Senin, 08 November 2010

Maris Farm Race Report 2010

Adapt or perish
-H.G. Wells

After off and on rain all day Saturday, and heavy rain overnight, we knew the course would be a mudfest. On the drive down, grey clouds alternated with patches of blue sky. I realized this could be a hopeful omen, or a sarcastic tease.

The course had two distinct parts. From the start you went on what started the day as grass, only to end up a greasy rutted mess. The course snaked up and down a grassy hill multiple times before a final run up brought you to a series of 180’s on the little plateau. We would go up a slope only to make a 180 degree turn and head down and to the right for a hard off camber straight up to another 180 turn. Later in the day these sections got chewed up and most could be almost ridden. For my race these uphill sections were absolutely unridable. Tall, matted grass with just enough mud to make the grass slickerier than oil on glass.

Davo riding in front of faster riders...
The second part of the course was a snaking route through a pumpkin field. This section had degrees of ridability. By the way I’m freaking out my spell check function with words like ”mudfest, slikerier and ridability.” Nearly everyone tried to ride when they should have just run. We are creatures of habit and are therefore slow to adapt. Having bikes clotted with an extra ten pounds of mud made shouldering tougher than usual. Those lithe little guys, who usually zip around me on tight corners, were clearly at a disadvantage as a thirty pound bike was proportionally much heavier for them than it was for me.

Our starting areas was a rutted, muddy bog and I told those around me on the front row (note how casually I slip that in, as if I start there all the time..) that I would start my race running and even told them where I would mount my bike. The other racers politely nodded but none decided to join me.

At the whistle I shot out carrying my bike and I remounted exactly where I said I would. The one non negotiable required to accelerate is traction; and those guys started with very little of that. Thus I had the hole shot. After a long grass straight where I dropped to about fifth we turned and then at the first climb those ahead of me tried to ride and they muscled it until, one by one, they all stalled and dismounted then starting their run from a standstill. I bailed early and ran myself into third and kept that position through the up and downs of the first lap. A couple guys caught me on the plateau and I was about fifth when we entered the pumpkin mud. Again I was quick to dismount while others fought with their bikes while going two miles an hour. Then a gravel road brought us back past the start line and we repeated the grassy section.

Each lap I would lose places on the flat sections only to run past those same guys in the mud or on a climb. On the last lap I held a racers wheel until the last run up and then I just pushed myself to get past him and threw my bike down for the remount and took off hard. I accelerated like we had practiced a few weeks ago only to jam on my brakes in the 180 corner and accelerate again. At one of the corners I could see I had built up a gap of a few seconds and I lined up for the last downhill corner carefully. This corner claimed many victims on Sunday. Then as I approached a sharp, steep uphill corner that I had not ridden well on any previous lap, I took a wider line and pushed hard through the climb and on to the finish line which was at the top of the course where it entered the pumpkin field.

Last lap and number 174 is in my sights...
I slumped over my bars and gasped for air. It had begun raining on the last lap and in a few minutes the downpour began. As I was wiping the mud from my legs Hottie came back to the car and grabbed an umbrella and returned to shoot the next race.

I finished in the top ten for the first time in years. I took 8th in my age group. I credit my head and not my legs for this one. I did well by riding (actually running) smart and adapting to a unique course. The leader in my group was moved up to a higher category, so that move, in combination with my high finish has me sitting 5th on points in the series. That means there are only four guys who have the unusual combination of being faster than me, and at the same time having no friends so they have lots of free time to make all the races. Kind of weird that I’m fifth with only one top ten finish, but I guess attendance really counts.

The bike worked well and while I would like to say the tires worked, they were so caked with mud that I really doubt any tread stuck through the mud on the tire to actually make contact with the mud we rode on. Maybe it was just some strange new mud cross pollination project.

Next Sunday Seattle Cyclocross takes a break. There is a MFG race if I can’t figure out something better to do. Perhaps I’ll ride the Baconator SS again. A week away from cross might be a nice break. But cross is so cool….

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