Sunday, 2 October 2011

Vanier Cyclocross 2011: The strongest/ smoothest man wins.

Me ascending the steps in third place, chasing. Graeme Joseph Photo Credit.

The 2011 Vanier CX race presented by Trek Red Truck/Steed Cycles/ West Coast Racing was held under sunny turning to overcast skies in the shadow of the Burrard Bridge. I attended the gala event for the Langley Lodge Saturday night with my brother in law, Sean, and thus thwarted my own plans for a lovely, restful, non-alcoholic beverage consuming evening. I still woke Sunday feeling pretty good after 8 hrs of sleep. Pre-race meal included 3 glasses of water and a cup of oatmeal, some energy candy, and a bottle of gatorade. Standard fare as per usual.

Each year the course at Vanier evolves. The year's start was consistent with previous years, but many of the 180 degree turns have changed slightly each year. Much of the race (perhaps 90%) is on grass, allowing for it to suit a rider who can generate a tonne of power. It undulates with little kickers and knolls here and there. New this year was the addition of 4 small railway ties placed about fifty feet before the stairs. This proved to slow me down, though I never needed to dismount to cross the ties. The last couple of days have been dry in the lower mainland, so it proved to be very, very fast. 

It was great to be called up first, not on points, but for being pro-active and registering before everyone else. The commisaire said that she did not have the list of upgade points, so those who had high placings in the previous two races were shut out for a prime start. I wanted to improve on my 24th place-flat tire finish from last week, and my 6th place finish at Vanier from 2009 when Brian Postlewaithe pipped me with 100m to go.

The field was HUGE, lined up 8 across and nearly 7 rows deep. This was something to behold. The Masters 3-4 catagory is a healthy catagory. Perhaps the weather and location had something to do with that today. Absent was Tyler Dumont, who finished 2nd in both Aldor Acres and New Brighton. With so many racers it meant that there was going to be traffic and congestion as it bottlenecked going into the stairs 200m in. 
With my front row call up, and the Cycling BC commisairre starting the race without a countdown, just simply a "GO!", I got caught with a poor clip in pulled in for sixth position on lap one. Tobin Copley, John Irvine, and a few other riders got in front of me as I pushed as hard as I could to get to the stairs with the front group. John was the quickest to the stairs, putting the beat down on everyone and riding solo off of the front from the gun. He was always within about 100 feet or so of me for the whole race, but tracking him down proved to be difficult.
It seemed like I was closing the gap on him, riding in second with a few riders in tow, until Simon Pulfrey from Steed Cycles caught up to me on perhaps Lap 4. I don't know where he started, but we all know who he is. He is the rider rocking the Santa Cruz Tallboy 29er Full Susser. And he can ride! I think today his ability to rail the corners with so much traction made a huge difference on that bike. Riding with him, I kept thinking probably what everyone was thinking--"don't let this guy get away--don't let him beat you," but he is just sooo strong. 

Simon Pulfrey (Steed Cycles) just over my left shoulder. I did not see him coming. Man, my arms are long!
The race for me came down to the last 2 laps. With  2 to go, I was with Simon when he made a move by the start finish. I rode with him for a short while until he gapped me. I saw him make the catch of John on the second to last lap. At this point, my goal was simply to go as hard as I could to make myself puke, drip snot rockets out of my nose, and foam at the mouth. I figured that this was the only way I was going to make up any ground on those two. Alas, I never did puke, nor did I catch Simon or John. 
This is where cyclocross became fear inducing. I did not want to lose the race, I wanted to win, naturally. I tried my damnedest to catch them. But when that seemed to be out of reach on the last lap, I began looking over my shoulder to see a hard charging Ryan Newsome of Local Ride Racing. Fear became the motivator to win 3rd place today. I could not catch the other two, and that getting caught by Ryan was going to be my reality if I didn't stomp the pedals. Ryan did not catch me, I would not let that happen. I managed to roll across the line for a 3rd place finish today. A tough course on a fast day with the largest field yet. 

Move data from Movescount. This is why I love CX. And Suunto.
Some raceday blunders: today I got wrapped up in the course tape on the top side by the museum parking lot on two different laps. I managed to get it under my bars and decided to show it who was boss, tearing that stuff right off of the stakes they were attached to. Also, I was not in the easier gears crossing the barriers on probably 4 laps, so remounting became a slow process to get myself back up to speed. Something that Schooler taught me, something that I should know/ remember, but pooched it numerous (perhaps 4 or 5) times today on the 180 hills and barriers.  It took me at least an extra 5 seconds to get back to top speed. Losing 20 seconds like that, and some of the course tape took their toll on my ability to catch John and Simon.
Just an average workout for me, really. I had extra mayo on my fries. That explains the high HR. 
Perhaps we should all be embarrassed to be beat by a dude rocking a 29'er. I suppose that the strongest rider won. Correction: the strongest rider did win. He was the fastest and smoothest, end of story. I doubt that I could ride that quickly on my hardtail. Simon seems like a really great guy after talking to him post race. If I were him, I would feel a sweet, smug satisfaction tonight. This win would be very gratifying. He rode like a star out there today. However, he is now officially marked for the upcoming races. I bet that many of the racers will not be letting him out of their sight.

I think I have to push a little harder in the heart rate department to get something more out of my blood pumping organ. Can I spell 194 bpm? I wonder if it is possible. Is that the key to winning? Nope. Is being smoother? Yep. Talking to Paul Berry of Spoke in Motion (Kamloops), he observed that very fact, just as I have stated in previous posts. Cross is about efficiency. I was not the smoothest today. Next week is another race, at Lions Park in Coquitlam. I placed 5th at that race in 09. Perhaps like today, I can move up 3 spots? 2nd sounds good, but it will be another hard battle. Glen Reitsma told me that I looked calm, composed, and smooth--totally contrary to to what I was feeling. It is funny how one can look like they got it all together on the outside, but on the inside they are losing their s**t. That is what cross was today.

3 races in, it is really cool to see the community that we are developing with CX that is unlike any other type of bike racing. Talking to Simon, John, Mike Berkenpas, Scott Sportsman, Tobin Copley, Niels Steiner, and many others riders from different teams is making this to be a super fun season. Knowing other racers and having a blast is one of the best things about cross. It is a hard go, but in order to grow it, we need to be as welcoming to each person we meet at these races. These are extreme-stress inducing races, but when all is said and done, it is great to hang out with so many people who love it.

Thanks to Sven Sturm, Mike Tunnah, Matt Klymson, Cycling BC, the City of Vancouver, and all the volunteers who executed a great race today. Very well done. CX is growing, and the hard work we all put in to supporting the local scene only helps.

Vanier: 3rd
New Brighton: 24th
Aldor Acres: 1st

Full Race Results
Find a picture of yourself at Daryl Evans Racing flickr site.
More pics by Graemej here.
ssportsman's race report and pics.