The thing I have learned over the years is the first cross race of the season is a shock to your system. It’s not like any criterium, time trial, road race, or mountain bike race you have done in the last 9 months leading up to cyclocross season. It hurts way more, and no matter what sort of form you thought you had, after the gun goes off, you feel like the biggest pussy until you settle in and claw your way into the midway point of the race. Then it just plain sucks, because you are only half way done.
I lined up for Clammy Cross #1 on Saturday with the intent of getting that shock to the system out of the way. I lined up with another motivation as well. Specifically, my good friends Adam, Rick, and Daren would all be racing in the same flight. We all typically race in different categories in UTCX, so I was looking forward to the throwdown.
The first lap went about as well as could be expected. I lined up early enough to be on the front row (no callups in first race) and was able to get the hole shot. I stayed on the front through the first few turns and into the technical features in the trees. Then on the first anaerobic climb, Peter, Keegan, Cody, and Joe got past me. Going into the second climb, Joe spun out in the loose dirt, so we were all forced to dismount and run the hill.
I wasn't concerned about Peter, Cody, or Keegan getting away. I wasn't going to beat those guys anyway. Towards the end of lap one, Daren came around me, and I was content to follow his wheel for as long as I could hold it.
That plan lasted about 500 meters. While approaching the first climb of lap two, my chain somehow dropped between my ring and my chain catcher. It was stuck. I had no choice but to dismount and wrestle with it until I got it out. Which meant watching the entire field ride away from me while I sat there helpless.
After what seemed an eternity (but was in reality probably a couple of minutes), I managed to get my chain back on and took up the chase. At this point, I was just racing to catch someone, anyone, to avoid being last.
I felt like I was riding pretty well, but then I hit a bump and dropped my chain again. In the process of getting it out from behind my chain catcher, my chain catcher had moved enough that it was no longer doing its job. Over the next couple of laps, my chain dropped several more times before I finally stopped in the pits for a screwdriver so I could adjust it to get it working once again.
With a working machine, I managed to reel in one racer. I could see Adam and Seth hitting the bottom of the descent as I was starting the climb and knew I wasn't catching anyone else unless that person had some really bad luck.
And that's how things finished. Daren raced great, finishing fifth. Rick was sixth. My result wasn't what I wanted, but it was the shock to the system that I needed. The great thing about cyclocross, though, is that as seriously as you take the racing while you're racing, it's not about results. You suffer so you can feel like you've earned the good time. Every week, it's as if someone threw a party and a cyclocross race broke out.
Looking forward to UTCX season kickoff with a double cross weekend at the State Fairgrounds. And you can bet I'll be back for the upcoming Clammy Cross events. Those guys put together a fantastic course.