Sunday, September 23, 2007

'Cross eyed

The day finally arrived. My maiden 'cross race! Race #1 in the Chicago Cross Cup series. It's kind of sad that I've been waiting on this day almost like Christmas, but then it does sort of signify the start of my local racing career here in Chicago, so I guess it was a big deal.

I got to the park early, taking the El for most of the journey and then biking the last couple miles. Certainly a new routine for me... They treated the mens Cat 4 race as the "main event" putting it at the end of the day. I'm sure this was more becuse of the sheer number of racers, they wanted to make sure all other races where completed and off the course.

The course was dry and slightly soft with many corners loose and sandy from the pounding they'd taken troughout the day. Ride time temp was in the 80's. NOT your typical 'cross conditions! 79 men started at 2:45pm for the 30 minutes of hell that would follow. I made the unfortunate mistake of taking a warmup lap, so that by the time I got back to the line, most of those 79 men were already lined up :( I begrudgingly took my place at the back of the pack.

Sucky. I did manage a spot on the outside, however, and eyed my escape route.

The race started (slowly) and I shot to the outside. We started with a long sweeping left turn, so I jumped to the outside and put the hammer down. Not too far from the start was the firt run up. We took a 180 degree turn into the runup which normally required dismounting before the turn. However, with the mass of humanity leading into it at this point, I actually had to dismount 2 turns before the run up. I managed to get myself an inside position on the 180 turn, and had a clean run up. Shortly after we were biking back up that same hill, and I used my SSkillz to move up some more places. At this point I was in about 24th.

You can see the masses I had to navigate

After a long back stretch we entered my favorite part of the course. A series of chicanes had been setup around 4 bushes. It was a blast. Sharp right to enter, hug the next bush tight around to the left, and again on the next tight to the right. Shoot straigt across to the last, hug tight, then a sharp right hander, sandy, to the exit! On my first lap I passed no less than 6 riders through the chicanes. I was stealing inside lines like they were going out of style! And anyone that knows me knows that tight cornering in loose conditions is not my forte, but my Raleigh RX 1.0 was hooked up! (Thanks Ernie! )

Had to gas it up again out of the chicanes to another long bumpy stretch, another 180 left hander, but a little more room. Down the back stretch and into the second barrier. This one was a bitch. It starts downhill into a sharp left 180, sprint back uphill into the barrier. Dismount, run downhill again, 180 degree turn, run back up hill, 180 left and them remount and ride away toward the start/finish. I thought this downhill remount and then the long start/finish straight would lead to some sprint battles. But, honestly, after the barrier and run-up, I was toast, even after the first lap..

By the time I came around on my second lap I was in 13th place! I glanced behind after clearing the first runup and there was a huge chase group. "there's no way I can hold them off!" I thought. I've really got to work on my mental game!! But I kept pushing hard, and the massive train I expected to blow by never came. I pick off another another on this lap and I'm in 12th. I hadn't bothered to check the lap count up to this point, so as I go by the start/finish, I glance over to the right... 3 laps to go! Again i think "I don't think I can keep this up!!"

I'm in a bit of a no man's land at this point. There was a single speeder within striking distance (I later learned he was on a fixed gear!!!!! ) but he had disappeared. I'm sort of yo-yoing off of the next closest rider. As we enter the chicanes again, I can tell he's struggling on the turns, so I try to ride clean and fast through the corners and I gain on him, but in the flats he stays away. I start to reel him in again as we approach the run-up on lap 4.

I'm right behind going into the downhill, and then attack on the climb back up. I had to go all out as I wanted to make the pass stick. My legs are starting to twitch all over like they want to lock up, so I just concentrate on long smooth strokes. We get into the flats, and I can hear him starting to fade. Into the chicanes, right, left, right, he's right behind.. one more hard left and I hammer again... By the next turn about 200 meters away I can see he's started to fade!

I come throught the start finish again and hear the sweetest sound ever.. the bell lap!! all I have to do is hang on and I'll finish in 11th, meeting my goal of a top 15 finish. To top it off, I've even passed some lapped riders! What a race... the lap goes without incident, no one very close at all... I cruise in for a great finish. Later, checking the results, it turns out some of those riders weren't lapped at all and I actually took 9th!! Top 10! I'm psyched.. a perfect end to a perfect day!



Blogger SourDad said...

Hey it may be flat, but at least they ride bikes in Chicago

27/9/07 11:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice Lil write up. Great Job Soupy!


3/10/07 9:40 PM  
Blogger soupsymom said...

Good job Mike, that's how it was and even your parents really enjoyed being there.

24/10/07 4:05 PM  

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