2010 Cyclocross Race 6: Cyclocrossracing.com/MRC Cyclocross, Lancaster, MA

Hey, what’s the freshness date on race reports? A week? I guess you get a pass if you podium in the A race. That would not be me. Still, I want to waste a few electrons on the race from two weekends ago. And some of the usual New England bike blog suspects just aren’t putting out right now, though GeWilli does his level best to fill the gap.
Initially, the decision to move the race from Wrentham to Lancaster didn’t excite me. The Wrentham course doesn’t offer the most exciting racing experience, and it has a long stretch of narrow trail, but it’s only a 20-minute drive from my house. Lancaster is about an hour away, and I heard the new course would be flat. Negative move, I thought.
Then, the day before the race, I saw this:
Look at this on Twitpic
That changed my opinion, since by race day, it turned into this:

That was not as much fun as it looked. It was approximately 478.3 times as much fun. Seriously, since the race I look at stairs and think “man, I could totally ride down those.” Which is absolutely true, if I didn’t mind breaking an arm. Maybe I should take more handicap ramps.
I also managed to pull out my best result of the season. If you count the DNFs, I finished in the top half. I might have finished in the top half of the finishers if I hadn’t wasted a few seconds at the top of the flyover on the last lap, letting two guys get past me, one of them on a flat-bar bike. I think he’s a NECX mail list regular, too. Oh, the shame. At least he didn’t make my nemesis list on crossresults.
Next up: Canton Cup. Last year I raced the masters 35+, finished near DFL, and extinguished any further thoughts of upgrading. This year…more of the same. I can’t resist that noon start.

links for 2010-10-16

  • From the page: The Mongoliad is a rip-roaring adventure tale set in 1241, a pivotal year in history, when Europe thought that the Mongol Horde was about to completely destroy their world; only a small band of warriors and mystics stand in the way of utter defeat and subjugation by the great Khan. On top of being an exciting story, The Mongoliad is also the beginning of an experiment in storytelling, technology, and community-driven creativity.
    The adventure begins with a serial novel of sorts, which will unfold over the course of a year or so. Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, and other great authors are writing the core of the story, but we're also working closely with artists, film-makers, game designers, and other folks to to bring the story to life in ways that can't be done in any single medium.
    Most importantly, we’re working with you, the growing Foreworld community, to bring to life the biggest, most exciting world of adventure you’ve ever helped create. Please join us!
    (tags: books sf fantasy)

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.

2010 Cyclocross Race 4: Great Brewers Grand Prix of Gloucester

In 2007, I signed up for Gloucester. After racing at Quad and not being able to get myself back on the bike, I sat out. I couldn’t show my face at the biggest race on the local calendar.
In 2008, I didn’t race cross.
In 2009, I hit the signup as soon as it went live. Two weeks before the race, I hurt myself during the recon lap at Larz Anderson practice. A calf strain, probably grade 2, left me unable to walk straight. So much for Gloucester.
This year, I got my run base up before I raced, so I haven’t had any significant injuries. I’ve raced enough to get over that freaked-out feeling, though my skills still tend to go to hell when the whistle blows. Heck, I was even just about over the head cold I collected before Sucker Brook. I had no excuses. Time to throw down at New England Worlds.
Thanks to the magic of crossresults.com points, I knew I’d be staged about 9 or 10 rows back. This race attracts a full field, though apparently only 103 racers made the start. 125 registered, and I think we had a wait list, too. I know life happens, but that strikes me as pretty high pre-start attrition. Starting that far back caused me to take a different approach. Instead of turning myself inside out to go for a hole shot I couldn’t even see, I decided to start steady, look to hold position, and not get jammed up in the first turn. We started downhill, which is probably against one of those rules that only Internet trolls know about. After about 150m of pavement, we piled into a narrow, rocky and bumpy dirt chute that fed into a hairpin turn.
Rather than waste electrons on course description, go see the video or check out my nifty GPS view. Though less technical than I expected from Gloucester, that was a really long lap.
My race summary:
Lap 1: I survived the start, made it through the dirt 180 and the sand pit clean and in contact. A few bodies flew in that first dirt stretch, but it didn’t look too bad to me. I passed guys, even on the barrier run-up. I began to entertain delusions of mediocrity.
Lap 2: Washed out on the super-tight, off-camber hairpins after the first set of down-up 180s (with the red barriers). Got up and back on the bike, and immediately felt over the limit. Dialed the effort back and had to let guys go. My delusions left me
Lap 3: Started to feel like I could race again. Found a small group and hung on, then passed most of them. Noticed that my left foot wasn’t really staying clipped in very well. Ran the whole blue-barriered section.
Lap 4: Was alone for the first half, then came up on a group of 7 coming up to the left turn by registration. Cramped on the run-up, but got past about half of group by the finishing straight. Was tight with Jose Martinez from 545 into the final turn. He sprinted, I got a reminder that my left foot wasn’t really clipped in, followed by a reminder that I really wasn’t totally over that cold and should probably go sit down or take some oxygen or something.
Final result: 71 of 103 starters. I improved on my 92nd-seed start, but like approximately 101 other guys who started the race, I’m not exactly happy with the result. Perhaps my purpose as a cross racer is to make everybody else look that much better, but gee, it sure would be nice to finish in the top half one of these times. I’ll just have to keep trying. Comparing lap times, I’m definitely not ready to upgrade to the 3s. I try to keep my ego in check, but getting lapped every weekend might be a bit much.
But everything else – holy wow. Great crowd. I hear the groans about charging for tent space, but really, Club Row is a great idea. It’s a great way to build a crowd, and it’s much easier to find folks. BHCC needs to spring for an E-Z Up. The Masters 35+ race offered up 3 national champions (2 USAnian, 1 Canuckistanian) duking it out at the front. I wish I could’ve stuck around for the Elites. I did take a few pictures. I should do both days next year.
Next up: PVD on Saturday. This will be another big-time race, and if they hold to the order-of-registration seeding, I should be way further up, and I’d better make use of it.
I’m disappointed to miss Night Weasels tomorrow, but that’s the life of a working family guy. I hope everybody gets nice and muddy. That’s what separates us from the animals. Well, except for the weasels.