2010 Cyclocross race 5: Providence Cyclocross Festival Day 1

Yes, it’s Wednesday after a three-day weekend and I’m just now getting around to writing up the race from four days ago. I’m well aware that nobody cares anymore, if anybody did in the first place. However, we have standards here at JLS.CX. Low standards, but standards no less. Races must be blogged.
We had another beautiful day for a bike race down in the 401, but I knew I was in trouble well before we even staged. My lone crossresults.com nemesis recognized me and launched into a friendly tirade. “Every damn race you come blowing past me on the last lap!” Steve shook his head. “You need a better start!” Um, yeah, Steve. Working on my start is right up there with not letting my remounts go to hell during the race and figuring out how to get around a corner without losing all my speed. But I take your point.
I thought Saturday would be my big chance at a better start and a better race. Providence, bless Tom Stevens’ twisty, off-camber little heart, stuck with staging by order of registration while so many other races are using crossresults.com points, or the time-honored shoving match to determine start order. I happened to be near a keyboard a few weeks ago when reg opened, so I grabbed spot #1. Front row. Probably the only one I’ll get this year. I’d better make it count.
I did my usual ultra-nervous warmup laps, reviewing the down-up 180s in the bowl section a couple times. Those I got fairly well, but the downhill, off-camber 180 at the south end of the course still had me running. Staging came and I lined up to the left, figuring that would give me a chance at the outside line or, if I managed to really nail the sprint, dive-bomb the right-hand corner into the grass. Not that I’ve dive-bombed anything in my life. With two minutes to go, I thought to grab a piece of gravel off the road and scrape the dirt out of my cleats.
At thirty seconds or so, GeWilli called out “Hey James, don’t mess this up!” Thanks, dude!
I actually chilled out after that. The lump in my throat disappeared, I looked up the road and decided I really was going to nail it this time. And I did. We got the whistle, I hit the clip-in on the first try and put my back into the first two pedal strokes. It felt great, I surged. And then…drag. Way more than I should have felt, even on an uphill start in a tall gear. Riders poured around me as I felt a dull pounding from my rear wheel. Did my massive power pull the wheel out of the dropout?
Stop. Get off the bike, pick up the rear and spin the wheel. It was still straight in the frame, but after a confused moment I realized that the left cantilever brake arm had lodged underneath the rim, causing the pads to hit the spokes. Again. About the same time, caught the acrid stench of burning brake pads. I whacked the arm a couple times with my palm to free it, ran, and remounted. I cursed myself all the way up the starting straight, and finally caught up with the tail end of the field as they went into the first 180 before the grassy cambered straight. I passed a handful of guys, then was off the bike again by the pits. Somehow that brake had taken another dive, and the straddle cable came loose just for good measure. I fixed it, but there went a few more seconds.
After that, I raced just to finish. I passed a few guys but spent a good, long while in no-man’s land. My morale wasn’t up to chasing a target I couldn’t even see, so I just focused on not crashing too hard or too often. I did get close to riding through the tape once after I spaced out and forgot that we had a 180 right after the Temple of Music, but other than that it was pretty uneventful. I finished alone. And my name was left off the results. I’m not complaining about that; mistakes happen, I had my chance to fix it and I didn’t take it. I’ve finished 50th before, I didn’t really need another one on my resume.
Afterward I threw down the bike and picked up the camera to work on my panning technique a little bit. I found a good spot that allowed me to get some sky in the background. There are a few sets in my Flickr stream, but here’s my favorite photo of the day, from the Masters 35+ race:
Seeing Stars
Not the best photo technically, but dayum. Two current national CX champions and a former USPRO national road champion tearing up the front of the Masters 35+ race. I don’t need to tell you how cool that is. Yes, it’s just bike racing. The world would probably be a better place if we put all this energy into feeding the hungry or curing cancer or some other, higher calling. But if you like bikes, there’s no finer place to be than inside the tape in some New England park on a weekend morning.
Oh, and that brake is fixed now. The pad was definitely hitting too low on the rim, which set me up for failure. I still have no idea how the pad got wedged under the rim like that, though. When it happened at Sucker Brook, I thought I kicked the brake on the remount. No way my foot came into contact with the brake this time. Maybe the rear wheel flexed enough to move the rim into contact with the brake? Maybe I accidentally applied the brake when starting? I’ll never know. But I don’t think it’ll happen again.
Next up: MRC/cyclocrossracing.com on Sunday. That looks like a long, twisty lap. With a flyover? Seriously? I may have to bring the family for that one.