Sunday, November 16, 2008

Marciano/Kerouac Cyclocross Weekend

I had no race announcing duties scheduled this weekend, so I had time to do a little racing myself. I decided I was only going to one race so I had to choose between Brockton on Saturday or Lowell on Sunday. How to choose?

As you may know, both cities are a little bit past their respective industrial primes (not pronounced preems in this context) and both cities apparently have not seen a new home town hero come along in some time. My apologies if I am forgetting something more recent, but Brockton was the hometown of world champion boxer Rocky Marciano, and Lowell was the home of "beat generation" writer Jack Kerouac. A little wikipedia research revealed that they both lived from 1922 to 1969. Both were in their primes in the 50's, long before cyclocross came to town. But which man would have been the better bike racer? Sentimentally, I want to say Kerouac and he had the build for it. But he smoked and drank like a bike messenger. Rocky Marciano was an athlete, but had too much upper body to be a great bike racer. Based on the quotes below, the smart money would be on Marciano.

I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. - Kerouac

I have always adhered to two principles. The first one is to train hard and get in the best possible physical condition. The second is to forget all about the other fellow until you face him in the ring and the bell sounds for the fight. - Marciano
In the end, I chose Brockton because it is closer to home by about a half tank of gas and I stayed home Sunday to get some chores done.

This was the fourth year that Travis Cycles has put on the Brockton race but I hadn't been before. Word on the street was that it was a small time race and the course wasn't that good and riders would be wise not to use their expensive tires. But no longer. This year Travis Cycles asked local guru Mark McCormack to design a new course for then. and everyone this year had rave reviews for Markie's new route around the lake.

It started on the paved road and, after a quick grass section with a muddy run up, went onto a paved but bumpy bike trail. After a couple of dirt trail sections and a grass switchback or two, the remainder of the course alternated between sections of the paved road and soft but non-technical trails. If not for the recent wet weather, this would have been a very fast course. Even I used the big ring the whole time. The total elevation change on the course was probably not more than 20 feet. A lap took the good guys a little less than 8 minutes.

The first race of the day was the Cat 4 men. About 26 riders took the line and those that started fast stayed fast and won the race. Bill Kenney and Jacob Morrison led the field into the first grass section after a few hundred yards of sprinting off the line, and they stayed together at the front throughout the race. 3 laps later, Morrison led out of the last single track along the lake and onto the final 40 yards of pavement to the finish line. The finish was close, but Morrison held onto a half bike length lead to take the win. Here is a photo of Morrison about half way through the race:

Here's second place finisher Bill and his teammate Andy recovering after the race (Bill is on the right with severe helmet head):

This guy (whose name I didn't catch) came in sixth place on this beast of a bike:
Apparently, the Surly Pugsley is made for some kind of survivalist post-apocalyptic psycho bike racing done on snow and deep sand. Note the single cog on the front wheel. The owner told me he can put the front wheel on the back and run the bike as a single speed in case the rear axle breaks, which he says has happened to him a couple of times. Maybe that wouldn't happen if the bike didn't weigh about 40 pounds (before adding all the mud). He beat about 19 others in the race with this machine, but I wouldn't want to have to carry it up a run up. The flat muddy course today must have worked in his favor.

The women and juniors lined up next. Unfortunately, there were only three of each so there wasn't much competition. Anna Barensfeld won the women's race while Emily Curley was the fastest young women and Julie Lockhart was the fastest of the masters. I didn't catch names of the junior riders and without access to the start lists or results, I can't even make up a good story, sorry.

The Masters 45-plus were next. Paul Curley won it, but I didn't see much of the race as I had to get ready for the 35-plus race. And when I got to the start line I regretted not doing the Cat 4 race earlier because I found myself behind Markie, Kevin Hines, and 6 others who all looked fast. Alan Atwood blew the start whistle and Markie and Kevin were out of site in no time. It's hard to hide when there are only nine guys in the race, so I took my position of shame at the tail end of the train and tried to stay on the wheel in front of me as long as possible. It lasted about a lap before the two guys from Minuteman Road Club slipped away. From then on, it was either keep riding hard and hope someone would crack and let me catch up, or just try to keep from getting lapped. My lower back made the decision for me within the next lap as everything tightened up and I couldn't ride hard. I was doing ok with the not getting lapped part of the plan for a couple more laps, but Hines shot past me on the fourth lap and was out of site again in no time. Holy crap, doesn't that mean he is doing the laps about 2 minutes faster than me? Next up was Markie a few minutes later. He says "Having fun yet?" as he goes by. I wasn't sure so I just said yeah. Besides, a longer answer would have taken more than one breath and Markie was gone too quick for that. The good news is now I have not 2, but just 1 lap left. I finished it uneventfully and made sure that I did have some fun while I was out there. That's when I realized that it's a fun course if you aren't suffering too badly.

Almost immediately after the 35-plus race ended, the skies opened and everyone except for the poor souls who had dished out their $30 to race the Cat 1,2,3 headed for shelter. Sorry, but I wasn't sticking around in the cold rain to watch all 5 or 6 of them come around every 8 minutes or so.

I'll be back for this race next year, but I'm doing the Cat 4 race. The new course is a lot of fun but I would suggest dropping the entry fee a little bit and putting a few signs out on the road leading to the race.

If anyone has anything to add, please leave a comment.


Anonymous said...

Hey, don't forget, I'm from Brockton! And the race course there is where I did all my 'cross training in high school.

There were two Marcianos on the football team while I was in high school. No one gave a shit that I was a bike racer, that's for sure.

startfinish said...

Sorry Adam, I didn't mean to dis you (or the city) by implying that nothing good has come out of Brockton since Marciano.

If they only knew what they were missing they would certainly be casting you in 30 foot tall bronze instead of him. Gawd, that's kind of a scary thought!