It's Thursday night, a mere 16 hours before we head to Astoria and I'm just now getting to my write up of this last weekend. It's been a busy hectic week at work and when I get home I'm content to stretch and work the soreness out of my legs and lower back. My cross season will be over in a few days due to work, but this weekend should be a great way to put a wrap on things. But first, back to this past weekend.
Saturday we get up bright and early to head south down to Salem. The second event in the Willamette Valley Cross Series was held at the old Battle Creek golf course which was as cool as it sounds. The day was cool, but bright and sunny at the same time. The early morning damp fog and sog made for a chilly and messy pre-ride with the thick grass course creating mini moss monsters on people's bikes.
I had an 11am start time so after a few pre-ride laps it was time to get ready for my race. I got a good warm-up in, but my body was still feeling the effects of the Sherwood race the previous weekend. Mainly my lower back. Jeff B arrived right as I was finishing my warm-up and with him came my newly mounted rear tire. The Fango that flatted at Rainer had another, different flat at Sherwood which Stan's wonder-goo couldn't plug. Ah well.
I got to the line early enough to scout the first straightaway and corner. The previous races had carved some lines in the course and things were soggy, but not horrifically slick. The field is a good size, about 30 riders, so start position wasn't as crucial. I tucked into the back row on the left side and we were off a few moments later.
My start was good, much like its been all season. Going into the first turn I was sitting in 6th or 7th place, and maintained that position all the way to the first barriers. Unfortunately I tried to remount in the sand pit, failed and ended up duck walking my bike through traffic back to the next flat area. Lost contact with the front group and another few positions. Noob. :)
A small chase group formed behind, only a second or so off the first group. We stayed that way for the first lap and a half when my back started to tighten up on me. My pace dropped and soon I lost contact with the second chasing group. Ah well.
The course itself was deceptively hard. The wet grass smooth, but thick and soft. Riding on a wet sponge was the best way I can describe it. There was no place to recover on course. No small downhill to coast down, no flat section you could just spin through. I found myself flipping between front rings for the first time all season on a flat course. My back hurt too much to power the 46, but I was spinning out the 36. After two laps of toying with the gears, I mentally flipped off the "this hurts" and just rode the 46.
With a lap to go I really wanted to be done. I wanted to pull off the course and jump on the HPChiro table and have Seth and Laura beat my back until submission instead of it doing it to me. I took solace in the fact that I was maintaining distance to the riders behind me and steadily reeling in a trio of riders in front of me. I made it my goal to catch them before the lap was up and dug deep.
With half a lap to go I came to the first of the two bridge crossings each lap. These golf cart wide bridges spanned a small creek that ran through the middle of the course, and were slick with mud. I made sure to cross them cautiously, but in my desire to make the catch I put effort into the drivetrain too soon, spinning my rear tire and washing the bike out from under me.
I hit the deck of the bridge. Hard. Body and bike literally bouncing with the impact. I was fortunate enough to stay compact during the fall, landing on my shoulder, forearm, and hip all at the same time. (Yay for years of Karate and Hapkido!) I was more fortunate to land ON the bridge and not fall over the side. I was dazed by the impact and it took a moment for me to collect myself and get my bike and body out of the way of the riders bearing down on me. A dropped chain and bent brifter were all I could see as far as damage. Two riders pass me as I remount my bike and slowly get back to speed. The first few corners are hesitant as the body and mind replay what went wrong and anticipate the worst.
My chase begins a new, but now to try and regain lost spots. I make an aggressive pass on the inside of a 270 degree turn to pick one spot back up, but I'm unable to catch the other rider. I finish 19th.
While the race might not have gone the best, Seth was able to work on my back shortly after. The S-I joint is not happy. I'm thrilled to get the Hand Down (even if it was Budweiser) from Dave as he speeds through the first lap of his race, and Jose Sandoval is in the right place at the right time to capture it. Jeff B, Alex, and B-Rat crush the B race with Jeff and Alex taking first and third.
