Sunday, 16 September 2012

Movin' on up or How I learned to race well in Masters 3/4 and DFL in BC CUP #1 M 1/2

Looking like I am having fun, off camber and all. Photo Credit: Doug Brons 
Yesterday was a beautiful day for a CX race and a great time to meet up with some old friends, teammates, and fellow cross racers from the last few years. We all take this seriously, but enjoy cyclocross enough for what it is: fun. However, there are a few things that would have made it better. We can  look at those in my race report card for the Abby CX a bit later. First, let's talk about what it is like to race in a new category.

Due to the MYM 50, I had to miss the first CX race of the season at Aldor Acres. I am not at all upset about that, however, getting to race cross is something I love (as stated in my last post), and today came with some high expectations for myself, and not enough gas in the tank to meet said expectations.

Now I know that the big boys race fast. I have raced many of them in years past, and fancy myself an able CX racer. It took me a couple of years to understand CX at the Men's 3/4 level, a year off in 2010 with a shoulder injury, and last year racing at the front of the Master 3/4 cat. Those 3 years of racing taught me very much. I remember what it was like to start racing CX back in 2008, and it feels like that all over again in the M 1/2 catagory. My second ever cross race in Crescent Park resulted in me finishing close to DFL. Tyler Dumont and I feel pretty much the same way from this one, after comparing notes. The 1/2 catagory is fast and we don't want to be last.
Me and Tyler, before the race. Enjoying each other's company and growing tumors from the power lines.
But now, the education starts again if I would like to get quicker. I remember all the things that are needed to put together a strong placing in a cyclocross race: Have a fast start, try to crack the race open from the gun, hammer for a good 13-17 minutes, back off a bit, pedal out of the corners, hammer the straights, then build up the rest of the race with a flourish at the finish. That is how I like to finish--digging so deep that my eyes are rolling in my skull, and I am seeing purple spots for a while. If this is the case, I am happy with my effort, and my effort will usually read 181 BPM average for the race. The placing? Well, I am now used to higher placings from my previous catagory--top tens and top fives.

HR was dropping out as the race progressed. Usually I stay consistent. Not today.

Which is why this year, I am happy to try my luck in Master's 1/2. The new level will test me against the fastest of the local guys 30+, and hopefully I will improve my riding and fitness for racing against them. Today had to be one of the toughest races I have attempted, and the toughest course I have ever done.

The race was tough for a couple of reasons: I had zero in my start, my legs just had no get up and go in them. Dave Neubeck suggested that is in part due to the 50 miler, which I may tend to agree with. My old buddy from the neighborhood in Kamloops, Ryan Kazakoff (*who rolled his tubular and DNF'ed, something I think he has never done before ever, as he was supremely disappointed in himself from what I could see--take heart buddy, these races are tough!) came down for the race--great to see him, and he asked me if I had recovered from it. At time this AM, I told him that I thought I had. I really did not think that the 50mi run would play into this race 2 weeks later. Honestly, I feel pretty darn recovered from it.

But starting the race, I realized that this course would be curtains for me right from the gun. The whistle blew,  I settled in to a mule train of other masters riders, and then proceeded to go backwards, pooped right out the back of the race within the first lap. 3 laps in, I managed to get passed by Elite rider Kevin Calhoun, and a little while later the head of our race, Bob "Lovely Lady" Welbourn (*I held the course tape for him to cross in warm-up. He called me a gentleman, I replied "Anything for a lovely lady". He fingered me. We laughed about it), caught and lapped me. Secretly I had prayed for this to happen because I wanted to be out of this race sooner than I could finish all of the laps--that is how much I loved it.

I know what type of cross racer I am. Mud Pits, tall grass, deep gravel, overhead power lines--I hate. Rain, climbs, running sections, dust, twisty stuff, off camber, fast lines and straights--I love. Today had all that I hate, so naturally, I guess one is supposed to practice their weaknesses.

And suck I did. The whole race. I threw in the towel around lap seven or so, trying to ride with some fire in me belly, but really I just wanted it to end. The race was over for me early on, even though I still fought it out to the finish. I can't say that there is anything more notable from the race to mention.

I was DFL of the finishers. CBC messed up and I was behind Tyler. Also, Kaz did not start this race, he DNF'd in 3/4.

So now the work begins. Intervals. Lots of them. More racing. Less brakes. Faster cornering. All the things that I tried to do to other racers in 3/4, were done to me in yesterday's race. Chapeau, fellow riders. Hopefully it does not take me 3 years to be a contender in M1/2.

