Tuesday, 23 October 2012

BC Cyclocross Championships 2012: CX at it's finest!

Doug captures me looking like a giant on a children's bike.
2012 BC CX Champs, Mahon Park. Photo: Doug Brons

Yesterday was the 2012 BC Cyclocross Championships presented by Atomic Racing at Mahon Park in North Vancouver. Much like last year, the course was nearly the same, save for some minor changes. Key features remained: the infamous mud pit, the three sets of stairs, the gravel soccer infield. Jeff Van Mulligan and Atomic racing put on a fabulous race, again, one that lives up to being a true cyclocross event, and not the smokin' fast dirt crits that we have seen at all the races to this point in the lower mainland.

The Flanders CX gods have not been particularly warm to me this cyclocross race season. A sub par dismal showing yesterday has me re-assessing my situation to this point, halfway into the race calendar. Perhaps I am tempting them with my adulterous ways, always flirting with distance running and neglecting to get on my bike. Perhaps they are trying to teach me a lesson about my late night ways, and lack of early weeknight bedtimes and before the crack of dawn trail runs. Or maybe I am being punished for buying a second bike, and not keeping my bikefit an exact replica of my old steed from last season. Whatever the case, this season is going down as a forgettable racing year, and I am only 4 races into it, and have another 4 to go. Maybe I am being to hard on myself. Things can turn around, right? I suppose I can fool myself into believing that, but at this point, it is all I have to hold on to.

Those same cyclocross gods whom have bestowed the bad karma on my race season gifted us a very cold wet raceday to behold. One where the winner would more than earning their victory and be crowned with the title of provincial champion after coming out on top of the field in sloppy, mucky conditions.

Somehow, I managed to earn myself a front row call up based on my early registration--I think I was one of the first people on the confirmation list. I looked around for Matt Drown who has had a much better season than me to see where he was, and I thought why wasn't he in front of me? This call up was a blessing and a curse--happy to line up with Jason Fluckiger, my brother Aaron, team manager Jeff Hanninen, Martin Bojesen* (--MB started third row), Mike McArthur, and Jamie Cameron, yet nervous to keep things together in the opening laps of the race. This race would also prove to be the first time that Aaron and I would go head to head in years. This race was a proving ground to show which brother would be the finer CX racer of the both of us.

Called up for the start, but it would not matter....
At the gun, again, like the last 3 races, my legs had no jam in them. My 6th place going into the first corner transformed into 10th, 14th, and 16th in the opening 18 minutes of the race. The huge mud puddles, slippery off camber grass turns and climbs, the sloppy mud hole on the backside of the course, along with the small amount of climbing that this course offered was enough to make me suck. I was ahead of Aaron for the first two laps, when he caught me and we stuck together for a while, until I had a slight mechanical coming out to the mud pit. My shoe ratchet came loose, forcing me to stop in the mud, tighten it a bit too much, then I had to loosen it off after a few pedal strokes. At this time, Aaron took off from me, calling for me to stay on his wheel. I dropped all the way back to 23nd place, into a battle with all around good guy and my former UBC team member from 1999, Niels Steiner. We traded punches in our own little provincial championship's race-within-a-race. Somewhere during my chase of Niels I took a bacon handup. WOW!! Highlight of the race. That was amazing. The taste of breakfast during a CX race lingered in my mouth for a few laps. It wasn't my own breakfast coming back up on me. Magical.

Aaron and Niels battling just in front of me.

Aaron making the catch, then subsequently passing me. 
Niels and I hung out together for the last 3 laps of 6. By lap 5, after the bacon, I ran out of brakes and had a tough time on any of the downhill sections of the course. With Salomon Flight Crew member Tom Craik quid pro quo-íng the heckling I dished out to him earlier in the day, and in front of other mud pit spectators, I careened into the left side fence post while letting out an "Oh S#it" howl, narrowly avoiding ending my day by slamming into it with my bike and body. I opted the next two laps to run it. It really came down to the last straight onto the finishing track stretch to the finish line. I managed to swing around him before the track, and sprint up to claim 22nd. A disappointing 22nd, after last years 12th place. Niels had a considerably higher placing last year, 10th place in 2011.

Martin, Chris, and Jason after the finish. Chris 1st, Martin 2nd, Jason 4th.
At the front of the race, 2011 Provincial CX Masters Champ Jamie Cameron had to settle for 3rd, behind the Kamloops crew, with Chris McNeil taking a sprint finish over Martin Bojesen. Again, that was a battle of shots with Chris hiding in wait while Martin and Jamie traded blows. Chris capitalized on a couple of timely mistakes, and rode a clean  (although this was a mudbath/mudwrestling) race to the win. My teammate Jason Fluckiger came 4th for the second year in a row. Great ride Jason!!

My number was not visible due to a crash and a the pins coming off of my jersey and my number flapping in the wind, so no lap times for me.

Post race, I met up with Dale Ewenchook and Rick Rodland, both very nice guys. Dale mentioned to me about his ride on Lummi island with one of my solid Saturday morning riding partners, Marko Diotte. Both Dale and Rick ride for Alliance, and bringing up Tyler Dumont was my way of meeting some more powerhouse riders. Dale managed to take the 50+ Championship race, gracefully, I might add. Thanks to Jeff Hanninen and the support of Daryl Evans Mechanical for making things go, huge ups to Jeff Van Mulligan and Atomic Racing for putting on a helluva race--hot showers and food = Respect! You guys did an awesome job, and thanks to the District of North Vancouver for letting us make some fun in your park--This is the best sport around, and without support from the municipalities, we do not have venues to race in like this.

What was left after the race. A thing of beauty. Photo: Jamie Cameron
So goes the CX season....

Some data from the race:

Things still are not where they should be. I can push my average higher....or I used to be able to.

So, after a bike wash, warm shower, and sandwich at Mahon Park, I came home to disassemble my crankset and BB to check out how much water had gotten into my frame. Pulling the cups out of the shell, a stream of chocolate-milk colored water poured out. I am pretty happy to have done that little bit of maintenance, and not at the end of the season, after riding in all the cold, wet weather we can expect to come. It would be a bit of a shock to have 400ml of dirtwater come out of the BB shell in a months time. I suppose that is what the drain holes are for, but they don't drain out everything.

Trying to find some mojo for me legs at the next race, I have already devised the perfect plan:

I have pushed my saddle forward 1cm.

Brilliant, eh?

I think that perhaps coming back to a more traditional fit that I had last year will help me feel more comfortable over the top tube, make me more efficient with my pedal stroke, bring me closer to the bars so that I am not hanging out so much over my rear wheel, and improve bike handling.

Balance over the bike. Time, and rides, will tell.

For now I have to ride.

Congrats to all the champions! Much deserved on this day. For the record:

Dale Ewenchook                50-59 Champion
Bob Welbourn                    40-49 Champion
Tyler Trace                         Elite Men's Champion
Sandra Walter                     Elite Women's Champion

Check out these beauty pics: Doug, Amir,