Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hardest... fckuing... race... ever: St. Cloud cyclocross race report

St. Cloud was the season opener for most people in the Twin Cities. After rolling up to Freewheel with mocha in hand to pick up Morgan, (who, after flip-flopping about whether he was going to race or not, finally flopped without letting me know), I headed out alone to St. Cloud. I always feel guilty about doing that (not carpooling). On the way I saw a few bike-laden cars heading in the same direction, which brought back memories of entire highways full of Subarus loaded up with bikes in Portland.

The course was changed a bit from last year, with the addition of another runup (ride-up for some). I tend to do better on Sundays, since I'm 'warmed up' from the previous race, so I lined up at the front thinking I might stand a chance. Then I looked around and saw Birchwood CJ, LGR Matt, SR and Spencer, and even Paul Shoening was sandbagging the Bs for some reason (warming up with the 45+?). Then a light-bulb went on over my head: by racing Bs I'm racing against Cat 3 road racers! I'm doomed.

From the bell we had a loooooong section of grass which suited the roadies immensely and annoyed me (later in the race this section would be sweet recovery!). Lining up at the front got me through the corners without getting stuck behind bunched up racers, and things got strung out nicely after that. A nice long downhill then the first runup. Unfortunately as I drifted back through the field over the course of the grassy part I ended up getting stuck in some chaos at the runup. Super Rookie was rocking the drivetrain side dismount and remount nicely, but unfortunately with him being on my right that meant that our bikes slammed together as we dismounted for the runup. They didn't get tangled and I ran the runup while some people got back on their bikes and tried to bike it.

The runups, as painful as they were, were my big advantage in the race. My running practice and 'cross practice at my secret training location paid off, and roadies' aversion to running helped even more. I was able to pass bunches of people on the runup and get a nice line on the downhill to the double barrier overlooking the river. I appreciated the view when I wasn't stuffing my lungs back down my throat. Another grassy section where the aforementioned roadies passed me again, a rideable hill, more grass where I'd get passed some more, then the famous swooping downhill, sweeping U-turn up the side of another hill, downhill again to another set of double barriers before the last runup/ride-up.

This section was another tactical spot. Most were content to coast down the hill and take the U-turn on the inside. I pedaled on the downhill, used the U-turn's uphill to shed some speed, then blasted back down to get as much momentum into the barriers on the runup as possible. Not only did this work for me tactically, but it was also hella fun! Again on this section people would struggle to get on their bikes after the double barrier and I'd run the whole section, passing groups of people. Then it was back to the start finish and the initial grassy section, where I'd get passed by the same people again.

Over the course of the race I settled back into a 'grupetto', where we played the leapfrog game through the technical/grassy sections. This is partly what made the day so brutally hard: I was racing this group, which kept me pegged the whole time. If I were off the back, or in no-man's land somewhere, I wouldn't have to motivation to work at the redline. But this game of leap-frog and my determination to win the game really pushed me, and since my advantage was technical sections and runups, I had to push my advantage on the hardest parts of the race! 45 minutes is a hella long time in the anaerobic zone!

When the race was finally over, I seriously couldn't have given it one more ounce of energy. I rolled over to a park bench and collapsed for a good 10 minutes before I could summon the energy to take a drink. Being a pretty warm day (which also surely contributed to the difficulty), Gatorade was my friend. After that I was able to totter to my feet and rehash the race with everyone.

Lots of people were there, as expected. Ray showed up only bust his derailleur hanger while warming up. Dude was just shifting (double-shift?) when it broke. Either Salsa bikes are crap or Ray doesn't know his own strength! He tried in vain to do the trick I tried in Texas when I broke mine, but it wasn't to be. It was cool to see him come out and have a go at it though, I'm sure we'll be seeing him again soon! Frye raced too, not sure if this was his first year doing CX or not; I was still delerious when I ran into him. The quote of the day came from Linda Sone: "Hey, you should really change out of your kit or you'll get, like, ass rash!"

Freewheel Josh showed up, who, like Morgan, had just built up a Lemond Poprad (except Josh finished it in time with the help of another Freewheel wrench). Josh is strong, and it was good to see him finally come out and race. Lynne's skills have improved greatly from riding with GW, and looked pro through the barriers and runups. SR's new Masi made its debut, being first ridden during the warmup today! So many people breaking the first rule of bike racing today.

After bullsh!++ing for a while I grabbed some of the tasty chili and some Surly beer for recovery. Yum! Proceeds were going to the parks. A great, tough course and a really good time!

Picture thanks to Skinnyski.