Having missed all of last season with my shoulder/ribs/lung injuries/accident, I was pretty stoked to try my legs at the 2011 cyclocross season. I have been waiting two years now to compete again at my favorite cycling discipline, and the anticipation of September 4th, the first cross race of the season, has been building.
My goal last year was to head into the first event and win the Cat.3/4 race, plain and simple. I thought my form was excellent and my confidence high last year, but a nasty right hander on a rural road descent had other ideas, and I was forced to miss the whole season laid up in bed. Fast forward one year, two surgeries, and a bunch more time spent on my CX bike, throw in a cross specific clinic with Aaron Schooler on Saturday, the day before at Queen Elizabeth Park, and you have a good build up for Sunday.
After spending all day with Aaron and 6 other guys doing 6 hours of drills, everything from dismounts, remounts, barriers, starts, bunny hopping, shouldering, off camber cornering, and 180 turns, the 7 of us were sunburned, hot, dry, and I was looking forward to using these skills on the race course the next day.
My typical pre-race meal of oatmeal, a glass of water, and a banana seemed to set me up as usual, but the night before at Slackjawjake's house had me eating two smokies and a scotch. Not ideal for a dinner the night before, but that was what he was serving.
I arrived at the farm just after 10, grabbed my bike for a preride and managed about 3 laps before the start of the Cat.3/4 race. With the changes to the catagories, this year my race time is changed to 12:00, and I race in the Master's 3/4. 15 points brings an upgrade to Master's 1/2. The course was just as I had remembered it: A fast start finish area for about 800 meters, bumpy turny double track, leading into the barriers, some dipsy-do turns, a steep run up for 40 meters into singletrack switchbacks with climb until the descent over rooty technical trail, a tight 180 into fast, bumpy, doubletrack with a left into the maze section, popping us out onto a hill leading us back to the start finish. The course was just over 2.7 kms. No real changes from 2009, save for the maze that had been created in the grove of trees. It was here that I attempted to run the maze, but after talking to Schooler, he suggested that running might take up too much energy for the amount of time one might gain. I told him I would try it anyway.
With preregistering, I thought I would get a front row call up. Because I signed in late, I managed 2nd row. Not bad, but first row would have been nice.
With Cyclocross, a good start is important for getting out to the front and of the way of traffic, and staying safe. Also, it is key to go as hard as you can, and then harder on the next lap, each lap piling on the hurt and being a sufferfest for the duration. If you lose contact with the front off of the gun, the race can be lost on the first lap as the exertion level is supremely high, and seems to just go up.
The first lap was fast--very fast as I tried to get to the front as quickly as possible to avoid a pile-up or eating dust for the rest of the race. Literally, eating dust kicked up from all the guys in front on a hot, dry day. Things went well with me in third behind Alex Cojacaru and Jeff Haninnen, as I yelled at Jeff to keep up the pace. The run up was long, but short steps and even steady pacing kept my legs and heart in check. By lap three, it was all but Alex, a steed cycles rider whom I do not know, and myself. Steed was tailing up for third, and Alex and I would battle the 45 minutes for first. Alex was running the maze, I stayed behind him on all of my laps but for lap for, when I tried to run it once.
On lap five, I managed to take the lead, and saw the 3 to go sign on the lap counter. With 2 to go, Steed was still there but fading, and Tyler Dumont had managed to pick his way through the pack from 6 row start to make it up to fight for 3 place.
This worried me. I did not want the very fast Tyler Dumont riding with Alex and I due to the fact that 1: I wanted to keep this party a two person show, 2: Adding another bike to the mix could "help"me finish as high as third, and 3: I was worried about losing a sprint to either two guys.
When the 1 to go sign showed up, Alex and I threw it down, not drafting off of each other on the doubletrack road after the start finish, but chosing our own lines, Alex on the bumpier right, and me on the left. I yelled at him to keep the pace high as we had daylight from Tyler. I pushed as hard as I could, and he pulled ahead of me before the barriers.I tried to rationalize this as "Second wheel is the best place to be coming into the finish", and attempted to pass him on the run up, running even with him, and then backing off. as we hit the top of the run-up. We singletracked it along for a while and he cooked the 180 degree corner before the descent wide, giving me plenty of room to pass him, but I did not take it. On the doubletrack into the maze, I managed to big ring it and pass him, getting to the corner first, and riding the maze. On the second to last switchback in the maze, I heard trouble coming from his bike, and then nothing. He had dropped his chain!
Hearing nothing behind me, I flew as hard as I could to the finish line. With 200 to go, I turned and looked behind to see nobody coming. I sat up, fists in the air, let out a yell of "Yes" or something like it, and felt good. Tyler Dumont rolled in a bit after me. He managed to take 2nd. Alex dropped to 4th in the last 400 meters. Unlucky.
First race, first win of the season. A very good feeling to come across the line first. It only took me a year to achieve my goal of winning Aldor Acres. I now have 8 points now, and am 7 away from moving to the dreaded Masters 1/2 catagory, where I might get shelled. Perhaps it is where I should be? I will find out with a couple of results from New Brighton on the 25th.
Funny how in some races when things are going badly, you hope for an opportunity, a mechanical for sometimes yourself, or for your competition. Today when it came for Alex, I felt bad for him to race as well as he did, and then to have it lost in the last 400 meters. I felt elation to fly to the finish alone. I have been that guy in a race, flatting, dropping chains, or whatever. That is bike racing, and preparation of your bike and body are key. It seems that my bike was tip top. Next time I think I will not have Slackjaw Jake give me a prerace meal. Or maybe he knows the secret?
CX Magazine's Race Report.
Full results: http://www.teamhrblock.ca/updates/2011/langley_cx_race_results.shtml
No pictures were taken of my win. Boooooo! But I will include a picture of my first win, one that happened 2 years before this one, in 2009, on a cold, wet, dark day.