Monday, November 29, 2010

Who knew?

All these years I’ve thought that skiing was about the only way to have fun in the snow. To that end, on Wednesday I ducked out of work just early enough to take in a couple backcountry laps with Daren. It was cold. Like minus 11 F (minus 33 with windchill!) kind of cold. My fingers, face, and toes felt every bit of it. Still, the snow was nice. Really nice for November.

Thursday I enjoyed a nice recovery meal. I was sure to eat my five a day of fruits and veggies. Although I’m not sure that fruit stuffed between pie crust counts towards the five a day. I don’t particularly care.

Friday was more backcountry skiing. What a difference a couple of days make. The sun was out, the snow was still nice, but it was warm. Like hike in your base layer with no jacket kind of warm. I’m already up to eight days of skiing this season, and I’ve skipped most of the Saturdays to race cyclocross. We’re off to a good start—hope it keeps up.

I’ll admit, though, that I was a little reluctant on Saturday to give up the chance at more skiing to race cross in the snow. I was apprehensive about cold, I was apprehensive about traction and crashing. I just didn’t think it would be very fun.

How wrong I was.

I lined up in the 35A group. There were about a dozen of us. The five contenders—Art, Bo, Tom, Tim, Gary—got an early gap. I was right behind Mike K. through lap one, but eventually lost him and had Seth, Jay, and Mark P. on my wheel. I slipped in the off-camber section and went from the front of this group to the back, but took the front again when we got to a straightaway on lap two.

Legs felt good and three of us opened a small gap on the fourth. But with the snow and ice on the ground, staying with the group and shedding anyone else would require some skill just to stay upright.

There was one section with a patch of ice right at the bottom of a dip. It was straight and high speed, but as I rolled through it, I had to turn my wheel slightly to keep balanced, and when my wheel hit dirt again, it grabbed and burped. I was tentative with the low tire, but it had enough pressure to keep riding. Traction was actually better, I just had to be careful with it to keep from going flat.

Then I burped again in the same place, but this time it didn’t hold. Tire went completely flat. I had a CO2 cartridge in my pocket, so I aired it back up, but by that time the three I had been with all passed me, and I wasn’t bringing them back unless they suffered their own misfortune.

Keeping the bike upright is part of racing and one of the more engaging aspects of cyclocross. Sure I’m disappointed about my tire, but it was my fault. Had I ridden cleaner, I wouldn’t have burped it. After I burped it once, I should have found another line. Maybe tubulars wouldn’t burp, but they may have rolled off the rim. After every race there will be “if only” moments. It’s up to me whether I use these moments as learning experiences or just another lame excuse.

The last two laps, I found a line through the snow that avoided the ice altogether, but it was too little, too late. Inexplicably, I was still having a ridiculous amount of fun. I was on the edge of crashing pretty much all the time and even went down once on the last lap. I didn’t care.

I went into the race dreading the snow but raced nonetheless out of a sense of duty. It’s quite likely nationals will be snowy, so I figured I better practice. I came away hoping that there’s snow on the ground at nationals and that there’s snow on the ground for the remaining UTCX races.

Brad has been having an ongoing debate with himself about racing with gears or on his single speed. He concluded that he didn’t care whether he could get better results racing with gears, he was having more fun on the single speed. I feel the same way about racing in snow. I’m not the best bike handler and won’t likely get better results in the snow (unless it keeps faster people from even showing up), but I had a helluva lot of fun and can’t wait to do it again.


  1. That dip was deadly, the left line was the best, all day. I hit it on a lap around noon and almost died, then later laps between races I always went left, The ice and snow are my friends. Also showing up 4 hours before my race and getting in multiple laps in different conditions is without equal for learning lines.

    Saturday should be grand.

  2. Told you so. The best part of snow/ice racing is you get all the fun and don't have to rebuild your bike like after a mudfest.

  3. We just finished our last race here in Seattle. Plenty of rain, mud and deep mud puddles.