Monday, December 14, 2009

We are Not Portland! serious cyclocross and its rewards

New England cyclocross is serious competitive racing.

We do not indulge in the every weekend kegger-cross that is the staple of the pacific northwest. We do not believe that cyclocross events require special costumes beyond typical race team kit, or gearless bikes, or theme events, or hot tub run ups, or doggie cross.

No; cyclocross is a race, not a two-wheeled masquerade or a carnival freakshow.

That said, we do still like to have fun. Its just that making a race like a party, is like having waffles for dinner: if you do it every week, it stops being special, it becomes ordinary.

Once or twice a season is enough to let your freak flag fly,

like at Orchard Cross,

and of course at Ice Weasels.

These races had it all this year, hilarious costumes, beer hand ups galore, donut feeds, pitzone tail gating grills, and lots of noise.

My race at Ice Weasels was remarkably bad

after a very good start.

But I had fun, and I did hop the planks in the race!

Thanks to everyone who made the 2009 New England cyclocross season a blast. See you next year.

photos by Ryan Kelly

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

True Cross Conditions: bog skippers and mud suckers

Cyclocross fans relish the type of weather that makes others wince.
50 degrees and ankle deep mud? love it.
40 degrees and pouring rain? perfect.
30 degrees and blowing snow drifts? bring it on.
These are the types of weather where road racers climb on the trainer, and mtb racers slow to a walk. True cyclocrossers just grin and ride away.

This year we have more than our average share of "true" cyclocross conditions. From the start of the season monsoon at Palmer, to the hurricane at Gloucester, to the swamp in Maine, to the wind driven snow in Narragansett, every other week has had tough conditions. Plenty of New England racers now have neoprene gloves, portable spray washers, and tall rubber boots in their gear list.

photo by N. McKittrick
I've never excelled in heavy course conditions. I do fine racing in the cold and wet, but thick muddy courses have always thrown me. Earlier this year, though, I watched an interview with Mo Bruno-Roy, a.k.a. Ms. Mudluscious, the Mistress of Muck. She said that she does well in the slop, not because she is a high wattage power rider, but because she decides to enjoy the mud rather than let it get her down. I took that attitude into my races at Maine, and it made all the difference. I kept slogging away on the muddiest courses I've ever seen. I finished both days when 1/3 of my field dropped out. As Lance says, pain is temporary, quitting is forever.

NBX dished up two days of true cyclocross weather for us to enjoy this year. I had hoped that I would be able to race before the rain on Saturday, Nope. It went from drizzle to a steady light rain at 40 degrees for our race. I was dressed just well enough to keep warm, but not well enough to keep my energy levels high. I had a rotten start when Frank Mc jammed the start by running around me to the 2nd row at the whistle. I came off the pavement just about DFL. I was able to run past the stack up on the first hill and ride around a few other falls. By the time we reached the beach I was able to run my way into the top 30. 3 laps in, however, I started running low on gas. Each lap 1 or 2 guys would come past. I was not able to jump on wheels and keep my place. I kept driving as hard as I could without wrecking. I was bringing back Rob Kramer on the last lap and could see a few others ahead, but did not have enough to catch him by the line. I rode strong through all the mud sections without incident though. Immediately after the finish I raced to get dry clothes and then to the changing room before I started shivering uncontrollably. I was still cold an hour after the race.

Sunday was another set of challenges. Snow over night had left frozen crust in the corners. The wind had dried out most of the course, but there were still a few large mud holes, just enough to soak your feet. The wind was blowing at 15-20 mph with 35 degree temps. Fortunately there were 2 beach runs this day. I was able to move up or gain on the guys ahead of me each run. Unfortunately my hip flexors started to cramp with 2 to go. I had to soft pedal for half a lap, losing contact with Rob Kramer (again) and the chance to catch the next group. But I was able to keep rolling. I limited my losses to one more spot behind Rob; painfully to the big G himself. For the 2nd year in a row I was Gewillied at NBX on the last lap. Still, I ended the weekend with out frost bite or hypothermia. The wet and cold are hard on everyone, but true cyclocross racers just learn how to ride through it and recover.