Not sure what to really talk about in this post, because it’s a race report, but the point of going to nationals, for me at least, wasn’t really to race. I just wanted the experience. I pretty much suck at cross, so I was never going to win.
So why go? Good question. First, it was in Bend, and I had friends going, which meant lodging and travel costs could be shared, so it would be a cheap trip. Second, next two years it’s in Madison, WI. In January. Average low in Madison in January is 5 degrees F. And Madison is three times farther away than Bend. Not happening. The two years after that, it will probably be on the East Coast. Farther to travel, more challenging logistics getting bikes there. This was my chance, so I took it.
I raced, twice in fact. On Wednesday I did the non-championship race. Which is basically a B flight race, as the big dogs don’t bother with it. It was a chance for a decent result. Except that callups were in random order. I started on the last row, 31st called up of 39 racers.
I raced OK, picking off quite a few riders in front of me and was in or near the top ten when I burped a tire. Ordinarily I’d keep riding and hope it didn’t go flat because I had no other choice. But Daren brought one of Tanner’s bikes as a B bike for me. It was a 56, I ride a 52, but it was faster than running with my bike on my shoulder. I came in for a bike change and lost a few places. Steve told me a while back that if I ever considered racing on a tubeless setup again, he would just kick me in the nuts and save me the disappointment. Next year I’m gluing up tubulars for sure. Only brought one racer back after the bike change and ended up 16th. Not embarrassing.
Thursday, Daren’s brother Doug raced in the 60-64 age group. Doug was on the podium last year, so he got a first row callup, and finished eighth.
I had chatted with Doug at the races before the trip but hadn’t spent a great deal of time with him. I will admit to a bit of apprehension about spending a week with a guy who’s my dad’s age and has had some pretty important jobs in the LDS church* (stake president, among other things, for those that are curious). Shouldn’t have worried. Don’t know if he was faking or not, but Doug followed the surefire approach to make me think highly of you: he laughed at my jokes.
*Maybe this wouldn’t have been cause for a potentially awkward situation in the past, but not quite a year ago, we stopped attending the LDS church. The short version of the story is that Noah’s Ark and Jonah and the whale weren’t the only miracle stories my rational mind could no longer accept as fact.
Next we watched Kris Walker win. Again. She is fast. It was also one of the closer races of the week, with Kris getting out to an early lead, being brought almost all the way back by Marilyn Ruseckas (who won this group last year—Kris won 45-49 last year), then accelerating on the last lap for a gap she held to the line. Great stuff.
Following Kris’s race, Daren had his qualifying time trial*, and then we watched Ned “the Lung” Overend put on a clinic en route to another title.
*For age group races, the front row callups were based on last year’s top eight. The rest of the start order was based on a short, one-lap time trial held on a separate course the day before the championship race.
Then we watched the single speed race. Adam Craig lit it up, wearing cutoffs and a BMX lid, no less.
Bo Pitkin made the locals proud with an impressive 11th place finish. I was wishing Rick and Brad could have been there—they would have had a blast.
Friday was my TT, wherein I proved that my time trialing ineptitude knows no bounds. I was 67th out of 87, which meant starting on the tenth row in my championship race. After my TT, we watched Daren race, where he had a season’s worth of bad luck in an hour. I don’t have any pictures because I was in the pits and busy trying to get a pedal fixed after he rolled in on lap two with a spindle and no body attached to his crankarm.
The Rev was also in Daren’s race, but his luck was the good kind, and his fitness was even better. He finished seventh. He had to hurt himself pretty bad to do it, and it was an amazing performance to watch. Locals Tim and Steve Briley and Shane Dunleavy were also in that race. I yelled so much that as of today, a week later, I still have no voice.
Saturday was my main event in the afternoon. 50 meters in, there was a crash in front of me. About 20 guys were piled up in the road, so I hit the brakes and stopped just short. Just in time for the 20 guys behind me to cove over the top of me like a wave. I was in the middle of the pile, literally the last guy to get my bike untangled. I straightened out my bars and passed about five guys running to the pits. Then I got on Tanner’s bike and passed ten more on lap one. Laps two and three, I passed another five or so each time around, but that was all the time I was going to get. The leader was gaining on me, so I got pulled.
Not the way I wanted things to go, but that’s racing. I would have liked to have had a fair shot of at least racing to not get pulled, and I think maybe I could have done it without the crash, but by no means did it ruin my week. I was racing for fun, and the three laps I was out there driving through 10cm of mud were a riot.
Rico was up right after me, and he was racing to win, with a legitimate shot of doing it. He led lap one, and we got very excited. But he just didn’t have enough to hold it longer than that. With all the mud on the course, there was no place to recover.
With the racing out of the way, Sunday was for fun. We got to check out the pros’ bikes, watch them warm up, and generally act like little kids. We bumped into Chris Horner sitting on the side of the road, playing with his kids. I won’t go into the race detail, because you can read about it elsewhere. I had one of the best seats in the house, though, as I was in the pits for Eric during the elite race—right next to the Cannondale guys—and got up close and personal with the contenders as they came through. Way cool.
To paraphrase Alex, the only thing any of us really has is time. The secret of life is figuring out what to do with it. Regardless of how the racing turned out, taking a week to go to cyclocross nationals was time well spent. Even if it did mean doing some pretty nasty laundry when I got home.