Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What Goes Up, Will Go Up Again Next Lap: Rolling with BOB, Rolling Tires at GMCX

The New England Cyclocross season is off to a flying start. I should instead say a careening downhill start. The first race of the official season (cyclocross before Labor Day is pre-season) was a new event, Roll in the Hay with BOB. I decided to give the fresh course in West Newbury a go. Since it was a BOB race on the north shore, I assumed it would be flat and fast. I was wrong, so very wrong.

photo by Nick Czerula
The obvious feature of the course was that it started at the bottom of hill and wound slowly to the top. This could not be a BOB course, after all, don't they all have an allergy to races with hills? Apparently not since the elevation gain per lap was almost the same as Green Mountain! Regardless, at the top the course cut to a fast off camber ridge to a faster descent, some dirt road, even a slight up hill with a groove in the grass, to a loose set of turns before the finish. All together it was a miniature Green Mountain CX course. A good way to prepare for the brutality of the next weekend.

18 guys showed to race the masters 35+ event. National champion Brian Willichoski came screeching to a stop at staging with 30 seconds to the whistle. The small field was a good representation of the usual suspects; Al Starret, Kurt Perham, Ryan Larocque, Andy Gould, and a couple of fast 45+ racers (John Mosher and Paul Ricard) made for a hard start. Since it was a hot day too, I backed off from the lead group just before the top of the hill. Brian was tearing a monstrous pace off the front, 5 guys grouped up to chase a few seconds back. I was concerned about blowing up on the first lap. I ended up chasing John Mosher for the first two laps. When it was clear I wasn't catching him, and another guy was about to catch me, I sat up. I rode around on a wheel for two laps, attacked hard at the start of the final lap, and charged around the course for a 9th place finish.

With a decent result on a hilly course at West Newburry I had hopes for a good result at Green Mountain CX. It was not to be. My first clue should have been the weather on Saturday morning. The forecast was for a clear dry day. Yet I was a driving up to Williston Vermont, a light rain started to fall. Then it became a down pour, and it didn't let up until I was 5 miles from the Catamount Center. Mother Nature seemed to say "school's in session kids, remember your rain jackets and boots!" which of course I had forgotten.

The course at Green Mountain was the same for the first day as it's been for the past several years; start up the west hill, wrap around the stairs, sweep down the hill to the barriers, repeat on the east side of the hill. The difference this year was the addition of the elite juniors to our field. I blame that on this guy, the donkey boy.

photo by Todd Prekaski

Chandler complained so frequently last year about racing against these mighty mites, that when he changed categories, they followed him. Damn you Chandler, those kids are really fast. Curtis White, Cooper Willsey and Peter Gougen are blazing. If they keep it up, they will be the future of New England elite cyclocross.

So after working my way through traffic to mid pack on the first lap, 2 Bikers Edge guy lay down in a fast corner. I locked up my brakes to avoid hitting them, and in doing so, I skidded my rear tire sideways, rolling the tubular tire. After a very slow ride to the pit, I found my pit bike was not in the pit, it was out side the pit, which was the pits. To complete the trifecta of misery, once I got my B bike I went out the wrong exit. I was called back to correct my error by a kindly official, and allowed to continue on my merry way, now 3+ minutes behind the tail end of the field. But I kept racing, and even managed to catch a few stragglers, and finish on the lap.

photo by Todd Prekaski
Given how easily the rest of the rolled tire pulled off the rim, I decided to test my B wheels hard in the pre-ride on Sunday. Sure enough, I rolled a rear tire on the first hard fast down hill while braking. I think my error was using old glue for the base layers on the rim, that and neglecting to use belgie tape. (pro tip from Jonathan Page, always use belgie tape on carbon rims). I was close to bagging the whole race on Sunday when John McGrath from NEBC offers me his B set of carbon wheels. I was dumbfounded and thankful. The wheels happened to be the Shimano 7801 model I had run a couple years ago. They were glued (with belgie tape) to Fango tires. I could make these work. I tested them out for a few laps and decided to line up.

In testing out the new wheels I left myself all of 10 minutes to warmup. So I was not really prepared to race at the start. But race I did. For the first lap things seemed to be going alright. I was closing in on Garry David, and feeling good. Then my front shifting jammed. Now in most cyclocross races, I wouldn't be bothered by being stuck in the big ring, but Green Mountain CX, is well on a mountain. Several spots really require using the inner ring. I ended up running the bmx whoop-de-do section the rest of the laps because I could only use half my gears. Frustrated and flailing, I ended up having a poor race, including the final disgrace of losing a sprint to G-Ride. But again, I finished, I wasn't lapped, I wasn't last. Yeah! bike racing!

photo by Nick Czerula

In other events, Crystal Anthony revealed that her phenomenal winning streak from this summer continues in cyclocross season. It seams that whatever type of race she enters this year (time trial, mountain bike, ultra cross, road race) she is taking home the flowers. I'm curious to see how she'll perform at Gloucester against national competition in front of her home town crowd.

photo by Todd Prekaski
Jamie "the dangler" Driscol was dangling no more. He was the last American to hold onto Bazin's wheel on Saturday. Jamie did one better on Sunday by taking a hard fought win. Congrats to him. Perhaps he can repeat his performance of two years ago at Cross Vegas, only this time make it all the way to the finish.

I certainly enjoyed seeing most of the New England cyclocross crew at the first series race. Mo and Matt Roy, Mike and Cathy Rowell, the Wilcox, Justine Lindine, Ellen Noble, the Keoughs, the Gougens, and even the CyclocrossRacing boys were good to spend time with. Here's hoping for a better a weekend of racing next weekend. One of the beauties of cyclocross, there's another chance, another race, another lap just around that next painful corner.

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