Rabu, 16 Desember 2009

CX Nationals Day 0 and Day 1

I am splitting my accounts into daily bits.

Day 0 and Day 1
On Wednesday the plan was to depart from my work at 2:00. Hottie and I pulled out at 3:00 under clear skies and freezing temperatures. As we crossed over the Cascades the sun moved from low in the southern sky to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and we enjoyed a cloudless starry night. Nineteen, fourteen, twelve, zero, and finally negative four, were the temperatures I called out as we continued to hit new lows while we drove through the inky darkness to Bend, Oregon for the National Championships.

We pulled into John “The Destroyer’s” condo a little past ten at night. John and Hank were quick to help unload the war wagon and soon I was sitting in the hot tub with a beanie keeping my hair from freezing.

Early Thursday morning John and I set off to set up the team tents. The outside temperate was -7 F. Dressed like Eskimos we were soon setting up in the site we had reserved amongst the pros and vendors. We picked up race packets and coffee and returned to the condo.

When we got back to the race venue our teammates were there and the tents were populated with propane heaters glowing a beautiful orange. By this time it had warmed to near 15 degrees. Because it was so cold I changed into a ton of cycling clothing with the urgency of a ten year old boy fidgeting in line for the bathroom after guzzling a half gallon of Mountain Dew.

The course was an icy nightmare and riders were dropping like there were trap doors on the course. On dry surfaces you fall when your momentum overcomes gravity and, like a falling tree, you tip over. On Ice it is like that falling tree has wheels on the bottom and the motion is straight down. The falls were fast and the ground was frozen so the falls hurt. Some sections had snow and could be navigated with some semblance of control. There were a couple spots that had been cleared of snow and although the grass was frozen solid, it seemed it could be ridden. There was ample profanity on the course and lap times were slow.

When it came time for my race I found myself in the middle of the pack and at the gun I took off like the rest of the lemmings. Someone went down on the ice in the first corner and after others fell on the pile up on as if it were a football fumble, the rest of us had to dismount and walk around the carnage. I felt like I was trying to get into Wal-Mart one second after the doors opened on Black Friday. Once I was able to get on and ride the race was almost fun. I was passing riders and getting passed as anything other than the single line was just crap.

Here is my description of the course:
We were staged at the end of a road and the first one hundred meters was only ridden at the start and then closed off for the remainder of the race. Another hundred meters of straight asphalt took us under the finishing banner and then we climbed up a short steep grassy hill to another tight ninety degree left hand turn. Then a long gradual descent on bumpy rutted ice and snow led to a sheet of ice where we (were supposed to) turn right and parallel the pits. Then a gradual right hander and a slight climb to an icy off camber that had a rider go down and break something on the first lap of my race. I had seen riders go down there on every practice lap I took, so I exercised a degree of caution. The course then zigzags around trees and finally emerges to run alongside a road before a series of tight turns and a wicked off camber that seemed to take riders down without rhyme or reason. I ran this section in my race and passed fallen riders, or those stuck behind fallen riders, each lap. Then we went down a drop off that made me want to close my eyes it was so steep. The more cautious riders actually walked downhill in three areas of the course and this was the first one. Then a steady climb where you wanted to apply power; but if you pedaled too hard, your back wheel would spin out and you found yourself going sideways if you were lucky, or going down on the ice if you were not. A steep drop into a series of horribly bumpy, icy S-curves and then a climb up to what we referred to as the mesa. You had to quickly get up speed and huck your bike up to get on top and then an icy left hander to test your balance. Then in twenty meters you hit a drop that had been snowy when I warmed up and was now an icy rut-fest. This drop scared me to death. If you managed to stay upright the drop itself gave you too much speed to make the icy one eighty that brought you back up on the mesa. There is nothing like braking AND turning on ice to make you question your motivation. Now we were on a gradual downhill that let you build up enough speed so that when you hit the left hander you could go down like a bowling pin. Getting back up you now had a long straight past the other side of the pits. A steady climb followed by some S turns takes you across the road and into the “technical” section of the course.

The “technical” section of the course is what the Clydesdale event was held on so the balance of this would be the description for that course. A bumpy descent on frozen grass was about the safest portion of the course (there were several serious crashed on the pavement) then you grabbed your brakes for a banked right hand turn. Winding around you reached the run up, which was a set of wooden stairs that had composite shingles on them so they had good traction the whole week. At this point you are parallel to, but heading in the opposite direction to, the finishing straight. The course then descends a wicked off camber that should have been guarded by a Troll as it took down random riders from ten year old girls to the man leading the pro race, Jeremy Powers. This off camber was as slippery as a moss covered rock except much harder. If you survived this you hit a sweeping banked corner that was a dream to ride in every condition. A one eighty turn up, then down, a hill followed by barriers that you hit at full speed. Full speed barriers are fun. In the Seattle series we always seemed to have barriers just past sharp turns to you seldom had much speed. After the barriers you had a snowy, icy series of one eighties and onto a short bit of pave. At times this pavement was icy and riders going down here collected some horrid road rash. Two tight turns brought you to a hill that could at times barely be ridden, and at times not at all. I rode it most of the time, but on early laps of my races one person having to dismount meant we all had to dismount. Your reward for reaching the top was a steep icy descent that many chose to walk even during the races. A hundred and fifty meters of pave brought you to a right turn onto the one hundred meter finishing straight.

So I raced this course lap after lap. I was in front of some riders with whom I had contested in the Seattle series. I felt pretty good about this. To my great horror the drop offs were getting worse and worse each lap. The technical sections provided recovery time between power sections so I could have ridden longer. The fear factor kicked in and when they shouted ‘all done’ as I crossed the line I was both sad to have the race over because I felt I had more in the tank, but thankful to be done with the downhills of death for the day.

I quickly put on a thick jacket and beanie as I tried to beat hypothermia that was trying to take over my bones. We packed up and headed for the condo. Later than night more of our team arrived and we had all the pizza we could handle as we swapped stories of our heroic exploits.

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