Sunday, November 04, 2007

Grumpy's CX Race Report

This course rocked! After skipping the Ham Lake race to get some stuff done around the house that's been neglected since the start of cyclocross season, it turns out that I picked the right race to skip and the right race to do. All the race reports and comments I've heard indicated that the Ham Lake race was very fast and very non-technical. Linda described it as "Dakota Crit on dirt and Black Dog mixed together" - not why I race 'cross, and not my strength for sure! A lot of people had fun though, so I applaud anything that gets the roadies out to try 'cross.

Hats off to Little Guy for putting together a near-epic course with only soccer fields and a velodrome to work with! A rather cramped start area (my only suggestion for next year is to start us further back before funneling us into the narrow gate for the start) lead into some grassy turns before dumping us down into the velodrome, with some more turns and a barrier in the infield. Back out of the velodrome and then a run along the outer fence, a very tricky uphill 180 degree turn, an off-camber run back, another easier uphill 180 turn, then some respite along a gravel road before turning into the epic-est part of the course.

This section grabbed us with a barrier, slapped us with an endo-inducing ditch, kicked us with a grassy slog along the perimiter of the soccer field, and just when we thought we were done with a bit of rest in the form of a grassy out-and-back, sucker-punched us with some seriously marshy off-camber with mean interruptions to our lines in the form of taped-off sections forcing us to go down and back up the off-camber twice! A bit of recovery and then we started it all over again. It was brilliant and it kicked my ass!

Normally the more technical and difficult the course the better I do, such as the Twine Ball race. This course presented technical difficulties I haven't encountered since the Cross Crusade races in Portland, and back then I raced Beginner and didn't really know what I was doing. Although I heard plenty of whining, I applaud the course designer for presenting Minnesota with a truly challenging course!

Spectating was as much fun as racing. There were plenty of photo-worthy endos in the C race, but the most fun was watching the A race. Here you had a mix of skilled cyclocross racers and very strong but less skilled roadies. Bjorn rode away from the field from the beginning as I would have expected. The real fun was watching Aric Hareland and Adam Bergman duke it out for second. Aric had the skills and Bergman had the power. Through the off-camber section Bergman fell almost every time trying to get back up for the best line, while Aric generally finessed it better. Bergman would catch up every time, but toward the end Aric put a gap into Bergman until Aric rolled a tubular in the off-camber. Fortunately it was a short run to the wheel pit (a run that was just as fast as Bergman could ride it) where Hollywood was there to swap his wheel and get him back on the course just as Bergman caught up to him. An impressive show of teamwork! Even with the mechanical, though, Aric opened up a gap on Bergman again through the off-camber and put Bergman away. It was truly sweet to watch, and the number of spectators at the ditch and off-camber section added to the excitement!

Some other highlights: Ray bringing "more cowbell" to the table, Linda Sone's perfectly timed cookie just as I was starting to bonk while watching the A race, cheers from my teammates and others, T3 kicking ass for his first 'cross season as well as a great showing of Cat6ers, lots of armchair race analysis from the sidelines with fellow racers, riding the boards with no danger of splinters, that simultaneous "d'oh!" from the spectators as I endo'ed in the ditch (and encouragement as I got back on the bike), and so much more that I can't think of at the moment. A great race, and I really hope it's back for next year!