I had no plans to pre-ride the course on Saturday, but The Pie was headed out for a long run in the afternoon at about the same time a group was meeting at a brewery to scope out the course. In for that.
I think I rode somewhere in the neighborhood of five laps, managed to figure out a way to ride everything aside from the two tall barriers (that were right after a somewhat soupy, uphill right hander) and the gargantuan run-up. The conditions were... perfect. A yellow shoe day on tap, no doubt.
The only change I allowed myself to make to my bike was to replace the Chronicle 3.0 on the front with an Ardent 2.4, figuring I could not justify more than a half hour's worth of work for a half hour race. I stayed with the 32X19, 2.35 Ikon rear tire, bottle cages, drooper... so, the almost same exact setup I run at a race like the Trans-Sylvania Epic. Mountain bike stage race, cyclocross, same same .
I got over to the venue about 10:00AM. Smiling Jim registered me, and I pinned on my bib numbers with the advice of Joey and Nick using the six-pin method I learned from years of reading Steve Tilford's blog. Who knew it was such a science? If I would have any excuse for a poor finish, it wouldn't be my flappy bib number.
I headed down to the start line and the single speeders blended in with the CX 4/5 group. We were second up to the line, and when all the others left, there were very few of us uni-cogged individuals standing around. The call-ups were pretty much just Wes Richards (my life coach) and Richard Tsui... the regulars at the top of the class on a consistent basis. The rest of us just filled in. I ended up with the front left spot.
The start was pretty casual for a USAC race (I assume). The official was even kind enough to ask Wes and Richard how much of a gap they wanted to the massive CX4/5 group so we wouldn't end up in a traffic snarl too soon. The heads of state made the decision, a decent gap was allowed, and we were off.
Best laid plans and all, two turns in and we were at the soupy part before the tall barriers. The riders in front of me were off their bikes way early and running the whole section.
I thought, "stupid."
And then they ran away from me. I had no idea where I was in the SS field, but I just dropped back further with this first of many bad decisions. Way sooner than expected, we were all up in the back of the CX4/5 racers, and although I should have been able to keep track of my position, I couldn't.
The other corner that I practiced to perfection was a muddy, off-camber mess at this point. What I was riding the day before... I couldn't even come close to cleaning. Shit.
Other details are very hazy. Heckling and handups and such.
photo cred: Noelle FredericksonLeaf Life with the Faster Mustache sponsor-correct Blue Blaze handup... at the top of the gargantuan run-up where breathing is difficult and drinking even more so. Little girl with her iPhone capturing the moment she learned how to "Cyclo Ross."
photo cred: Noelle FredericksonNo fixed ropes on this mountain. Just one foot in front of the other looking for a place to put my feet parts.
photo cred: Jamie PittmanNOT a yellow shoe day. The mud was so thick that "running" to and over the barriers was more of a post-holing shuffle.
photo cred: Jay CapersMountain bike doping in the sand pits. Pretty much droop, hammer, keep it straight, avoid toppling riders.
photo cred: Michael QuinnAn over-the-saddle suitcase carry, often frowned upon by the cyclocross illuminati, is not a problem with a drooper.
photo cred: Daren WilzProbably the only "fun" part of the course, a sweet decent that one with bomb with abandon on a mountain bike... or with balls on a proper cross bike.
I think we did four entire laps? Dunno. I was glad when it was over and afraid to take a handup from Paw twenty feet from the finish line and ten feet from a USAC official. I'd gotten this far without a problem, so why risk it?
I went ahead and got set for spectator mode. Watched a bunch of racing action, saw teammate Nick "Dip 'n Spray" Barlow mix it up in the 3s, and enjoyed the masterful heckling at the greasiest corner on the course.
Barlow finished and asked me how I did.
"You should check. I don't think you did that bad, and there's money for top three."
"Yeah, don't think that's me."
Go over, check the results, they have me listed as third. Find an official and make an inquiry.
"I don't think I was third."
"Neither do we."
The results were wrong, I was still somehow fourth, which makes no sense to me, but considering the fact that I was paying attention to just about everything except the "race" after that first sloppy corner...
That will do.
So glad that I finally had a chance to do the Veterans Park Cyclo Ross Race. Being on the other side of the tape was as fun (and painful) as it looks. Entirely.
I can't wait till next year (to watch).