Wednesday, December 21, 2011

NE Regional Championships

Last year I attended both days of the inaugural NE Regional Championships. I had a good time, despite the field sizes being low, and the temperatures being even lower. I was happy to see that more people were pre-registered for this year's edition of the races, even if it meant that I wouldn't get an "attrition" podium in the SS race. I didn't really have very high hopes for the Cat.3 race. While only 70 guys were signed up, at least 45 of them were listed as faster than me according to points.

The course was pretty much the same as last year. It was pretty flat, but far from boring. I was happy to see the "spiral" feature was back, along with the much used flyover from the MRC and Weasel races. The sandpit was loose and much more of a challenge this year, especially during Saturday's races before a line was packed out. There were two sets of barriers, one low for hopping, and one taller than normal set. The ride up back in the wooded section felt a lot less sketchy than last year, since the pavement at the top wasn't covered in ice. Overall the course was very fast, but there were plenty of turns, and little technical off camber sections throughout the course, to keep you on your toes.

Saturday I was signed up for the Men's SS open. Knowing that the course was pretty flat, I debated putting on a smaller cog. In the end laziness won out, and I stuck with a 36 x 16 gearing. There were only 18 of us signed up, but we were also racing with the 15-18 junior boys on their geared bikes. The juniors were given a 2 minute head start on us, which left me wondering how many laps it would be before one them lapped me. The call ups for my field were by the Zanconato SS series points first, which put me in my only front row start of the season. Todd and I were joking that neither of us felt like we belonged in the front. I figured that it would take about half a lap before I squandered my starting position, and let one of the faster guys behind me get by.
Front row of the Men's SS Open.    Photo: Mike McCabe
The juniors went off, and the 2 minutes before we got our starting whistle seemed like an eternity when I thought of how far ahead of us the juniors were getting. It was a clean start, and knowing that I wouldn't be able to hang with the lead group for long, I settled into a comfortable pace for me. This had me in about 6th positoin. The lead group jumped off the front immediately after the spiral section, but got slowed down by a crash at the sandpit. They were still in view as we hit the tall barriers, but steadily pulled away through the rest of the first lap. I lost a few places sliding back into 11th as a few guys got by me: This included the hairier of the Durrin's, Tim, Jerry Chabot from the team, and the same Team Psycho rider who lapped me on a Surly Pugsly at my first Ice Weasels. I did my best to latch onto Jerry as he came around me, shamelessly sucking his wheel through the finish straight.

Spiral of Doom!     Photo: Mike McCabe

Jerry kept trying to shed me at every opportunity, but I was able to close down any gaps. In the mean time, Brad from Geekhouse, Brian from SLIJK, and my cross clash nemesis Mark Bernard from HUP were closing with us. Jerry and I both drilled it through the paved section, and opened up the gap through the turns on the baseball field. This also got us back up the the Team Psycho rider, who Jerry got by before the flyover, but I was stuck behind. I made my move at the short barriers, passing on the run, and getting a small gap by the time we exited the spiral. By this time, Jerry had gotten about a 10 second gap on me. I was never able to bring him back, through the last lap, and came through the finish solo in 9th. The juniors had been flying, but I never got lapped, in fact I actually caught 6 of them through the race.  It was a great finish to my single speed campaign, and gives me hope for doing even better next season. In fact, it would be great to try racing SS at nationals for 2013.


I picked up my friend Susan early in the morning, and we made our way out to the venue. It was to be her second race ever, and her first on her new cyclocross bike. She was excited to race, and I was just as excited for her. We watched some of the men's Cat. 4 race, before we headed over to registration to grab our numbers, and get out of the cold for a bit. We ran into Cait, who was having a skinsuit zipper malfunction, which she solved with a multitude of safety pins. After a quick course inspection with Susan, it was time for her to line up. I planned on cruising around the perimeter of the course to cheer on the Susan and the rest of the women's 3/4 field, instead of actually warming up.

Velogremlin at the barriers! 
Susan did really well, and met her goal of not being DFL, but got lapped right at the end by one of the super speedy juniors. Cait pulled off the victory in the 3/4! Not only is Cait fast, she is also much tougher than I am. She did the race in 20 degree weather with no gloves. 

My race was up next, so I quickly gave Susan the car keys, and her jacket so she could go warm up. I then headed over to line up, in what was the biggest field of the day at 60 riders. Crossresults had me staged in 41st. My goal was to try and make it into the top 30. I had a decent start, and was about 30th overall, as we headed into the sand pit for the first time. There was a crash just ahead of me, that I was able to run around, and picking up several spots as more people got caught in it. I was running about 25th as I came to through the smaller set of barriers, but ended up crashing with  CJ. I didn't realize that he was bunny hopping them right behind me, and I must have drifted in front of him as I was remounting. Neither of us were seriously hurt, but I found out after the race that CJ busted his rear shifter, which I felt terrible about. Thom Parsons took a nice video of the race, and the crash(at 1:07) which can be found here, on 

The crash allowed several people to get by, including my friends Jon Barry, and Mark Bernard, which I then spent most of the race trying to chase down. I had a pretty good handle on the course by this point, and knew which lines to take, which helped me bring back a number of riders. Unfortunately for me, both Jon and Mark were flying, and I was never able to catch them. In the last lap, I caught one of the MIT riders right before the last little 180 that led onto the off camber section, before the finish straight. I played it well, big ringing the offcamber, and sticking his wheel, before making a good jump with 30 yards to go. I really like sprint finishes, even if mine are not for a podium spot. I met my goal for the race, and finished in the top 30, 28th overall. 

Post Race Observations:
The Good
-Raced hard both days, and minus the crash with CJ, kept it upright.
-Met my race goals.
-Had a lot of fun.
-Saw my friend Susan have a lot of fun, in her second race ever.
-Cait won a Christmas tree jersey.

The Bad
-The combination of the sun, cold, dry air, and dust screwed up my eyeballs for days. They felt like they had been sandblasted.
-Being so tired on day 2, I didn't even have enough energy to drink a beer.

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