Monday, November 14, 2011

The most fun that’s been had at the seminary in some time…

Sorry Seminarians.  Being a seminary drop-out, I know good things can happen on the campus, but few things as fun as a proper cyclocross.  Fortunately Off The Front Racing put on a proper cyclocross.  It was my favorite course of the year thus far (including Sunrise Park in Chicago).  The course featured diverse surfaces (dirt, mud, grass, pavement, wood-chips, leaves, roots) with plenty of fun transitions.  It also had four “dismount suggestions”: 2 stair sections, a double barrier, and a log (on an uphill sector).

The plan for the weekend was to double up on Saturday as I had commitments on Sunday.  I got a late start leaving the house (but with family!) and I got registered for the B’s and A’s.  I snuck in a little pre-riding (without disrupting racers) so I knew some of the trouble I was in!  Got a poor starting spot and didn’t move up really until the barriers on the first lap.  I was really proud of my barrier work this weekend.  I’ve been working on barriers and I think it’s finally starting to pay off.  I received two compliments from my peers (“Were you a hurdler in H.S.?”), so I think this isn’t just perception – I regularly passed guys there.  I’m not going to say what/how I’ve trained this as I had to work to get it!  
Jumping the barrier.  Photo Credit: Ragfield.
After a lap or two I had moved up into the top ten and saw Peat (Have Fun), Matt (Big Shark), Peter (Big Shark), Patrick (OTF), and Rich (Dogfish) with a nice gap.  I had Mark (Big Shark) on my 6 and I wasn’t interested in getting beaten by him (again).  So I just worked to keep the pressure on, making things hard for Mark.
Mark was my shadow for several laps.  He's beaten me too much this year, so I had to hurt myself to get up the trail!  Photo Credit: Ragfield.

I soon caught up to Matt and worked with him for a bit which gave me some rest in the windy sections.  Patrick was in difficulty so we soon overtook him.  Unfortunately Peat, Rich, and Peter had a comfy 20 seconds on Matt and I, so I had my work cut out for me.  I attacked Matt through the barriers and kept the pressure on for a bit.  Fortunately, it worked and Peat was my next target.  He remained elusive, and it’s no surprise – he is an excellent bike handler and that course sure rewarded those skills!

Rich and Peter duked it out for the finish with Rich winning in a sprint at the line.  Congrats to Rich, I think that’s his first win.  That’s just what he needed in the Bubba Series Points Competition.  Can he catch Matt?  Will Peter win out to win it?  It will be fun to watch that unfold in the next month!

Thanks to my friend Rob "Ragfield" for shooting the race.  It's too bad he didn't get to race (cause he's not just fast with the camera), next time!

‘A’ Race

Grabbed a gel, swapped jerseys, downed some water and hoped in the grid for the “A” race.  I got a little argy-bargy with Scott (Ritte van Vlaanderen/Seagal) (all in good fun), and worked my way up in the field a bit.  The CX racing has finally paid off with my lower back strengthening up so that it didn’t “die” on me till 30+ minutes into the second race (it’s the little victories).  Anyway, Carl (Green Street Realty) was riding smooth and fast so I just tried to hang on to his wheel.  I could see the big dogs (Kurt (708), Johnson + Schottler (Big Shark), Sam (Canyon), and others) up the trail a bit, but I kept telling myself the good words of DoubleJ (MWI): “Remember, this thing is an hour long!”  After recovering on Carl’s wheel I think I attacked him and Stu (OTF).  Carl was complaining about his ribs (recovering from a crash/fracture?), but until then he didn’t look like an injured racer!

Up and over.  Photo Credit: Dennis Fickinger.

About this time my back started killing me and I began bleeding spots to better racers.  There was some dueling with Dennis (Dogfish) but I let Rock (The Hub) go by uncontested.  I got a second wind to finish strong and was pleased with my results: 4th and 11th on the day!  Plus the course was just a blast to ride.  On some courses the technical features just suck.  The whole time you’re thinking: “this is stupid, this feature is just annoying”.  But the course was challenging and fun.  It seemed to have everything (you want in a veldrijden) including that je ne sais quoi, flow.


My wife and I are in the process of joining a local church, so we attended a membership “class” so everybody understands what they’re getting into.  Well, the class (while interesting and deserving of several blog posts of its own) ended an hour early.  While driving home I looked at the clock and thought “Could I make it to the race?”  The possibility was completely off the table, but quickly considered with the wife, it was now available.  What fun!  I packed the car and drove a little on the fast side over to Creve Coeur to line up for the A’s.   Let’s just say that when I got out of the car I already had everything but my helmet and number on!

I had enough time to ask Mark Ewers to pin my number and pre-ride the course.  Without a warm-up I knew it would hurt, and the A’s delivered.

The course was a standard Bubba (as I’ve come to know them).  Not much climbing, a little bumpy, dry, but rewarded smooth cornering.  One set of double barriers, and everybody’s favorite: a healthy dose of wind.
Dwayne G. (Dogfish) won the B’s outright, so he lined up for the A race.  I knew how he was feeling: nice and primed but probably wondering what he had in the tank for the last 20 minutes.  I made some early passes.  The odd one was going around “Butthead” (Big Shark).  Soon enough though, on a straight-away I tried to hold his wheel up to the top 5-6.  Blowed up.  Turns out he joined his teammate Schottler and they went 1-2.  
Tightening the screws on Dennis through the barriers.  Photo Credit: Creed Monster!

I rode with Rock till he dropped me, then did battle with Dennis and Trent to avoid being last place.  Dwayne started running out of gas towards the end of the race and I did overtake him.  His indomitable good spirits make him the best and worst carrot ever.  “C’mon Mark, you’ve almost caught me!” he cried, grinning ear to ear.  If you’re in “competitor mode” it may grate on you, but if you know Dwayne, he’s just gushing encouragement and loving every minute of the racing fun.  The next man up the trail was Chris (Big Shark) and I was getting closer to him but couldn’t close the gap.  Maybe another lap?  Maybe not.

Big ups to Scott for breaking into the top 5 for the first time.  It was good to see so many of my bike friends, I sure like the StL.  Thanks to my wife, OTF, Big Shark, and the officials for letting me play bikes.  Such a good time.  Also, thanks to Mesa Cycles for loaning me the Fizik tester saddle and gluing my tubulars.  The two have been awesome and make the entire CX experience that much better.

Next up: work trips to AR and maybe my last race of 2011: Bubba CX 11(?)

1 comment:

  1. Nice racing this weekend, Mark. Give a few races in the A's and you will be running further up.