Sometimes you see the end coming, sometines it catches you blind sided. Sometimes it's for the best, sometimes you wish you had had a little more time together. But time marches on and, whether you are ready or not, it's now over. The parting is bittersweet, but at least we ended it with a bang. If it's better to burn out than fade away, we couldn't have ended it any better. And best of all, we will have sweet memories to carry us over to the next romance, the next love, or the next 'cross season.
Well, I tried to be all deep and poetic, but that just isn't me.
The Ice Weasels cometh, and unfortunately they also go-eth, and in so doing they mark the end of the bicycle racing season in New England. It's finally time to nurse the sore bones, catch up with the family, and get some of the big ticket items off the honey-do list that has taken a back seat for almost four months now (9 months counting road/MTB seasons).
For the second year in a row Colin and Tom, with help from Kevin, put on the party of the year at White Barn Farm and they even managed to fit in some bike races to keep us all entertained. There are a few esential elements that make a party great. Beer is a given. They had that covered (for a while anyway) with two kegs of beer from Harpoon. Music is a must have for any party. I was happy to supply 800 watts of sound pumping power and an ipod full of tunes (until Tom pulled host priveleges and switched it to his ipod while I was out racing, gotta admit his might have been better). Good food is a must and the boys and girls from HUP had that covered. Good people and great conversation are the only other ingredients that a great party must have, and they were in abundant supply.
I arrived at 8:00 to set up the PA system and hopefully still have time to warm up a little before the 10:00 AM Cat 4 race. It was nice being parked on the same side as the race course this year. Folks, if you want to get a good parking spot at next years race, just offer to bring some heavy equipment to the race or get there early. There was no snow where I live so the conditions caught me by surprise. But I discovered that racing in snow and ice means that there is no way you can go fast enough to really make it hurt (on the inside) becasue you just can't apply that much power. While I was setting up I heard talk about opening up the wait list at 9:45. What, you mean this race is sold out? No way! So we are going to have 100 Cat 4 cross dudes bouncing and sliding around for 40 mintes on what is almost certainly the shortest and narrowest course of the year? Cool!
I lined up around the middle of the pack (100 riders divided by 5 per row= 20 rows) and waited for the whistle. We took off at a reasonable pace with most everyone choosing one of two packed down tire tracks . I realized a few seconds later than I should have that I could easily go faster down the middle and started passing people and moving up a few spots before the first turn. It's a good thing I did because there were very few passing oportunities on other parts of the course. Unless someone fell down, your chances of getting past them were slim. But lots did fall down. After what seemed like a long time, the lap cards read 5 to go. What? I was about ready for the bell. Then the next time around the double barriers where the crowd was gathered, I heard Motorhead on the PA and got enough extra kick to put the lap count out of my head and dig a little deeper for a while. Unfortunately, digging a little deeper in slick snow means falling down more often.
Over the course of the race I think I wiped out on ice about 6 times. Most of the time I got up quick and laughed it off but the last ime, near the big tree, it took some of the life out of me and a few guys got around before I was back up to speed. That was on the last lap as I was trying to catch a few guys that were tantalizingly catchable until I crashed. I ended up 45th so I made my goal of being in the top half with a few places to spare. The guy on the huge mountain bike (a Surly Pugsley) won it but I never even saw him.
The Cat 3 race was next. I had done a poor job explaining the open mic heckling concept to the crowd before the Cat 4 race becasue I was in a hurry to get to the line. As a result, nobody had picked up the mic and heckled us. So, I made sure during the Cat 3 race that the concept was understood: There would be no real announcing this day, just an 800 watt free for all. Tom got into it and got some help from Steve H. who it turns out has some real announcing experience from the collegiate racing scene. The kids got potential.
I have no idea who it was that was on the mic during the single speed race but he was a cycling Henny Youngman. Great lines and a great voice to match. I used the Chabot method to turn my old Faggin cross bike into a single speed Friday night (but didn't test ride it) so I was ready to do the double for the first time in my cross career (beleive me, 44 years old is no time to start doing the double). I had been shifting frequently in the cat 4 race so I knew this wasn't going to be easy but at least the course is flat. I managed ok but I was beat by the end. The weird thing is that I didn't fall down at all in this race after falling over about 6 times in the Cat 4 race. It could have been that the course was worn in by then. It could have been the different bike. Also, I did the single speed on clinchers with about 45 psi as opposed to the Cat 4 where I was on tubulars with about 34 psi. Could clinchers with pressure be better in slippery snow? I beat the hipster in the plaid shirt and msutache but I lost to Leah from Indy Fab. So it goes. At least I took a beer feed for the first time ever. Andy says it was Harpoon but it tasted like Miller and that's what he had been drinking. It didn't settle too well so that was the only time I tried that. I looked for a real Harpoon after the race but, the horror, it was all gone!
After the single speed event, the racing became a blur of hideous red and white striped kits (I'm looking at you JD), beer/cupcake feeds, pumpkin pie, and bouncing aimlessly from one conversation to another.
Then just like that, the sun set on the 2009 season and it was time to pack up.
Between announcing, racing, and spectating, I have had only one complete weekend away from bike races since mid August. I am getting tired of getting up earlier on the weekends than I do during the week. I am ready for a break but if there was a race next weekend, I'd still want to do it. That's probsably the right feeling to have at the end of the season.
If something comes along that is blog-worthy, maybe I'll fire up the laptop but it might be a while. See you next year.