2010 Cyclocross race 1: Travis Cycle, Brockton

Yep, cross is here! After my planned trip to Quad on Sunday got pre-empted, I dithered a while between racing Brockton and attending the Wheelworks cyclocross clinic. Thursday afternoon I decided I just couldn’t stand myself if I didn’t get out and race, so I dropped my RSVP for Wheelworks and signed up for Travis. Then I went down to Duxbury and put up a personal-best time at the 20K time trial, good enough for 3rd place in M35+. Hey, it’s September, so my fitness hasn’t evaporated yet.
According to my records, I last raced in Brockton way back in 2006. It was my 3rd-ever cyclocross race. It came in November that year, and we had a cold, wet day. I had no confidence on the course, and rode accordingly. My name doesn’t appear in the bikereg.com results, and everybody’s favorite results site has no record of the race at all, but I swear I was there. Maybe I DNF’ed. Honestly, I don’t recall. I did remember that the course was a little on the jungle side, featuring stretches of rocky, narrow path decorated with the occasional log.
I left the house a little later than I wanted on Saturday, but with plenty of time to arrive and ride the course before the first race group. Except, well, guess what else I didn’t remember? I didn’t remember exactly where the park was. The flyer didn’t get more specific than “turn on Oak Street and look for the bike race signs,” and the park doesn’t have much frontage, so I blew right past it the first time. I pulled over at a McDonald’s and fiddled with maps on my phone for a while before reversing course and eventually spotting the hand-lettered poster board that marked the race entrance. I jumped out of the car, assembled the bike and hit the course before registering.
This year’s course ran the opposite direction of what I remember from 2006, but otherwise stuck with the jungle-cross theme. Pavement start with an immediate 120-degree turn around a tree, back across the road, through a left-right combo and into a barriered run-up, with a couple of logs for good measure. Then it got interesting – a long stretch of bumpy but paved path, followed with a downhill approach into a sharp left-hand turn at the base of another run-up, lots of rocky pond path, some grassy hairpins, and probably some other stuff that I’m blocking out right now. Here’s the obligatory GPS view of the course:
Travis Cycle Cyclocross 2010 course
I went slow for the first lap, just getting a feel for what was around each corner, then tried to pick up the pace on the 2nd. Going into the grassy hairpins I felt the front end get really darty, and nearly took myself out leaning over into a corner. Yup, I managed to pinch-flat somewhere along the way. Dangit. I cut the lap short and headed back to the car, where I had a spare tube. A road tube, as it turned out. Double dangit. I left my file tread tubies at home, since I noticed some base-tape separation on the rear wheel on Friday night. I bummed a tube off another racer (thanks, Phil, I owe you) but by the time I got the wheel back together, the women were on the course. So much for the pre-ride.
Hey, we’re six paragraphs into the race report and haven’t gotten to the actual race yet! I accidentally wound up with a front-row position, but pooched it when I missed the clip-in and the guys to either side got in front of me. I was halfway back going into that first turn, and wound up on a slow inside line. More places lost. I got off the bike early and passed a couple guys on the run-up, but was in traffic on the path and didn’t get around to try to close the gap I saw opening. So, there goes the race. I managed to pass a few guys on subsequent laps but didn’t really make ground on the main group, such as it was. I ended up 24th of 37 finishers. Brian McInnis was following me around on the last lap, heckling me, so I figured I was pretty far back.
Lessons learned, some not for the first time: pack spares. Leave earlier than I think I should, and know where the heck I’m going. Oh, and specifically for Brockton, practice hopping logs. On the bright side, flat tire notwithstanding, the Shinytouch worked well. Next up, Sucker Brook. My Wednesday mornings at Larz are most likely over, now that Elise is back to work, so I need to find a way to get some start practice in. That seems to be my weakest spot right now.