Thursday, November 24, 2011

BRC Cyclocross at Shedd Park

I returned to Shedd Park, to redeem my DNF there last season. I had a terrific start last year in the Cat. 4 race, making the lead group, before cutting my tire on a piece of glass shortly after entering the woods. I found myself standing off to the side of the course as I watched 140 guys ride by me, half of them asking what happened. With no wheels in the pit, I pulled out of the race. This year, I made sure to bring an extra wheel set to put in the pits, and planned on finishing even if I had to run the entire course.

On the surface, the course looks like it is pretty well balanced, with some tight turns and loose technical sections, but very little of the course requires much slowing down to negotiate it. This of course benefits those who can generate some serious watts. With most of my watts being of the mustache variety, I would not say that is really suits my riding style. I can make quick accelerations and nice short bursts of power, but I really need places to recover. Shedd Park does not allow for much recovery at any point on the course. This place is still a lot of fun to ride though, with the two big ride up/ run ups attracting good size crowds to encourage/heckle the riders as they go anaerobic. 

I arrived early, to hang out with all my favorite NECX folks. This was the unveiling of the new HUP United Deathstar tent, by Chip and crew. They were set up right next to Andy, and the Wheelworks/NEACX crew. Both groups were kind enough to let me use their area as my home base for the day. Andy was making waffles, but told me that the officials had outlawed waffle hand-ups for the day. I don't think that the waffles could really be seen as a performance enhancer. I was a little miffed, since taking hand ups was part of my ill-advised nutrition plan for the day.

Chip Baker, floating up the hill.
With my race being the last of the day, I had plenty of time to watch the other races. BRC made the unusual, but pretty cool decision to run the Pro/1/2//3 race midday. This allowed me to watch Dylan McNicholas ride away from the field. He was so far ahead near the end, that he was appeasing the crowd at the big hill, by doing wheelies up it. Someone really needs to send this guy to some USGP races.

McNicholas with the wheelie ascent.

The women's race was a combined field, with the Pro/1/2/3, and 3/4's going off with a one minute delay between them. It was another great day for Ladies First with Crystal Anthony taking the win, and Andrea Smith in second. I saw some great stuff happening out on the course. Lodrina sprinting up the hill faster than I could even imagine going down it. Andrea Smith smiling, and encouraging the beginner women as she lapped them. There were even some encouraging ass-slaps from the likes of Cait Dooley. You really can't say enough good things about the women of the NECX scene.

I lined up with the 88 other guys in the 3/4 men's field. The 15-18 juniors were going to get a one minute head start on us, not that the little whippersnappers really needed it. Lining up in the 4th row, I had Matt and Mark, two of my Cross-Clash friends close by. Having been here before, I was well aware of the carnage that would likely occur rounding the tree at the first choke point. Wanting to avoid treemageddon, I made a point of going hard as we made a "parade" lap around the track. I got through the first choke point clean, and drilled it finding myself chasing Jon Barry of Bicycle Bill's. I was sticking to his wheel well through the first climb, and upper section of the course. My plan was to try passing him on the second hill. Things were looking good, until I overcooked one of the loose 180's on the descent, and launched myself over my bars. I bounced back up immediately only losing one spot, but Jon got away from me. I passed several people on the second hill, and made good time through the wooded section, which was very dry and fast. I picked a few more guys off on the track, and found myself somewhere around 22nd overall. 
Mark, about to even up our Cross-clash. Photo credit: Ernest Gagnon

I held my position well through the next two laps, making attacks on the hills. Eventually my former teammate PJ caught me, and made a pass on the track. I stuck to him as long as I could, but I eventually saw his new Cyclocrossworld skinsuit pull away from me after my right calf started cramping. I think that racing single speed at Velocross the day before had something to do with this. I tried stretching it out while on the bike, and not overdoing it, but behind me a large group was closing fast. I knew Mark was in the group, so I tried putting down some more power. This was a BIG mistake on my part. When you are cramping, because you are an idiot and didn't take in enough fluids pre-race, pushing yourself even harder will have consequences. With 1 lap to go, I found my other calf seizing up as well. I got it to stop briefly, but then both of them cramped at once, just before the barriers. I'm not sure what the people watching near the barriers must have thought, as they saw me reaching over and punching myself in the calves, all the while telling them to shut up and go. As I limped over the barriers, the group of 8 guys chasing me went by. I saw Mark riding off, but had no way to answer it. I soft pedaled my way over to the first hill, and pulled out some serious mustache watts to ride it. I pulled out the watts again to get over the second hill,  even picking up a spot in the process. David Chiu, caught me as I headed into the woods, and gapped me through the long straight section. I slowly started to reel him in as I came off the sidewalk, and he came in contact with his Ride Studio teammate Oscar. I overcooked the very last turn, almost hitting the stake, letting an NBX rider squeak by me. I wound up what little sprinting energy I had left, catching Oscar on the track, but I couldn't get the NBX rider or David. 

After spending most of my race placed in the low 20's,  I finished 30/88. While I know I should have done better, I learned a lot about how hard my body can be pushed. I'm happy with my ride overall, and feel like I am still getting faster. Post race, Steve tweeted,"Going to claim @bikeabel as the #NECX cat 3 grim reaper. Mustache+Movember=watts". I think this is a good thing? 

Post Race Observations
The Good:
-Another good start.
-Dominated on the hills.
-Generated good power on the track.

The Bad:
-Crashed myself on the first lap.
-Too timid in the loose section post crash.
-Did not properly hydrate before the race, and suffered for it.
-Waffle hand ups were verboten.

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