Monday, October 18, 2010

Cyclocross racing is like sex

Another two race weekend, one didn’t go so well, one did. Or at least it went well enough.

This little bit that Bart wrote about spinning a small gear in cross, well the part where he says “racer after racer was attempting to come out of a corner way over geared. By the time they got on top of the gear it was time to set up for another turn. You get little acceleration when over geared and lots of muscular damage/back pain.” You could substitute my name for “racer after racer,” and sure enough, I got little acceleration and lots of muscular damage/back pain. By the time my race was over, my back was cooked.


Bart pulled me aside after and explained what I had done wrong. But I’d have to wait to apply what he told me, because I left my B number plate at home, so I wouldn’t be tempted to use it in the afternoon. I did, however, pass along these words of wisdom to Steve, who used them to great effect. He finished seventh in the B race, his best result to date. Dial in the pacing a little more and practice some dismounts, and he’ll be on the podium.

Greyson Tipping (Revolution) was also privvy to Bart’s words of wisdom and applied what he learned to take the win. Even more impressive, though, is that the guy who finished right behind Greyson was Ryan Ashbridge (Revolution) on his single speed. Ryan and the other single speed competitors started three minutes after the B race. Ryan, with a three minute handicap, passed every rider in the B race save one, and was maybe 40 seconds behind him. Another impressive single speeder was Steve Wasmund (Cutthroat), who commuted to the race with no insignificant amount of gear.


Daren kept his streak alive with another dominating performance in the Masters 45 race. We were pre-riding the course, which was one loose 90 or 180 degree turn after another. I was behind Daren, and I told him “I can’t see your face, but I can tell you’re smiling about this course.” He turned to me and revealed the smile.


Daren’s brother, Doug (Canyon), traded wins yet again with Bob Walker: Texas Ranger (Contender). That means it’s Doug’s turn next week. Tanner raced well in the elites, spending a good chunk of it in the top 5 before finally being passed by Alex Grant (Cannondale) and Reed Wycoff (Contender), then losing one more place when he crashed. Bart, of course, took the win. It was a bike handler’s course, and nobody (locally at least) can touch Bart in that regard.


The Walker: Texas Ranger family doubled up, with Kris taking the women’s A win. AnneMarie White moved up to B after two wins in the C and finished sixth. Not too bad, Annie. Jason scored a top 10 in the Men’s C, so a good day for couples whose last names start with W. The Men’s C race saw a couple of blowouts that, as Jared Eborn (Porcupine) described them, “would have made Rose Park gangsters recoil with fear.” He should know, one was his. Kudos to Jared for running half a lap to the pit, getting a wheel, and continuing to race.

My race followed the usual script: I started fast and gradually faded, losing places each lap. Since I didn’t get the hole shot this week, I think I lost about the same number of places as last week, I was just starting from further down. I was still holding onto a top ten position when I crashed and lost a few more spots. As Bart pointed out, I raced the course all wrong and paid for it. I was pretty peeved at myself for the poor performance. At least I got paid.


Sunday was a chance for redemption. Cody (Ski Utah) convinced me to sign up for the A race. The fields are small enough in the Sabbath series that they race A and B together anyway, so I figured I’d give it a go and set a lofty goal of not finishing last. I figured it was a good chance to get a feel for how fast the fast guys really are.

Turns out they’re really, really, really, ridiculously fast. I used my sprinting skills to good effect on the start, fourth coming into the first corner behind Eric Rasmussen (Kuhl-Specialized), Brandon Cross, and Keegan Swenson (Cole Sport). They started gapping me right away, then in the first barriers, several guys went by me like I was standing still, including Matt Ohran (Cannondale) and Cody. In the turn coming out of the barriers, Brandon crashed, and my first thought was “ouch, I hope he’s OK.” Followed in rapid succession by “sweet, I might reach my goal of not finishing last*.”

*Terrible, I know. But cross racing is not road racing where it’s a major international scandal if a rider doesn’t wait for a competitor who’s had a mechanical. Part of that is because being skilled as a cross racer means having finesse, which helps one to avoid crashes and rolled tires and the like. Part of it is that cross racing is like a street fight on wheels.

After a lap or two, I had pretty much settled into my equilibrium point, and my race within the race was on. Dave Sorenson was just in front of me, and Troy Gorman (RMCC), who was at the front of only three racers in the B flight, was right behind, chasing hard.

The course was funky, featuring a short run-up that took you behind the backstop of the softball diamond, out onto the infield, off the field onto the sidewalk along the third base line, with a hard right hander beyond the outfield wall. Then you crossed the sand volleyball courts before winding back and forth up and down a short, steep hill.

A few laps in, I remembered Bart’s advice and dropped it into my small ring on the hills. This allowed me to conserve energy through this section and hit it hard on the fast straight that followed. It was enough that I was able to get around Dave on the flats and start building up a gap on him and Troy.

With about five to go (these were short laps—about five minutes each for me, about four and a half for Eric), I was feeling good about the gap I had built up when I washed out on the hard right hander exiting the ball field and crashed. I got back on, got my chain back on, and smacked my levers until they were nearly straight. I didn’t lose position, but Dave was now right on my wheel, and Troy was closer than ever.

I didn’t panic and tried to ride steady and not blow up. Dave was right there the whole time, then with two to go and Eric, Keegan, and Patrick having already lapped me, I could see Ohran and Cody right behind me as well. I was racing to keep four guys from passing me. I figured even if Dave passed me, if I could hold his wheel, I could outsprint him at the line. Thankfully it didn’t come to that, and when I hit it hard on the final straight after the hill, I had a little cushion before the end.

Officially I was 11th out of 13. Nothing to write home about, but I’ll take it. I’m happy enough with the result because I felt like I learned something the hard way on Saturday then put it into practice on Sunday. Little by little I will get there. As Cody’s girlfriend Candace put it, “cyclocross racing is like sex—it takes years of practice to become good at it.” To which I added “but also like sex, even if you perform poorly, it’s still a helluva lot of fun.”


  1. Please tell me you had Nutella for those waffles.

  2. if it wasn't for my concrete wall avoidance baseball slide, I woulda been up there with Ashbridge, yep< i just know I woulda.

    Cleats have been swapped.

  3. Plus, I think CX is more like Prison Sex.

  4. Rabid: Actually, that wasn't my waffle, so neither waffle nor nutella for me. However, the waffles are good straight up*, since they're made with a special sugar imported from Belgium that comes in little pellets and doesn't dissolve or melt, so you have little sweet crunchy bits throughout.

    *Which is not to say they wouldn't also be good with Nutella, it's just not necessary, however desirable it may be.

    Bob: I'm sure you woulda. Having never had prison sex, I can't comment on that part.

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