Sunday, November 07, 2010

Race Report: Sac CX #3

After the early racing season fell apart due to my health, I really enjoyed a summer of riding without any purpose. I rode for the sake of riding, with no regard for speed or mileage or heart rate. It was nice. Unfortunately, riding without a purpose can leave one somewhat . . . fat.

When the scale tipped 170 late in the summer, the alarm bells went off. That's the number that usually freaks me out enough to get back to work. As fall came I started riding a bit more and stretching out the miles. The weight is slowly dropping, and I'm feeling better on the bike. Still, I am the type of person who needs a carrot to chase.

Yesterday the third race in the Sacramento Cyclocross Series was held right down the road in Folsom. I figured getting my ass handed to me in a race would be the motivation I needed to get serious about riding again.  Although I hadn't raced cross in a while, I wanted to give it a go.

I signed up for the race on Friday morning even though I am between cross bikes right now.  I threw together my old Miyata, which has been used mostly as an errand bike.  Because it was originally designed for 27" rims, I found I could run pretty big tires if I use 700c wheels and long-reach brakes.  I hoped it would get the job done.

The Sacramento series was a bit different when I left it in 2005.  Most of the venues were state parks around Folsom Lake—Granite Bay, Negro Bar, Dyke 8.  The courses were mostly dirt trails with a bit of asphalt.  Grass features were nearly non-existent.  On rare occasions when the turf showed up on a course, I complained.  I was always very slow on grass.

It seems the organizers have abandoned the state parks in favor of regional parks.  My assumption is the state parks simply became too expensive.

Yesterday's race was held at Lembi Park in Folsom.  Upon my arrival I was thrilled to see that the course had grass.  A lot of grass.  In fact it was almost all grass.  Slow, energy-sapping, soul-crushing grass.

Doug and I rode a warmup lap and arrived at the line only a couple minutes before the start, which meant we were at the back of our respective groups.  The 35+ B group took off and I was bringing up the rear.  It didn't matter, because even if I were at the front, most of them would have passed me anyway.

The 45+ Bs started a minute after us, and the leaders quickly caught me.  Not long after that, Doug caught me. I would have been really depressed about it had I not been fighting the urge to vomit.

Ex-Mercury pro Doug powers through the grass:

The course was pretty flat and slow (did I mention the grass?), and not very technical—nothing geared toward my cycling strengths. Some elevation change would have been nice.

My dismounts were a bit rusty, but on a slow course like this one it wasn't much of a disadvantage:

By the middle of the 45-minute race I had settled into a good pace, and I began to start picking people off.  Not a lot of people, but one here and there, enough to keep me motivated.

A photog managed to catch me looking somewhat coordinated.  Once.

At the end of lap three I was dismayed to see the lap card saying three more.  THREE more laps.
By the end of lap four I was slowing a bit.  After a quick drink I felt a bit better and started going after more riders.
My last lap was probably my best, but it was too little too late. I placed a disappointing 25th out of 36. Doug scored an impressive 11th out of 28 in his first cyclocross race.

In the end the 30-year-old bike did fine; it was the 43-year-old pilot that was holding the team back. My threaded headset did loosen up on me, which was pretty annoying.  The threadless headset is my favorite advancement in bike technology from when I first started racing.

Even though I didn't do well, I had a good time.  I plan on doing the next race.  I have nowhere to go but up.

Parting thought: When you're fit and fast, like Curtis, cyclocross is fun.

When you're fat and slow, it just hurts.


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