Sunday, October 30, 2011

Canton Cup

Canton holds a special significance for me, being the first cyclocross race I ever did, 2 years ago. In 2009 my friend Dave convinced me that I should try a race, and that we should do it in costume. "It will be great! You will probably throw up, and since you are in costume, no one will expect you to do well!" That year, Team Mario Party was formed. Dave dressed as Mario, Joel was Luigi, and I dressed as Wario. I raced on my '95 Stumpjumper, and while I wasn't DFL, I was pretty close to it finishing 105/110 that year. While my results weren't great, I was officially hooked on cross. 

Team Mario Party circa 2009 (check out Todd in the background)
The following year we decided to bring back Team Mario Party, and I upgraded from duct tape suspenders to real ones, got a cx bike, and lost 20 pounds. The team also grew, we had two Toads, and another Mario. Even with a mechanical, I placed a lot better that year finishing 41/131 in the Cat 4 race.
2010: Where are the red turtle shells when you need them?

Flash forward to 2011. After taking the prior weekend off, missing the Down East races in Maine, I was getting antsy to race. I had gotten in some good training, and was feeling well rested. The weather reports were ominous, with a nor'easter moving in predicted to dump rain/snow on New England. I had never experienced a wet course at Canton, and was rather excited to see how bad the conditions would get. With the expected cold weather, the return of Team Mario Party was questionable, but I decided to a show up as Wario anyway. Doing the 3/4 race was nice, since I didn't even have to leave my house until 11, to make it in time. I was able to get in an inspection lap, and was happy to see some minor changes, that made the course even more fun, as well as a tad safer. They eliminated the 90 degree left "sketchy turn" from the grass onto pavement, and changed the approach to the traditional run up, making it much more ride-able. They also decided to stage by crossresults points this year, avoiding the scrum that develops when you let large fields stage themselves. We had just under a hundred guys line up for the race, with only a few people in costume. Besides my Wario, there was a toilet(check out Chip's blog on this), a cop, a guy in a cape, and an octopus. Not many costumes, I guess 3/4 is serious business.

I lined up 5th row next to my recently upgraded friend John Barry, who has been doing great racing for the Bicycle Bill's team. Somehow one of the 4's was staged right in front of me, which didn't turn out well for me, since he missed his pedal on the start. I saw John power away, as I made my way around. I fought my way up through the pack as we crested the paved starting straight, and cooked it through the turn onto the double track road. It was a little crazy in the back field, with guys flying through the course tape on one of the first turns, broken chains, and crashes all before we got to the first set of barriers. I somehow managed to make it through unscathed, and avoided killing myself when I bunny hopped the log. I backed off the guy in front of me before hitting the ride-up, just in case he bobbled, which he did. I was able to squeak by, gapping him, and the guys behind me who got stuck. Shortly after starting the second lap, Uri caught me, and we proceeded to duke it out . I was able to ride a very clean race, through the next two laps, picking up time on Uri by bunny hopping the log each time, when he ran it. He would catch back on by the time we hit the track, but I think he had to burn some matches to do it. While I was racing hard, I tried to have fun, doing the Wario cackle/laugh when people cheered for me. I would also make the Mario Bros. jumping sound every time I went over a barrier.

Speed Boost!
In the last two laps, things got REAL. It started raining/sleeting, and the winds picked up considerably. The previously tacky sections became very slick, and guys were hitting the deck everywhere. I sought out the grass along the edges, which allowed me to put down more power, especially exiting the turns. I could see my nemesis Conor from Geekhouse, and John both within reach as I hit the top of the run-up. Uri was still on my tail, and John was about 25 yards ahead of me, when he almost got taken out by a tent that blew onto the course. Needless to say everyone was a little surprised by the new obstacle. I was able to close with John, and made a pass, setting my sights on Conor. With half a lap to go, Conor slid out through a particularly tight section, and I was able to get by him. At this point I just wanted to stay upright, and concentrated on negotiating the last few turns. I pushed too hard as I hit the track for the last time, and felt my calf cramp. I quickly stretched it out, and tried to get the power back on. This let John get back to me. Coming out of the last set of barriers, I knew that John was right on my tail, and gambled on trying to gap him with an early sprint. I thought I had him, but he flew by me so fast in the last 10 yards, that I could have sworn he used my suspenders to slingshot by. Overall though, I had a great race, finishing 29/84. 
Post race with John and Conor

The Good:
-Rode clean.
-Hopped the small log.
-Didn't injure myself in anyway.
-Raced in a costume, and beat folks.

The Bad:
-Got outsprinted.
-Wario was lonely without his Nintendo friends.

I look even shorter next to John.


  1. Abel- nice race recap! Loved reading the history on Team Mario Party!

  2. Awesome, awesome post! Abel you are my freaking hero! I love your enthusiasm and attitude and love of cross. You are killing it! Great job my friend!