Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A kick in the cross


Unless you were locked away someplace, you probably know that Sunday was the first event of the Cross Crusade series taking place up at the Alpenrose Dairy here in Portland.  The turnout was nothing short of epic, with close to 1300 riders doing battle on course condition that changed a huge amount over 24hrs.  I've spent so much time reading the accounts of others that I neglected to post my own!

My weekend started Saturday morning with the maiden voyage of my new Redline 9-2-5 fixie winter bike.  There are a few things I need to tweak on it, like getting a shorter stem with a bit of a drop, and a smaller rear cog, but overall I'm pleased with the new investment.  It should provide good training and reduced wear and tear on my Felt.

After a quick bite to eat, Traci and I loaded up the car with the cross rigs and went to the Dairy to get our numbers and do some pre-course scouting.  We met a few of our teammates there, got our numbers and jumped on the bikes.  The first few laps were a bit chaotic as the course wasn't 100% setup, but after a short bit the course became more and more clear to us.  We did a bit more scouting and felt very comfortable with how things were going to play out the next morning.

We drive home, pack the Mini with most of what we'll need and layout the things that don't get packed for a quick departure the next morning.  I crawl into bed and fall asleep listening to the rain falling on our glass patio table-top outside.

The morning comes earlier than I'd like, and it takes me a while to get moving.  By the time I get food into me, Traci is already dressed and packing the day's needed snacks.  The weather report has completely changed over the last 12 hours and the partly sunny skies that were forecasted turn into periodic rain.  Perfect Cross weather.

Eventually I get geared up, we get the car packed quickly and leave for Alpenrose.  Our timing is divine as 10 PV folks arrive in the space of 5 minutes.  The second 20x10 is erected next to the first giving us the PV Palace.  Trainers drop down under the front tent on the course while chairs, coolers, and gear end up in the back.  Kender and Sal dub this the "Mullet Configuration". Business up front, party in the back.

Once we get settled, I gear up for one last course checkout, mainly to see the section on the north side of the velodrome.  I'm happy for the additional barrier placed before the run-up to the velodrome ring.  It will force everyone off their bike and I won't have to deal with people attempting to ride it in front of me and crashing.  After a quick stop at the Ironclad tent to say hello and get some air for rear tire I make my way back to the tent and start my warm-up.

About 15 minutes into my warm-up I see a familiar face up on the road.  My buddy from HS and college, Josh Hanselman from Team 343 spots me after I yell to him and come to find out we are both riding in the same division today.  Good times!

With about 20mins to go, I test the blood sugar (woo dialed in), eat a ShotBlok, and make my way up to the start gate with Josh, Jeff and B-Rat.  We run into Joel from Team O and the 5 of us park ourselves about 5 rows deep on the left edge of the start chute.  After announcements I take a last swing of water from Traci, hand her my coat and clip in.  

The whistle blows and almost immediately there is a wreck in the first row directly in front of me.  Two Yakima riders tangle up and one goes down, I navigate through the carnage and manage to see a broken steertube in the mix.  I feel for the guy.  After flatting during the 25mph "neutral roll out" in my first race of the season, and flatting during the hole shot of the first Krugers, I know how frustrating it is to pay $25 to race for under a minute.

My start is pretty decent considering the wreck.  I'm in the top 30 going into the first two corners, and have a great line entering the gravel.  I make up a huge chunk of ground on the first decent riding the right line instead of following the herd on the left side.  I see Jeff out in front about 30m from me.  My plan was to work for him as much as possible since he was in contention for an up-cat.  His hole shot put him in a great position so the amount of work I can do is limited right off the get go.  I stick on the tail end of the chasing pack for a good portion of the race, losing ground in the meadow out-and-back, but gaining it in all the technical sections.

I keep track of Jeff ahead of me and yell for him every time our paths cross on the switch backs, making the mental note that he's putting distance in me every lap.  The only person I let past me without a fight is Ron.

My sole wreck of the day comes on lap 4 in the hairpin before the velodrome run up and it was fairly unspectacular.  I entered the corner too early and fall on my left side, even thought I had my left foot out of the pedal. The impact knocked my left brake hood askew making rear breaking fairly difficult for the remainder of the race. 

My race becomes one of survival at this point.  There are some stronger riders behind me and I see Josh moving up in the pack, joyfully taunting me every time we switchback on each other.  He gets within 5m of me a few times on the last lap before he bites it going into a corner and looses ground.  My fight becomes solely to keep those behind me at bay as the traffic in front of me is out of reach. 

A guy in a full Nike kit on a mountain bike and I battle it out the last half lap with the two of us swapping position half a dozen times between the our teams tent and the finish.  I pass him before the rock barrier and dismount and hear him bunny-bash-hop over the rocks.  He passes me as I remount and I chase him into the winding turns before the run-up.  He's more controlled into the corners but I'm faster out of them.  The final pass happens on the run up when I channel my inner mountain goat and sprint past him on the inside.  I ride the corner entering the velodrome cautiously as the wood is slick with mud now.  I get some breathing room on the final set of barriers and ride hard through the finish.  The post race euphoria quickly sets in.

I make it back to the tent, get cleaned off and swap roles with Traci, playing domestique for teammates who earlier helped me out.  Traci puts her game face on, ear buds in, and gets lost in her pre-race thoughts.  The role reversal takes over the tent at one point.  The ladies lined up 5 across on the trainers in their kits, with the men hovering around grabbing water bottles and fixing numbers.

Nervous excitement fills me as I get to watch Traci race her first full blow Cross race.  She starts well and rides strong through the course, finishing mid field and scoring some beer in the process.  I'm hoarse by the time she's finished.  The remainder of the afternoon is a haze of packing, cleaning, and attempting to stay awake past 9pm.  I'm beat, and its just week #1...

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