Riding with the wind. When I'm sad, she comes to me.
With the thousand smiles, she gives to me...

Fly on my little wing.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My First Cyclocross Race

So my DNF at Iceman left me unable to get the competitive fix I need every now and then. Luckily No Boundaries was putting on their second edition of the Challenge for Challenge Cyclocross Race. If you are unaware of what cyclocross is check out this video of how the REAL cyclocross racers do it. I don't even come close to qualifying. This low-key, fun event is a benefit for Challenge Mountain, which is sweet in itself, but the chill atmosphere is great. There's great variety, it's short, painful and also super spectator friendly. Plus there's beer when you're done.

So the day before the race I set up some mock barriers and practiced my dismounts/re-mounts. I kinda figured it out, but figured it would be a "learn as you go" experience. Race day arrived with perfect cyclocross weather. Forty degrees, breezy and active rain. It's funny because the style of racing invites the sense the nastier the weather is the more exciting the race becomes.

The Huge Stacked Field

(Not) Perfect technique at the first barrier!

I went out for some practice laps and got the technique and handling down a bit more, as I immediately became wet and dirty. I think there were eight racers in the A race (10 laps). So obviously not a deep field, but it was perfect for my first race. We started, I was a bit timid and at the back. It was a bit sketchy at first as I almost crashed on the first turn and fumbled through the first dismount. I noted to another rider that we had 9 more tries to get it right.

Surprisingly I quickly became fairly comfortable with the race and moved up into fourth. I was watching the lines and techniques of the other riders (who were obviously experienced) and made some good adjustments. Maybe three or four laps in I felt I had the technique down and moved into third. Being less experienced at cyclocross plus having my Mountain Bike it was interesting to see where I would gain ground and where I would loose it; consistently every lap. I'd gain on the hills and through the sand, and loose it on the barriers and several turns (No surprise that triathletes lack bike handling skills).

The Podium gets Beer. Cool.

It's full gas the whole time, with only a few seconds to recover on turns and downhills and such. I was inching closer to the second place guy and after three laps of trying I was on his wheel. As the race went on I noticed I really had to focus and think about what I needed to do to dismount, manuver, etc. It's interesting because I have the ability to go hard, but I can just get in the zone and "embrace the pain." But in 'cross I had to embrace the pain, while still trying to use higher level thinking so I didn't eat it. It's like having to multitask at it's worst.

 I did loose focus for a bit, had some poor re-mounts and lost ground to the guy in front of me. I think there were three laps left, but it's hard to keep track. I wasn't closing the gap and didn't have more gas to give. Right before the last lap he crashed and I passed him. It doesn't feel as honorable as a "fair fight", but that's how racing goes sometimes. Anyway I finished second, didn't break myself, had a blast and won a six pack of Fat Tire. Plus it's a charity event. Win win for everyone! I definitely want to do some more races, but I don't think I'll be buying a 'cross bike just yet. Only looking.

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