Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Chainbiter 9.0

Two back to back VERGE races this past weekend meant it was time to pack up and head out for a good old fashioned race weekend. Its been over two years since I've traveled all weekend for races, and while sketchy hotel rooms and restaurant meals can get old, it was a good escape from the daily grind back in Boston.

I headed down to CT on Friday night with my support crew in tow to meet up with Brian and another Cornell rider at a hotel in New Britain. By the time we rolled in it was about 930 and we were all in need of some food so we headed to the adjacent BBQ restaurant for some late dinner. Note: the consumptions of large quantities of pork within a 12 hour window of racing is not recommended.

Despite mediocre sleep and a stomach full of pig flesh we made it out the next morning to the course. The weather forecast was horrific, with predictions of massive wind gusts and torrential rain from a northbound hurricane system. Luckily it held off, and instead we enjoyed balmy temps in the mid 40's, and only a limited amount of airborne objects - more on that later.

Warm up was a little frantic, but I got in a couple of laps and headed to staging. I had learned my lesson at gloucester, and had signed up early enough to get about a 4th row spot. Once a few of us shouted about how we were supposed to line up, the officials got their act together and staged us by number.

The start was a fairly steep uphill pitch into a right hand sweeping turn (the first hole shot) that sent us down a paved section into a 90 degree left and then a 180 degree left over a curb with about 3 feet of non-curb trail (second hole shot). I got pinched in the first few seconds but made it to the outside and worked through some gears before we hit the right sweeper. Down the pavement I moved along the left hand side to clip off a good glob of riders and hit the curb-shot in about 20th.

The course shot through a rocky, loose dirt section before the first sand pit. Not too much mayhem here, and I continued to move forward a bit. The course climbed through a false flat, before swung down an off camber downhill into some fields, some 180's and barriers in the woods, back to the field around to a straight shot deeper sand pit, some curbs, a tennis court that apparently killed someone(or hurt enough so they were there the whole race - whatever) through a run up, more curbs, pavement uphill finish.

OK, its a reasonable course. There's rests, some grinds, opportunity to float or lose it through the sand. Once the first few laps settled down I was cruising somewhere between 12th and 15th. On the paved downhill I made a big move and knocked off a group of about 5 guys. I came past Sarah and she said I was in 8th.

So there I was. Sitting two places inside my goal, a top 10 Verge finish. What now? I've got 5 ticked off guys coming up behind me, and I'm running the redline every time I hit the false flat, which is totally screwing my control on the off camber. I'm losing time. Within a lap I've fallen back out of the top 10.

So I'm clinging on. Last lap, and I'm holding back too much. I make the effort where I can, but its sloppy. I've got a guy sucking my wheel when I come to the off camber. There's a dumpy guy about to get lapped, spinning circles in my line. As I choke on breath to make the obligatory "on your ____" call, the wheelsuck behind me lets out a startling "On your right!" pushing country crock across my front wheel and me into to the brush. Now I'm pissed.

I recover my terrible line, but now I'm stalling cause I'm shifted to deep. I pop some hard gears and wince as my derailleur threatens a bloody coup.

Somehow though, I'm closing on some guys. I see Matt from Green Mountain Rehab as I come into the final pavement. This sprint thing is getting sort of familiar. I have no idea what position I'm in, but I begin the routine.

Click. Click. Deep breath, and gun it. I nab one guy by a bike length and I'm even with Matt going into the last 25 yards. With all the precision and timing of a much more experienced cyclist, I throw the bike forward at the line and nip him by half a wheel.

Good move, right? Would've been great if the officials had counted, oh, I don't know, either of the two riders I passed. Apparently having cyclists between you and the officials equals being behind them. Now, normally I wouldn't care. Come on, cat 4 cross? Well, they have me as 11th. I'll let you figure out where I actually finished.

Oh, and those airborne objects I alluded to earlier? PA loudspeakers are not nearly as stable as you would like, and a fierce gust of wind knocked a speaker over onto my right knee and ankle. Thanks a lot Connecticut.

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