The conventional wisdom dictates that one prepares for race day the night prior to the race. However, I’m up for living life on the edge — that and my race isn’t until 3:30pm. I really wish that I had gone to bed earlier Friday night but what are you going to do? Slept in till almost 8 and then started getting stuff ready. Call me crazy, but put off preparing my race wheels and pit wheels — moving cogs around by putting the 18t on the tubulars and the 20t on the clinchers — until the morning of the race. I hadn’t set up a wheel with the Surly 20t so I had to get the chain line right which meant shuffling spacers a few times. Then I rounded up all the other stuff like tools, pinning on numbers, making lunch for me and Frost, packing up water and lots of it, loading the team eazy-up, loading the bikes in the van, etc.
We rolled out to Hood River at 10:30am. Pretty good if I do say so myself. It was raining in P-town and continued to rain all the way through the Gorge and in to Hood River. At the venue, it was merely spitting and the skies looked promising. Because we rolled in to the parking lot at 11:30, I was amazed that I managed to wrangle a decent spot for the tent. I hadn’t set one up before, consequently hilarity ensued. My friend Marc and I wrestled it up eventually and unloaded all the gear. Frost was racing the Kiddie Cross race at 12:40 so I got the two of us registered, ate some lunch, and took him out to ride around a little bit.
The Kiddie Cross had two alternatives, the 7-11 year old longer course or the younger kids short course. Since his racing age is 7, I decided, with essentially no input from Frost, that he would ride the long course version. At the line he told me he was really scared and he didn’t want to race. I offered encouraging words but gave him no wiggle room to back out (I’m a hard ass, huh?). I did promise to stay near him through the course. They started the kids and off he went at the back. He rode up the rise and down the other side to the 180. There he stopped and cried because I wasn’t right there with him. After ascertaining all this, I promised to run with him for the rest of the race. It turned out that the long course was almost half of the regular race course and it went through loose sandy stuff and a run up. Marc and I huffed along with Frost and he rode the whole thing. I was very proud.
After Frost’s race I got on the course to pre-ride. There was plenty of gravel, loose corners, boggy sand, and dusty run ups. I was off my bike five times per lap though some of the strong geared riders only had to dismount three times. Toward the end of the lap I was coming around one of the loose gravel corners (one of the ones from the Kiddie Cross course, by the way) and washed out my front wheel. Down I went with the left heel of my hand sliding across the gravel. I was riding sans gloves and I didn’t really want to look since I was expecting shredded flesh. There was some bruising and a nice big flapper but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting. My hip got some rash but I didn’t tear my bibs and my calf had some scrapes. Nothing terrible but I had some new found respect for the corners.
I whiled away the time to my start by watching the other races and cruising around with Frost on our bikes. I also caught up with my friend Terry Keele who I haven’t seen much since my racing hiatus. Since I’m trying to maximize my cycling fun this year, I managed to keep everything low key and spent a lot of time hanging out with Frost and my racing pals. After the A race, I did another lap of the course and felt pretty good about things. While the women finished up their races, I rode around on the grass to loosen up and get the legs ready. I’m really liking my new 10-15 minute low stress warm ups.
At the line the B’s staged first and then the single speeds. I got a callup since I scored series points at David Douglas two weeks previously. Some dude squeezed in to the front row next to me which kind of crowded my bars. They set off the B’s and about a minute later started the single speeds. Immediately the dudes on either side of me pinched me out and I stalled. By the time I got going, I was 10-12 wheels back and a couple more guys came around on the grass and gravel before the first dismount. Not a great way to get going. I spent the rest of the lap picking off some of the guys who start great and fade back fast. While a few faster SS racers came around me, I’m pretty sure I picked off more than passed me.
A few laps in we started getting in to the back of the B field in earnest. Terry K came up and around me and I followed his wheel around to the descent into the woods. From that point forward, we stayed within about 30 yard of each other for the entire race. Every time I felt like I was going to be able to make a move on him it seemed like he would put a B racer in between us just before some technical section. With two to go, I tried to keep up the intensity, something that has sometimes been a problem for me. Coming in to the last lap, there was one B racer between TK and I. I looked for every opportunity to get around him but he just wasn’t giving an inch. I finally got around the B racer late in the lap and tried to bring it home on the grass section to the finish but lost out by perhaps 10-15 feet. It reminded me of five years previous when TK held me off at Alpenrose for the win back when we were both racing 35+B.
The course was outstanding. Lots of variety and the it kept you on your toes. There were plenty of places where the choice to dismount or where particularly to remount would change based on the immediate race conditions. I was racing people from start to finish and I managed to drive my bike around the course with some skill. Riding though the back of the B field was challenging and put a lot of bodies in the way, but it really enhanced the racing. At no point in the race was I stuck in no-man’s land. There was always a person to race — chasing and passing or holding off guys coming up from behind. It was thrilling.
I finished 11th out of 22 finishers (24 starters).