Monday, August 30, 2010

Palmer Junglecross Cyclocross Race Report

Racing cyclocross in August is sacrilegious.  Especially because there was an alternative mountain bike race (EFTA #7 Treasure Valley) that I could have attended. 

Here’s my list of things about cyclocross in August that shouldn’t be true:

1)  Sunburn

2)  Racing in short-sleeves

3)  Beach day with family after morning race

4)  The use of mosquito repellent instead of embro

5)  Sam Adams Summer Ale

Anyway, why did I race?  Easy, my ranking over at Crossresults blows.  And in the past year, I’ve dropped another 10 pounds, and have gotten some expert guidance from Cramer Performance in how to not be at the back of the pack.  If my road season is any indicator to how much I’ve improved, then Palmer is the perfect test, and might improve my ranking.

I lined up in the front row, thanks to teammate Chris making way for me.  There were about 50 of us total…a nice showing considering I can’t be the only one thinking I should be at the beach.  I had a clean start, clipped right in, and dropped into about 12th wheel.  I was far enough back that I basically coasted the last half of the sprint and dropped into the woods where we rode double-wide on a root-veined path that had only one good line.  I rode crappy lines, over roots I’d not normally want to face with my CX bike.  But part of me thought I was on my 29r mountain bike, so I powered ahead.

The first lap sorted us out into our rank and order.  There was a group of 4 or 5 gapped behind me.  I learned quit quickly how positions can change when I dropped a chain during one of the run-ups during the third lap, and I didn’t realize it until I had mounted my bike and spun the cranks like Fred Flinstone.  I clipped out, fixed the dropped chain and watched 5 guys blow by me.  I couldn’t believe that they didn’t WAIT for me!   Wow, it doesn’t take much to shift positions.  It took an entire lap to just catch back one of them. 

I’m learning that doing well at CX race is an accumulation of many small efforts.  When you have that moment to pass, you’ve gotta take it.  I used to think, “this riding is going a good pace, I’ll just ride their wheel”.  Today, I went in with the attitude that I’m taking the pass, if they’re stronger, they won’t let me through, or they’ll pass me again.  Because of this strategy, I didn’t do that continuous fading of the faster groups.  I put efforts in on passing on the runups; I passed during the remounts.

The last couple laps were uneventful.  I kept a little battle with a Cycle Barn rider and we were basically in no-man’s land with no contenders behind us, and no one worth catching.  During the last lap, however, my calf started cramping – probably from the long-ass runup.  At least I thought it was a cramp, I battled through because the race was almost done.  Today, however, I’m suspicious something else is going on as I’ve never had a cramp with a sore muscle 24 hour later.

So, how did I do?  I finished 14th, which is my best result to date for a CX race.  It’s taken two years and 30 pounds to go from getting lapped at my first race at Quad Cross in 2008, to being able to battle in the front third.  Let’s hope this result foretells more good stuff for this CX season.

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