Sunday, January 11, 2009

Knoxiecross #2 (more mud)

Up early. 5:40am to be semi-precise. Realized once I got up it was about 20 minutes further to the rendezvous point than I thought it was when I went to bed. Bagged the shower and the yoga, instead focusing on the essentials: Pack Bag, Feed Face, Make Coffee, Don't Forget Anything. In the car right on schedule, arrived on schedule only to find that my ride, Nate, was going to be a few minutes late. No matter, still had half a french press to finish off with a little NPR.

Fast forward to Knoxville. 38 degrees (that's cold to me) but no longer raining. Same course as yesterday only backward with one small re-route. The rain had continued through much of the afternoon on Saturday and the climb-turned-run-up had become a terrifying decent complete with 8 inch deep ruts, hub-deep mud holes and mystery sink-holes. The entire course was still soaked and muddy and a creek had appeared on the lower section (we crossed it three times a lap), the descent had become a long, brutal climb... basically it was classic cross...

First race, first corner, off the front with the David Worth, same as yesterday. We joked a little bit after the second corner that it all seemed a little familiar (since we "accidentally" dropped the entire pack after the first 2 minutes in Saturdays race) but the jokes stopped as soon as we hit the barriers and he started on the attack. I was able to stick close but after the crazy decent I realized my rear tire was going flat. Rode it within running distance of the pits, ran to the pits and with Nate's help changed wheels (thank god for pit wheels) then realized we'd installed it wrong, undid it, re-tightened it (rear wheel on the SS is bolt on... not designed for high-speed changes) and got back on after losing 6 or 7 places. I started reeling riders in, first a solo, then a pack of three, then another solo and I could see third place. With two laps to go I passed third coming through the finish line and kept charging, trying to make contact with the leader (who was long gone). 2nd place.

Fifteen minutes later the C race started with the Single Speed starting 30 seconds behind the CX4's. There were 27 of them and almost immediately Jeremy and I started working our way through them. The decent came up pretty quick and we were in the thick of the 4's. Jeremy was obviously trying to put some riders between us and I really had to let it hang out to stay with him, clipping a rider in the process. I actually hit him pretty hard and it's a miracle we both stayed up. Jeremy and I quickly got some space out in front of the 4's and started the cat and mouse game. Up the long grassy climb I realized that he was pushing a 42x18 and my 39x18 was making life a lot easier. He was forced to really yard on the bike to keep it moving while I could ride right behind him by just standing up and gently rolling the pedals over. I developed a plan to just sit behind him, let him do the work, then attack on the long climb on the last lap, hoping I'd have saved enough in my legs to hold him off.

Then Jeremy went down. He got a little loose on an off-camber corner and fell, allowing me to take the lead. I kept it mellow, not wanting to attack then, hoping to make him work to catch me, thinking I could attack when he made contact on the climb. He caught me before the sketchy decent but by the bottom of the hill I had a gap. At the bottom of the decent the course starts a long slog up the hill. It's broken up by a couple of short, straight descents, but it starts with a false flat climb through think grass and mud. I stood up and turned the pedals over smoothly trying to give the illusion that I was pushing hard and attacking. It must have worked because my gap started growing. Up another climb, looked back, more space. By the time I hit the long climb I he was moving backward and I'd sort of saved a little bit for that part of the course so I kept at it. Crossed the line around 20 seconds up on the next finisher. Finally a Single Speed win, after most of my season. I probably have to re-cable my entire bike after all the muddy racing. At least I don't have deraileur cables...

Photos were taken once I got home under blue skies in my driveway. Conditions were a lot different three hours East in Knoxville as evidenced by the photo at the top. For more pictures of the race click here, the opening sequence is of the sketchy descent. Big thanks to the folks at Knoxiecross for putting on a great race and drawing some decent talent. I'm really hopeful that we can field larger classes at all the Tennessee cyclocross races next season. This year was apparently better than last year and I think if we can get the fields bigger and improve the spectator scene we'll really have a good thing going.

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