Shout outs go to Doug Brons--dude, you are amazing, Scott Sportsman for his single speed effort, Bob Welbourn and Kevin Calhoun for lapping me (Kevin did it twice he was in a class all his own), Paul Craig and the Local Ride hooligans for heckling me with chants of "Fred Flintstone" on the demi-run up, and most proudly to my brother, who beat everyone in M3/4 save for John "The Beast" Irvine. 2nd place is pretty good for your fourth CX race ever AW!! Very happy for that one.

Broder Aaron on his way to 2nd in M3/4. Doug Brons Photo
Check out the fine work of Doug Brons here:

Abby CX course/race report card: 

Cycling BC tried their hand at organizing this race, and yes, they succeeded in making a challenging course, one that tested our ability to:

One: ride technically challenging terrain in the form of potholed tall grass along with everybody's favorite, a  BC Hydro service with road soft, deep gravel. The weather was HOT, and the course was dry and dusty.

Two: test our abilities to fend off the development of the possibility of getting cancer later in life by having us race under 500kv power lines. There is a reason that they do not/should not build houses underneath those things. DE team member Peter Holzuter DNS'ed the race because of his heart condition, and the danger of racing under those lines. I do not blame him at all for that call. It just sucks that he made the trip from Kamloops, to then pull the pin after looking at the course and those power lines.

These two made the course nearly dangerous. I joked that I should have brought my full suspension for this race. Perhaps that would have been a good thing on this one.  A lead suit would have probably helped as well to shield from the carcinogens and electro-magnetic field.

I experience it everyday on my commute to work: when riding underneath those lines, I cannot touch any metal part of my bike with my body or hands (thank goodness for carbon-soled shoes). When I do, my hands can feel the shock, and when seated, I get shocked between my thighs (hubba-hubba). It freaks me out. And I felt that today, too, on the course. The electric shock in my legs racing under the power lines when my inner thigh touched my Race Face Deus seat clamp. It is especially bad when there is moisture in the air, or rain, which is most of the year for my commute. Not healthy.

Along with a shorter than normal 1.98km course, the fact that:

  • The role call (not call ups, because CBC did not want to use last season's BC Cup points tally) was a mess, 
  • The results at the end were wrong in many categories listing riders who had gotten lapped as podium finishers (In Masters 3/4--my brother Aaron came 2nd, and he was listed as 3rd. A challenge on that resulted in him taking his rightful place), 
  • A lack of porta-potties within a reasonable distance to the race course, 
  • Poor/ Lack of communication regarding parking, team tent areas, on the Cycling BC website, or elsewhere
  • No race announcing, music, or PA system
  • Length of the race (we were told it was 45 mins for M1/2, and they had us racing for an hour) and proper start times (an inconsistency on the CCN website and the confirmation that they send out with the receipt confirming your registration and payment--was it 11:15 or 12:15? We did not know until the day of)
Organizing a race is not an easy thing to do, and thanks to Cycling BC we had a race yesterday. But it was a disappointment. Add everything up, and this one is a C- or D, considering all of the other courses and settings we have been treated to over the years. The next two at Vanier and New Brighton are arguably the two most scenic races in the lower mainland. We are spoiled with those two. It makes me wonder, why did they even bother? What was in it for them?

The consensus among the racers is that Cycling BC does not support CX or mountain biking. And the general feeling in talking to the racers is one of dissatisfaction, to be polite, about the direction and attitude Cycling BC has taken towards supporting some of the cycling discipline in this province. The CX race calendar was not even published on the Cycling BC website until sometime in August. REALLY?!!? C'mon guys, get it together. It has been better in the past. What gives? We have a national championships cyclocross event coming up in November that needs to be a strongly supported event.

We can see the success of the Cross on the Rock, and by next year, Vancouver Super-Prestige will be in full swing to take over all of the organization to perhaps leave Cycling BC out of it all together. We have enough clubs and CX enthusiasts as it is to make a go of it. How can Seattle and Portland draw up to 10 times the participants that we in Canada can. Perhaps I just answered my own question--we are in Canada. But it does not have to be this way.
Many of the mountain bike and running races I have been to have had better organization of much more participants, and more atmosphere than this race. Perhaps I need to start announcing for all the Lower Mainland cyclocross season. I bet I could drum up some atmosphere.

At lease the day ended better than the race. Even if I was still the lantern rouge within my family.