Cross Crusade race #7
November 18, 2007
Hillsboro Stadium, OR
Masters 35+ A race
The Portland area finally started getting some rain this week so the ground was fully saturated by race time on Sunday. The rain continued all day and the temperatures never climbed past the mid 40’s. Nice weather for a cyclocross race.
The Hillsboro Stadium course has always been mostly flat with a single bump that the course designers used to its fullest potential. However, the sports complex has added some new stuff for the regular users and the bump is gone along with most of the previous course real estate. Good thing there is plenty of junk ground around the periphery to build a decent course.
There were two sets of double barriers — one set placed before a micro hill and another along a wide open (read fast) section. Luckily, the weather gods smiled and poured enough rain on the course to turn an innocuous looking rise into a full-on run up. It started with two deep (and frigid) areas of standing water. I hesitate to call them puddles because they were so large and deep. The slope was thick churned mud for 20 yards. At the top, many found it difficult to remount and continued running another fifteen yards or so before remounting. I used a fairly firm spot at the top to put down the bike and get on before churning through the soupy right hand line. There was also a little down and up that forced all the riders off. The down side was pretty treacherous, being a nastily rutted side hill. There was a pavement portion, some gravel, and some long sections of hardpack walking trail.
Oh, and did I mention the ruts? Lots of them. By the time my race went off, some of the good lines were a tire width through six inch deep ruts. Then there were other wide open sections where there was no line — just a crazy pattern of shallow tire ruts over choppy ground or pooling mud.
Conditions were epic.
I decided against a pre-ride though I did scout the full course. Last week I got a callup when I wasn’t able to race so I wasn’t sure I’d get one this week also. The race was the OBRA championships and worth double points in the Crusade series. It was also my last chance to score a top ten in a Crusade race and I was sitting just outside the top fifteen overall for the series. All that added up to me getting to staging early and being pretty bold in making my way to the front.
I was in the front of the pack and ready to beat the scrum to fill in behind the callups when Brad Ross named me as the final callup. I hustled up but the front row was full so I filled in behind Rich Cramer (fast guy). I’d been nervous most of the morning but I managed to get my focus together while we were standing on the line.
We got the gun and right off the bat, someone missed their clip just left of me. I dodged around, took a couple pedal strokes to clip, and then got going. I was in the top ten heading down the pavement but backed off through the first couple of turns. By the time we hit the mud, I was perhaps 15th. Guys were flying everywhere all of a sudden and I saw a few people down, including John Wilson.
I navigated that first slippery bit okay and dismounted through the tiny rise. Next was a trickier than it looked section of doubletrack and there were more guys off the road. Mud was flying everywhere and dirty water filled my eyes. I could barely see but I continued to chase wheels. By the time we were on the hardpack on the north side of the parking lot, I was at the back of the lead group. There were probably eight guys up there. I resisted the urge to charge on through them — operating on pure adrenaline. I managed to hang on to that bunch for a couple laps but eventually I got gapped off just before the big puddle run up. Soon after, Mike Wilson came by and I tried to hook on. I stayed with Mike and Ed French for a bit but the holes just before the pavement ate me up and I briefly came to a stop. By the time I got going, Ed and Mike had a big gap, one I couldn’t shut down.
Edit: I latched onto the tail end of the chase group. Bannick and Butler got a big gap after the mayhem in the first mud pit. Mike Wilson was caught up in that pile up and that’s why he was behind me for a while.
So there I was, all alone. On the third lap, I passed Martin Baker when he got off course and Jon Myers came flying by me a bit later. My teammate Bill stayed about 10-15 seconds back for a couple laps and I kept hoping he’d bridge up and work with me. About the time Bill fell further back, I noticed a group of four guys maybe 20 seconds behind me. I was worried they might work together and reel me in. I liked my odds solo and worked a bit harder to stay away from them. I don’t know how long they were together, but they fell apart pretty quickly.
With two to go on the lap board, I saw Ed French up ahead and put in a flawless lap to catch and gap him. I hit all the lines better than average and my legs felt okay given that I’d been racing for close to an hour and they were bathed in cold mud. With only a couple minutes to go on the lap, the A race leaders caught me. Molly and Shannon (gender confused yet? Shannon and Molly lapped Brooke) came by and then close to the finish, an S&M rider and Carl Decker also sneaked by. Since I got lapped by the leaders on what I thought was my two to go lap, that was it for me. I got no bell. Note to self: if I haven’t been lapped and I see two to go, treat it like the bell.
No one from my race passed me on that last lap and I managed to reel in a rider. I doubt I was close enough to any of the other masters up the road to have caught them had I stayed on the lead lap. However, it would have been worth my while to have given more effort on my final lap.
Where did I finish?
Dunno for sure but I’m thinking top ten. Maybe eighth or ninth. It looks like I finished outside the top ten again. From rider reconstruction, I think I was 11th. I had an outstanding race. Going in, I wanted to try to stay with the leaders for as long as possible. In fact, it was kind of surreal to be in the front bunch on the second lap. Not close to the front. Not seeing the front as they came around a chicane. But honest to goodness with those guys. Sure, it was only a couple laps but maybe it will be more laps next year. I also stayed frosty on the fast bits. It’s pretty easy to take a little breather on the pavement and the hardpack but I resisted. I kept turning the pedals hard and found other places to take a breather.
Some random notes:
- It took me a couple of hours to get rid of the cloudy vision. There were points on the course I could barely see and rode the course by feel.
- Running when your shoes are full of mud sucks.
- If you are passing some guy and there is a nasty side hill descent and he takes a line different from the one that’s been working well for you all race, don’t follow it. It probably sucks.
- Brown spit probably means you’ve been swallowing some mud.
- I was freezing after the race. I could kind of sort of feel that it was cold while I was on the bike. But once I got off, I was close to hypothermia. I had the heater on full blast most of the 35 minute drive home.
I’ll try to get some pictures posted this week.