Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Racing Suckerbrook

Five years ago, I raced Suckerbrook as my first-ever 'cross race. Who knows how many 'cross races later, I still think this is one of my favorites of the season - great course, great organization, and a great cause (oh, and don't tell Mike, but I love Jack! ;)).

I pre-rode with some of the other NEBC women before the race to dial in the lines, and see what had changed since I last raced here (I had to miss it last year due to a family commitment). There were more corners (YAY), the same stairs and whoop-dee-dos (although with more sand this year), fewer trees, the same amount of rocks, a new log and woods section, and the dreaded sand. And despite multiple practice sessions in sand prior to the race, and multiple tries before the race at a clean line, I ended up running most of that section during the race.

As everyone knows (or now knows), the first race at Suckerbrook is TO the race. Despite a 9:45 start time, I was second to line up on the start - at 9:29 ;). But, it got me a terrific starting position on the front row, and I tried (in vain) to stay with hole-shot-Sally on the whistle. I did end up onto the course in 4th, and quickly moved up into second place behind Emily. And that's where I stayed for 3 of the 4 laps - slowly making up time on Emily in the power sections (and the whoop-dee-doo section), only to lose it once we hit the sand. Apparently the front was a good place to be - the course was REALLY dusty, and without a significant number of people in front, I was clearly able to see the entire time (and likely didn't eat quite as much dirt as some others later in the day).

And then, in the 3rd or 4th lap, the 3rd place racer caught and passed me as well. I had seen her coming for a bit and tried ever-so-hard to stay ahead of her. When she passed, though, instead of giving up the chase, I burned matches to stay attached. I was closing in on both Kate and Emily on the final lap when my foot popped out of my pedal on the uphill whoop-dee-doo - leaving me to see them ahead, but not be able to catch.

I was pretty pleased to finish with my best result here ever - landing on the podium. Thanks to EVERYONE who cheered madly from the sidelines - I heard you all, and gave the race everything I could.

After watching the start of Mike's race, and a quick stop at the podium, it was off to the pit for me to watch/support Mike. Here's his version of his race:

I’ve always had reasonable results at SBC and enjoy the race. This was the site of my legitimate entrance into cyclocross back in 2006. Prior to that I had only done a total of two races back in the late ‘90’s. Coming in this year I’ve had a string of issues and most recently back to back horrible results. I saw this race as a crossroad. If the luck changed, I could still pull off a good season but if it didn’t, I may just give it up.

Many of the big guns chose to race the Elite race instead of the Master’s race. Going in, I’d planned to do both. I felt pretty good and was hoping for a good show in the AM race. I started from the front row but once again got a terrible start; I just can’t seem to sprint start in a cross race for some reason. Immediately I was mid-pack. Some strategic chasing and frantic passing got me up to the lead group. Unfortunately I tried a dicey move on the last up of the steep up, down, up but got taken to the tape and hooked around a stake. Off the bike, untangle, running, remount, dismount, barrier and I’d lost half a dozen spots and was gassed. More frantic chasing, passing, and attempting to pass people with superior skills who didn’t want to be passed and the group was gone. All I could do from there was settle and start making ground back, which I did until I missed a turn where the tape was broken in the field and rode off course only to have to stop, turn around and ride back.

The laps went by and I feared the worst, however the gap was coming down. With about 2 to go I was in 8th and could now readily see the group of three just ahead. On the final lap I knew that it was now or never so focused on the catch. I made contact on the back double-track section with a surge around Ryan R. so as not to let him attach. We were thick with traffic and dust so I had to keep on the gas around the corner and into the log hop. At that point I contacted Big Al and Jeff M. as well as some traffic behind them. On the final double-track into the sand I passed the traffic and launched as hard as I could so as to hit the sand first. It worked albeit with a little rubbing when Al switched lanes at the last minute. I pinned it along the fence and then when we made the corner on the pavement I laid down all of the seated power that I could muster, which fortunately was enough to win the sprint, with a bike throw, by a solid wheel length. Nothing like waiting for the last minute I guess.

What Mike's report doesn't tell you is that he had a great ride, finishing 5th in the Elite Master's 35+ field! It helps to make up for some of the racing last weekend...

We both planned on doing a second race, but after hanging out and standing up for too long, decided to sit and spectate while heckling our friends instead! It was a terrific day and many thanks to Jack and Justin for their hard work in making it happen. We'll be back next year for sure!


Pain Face said...

Nice Job, this is one of my favorite shots:


BTW, nobody looked good in the sand


Cathy said...

Thanks, Rob! I actually changed my FB profile pic to that photo - it is awesome! I could actually tag quite a few more of the women and juniors, but didn't see an option for that.

The sand wasn't horrible except for the corners...

Pain Face said...

if you hit the "like" button, you should be able to tag anyone that is "your" facebook friend.

Pain Face said...

oh, and once you hit like, you can download any image you like!