Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fourth gear

JunkieBoy is the best cross racer in the family. His remounts are cleaner than mine are. His handling skills are remarkable, especially considering all he has is a rear coaster brake. He's not particularly fast, but his bike weighs half as much as he does. It would be like me riding around on a 35kg bike. I don't imagine I'd be particularly fast on that, either (who's trying to kid who here--I'm not fast on my 8kg bike). Now that he's had a taste of doing two laps like the older kids, he's unwilling to consider the shorter race.

I'll need to avoid the urge to get little league dad on him and push him way too hard, ruining it for both of us. But with as well and as much as he rides at age six, I kind of doubt there's going to be a whole lot I can teach him if he keeps after it. I just love that he enjoys coming to races and seems to have as much fun as I do while we're there.

My race made me acutely aware that I lack a fourth gear, so to speak. I've got a fifth gear for covering attacks and bunch sprints in road races. I can hold it for 10 to 30 seconds. I've got a third gear for long road races, where I can just keep grinding at medium-high intensity for hours at a time. But I don't have a fourth gear that's below sprint intensity, above road race intensity, and lasts for about an hour. Cross races are an hour of fourth gear intensity.

Daren commented after the race, "you looked good those last two laps. You need cross races that last for two hours." Or better yet, three.

My first lap was reasonably good. First lap is fifth gear. I was with the leaders coming up the hill and into the first turn, but I just can't hold that intensity for very long.

I lost the chase group on lap two but kept them in sight and was intent on chasing on. I was closing in on lap three when I took a gravel corner too hot and went down. I was more angry about the lost ten seconds than I was about the bleeding.

On lap four, I could tell Matt Ohran (Cannondale) was suffering. Out of 13 starters in the 35A field, I was in 12th after one racer had a mechanical. Reeling Matt in would be a legitimate pass and keep me from the lanterne rouge, my only real (and at this point, realistic) goal racing in the A field. I caught him on a short uphill, and he didn't even try to stay with me. In fact, I don't think he even tried to race after that. I'm still counting it.

I ended up finishing 11th, which, incidentally, is my average finishing position in the 35B races. The difference in the B race is that in addition to the ten guys faster than me, there are about 25-30 guys slower than me. I only really care about who's ahead, so I think the move to 35A was a good one. It has the added benefit that the races are 60 minutes, whereas the 35B races are 40. Minutes 25-40 of the race are usually my worst. Minutes 40-60 tend to be my best. If I can be better from 1-25, survive 25-40, then finish strong, I think I can be in the mix eventually.

Steve had a great start to his race, getting the hole shot and staying at the front the first two laps. He too faded as the race went, then came back for a strong last lap. He and Grizzly Adam were close enough to be sprinting it out coming up the hill. Steve crossed first, but just barely. Afterward I witnessed one of the more poignant moments of cross racing, as Adam staggered over to the gutter, and on hands and knees dry heaved for a while. Adam is a tough guy, and to race himself to that point over a mid-pack finish shows just how committed he is to this sport. I don't know if it brings out the best, but cross racing brings out the toughest in people.

And speaking of tough, Daren won again. He said it hurt, but the hurt he put on the rest of the field was worse. Bart and Alex G. were neck and neck throughout the elite race. Bart let Alex have it at the end, Alex's first cross victory. Bart, ever gracious, told me afterward, "I've got plenty of wins, and Alex could use the points." Oh to be fast enough to be in position to gift a Cannondale Factory Team racer a victory.


  1. Tough... or stupid.

    I need that 5th gear. I spend the entire race trying to catch back on after getting dropped in the first 3 minutes.

  2. Adam: I've spent enough time with you that I feel qualified to call it in favor of tough. First day I met you was at RAWROD, riding it on your SS the day after riding it as a TT. The first day we went skiing, you suffered through a tour with your boots pinching your feet like vices. And now watching you race cross with characteristic determination. I've said this before, but I think if we could combine your skills with mine, we'd end up with a decent cross racer. Eventually, the twain shall meet.

  3. Is 4th gear anything like 4th meal? Because I really like Taco Bell.

  4. We had a very different looking race yesterday. We ran through deep mud in several places and rode slick grass on hill sides. There was one brief section of road where muddy water covered the entire riding area. Underneath the water surface were large rocks that popped lots of tires. By the way, my kit did come clean. ( for pictures)

  5. Where is the sandbagger report?

  6. We need a forum like this:

  7. JZ: Nate Drozd stepped up to A, had a mechanical, bailed, so raced the B race and crushed it. Again. Denny and John were absent, but a new guy showed up in 35B and crushed it. He'll be one to watch. These B guys would finish top 10 in the A race. There's no payout in B. Dunno what they're waiting for. A forum like the one you linked to would be nice. Absent that, I'm happy to shoulder the load.

  8. Good work!

    I would be interested to see a lap time comparison for each category. A few years ago they would include first lap times for a few races. That may help encourage timely upgrades or I guess it could discourage them as well.