On Sunday, November 20, the Cross Crusade cyclocross series held it’s championship race at Estacada Timber Park on the outskirts of Estacada, OR. As usual, the course was outstanding and was even faster than it has been in previous years. The defining feature of the course is a bowl with a boat ramp and parking lot at the bottom. The course dipped to the bottom and then immediately climbed back out of the bowl three times per lap. The first was rideable but the other two were run-ups. I was gunning for a great finish because I had finally convinced myself I could race with the leaders in my category because of my 3rd place finish (and near win) the previous week at barton Park.
They called up eight riders based on series points and I had enough points to put me in the front row. At the gun, I had a great start for the second straight week. I took the hole shot and lead up the paved road (see pic below) and onto the winding packed gravel section. As planned, I gave up the lead pretty quickly by letting two riders shoot by. I sat on their wheels for a good part of the first lap.
I stayed on people’s wheels through the first two laps and stayed in the lead bunch. My teammate Bill tried to work together as much as we could. On the third lap, I had a little bobble on the first hill (rideable) and dropped to the back of the lead bunch. Right after that, the bunch split with four riders in front and four (including me) behind. Bill made the split with the leaders. I used the rest of the third lap and start of the fourth to make my way through the chase group.
Just as I was putting a gap on the chase group and making a move to close on the leaders, I took a corner too hot and went down. The other three chasers went by me in a flash but I was up and on the bike in a flash — my chain even pedaled right back on. I was only five or ten seconds back from the chase group and I knew I could catch back on. When I hit the first dip into the bowl, I found out that my left shifter had been critically damaged (see pic below) and I wasn’t able to use the rear brake. Consequently, I wasn’t able to slow enough to make the turn at the bottom and went pretty far off course before coming to a stop.
The good news was that the pit was right at the top of the hill so I hustled back on the course and ran up the hill for a bike exchange. We had such a big gap on the field that I was still in the top ten at that point. My pit bike also serves as my wet weather bike and commuter. It also doesn’t get as much TLC as my #1 race bike so the brakes were kind of mushy/touchy because the cables really need replacing. Anyway, when I hit the off camber decent for the second dip into the bowl, I wasn’t able to properly modulate the brakes and I lost control and went down. (pic of Bill and I at the bottom on the first lap)
Again, I was up in a hurry and ran up the hill. I even blocked a guy who was trying to get around me before the foot bridge. My chain was off but I figured I could pedal it back on on the downhill section after the bridge. When I remounted, I found that my brifters were pretty severely rotated. At this point I was ready to pack it in. Instead, I got off my bike, took a couple of breaths to calm down, and straightened out my brifters and slippde on my chain.
While I was off my bike, perhaps 10 riders went by. I got back on and kept on going. At that point, I was in survival mode — I just wanted to finish. I rode to protect my position but wasn’t aggressive. I managed to pick up a position coming into the finish.
My lap times from the chip timing data:
I lost a full minute and a half with my two crashes and going off course. And even when I was riding in survival mode, I had better final lap times than a couple of the top six finishers. Bill came in second and I don’t think it is a stretch to say that Bill and I could have been battling for second — or even the win. It took me a couple days to really let go of the race. I really don’t have that much racing experience — 24 cyclocross races total over the last three years — and knowing how far to push in the corners is something you only learn through experience.
Result = 17/47