Cross of the North
Cross of the North cyclocross races took places Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this weekend. Saturday and Sunday were looking pretty busy for me, so I took Friday afternoon off work to race some bikes.
We got some pretty epic rain the day before the event. Apparently, 24 hours before the race started, a good chunk of the course was under a foot of water. The organizers pumped it all out, but, as you can imagine, the ground was a wee bit muddy.
Again, the call-ups were based on a rider’s top 5 finishing scores over the past 12 months. Since I had good results in my final few races last fall, I still had a pretty good standing (despite the fiasco of my last race). I had a great starting position, and while the start was fast, either it wasn’t as fast as last time, or I simply rode faster. Either way, I was in the top 10 once the field strung out.
The muddy section of the course was unridable, so everyone dismounted and ran. I’m not bad at running. I passed several people. Next came a steep uphill, a couple turns, then a gradual uphill. I’m not bad at riding uphill either. I continued to move up through the field. There were a few more muddy, steep uphills with small barriers. In drier conditions I think I could have ridden over them, but I dismounted, and… more running.
All that is to say, this course suited my strengths, and I was having a good ride. I had completely lost track of where I was, but I knew I was in the top 10. Complicating matters was the fact that there were two races taking place concurrently. First the cat 4 race started, and then the cat 4 masters 35+ race I was doing started a couple minutes later. I was passing people the entire time, but I could never really be sure which race they were in by that point.
Slightly over halfway through the 40 minute race the announcer (who was up in a tower and had a great view of the entire course) called out my name and said I was in 2nd place in the masters race. I didn’t think I was that far up so I took it with a grain of salt. Then on the next lap he again said I was in 2nd. Maybe I was in 2nd?
With half a lap to go and nobody within sight ahead of me I focused on just maintaining my position. I was content with 2nd. Then on the last long straightaway I saw another rider way up ahead. I was rapidly closing the gap. Then the announcer started going nuts. Here comes show-field catching up to the leader! And on, and on. Awesome. I rode even harder up the hill and closed the gap even faster. On one hand it was helpful to know that was the leader and I was going much, much faster right then. On the other hand, the leader also heard the announcer and was tipped off that I was closing in (he wouldn’t have known otherwise).
I caught up just before a series of hairpin turns. I had to slow and wait for the right moment to pass. I got impatient and I tried to pass at the first opportunity, when there wasn’t quite enough room. I got around him to take the lead, only to realize I had a terrible position (on the inside) heading into the next 180˚ turn. I had to swing out extra wide. We bumped into each other and I put my foot down. Something weird happened with my pedals and I dropped my chain. I had to dismount to try to reattach it as the now-leader-again rode away.
It was not to be.
But the excitement doesn’t end there. I remounted my bike and tried to pedal but the chain was still off and had become jammed between the chainring and the frame of my bike. I dismounted again to fix it, but I simply couldn’t. I was in 2nd place, 200 meters from the finish, and my bike was non-functional. So what did I do? I did what any fan of the movie American Flyers would have done. I pulled a Davey.
I ran the final 200 meters to the finish line, carrying and/or pushing my bike, crossing just 6 seconds before the 3rd place rider caught up to me. The whole time the announcer is screaming the play-by-play of what’s happening. It was pretty intense.
After crossing the finish line I unjammed my chain. The winner apologized profusely if he had done anything to cause my difficulty. To be clear, he did absolutely nothing wrong. If anything, I made a really terrible pass, and I have nobody to blame for that but myself.
After 40 minutes of intense bike racing, I wasn’t thinking clearly. I thought I would be better off passing as soon as possible rather than waiting for a sprint on the finishing straightaway. In retrospect, I played that all wrong. I should have waited patiently to get out of that sequence of hairpin turns and onto the finishing straightaway. On the previous straightaway I was moving so much faster than the other guy I clearly had more left in the tank than he did. And even though sprinting isn’t a strength for me, I should have seen that I held the advantage in this case.
Regardless, this race went much, much better for me than my previous race. I’ll take it.
One thought on “Can he do that?”
Very cool racing story. Sorry about the chain, but live and learn! Patience my friend.
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