Unfortunately the day ends with a bit more trouble as Traci is forced to pull out of her race. Seth and Laura along with B squad show their true colors and help me take care of Traci while I get the car packed. We get home late and get the bikes cleaned off. 8pm and I'm exhausted. Fortunately the next race is 2 miles for our house.
Sunday is CC4 at Hillsboro Fairgrounds. We wake up later than normal and take our time getting ready. No hour drive to this venue! We load up the car and leave the house at 7:30, and roll into the parking lot at 7:38. My kind of commute!
Sal and Heidi get us a primo spot and we unload the car. The pre-ride is fun and I get to see the course for the first time as I was injured for this race last year. The sun is out, but a front is moving in. The temp drops by 10 degrees in the first hour we are there and it starts to drizzle on and off. Spirits are high.
PV turns out in force today, with the tent overflowing with racers and teammates here to watch the final Crusade race of Matt Couzens. Cuz is moving back to Denver soon and we picked this day to be his going away party. The wall of sound is deafening every time he rolls by the tent during his race, and he smiles through the pain reflects the joy of the sport and those that bear witness to it.
The time draws near for me to start my warm up and suddenly the PV tent is a flurry of activity. The 11:40 race has Mstr B's and 50+ racers, and with 7 racers in the Mstr B and 5 racers in the 50+ field we attract some attention. Jonathon Maus from BikePortland comes by and shoots a bunch of photo's for a great article about the event. He really has the pulse of the scene in PDX. I warm up easy, sore and tired from the previous day.
Eventually its time to race. We roll to the starting line and this race I was fortunate enough to get the third starting grid. I hope for a fast start and to hold on. The rain starts to fall lightly as the whistle blows. The front of the race accelerates away as the remaining riders file out of the chute. Such a difference from the previous days race.
Javad catches up to me quickly and tells me to latch on. The two of us ride together, the familiar comfort of riding on the road for the past 3 years transitioning quickly to the race. He picks out fast lines as I direct traffic and call out obstacles in the course. We steadily move up the field together, passing the team tent in tandem. The team cheers loudly urging us on. All through out the course members of PV are there, shooting photos and cheering like maniacs. I hear the booming voice of KRhea behind his massive camera lens, Dean and Barb Lee by the huge mud puddle, Tom with his dual cowbells and crazy grin pops up everywhere, Brad Sigler in the barn. We ride with wings.
Sasha catches us during the first half of lap 2 and the tandem becomes a trio. The aches and pains of yesterday are gone, filled with need to stay on Javad and Sasha's wheel. We fly towards the backside pit entrace for the second time when disaster strikes.
A racer from the Filth and Fury team moving up through the field suddenly crashes into me from behind on the right side, his front wheel doing its best to intimate the chariot race from Ben Hur on my right leg (see 6:30 in the clip). The rider managed to pull out of the collision, but in the process hooked my right arm and handlebars with his left arm and yanked the bike out from under me. I crashed hard on my left side again while he managed to stay upright and rode away.
The race as it was for me ended at that point. My teammates made it through the melee and continued on. My left brifter once again had been bent inward making braking difficult, not to mention the toll the spill had on my mental attitude. I was mad about being wrecked, and managed to crash once again in that same lap in some very slick mud. Battered and mentally beaten, I work on staying upright in the rapidly deteriorating course. I crash once more right in front of team tent at the "killer corner". At least there was a smile on my face then.
My body and bike are filthy and my leg is bleeding freely. I'm angry. I'm also angry I wasn't able to ride angry. Traci offers to take my rig so I can get to the medical tent to have them look me over. Under the caked mud and congealed blood hides a 6" by 15" pattern of curved gouges and tireburn. My leg becomes photography fodder for a number of folks standing nearby. The scene is almost comical and quickly lifts my spirits. Beer awaits at the tents.
The day caps off beer, burgers, beer, a great race by Traci, and more beer. We scream our voices hoarse for Molly and Tina, and cheer wildly for all those putting it out there for the beauty of it all. A slice of heaven right in our back yard.
Bring on Astoria.