The last time that I raced CX in RI was Nationals, when a double flat saved me from the a$$-kicking I was getting in the 35-39 race. With those happy memories, I ventured back down for the first of a two day adventure at Goddard Park. I hadn’t had time all week to ride my CX bike, putting time in on the trainer watching World Cup races on cycling.tv. Lack of prep time means one of two things: Good race or bad race.
This was a new course at this park, so no one knew what to expect. Rich P. and I arrived at 7:30 to see the course still being strung. There was a coating of snow on the frozen ground. I’ve never ridden a bike on snow (almost literally true). This is going to be interesting.
After changing in the heated (and still relatively unused) heated bathrooms, Rich and I made our way to the course. Our start was tenuous at best. Not being sure how fast or sharp to take the corners meant a slow warm-up lap.
The course itself was very cool actually, and had my name all over it. It was wide enough for almost constant opportunities for passing. There was not too much elevation change either. It started on a road that was slight uphill that went for about 1/2 mile until it hit smooth grass. A series of tight turns in trees followed up a tricky tight off-camber right (made the more tricky because of the frozen tundra). Straight section into a tight left-right combo, followed by another straight section into a hairpin-right turn combo. This led to another straight (more or less) that was slightly downhill into a sweeping right leading us to the beach.
The beach was very rideable in warmup because it was frozen. But, by game time, it had loosened up meaning you had to do a quick run and remount. A few more turns into a tricky off-camber steep downhill into a run-up and hairpin steep downhill. This led to a long road section (yeah!) followed but a short climb, series of turns, another off-camber, round the gazebo, down to the road again, two lefts and to the finish.
All in all, this course should be blazing fast. But, the snow and icy ground was going to complicate things immensely. After a decision to go to the spikes, I made by way to the start as they were starting the call-ups. Have to work on that timing.
Front row start, which really didn’t matter because the road was so wide there were only three rows. I commented to another person that it was the most starting room we have had. We start and I am shocked to find myself third wheel. I always wondered what I could do if I had a decent start, and now I get to find out. As we approach the grass, I think to myself “Self, you’ve never led onto the grass before” and accelerate around the two guys to be in first place. And I’m building a lead. And, as the Europeans say, I had good sensations in my legs.
But, we hit the Cat 4s right away. Way in God’s name do they have us start behind the Cat 4s is beyond me. Now, it is not a Cat 3/4 35+ race; it is a Cat 3/4 35+ AND Cat 4 race. This shuts down my forward progress and I try to go around people and a few guys in my race catch back up.
Hitting the beach, I decide to ride it after watching the race in Koksijde 5 times. I actually do ride the sand and steep grass hill out of it, but I have to go so wide that I lose two spots and am not in third. Whoops. I jump back on second place and we’re hammering through the 4s, when he skids out on an off-camber. I narrowly miss riding over his hand and arm. Luckily, because it was an off-camber, he slid out of my way. I just on first place and away we go.
We’re railing around the course pretty good, a classic match-up. He is strong in the turns and I am strong on the power sections. We keep getting caught up with 4s who insist on cutting between us. Note to any 4s reading this: if people from another race pass you, and they are leading, do not interfere with them! How do you know they are not in your race? LOOK AT THE GD NUMBERS ON THEIR JERSEY!!!
We’re going into the steep off-camber downhill-uphill combo. A 4 go skidding down in front of me, and another piles into him. I stop in time to avoid going down, but my back tire is out of the drops and rubbing. After I run-up I have to stop, undo the skewer, re-align the wheel, tighten the skewer, and go. Now 1st place is away from me by about 20-30 seconds. Damn! Time to time trial.
I am able to make some ground up little by little, and then “Ding-ding-ding” bell lap. WTF??? We have only been racing for 20-some minutes. It is supposed to be a 40 minute race. And we are not doing 10 minute laps. I power up the hill, with Richard Fries yelling “THE PROFESSOR IS RIPPING THROUGH THE PACK.” Arms resting on the center of the bars, I am all in. Time to catch 1st place.
I get to his wheel just about as we’re getting to the grass. Decision time: do I sit and let him lead, or throw down and go past him? Again, a voice from cycling.tv says when Bart Wellens caught the group at Koksijde, “My favorite tactic is to go right to the front after chasing back on.” Alright then, away we go. I rocket past him hard, drawing from a running tactic of trying to demoralize by putting in an aggressive surge. I gap him as we go into the trees.
I know that he is better in the turns, but if he wants to pass, it is going to hurt. Out of every corner I hit the gas. Those intervals on the trainer are starting to pay off. Rev it up and go. We are now flying as we pass more 4s. I’ve never led into the last lap. I am just focusing on the course and the ride, running clean lines and accelerating like mad. Once we hit the road, I am gone. I look back and I see a bigger gap. Time to move and put it away. Through the off-cambers, round the gazebo, and back to the road. Time to look back, adjust the jersey, arms in the air as Richard says something like “The Professor gets an A for this race today!”
Only a 33 minute race! We could have had time for one more lap, but that’s cool. I talked to second place afterward at the podium, and he said, “When you went by me, I thought “Oh F–k, where did he come from? I thought you were done.” Turns out we had about 1:00 on the rest of the 3/4s 35+ crew. And he’s 45+. Absolutely a strong technical rider. But today, it was my course.