Saturday, September 22, 2012

Euro Cross

Euro Cross #1

Oh damn, I'd forgotten how painful cyclocross racing can be!
Actually, upon further reflection, I'm not sure I had it this bad last year. As I learned previously, these races are won or lost by the first 100 meters, and last year's settle-in-the-middle-of-the-pack strategy wasn't going to fly this time.
Because this was my first cross race of the year, I did set out with a simple goal of getting myself in a good position at the start, then hang on, do my best on the technical parts.

After about 3.5 warmup laps, I felt comfortable with the parcours, although even at recon pace, I was huffing and puffing!
The long course featured several long straights into the wind, multiple repeats up the steep side of a hill, one crazy steep embankment, and what can be described as a mudpit with 2 barriers! Oh and of course traditional twisty little wooden sticks strewn throughout the field.

Lined up for the start in the 2nd row, about 7 or 8 wide. I was pretty happy with that spot, and the guys in front of me had no clipping issues so we were off!
Immediately the HR maxed out, and it didn't come down until about 10 minutes after I got home and showered... 70 guys dispersed along the 2.5 km circuit immediately, such that you had a difficult time figuring out what position you were in.
I had some specific problems in this race which didn't help. On the steep pitches, my rear wheel would spin out a lot. I tried standing, leaning back, then the front wheel would come off.
I have a 28mm on the back, but a 35 on the front because I discovered 2 winters ago my bike just doesn't have the clearance. Additionally, it looks like my tread is starting to wear on the back. I couldn't ride up the one really steep wall, and on the section of repeats I could feel my power being thrown away with tire slippage, and sure enough that's where guys would catch back to me, or get away from me.
Tomorrow I might try lowering my tire pressure even more on the back. Today I ran with 50 psi for both.

Other than the tread/slipping issues, I was pretty happy with my performance. I caught guys, passed guys, and dropped guys that had caught me. I did have some issues clipping in, and that created gaps for me to overcome. I realized there was a lead group formed, with Michael Persson, Matt Joss, Andrew Paul, Andrew Rockwell, to name a few. I was in a small chase group, not too far back. It's a little demoralizing when you can't see anyone directly in front of you though, so you end up feeling like you're only racing against the guys immediately surrounding you.
The entire race was full of suffering, but on the final lap, I lost a bit of wind. I was riding with 2 other guys (Cody G - Niklas and a guy from Lamprey Systems), and both scampered up that steep wall faster than me. I was chasing with 1/3 lap to go, but never could get quite enough recovery in to launch an attack. Those 2 sprinted, and I dragged myself across the line for 11th.

HUGE congrats to Mike P for an amazing win. He apparently had a few things go wrong for him, but was able to come right back in and get the big W. That lil' dude is a monster!

Some more great pics of the race are here.

Euro Cross #2

Awoke the next day for more torture. The course had changed a little, but more importantly, it was in reverse now.
After 20 mins on the trainer, I did a lap and a half pre-ride with Mike P. The course seemed easier, as well the 10 PSI less in the wheels meant there was no hill for which I needed to dismount.
Lined up right at the very front, behind only the featured riders called up to the front.
The Chase!
Out of the gate fast, but held on. Probably 10th place going into the first set of single track.

Past guys throughout the first two laps, and found myself in a chase group of 5, following the 3 leaders (incl. Persson again).
In my group were Andrew Paul, teammate Matt Joss, and a few others I didn't know.

Another lap later and we were 3 chasing 3.After sitting 3rd wheel for about a lap, I caught my wind and went up and took a big pull along a straight section. We had a sizeable gap behind us and I didn't want it to close. Also, Mike's group wasn't far ahead.

After my pull there is a steep climb(see pic below), and I fell back a bit on the other 2. When we reached the top I made some aggressive moves to latch back on, but on one gnarly turn my back wheel slid out from under me, and down I went. Down the hill... damn.
Picked myself up, put my chain back on, straightened my brake hoods, shifted out of my big ring, and returned to the race. Having been passed by Matt J and other remnants of the former chase group, I caught on with Lamprey guy from yesterday, Mike Macklem. Something was still not right with the bike, nor the knee.
Within minutes, I went down again! Same knee/hip. At this point, I dropped from 5th to about 15th, and even pedalling was difficult. Bleeding from three places, that I could see, and hip was sore.
Women fighting with a steep climb
Passed by a few more guys, then pulled the chute. DNF... heartbreaker.
Limped back just in time to watch the abominable Mike Persson win back to back races!

Some positives I gained from this race is that given the right course, and proper inflation of tyres, my fitness level is right up there with the best of them.

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