Sunday, October 12, 2008


Attrition. That was the word of the day. 82 degrees, sunny, not a cloud in the sky or a breeze to be felt. Perfect weather for a day at the beach, but for a day of 'cross, are you kidding me?

The course was a bit of a surprise too, and not in a good way. The other day Bob had found these photos of the park in Hawthorn Woods. The lower left photo shows the "sledding hill" that appears to be about 10-15 feet tall. Apparently the photo was taken from about 3miles away, since the actual hill had to have been 50-70 feet high. Once up the little sledding hill wouldn't have been too bad. But twice per lap was downright demoralizing, in other words I loved it! Other than a muddy corner and some sometimes tricky transitions the course was built for speed. The roadie 'cross racers may have actually had an advantage today, when they could get on top of their gear and accelarate away from those that didn't possess pure power. Oh and did I mention the heat yet?

The heat was brutal, and I made the mistake of wearing a long sleeve skinsuit. Ooops, looked PRO, didn't feel PRO though. After scouting the course before the 1/2/3race, we all headed for the team shelter to stay out of the sun and continue to take fluids on. Once we neared race time we were greeted with a slightly more controlled assembly at the start line as the top ten overall were called up to the line. After the quick ceremony everyone scrambled to fill all the gaps left over. Tony managed a 2nd row start with the rest of us filing in right after him. Directions were given and we were off, I had a great start behind Tony with Elvis beside me who I think I saw push someone off of him who was getting a little too cozy. Off of the pavement and into the first right hand sweeper, still hanging on Tony's wheel, perhaps a little too close. Tony comes a bit wide on the far left heading for the tape, squeezes a bit of brake to control things and I go barreling into his rear wheel then ricochet off one of the stakes holding the tape. Ooops again. I managed to keep it upright and only lost a few places and some momentum. Tony at this point rockets away with the leaders as I am relegated to top twenty or so. Not exactly the start I was hoping for. I believe through the first lap the order was Tony, myself, Patrick, Jim and Elvis. On the 2nd of four laps Patrick put in a strong effort after the hill and passed me as I was gasping for air like a fish out of water. I managed to keep him just a few lengths ahead, with the elastic only stretching a bit between us. Through the mud section I decided to run it and play it safe since I was running a file tread Vittoria EVO XN in the rear and preferred to keep the bike vertical. I did this to perfection on laps two and three, but was being heckled everytime I did it. I let peer pressure get the best of me and on the last lap decided to ride. Big mistake. I bobbled the exit as my rear wheel fish tailed under power and the two guys I had just worked so hard to pass and gap came back past me. This is also where the elastic snapped and I lost Patrick for good. Oh well, I figured we were sitting top twenty or so and coasted in for a somewhat disappointing 28th. I did have fun across the line though as I zipped up my skinsuit, wiped the mud from the chest and raised my arms in victory! All in good fun I thought.

We were hoping to finish all five us in the top twenty, but the war of attrition caused by the heat took its toll. Tony did have a stellar ride and managed to maintain the position he had from the start and finished 15th. Patrick stayed just ahead of me at 25th, Elvis followed a few riders back at 34th, and Jim finished 42nd. Not great by any means, but we all rode strong races and came out safe.

The B race was a race for Bob to be proud of. He and Jorge lined up 2nd and 3rd row and both got off to a great start. They both attacked the hill strongly and Jorge found himself sitting 10th or so coming off the hill, with Bob just a few riders back. However, Bob the downhill a bit fast and found himself careening into the tape at the bottom. He quickly got himself untangled and maintained his composure to ride himself back into the race. He katched onto a group and worked the front half of the course smoothly over the asphalt and back into the grass section and single barrier. It was when he was remounting that things went south. He remounted just as his rear wheel passed over a raised seam in the concrete and pinch flatted his rear wheel. At this point he could have surely panicked as this was now the second mishap in just the first lap! But not Bob, he rode out the remainder of the lap and swung into the pit and grabbed the pit bike. Unfortuneatly it wasn't shifting very well, but thankfully the pit was double sided. Tony quickly realized the problem and got Bob onto his bike with barely losing any position, bike change number two, and Bob is still cool. As he worked the second lap on Tony's bike we changed out Bob's rear wheel with my rear, not realizing that I run my tires down in the upper 20's, while Bob prefers a firmer ride. So Bob comes flying into the pit for the third time and manages another bike change without giving up anymore postions.

Bob rode the last two laps on his own bike with a really soft back tire, all the while staying cool and making back up places. We could catch sight of him sitting in after bridging, then attacking and dropping the riders. Meanwhile, Jorge was still hanging top twenty and riding a safe race, keeping things under control as usual with no sign of exertion on his face, I think I actually saw him smile a few times! The last time up the hill I ran next to Bob and shouted him to the top, all the while he was quickly gaining on the two riders ahead. He played it perfectly and kept them in sight the rest of the lap. As he passed the pit the final time, he bridged, attacked, and gapped on last rider. Jorge finshed again in the top twenty at 18th, and I believe Bob was 34th. Not bad considering the rough time he had. And he fulfilled a personal goal of not crashing.

I personally feel that this was perhaps the hardest 'cross race I have done. I can't quite put a finger on it exactly, but the combination of the heat, the climb and the pace all stacked up to provide an exciting day of racing. Special thanks go out to promoter Ted Schweitzer, who was running around like a maniac all day, but managed to pull it off. If you raced today chances are that your photo was taken, click here to find out.

Results for Hawthorn Woods:
Mens 4A
Tony 15th
Patrick 24th
Damon 28th
Elvis 31st
Jim 42nd

Mens 4B
Jorge 19th
Bob 35th

Masters 40-49
Paul 20th

All photos courtesy of Eric Nelson

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