Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Thirty Minute Heart Attack

Friends ask me what it’s like to race cyclocross. I used to go into a big complicated huffandpuff, but now I’ve simplified matters by describing the experience as a thirty minute heart attack.

In cross there is no “hey let’s all get to know each other” rollout or mid pack get your wind back recovery periods, instead it’s a sprint from the bell, and from then on you just try to hold your position – maybe pick off a few guys in front. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to pass other riders on much of the winding course, so you have to get in position early and then fight to hold it. Unlike road and criterium racing, where the strength is in the pack, cross is an individual effort: it’s you against everyone else all the time.

Last Sunday I raced the first Seattle Cyclocross series at Marymore Park in Redmond. On Saturday afternoon I’d removed my front derailleur and my compact ring set and replaced it all with a single 46 tooth ring and a Rohloff chain guide. The guide cost me $110 and didn’t even fit. I took it back to the bike shop to see if there was another, correctly sized, version: there wasn’t so we cut it down with a hacksaw. Back at home I hit another snag in that the bolts were now too long, so once again out came the hacksaw. I guess this is why bike mechanics are called mechanics and not simply part putter oners. I like the simplicity of having only a single front ring; someday soon I’ll have to rig up a single speed ride and go uber simple.

While the bike was up on the rack I replaced my worn out front brake pads.

I was in the ten fifteen race and managed to get in a good warm-up prior to being called to the starting line. I had left my watch in the car, but it seemed like they were calling us up quite early. After a lot of standing around we moved to the start line, where we stood around for a long time more. Seconds after the race official called one minute till start I looked down and noticed that my left front brake pad was perpendicular to the rim. Crap. I must have forgotten to tighten it down. No front brakes today.

The race began in a slow but quickly building sprint and just as we passed the Cucina Fresca tent a big chunk of green fabric, perhaps it was some kind of fencing, blew onto the course. It took some cool headed riding by about a dozen guys to avert disaster. I hadn’t been able to preview the course so I was seeing everything for the first time. Despite the evening rain the course wasn’t muddy, some of the grass was saturated, but nothing too mucky. The first set of barriers were in a tough spot because you had to dismount while simultaneously descending a hill and making a hard right. It was a fairly technical spot that required some good dismount/mount skills, and consequently I lost some hard won ground each time through.

Luckily I’d been to Kore Kross the Wednesday before and had ridden the touchy downhill hairpin turn portion of the route. This was a tricky spot and with only one brake I struggled to check enough speed and barely missed running through the tape on more than one occasion. My cornering skills really suck, I think that the trick is to burn your speed before the corner, roll through tight and then accelerate out. I’m currently hitting the corners much too fast which then forces me to both swing wide and brake mid turn, thus causing my rear wheel to either skid or bounce. If I keep that up I’m going to go down sooner rather than later.

I was gasping on the final lap and really struggled on the barriers. It’s surprising how much energy it takes to get over those things. The good guys make it look so easy. As I came through the final barriers, which were just shy of the finish line, I could hear a couple of guys coming up on me, no way were they going to pass. I made an overly aggressive – and somewhat crushing – remount and pushed to the finish line. I finished midfield.

No comments: