So I did it. I went out and pinned on a number and did a bike race on Sunday. All-City Intercontinental Cyclocross Championship. Nothing quite like getting off the couch and going out to race.
Truth be told, I have been riding, and quite a lot. Just not the kind of riding I was doing a few years back. No, this is an hour to 90 minutes 5 times a week since moving to Minnesota (more on that here) kind of riding, but with very few moments of intensity. I was thinking back to a few years ago when I did my 50 races and I came off a full road season. Heck, the weekend before ‘Cross started I found myself off the front at the state championship road race for about 10 unplanned miles.
Anyways, back to Sunday morning. A nice cool and crisp early fall morning. It was nice not having any expectations, which also threw any of the pre-race jitters out the window. That being said I was still stressing a bit over tyre pressure and bike set up. It isn’t flat around here like it was in Texas. I changed to a 42t SRAM X-Sync chain ring to a 40t the evening before (and mid-race was wishing that was a 38t). Tyre pressure was an entire other dilemma, but it was pretty cool to have the Zipp Tyre Wiz sensors on the bike for real time data on my Garmin.
I registered for the 3/4 field, and being the first race of the day, gave us ample time to get 3/4 pre-ride laps in. As I went to the staging area that familiar buzz and rush started to creep in. I unexpectedly got a second row call up and had to fight through the crowd to grab that spot before they filled the rest of the field in behind me. So there I am, waiting for the whistle and trying to tell myself to not go hard and take it easy. Yea right, we all know how that works.
The whistle blows and we are off. Keep in mind I have done exactly zero practice starts and zero dismount/remounts in almost a year, but somehow managed to clip right in and get in the flow of the opening start loop. As we made our way to the course I had to back off a bit knowing that someone would probably wash out as we made the turn off the gravel on to the course proper. I tool a really wide line to ensure to avoid any carnage.
The race venue at Theo Wirth was quite incredible. It was in a bowl type setting and the course was laid out as such that it climbed up towards and near to the top 3 times each lap. The one with the nastiest sting in the tail was the opening climb. Nothing tricky about it, just straight up past the finish line and to the top. I am not sure of the grade or elevation, but it was taking well over one minute plus each trip up.
Then, as the course wound its way back down to a quick of camber drag, the track tilted back up again. A set of stairs followed by a remount only to climb two berms up towards the high point of the course. These berms are actually used in the daily down hill section of single track at the park.
Now at the highest point of the venue it was time for a trip back down via gravel and single track. It was smooth with good flow, but not so smooth I didn’t feel it in my neck and shoulders the next day. At the bottom a sharp right hander off the single track back on to some gravel for the last short climb. This climb didn’t hurt nearly as bad as the other two, but by no means was it easy.
After the final ascent there were a few tricky turns to negotiate, one being a tight left that I saw at least two racers wash out in to the final descent to the bottom of the bowl. This descent was a fast and bumpy off camber section that led to a section of fresh gravel that was much harder than it looked. The gravel had two turns and being the first race of the day, the grooves hadn’t been fully set in yet, so there was a bit of fish tailing to be had.
And that was that, well for 7-8 laps. I am not sure if I lost count or if I was even paying attention. I made a deal with myself to finish the race, keep it up right, and ride conservatively enough to avoid any mechanicals. Mission accomplished. While I certainly don’t see 50 races happening anytime soon (well maybe collectively over a couple of seasons) it was good to be back out there suffering with the rest. So I guess I will get back out there next week.