Monday, October 27, 2008

CFL, Jamestown, Coonamessett and Wrentham 'Cross

Now that the road race season has wound down, I have some free weekends to actually do some racing myself. So far I have done the Cycle for Life Crit at Ninigret (pass), the Eco-cross at Coonamessett Farm in Falmouth (pass), the Jamestown Road Race (abject failure), and the Minuteman Road Club's Wrentham 'cross race (pass, with a D). Note that I am using the pass/fail grading system developed by bikesnobnyc ( instead of the standard method of numeric placings as I gradually come out of retirement. Normally when I report from a race, it is with the detachment of a journalist, not from the point of view of a racer. However, if you will allow me to be a little bit self-indulgent and pretend that anyone cares:

The Cycle for Life crit was flat as a pancake so I was in my element. Being my first USCF race (not counting training races) in 12 years, my only goal was to finish. With 3 laps or so to go, I realized I should raise my goals a little, but I fell into the same old mistake I made too often in crits which is to wait too long to move up to the front and not be in position for the sprint. Coming through the last corner in the middle of the pack, I was pleased to still be in the thick of the race but a little disappointed how easily I had given up on doing better. Still, not bad for my first race since 1996. The Cycle for Life race is one of many races held throughout the year on the Ninigret course and is probably the smallest with only two races, Cat 4/5 and Cat1,2,3. I think Tim Mitchell won the Cat 1,2,3 race in a break away with two others, including Jason Hurd who organizers the first race of the year at Ninigret, the Rick Newhouse Memorial Crit. I'll be in the bandstand announcing that one next April.
The Coonamessett cross race is a blast. I showed up ready to race on my new (for me) Indy Fab Planet X (thanks Lynchie) and got myself to the start in time to not be staged at the very back. On the other hand, I didn't want to start at the front and have every one go around me, so I was right where I wanted to be. As per usual, the sprint comes at the beginning of a cross race, instead of the end like a crit, with everyone jockeying for positions before it gets narrow. The change to an uphill start and a gentle transition to single track this year helped make things a bit more sane than last year. The rest of the race doesn't really matter. I finished about where I started, 30th. The course is great, kind of "old-school" with mostly single track and goes through a beer tent. How Belgian!! My race happened before the tent got raging, but the crowd noise was quite helpful nonetheless. I just wish they wouldn't raise the height of the barriers in the tent each lap. I need to figure out why my lower back starts tightening up a few minutes into a cross race. It doesn't happen on the road. Maybe I just need to get the new bike dialed in. The beer tent opened around noon time (I don't know why they waited so long!!) and the party really got going. Rob Micelli tended bar, poring up to three Harpoons for 5$. That's a bargain not to be missed so I made sure that I got my share and then some. I can't really remember all that happened in the later races. Some kind soul was offering PBR hand ups to riders as they passed through the beer tent and a couple of riders took the opportunity to wet their whistle with a quick chug a lug until the organisers put the kibosh on it (boooo!!!). I am pretty sure I saw Mark McCormack sit up while Kevin Hines took the masters race. I think I saw Luke Keough win the elite race, but he was going so fast and I was so inebriated that I am not sure now. Check if you really need to know.

The only race that I don't have a good excuse for is Jamestown, hence the failing grade. I just couldn't keep up with the pace on the inclines. There are only about 5 hills per lap and none are all that big or steep but by the fourth one I was dieing. Although I used the time tested strategy of starting the climbs near the front to allow a little cushion to drift back if needed, I needed more and more each time. By the fourth, I was at the back but not quite off it. When I realised that the big hill (also the only one that I had previewed) was still between me and the completion of the first lap (of two laps), I pretty much packed it in and soft peddled the rest of the race just to get a few miles in. Plus, it's a beautiful course. I guess I've still got some work to do and about 20 pounds to lose before I try another road race. When I was a cat 3 many years ago, I was about 35 pounds lighter, but I'll settle for 20 if it means I can still drink some beer.

The Wrentham 'cross race hosted by the Minuteman Road Club was October 25th. I lined up with about 70 Masters cat 4s. Man, I remember doing cross 15 years or so ago and having one field, maybe two for everyone. To have a Cat 4 race just for the old guys was great. But it didn't help me much. Just like Coonamessett, I lined up near, but not at, the back. The whistle blew and I was right into my pedals and finding the spaces in between people to start moving up before the speed increased. The course goes into some tight turns that caused mayhem. But I kept finding the holes. I must have moved up 12 places before the first hurdles. I was thinking "this is great, I'm doing good (my grammar suffers on the bike), push harder and you can make up more spaces and maybe even do gooder. I cooked myself in the first lap and had to slow down. Then the same dang thing with my back kicked in. The lower right side started hurting enough that I could no longer ride to my pain threshold (which is probably pathetically low anyway) but had to ride to manage my back problem. It actually felt good to get off for the hurdles and the big log. However, my hand slipped off the frame on the 2nd lap (Or was it 3rd, I can't count well on the bike either) when I was about to step up onto the big log and the bike smacked the log. I, of course, smacked the bike and then the log but fortunately got both hands out in front of me to break the fall before losing some teeth to the log. If anyone has a picture of that, I would love a copy. I got back up with a quick push up off the log (my first in many months), collected myself, and got going again while being passed by about 5 other riders. In the end, I didn't lose, I didn't break anything, and I didn't get hurt. Call it a "pass". And that was all before my first beer. Thanks to the MRC and their sponsor John Harvard's Brew House for supplying the beer. I probably had more than my share again, but what fun. If we could only get someone to come to the cross races in a mobile frite stand, races could be just like in Belgium. Almost.

Thanks for indulging my self-centered race reports. Please leave a comment with your own if you get a chance.

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