Monday, 26 September 2011

New Brighton Cyclocross 2011: An epic (failure) day in the rain and wind.

CX is many things: joyful, a great workout, extremely fun, hard as all get out, and sometimes disappointing. To win, you have to prepare properly with training and equipment, make some moves at the right time, be a bit lucky, stay upright, and stay out of trouble.

This was the second race of the CX season in the lower mainland/ metro Vancouver area. New Brighton park in Vancouver is a beautiful little gem that seems to be set aside exactly for cyclocross racing. I imagine that this is what CX racing in Belgium would be like. The course this year was outstanding: many 180 degree turns, 2 sand pit, some steep run/ride ups, a bit of pavement, and plenty of wet, off camber grass. 3 laps of the course on my preride, and I thought that I could figure out how to be quick enough for the day.

Being the first to be called up today based on my last result, I wanted to grab the holeshot and stay safe on the first corner and remaining 300 meters until past the barriers. Then, I thought, I could manage to find a small group including Tyler Dumont to work with to do damage on the field of riders. The field today was huge--8 rows of 6 across--nearly 50 guys in the masters 3/4 catagory.

Grabbing the holeshot. Photo credit: Dustan Sept.

Yet for all my preparation, grabbing the holeshot, being passed by Tony Bachler and Alex Cojacaru, I rationalized that 3rd wheel was fine on the pavement. It clearly was not.

Alex went and decked it on the first ride up 400 meters into the race. With a washed out front end, he went down hard. I was forced  to ride over him. Tony took off like a shot, while I de-tangled my bike from Alex's, and everyone came to a grinding halt. A bit too aggressive of a start, a bit overzealous on the part of my fellow racers to take a chance before we could get out of the danger zone. As I remounted, I heard a "fwuumping" from my tires. I thought that it was my brakes rubbing on the wheel (which it was, but more on the blow sidewall bead side of things), so I thought I could ride it out. Until I hit the sand.

In second after the crash. Dustan Sept photo credit.

What happens next was deja vu from 2009--BANG!!--the exact place in the race that I had the exact same blowout. This forced me to run the remaining half lap to the pits for a change. When it blew, I thought to myself "the poor bastard whose tire just blew--that's gotta suck". Until I reached around and checked my own tire, only to realize the dreaded truth. '
               How not to win a cross race: blow out the folding bead.

Not even one lap in. Less than 3 minutes into the race, my chances for another win were over. I had a great week of training, my bike prep was sound, but my fatal flaw (besides not being able to afford clinchers), was dropping my tire psi down below 40 right before the race to get a bit more traction for the wet course. 35-37 psi just does not cut the mustard for a guy my size at 6'3 and 180 lbs, and from now on, regardless of conditions, I will push 40 plus. You would think that I would learn? This is the 3rd race that this has happened, 2nd with the exact same bead blowout at New Brighton. Going from 1st to DFL again sucks. I managed to pick off a number of guys and end up 22nd. Not a bad number I must say, as it is my favourite. But just not a great placing in a cross race. Not really in any race.

It is uncanny to me how history repeats itself. I have seen this episode before, and it ends badly. Not to say that New Brighton was not epic--today was a mutha of a CX day--howling wind, blowing, pelting rain,  yet lovely warm temperatures in the mid teens. I dig the wet, mud, and wet, but please mother nature, keep the temperature at a balmy 16 degrees for the rest of the season. In 2009, I had the fortune to get around a crash and have a 2011 Tony Bachler-esque style of day, riding off the front alone for a lap and a half, until I flatted, went to DFL, watched Nic Hamilton ride off to victory, while I fought back for 16th. Today the disappointment was only 2 minutes into the race.

On a side note, I decided to run the sand every time. This was slower, but watching other riders painfully make their way across it gave me hope that I was doing the right thing. I was approaching a female rider, Alison Beamish,  as she struggled through the sand until I saw her come to a dead stall, and fall over into me and my bike as I passed her. She did not dismount when she could have, and ended up smacking my elbow pretty good, and catching my pedal in her back. I yelled out a loud word of pain and frustration (you can figure that one out). She approached me at the end of the race and told me about the mishap, and offered up "no hard feelings". She was pleasant, perhaps nervous talking to me, thinking that I would lash out for the lack of power in the sand. I told her it was cross racing, and that in the grand scheme of things, it is just for fun. No need to get all broken up about it. Which is true. All is fair in cross and war, I guess. It is a bike race, not child-rearing, or anything else with any major consequence to life. We are racing in BC, and not Europe. BC cross scene is still in its infancy. Perhaps even in it's conception. I hope her back is alright from my pedal. I will see about my elbow tomorrow.

After my blowout and the lead way out of reach, I thought of pulling the pin on the race, but decided to finish the race simply because of the level of exertion and stress that CX racing put on a racer. I cannot simulate what today was like in any type of training ride. I am happy to have finished, clawing my way back nearly 30 spaces.

Next week is Vanier. I had a great race at Vanier in 2009 on a double weekend, racing with Dave Broemling for the first 3 laps off the front, then being passed by Tim Abercrombie, eventually settling for 6 in losing  a sprint finish to Brian Postlethwaite. I hope that next week with be a better result, as I remember having "a stomach full of anger" after New Brighton. Perhaps I will have my revenge for this week's race at Vanier....then again, it is only a bike race. As much as I make this a big part of my life, it really is just fun.

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