Monday, September 21, 2009

Back At It - Making the Hurt Feel Good

This weekend kicked off the start of the '09 'cross season in the mid-atlantic with the first two races of the MAC series. For me, it was my re-introduction to 'cross after a short hiatus and my first double 'cross weekend in almost two years. This will also be my first year racing the Elite Master's field.

Saturday Mike Birner and I made the 2 1/2hr trip up to Trexlertown for the Nittany Lion race held at the Velodrome. After the first couple of warm-up laps my legs felt better than they had during the week, but I was afraid of this course as the long flat stretches never seemed to suite me, that and my back never holds up. Starting the season with no points from last year is a huge disadvantage, especially in a stacked field like the elite masters. I staged somewhere in the 5/6th row and the start prologue was short and fast with little time or room to move up. Lap one through the rooty section on the top of the course my chain bounced off and was sitting in the wasteland between my chainring and chain guard. Of course, the moment I decide to move out of the one good line to stop and fix it it pops back on leaving me to try and get up to speed again through the worst of the roots.
Photo courtesy of Dennis Smith

This photo is a perfect example of the importance of a good start in a 'cross race. On the right is Blair who finished 3rd. On the left, just in front of the guy in red is me. This is the start of lap 1, maybe 90s into the race and I'm already 35-40s off of the front group. I settled into a good rhythm sticking with groups and making moves to bridge up to the next group. I found this style course actually suited me more than it had in the past. Finished 33rd out of 73 so being in the top half was an accomplishment and I was within a few seconds of my marked riders and my time would have actually put me top 10 in the B field.

Sunday, Charm City, the biggest show in town as it pulls riders from all over the mid-atlantic. Lots of fresh legs in the 84 rider field to make the race harder on a slightly tougher course than the day before. Legs were heavy so I tried a longer warm up but felt I was just dehydrating myself sitting on the rollers. A few warm up laps and I felt pretty good about the course but the longer inclines and rough, choppy sections were certainly felt in the legs and back as well as the earthen stairs on the backside of the course. Another start at the back coupled with a fast, tight prologue and I was stuck chasing from the gun. The accelerations hurt and I found myself closing a lot of gaps early to keep from getting stuck in no man's land between groups. Last two laps hurt, my teammate Chip bridged up to a small group I was in and went to the front after the steps and helped us get clear. We picked off a few more spots on the way to the finish. Finished a disappointing 40th, with some 45+ mixed in ahead so still in the 30's for the 35+ field.

Need to work on the 2 day race fitness but definitely glad to be racing 'cross, relatively pain free.

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