start as I did. Coming through the end of the first lap I had slipped back a few places as I am sure the heart rate was into the 200's. I was using the big ring for about 75% of each lap and that seemed like a good thing.


Everytime I race against Tony and I happen to get in front I always know it is just a matter of time before I get passed. There is always a little countdown going on in my head the longer he is behind me. Well the timer went off on the second lap as we entered the gravel after the beer garden. The match that I had burned trying to stay with the leaders was beginning to take its toll, and Tony capitalized on it. I grabbed his wheel, albeit briefly, as we worked toward the start/finish line. I was holding on for dear life when we came through and my heart sank a bit as the lap cards read 4. Typically our races have only been 4 laps long, so to see 4 to go was an odd experience. Granted we are still only racing for 30 minutes, but the mind sure has a way getting used to only 4 laps. Oh well, here we go.


At this point, with Tony just ahead at least I had a rabbit to catch. Up the hill and onto the back side of the course things were looking good until the off-camber section. Tony came in really hot and couldn't correct his line so rather than risking a crash, he did the next best thing. Crashed through the tape, twice, to the cheers of those watching shouting "if you can't go around, then just go through it"! I got caught behind him momementarily as we turned to go back up as Scott from the Pony Shop rode a perfect line through and blasted right past us. I tried to take his wheel, but he bombed the next little downhill and I couldn't latch on.


I believe Tony stayed just behind me for the remainder of the lap, again there goes the countdown timer in my head. At this point Dave from Flatlandia also caught up to us after his first lap shenanigins with the double barriers. Now it was game on, as I could hear Dave heckling me from behind. This is where things get a little fuzzy for me as far as events concerning Tony. At some point he flatted a front tire, grabbed Jorge's bike, crashed, and dropped a chain. I just can't remember how it all unfolded. Sorry Tony. Dave and I rode out the remainder of the race together as I tried to shed him at every opportunity. No such luck though, much like herpes, he kept coming back. Sorry Dave, I know you are reading this. Anyway, through the beer garden one last time with Dave hanging tight and back onto the final stretch of gravel. At this point Dave asks me how my sprint is, I reply awful and try to wind it up a bit, yeah didn't work, he jumped and I sat up. We traded places from last week him 19th, me 20th. Tony rolled in at 29th on Jorge's bike and Elvis at 30th with at least one dropped chain hurting his placings.


The B's race looked like it was a huge field. It always seems to be twice as large as ours, maybe it just strings out faster from the gun. Off the line Bob found his pedal and quickly jumped in with the leaders, with Jorge just a few behind. As they came through the beer garden though Bob got caught behind someone who drove him into the tape, Jorge came through clean and took over Bob's former position. Bob got things going again quickly and only lost a few places in the process. Sergio came through later in the field, a testament to his lining up in the rear. Dude, move up!


Through the next few laps, Jorge and Bob were both maintaining position, if not improving on it. Sergio was also making up places, but the field was so strung out, he wasn't making much headway. Sergio is so strong, yet for some reason he always lines up in the back and has to work to pass people that should be behind in him in the first place.

As they entered the last two laps Jorge was still within striking distance of a top ten finish, but he bobbled the tough entrance going into the beer garden. He lost those two important places, but quickly got back on to minimize the damage. Bob also had trouble through this time nearly stalling out and then catching the last troublesome stake on the left hand side. He to corrected and got into his big ring to finish strong. Sergio made the move of the day the last time through the beer garden. As he approached we shouted instructions to him for how to ride the section and he listened. Up and around the chicanes he went then into the throng of spectators shouting and cheering on every competitor, and just before he exited the melee' he grabbed the single out of Ben's hand
much to the delight of the crowd.


Jorge came oh so close to his first top ten in only his 5th 'cross race finishing 12th. Bob came in at 19th, again and Sergio couldn't remember his number so we will have to wait and see how he finished.


After the race as we were all relaying our personal races, Tony summed up 'cross racing. Its not about riding a perfect race, which for us will probably never happen, but about minimizing the number of mistakes we do make. If we can eliminate some of the mistakes we make each lap and capitalize on them instead, we can surely move up in the placings. Here is to next week then, and perhaps only making a few dozen mistakes!