Friday, September 30, 2011

The CXers Are Coming, The CXers Are Coming!

And the British came too!
(this photo by Russ Campbell; podium photo by Michael Foley)

Wednesday night we ventured to the Lancaster Fairgrounds to kick off what has been dubbed the "Holy Week of Cyclocross" here in New England. The Midnight Ride of Cyclocross would be the first in a series of 6 races over an 11 day period - Gloucester, Night Weasels and Providence would round out the "Holy Week".

This race marked the second in the Zanconato Single Speed series as well, so Mike and I decided those were the races we would do. I really wanted no part of lining up with the likes of Helen Wyman (British National CX champ), Gabriella Day, Mo Bruno-Roy and other REALLY fast women. Instead, I took the line with 49 of my SS friends (sadly, there were only 3 of us women) to blast away for 45 minutes with only one gear.

Prior to the race start there was much discussion amongst competitors about gearing choices. I laughed when Cort C. asked what gear I was running. Those of you who know me know that I don't pay ANY attention to those details - I simply ride what Mike puts on my bike. Cort laughed at that, and then agreed with me that zip-ties on a geared bike to limit to a SS was actually cheating. The people doing that had the opportunity to find the right gear for the course on the pre-ride, and then quickly zip tie their shifters into their selected gear. It's much harder to change out cogs than it is to zip tie a shifter - just sayin'.

I really liked that the promoters of this race staged the women SS racers amongst the men. I had reservations about this at first, but it turned out to be a big benefit as I had people with whom to race the entire time. Because of my points and being pre-reg'd for the race, I managed to be in about the 6th row starting out, allowing me a good opportunity to move up on the start whistle, and then to quickly get passed by some stronger men who had the misfortune of being staged behind me ;). The first twists and turns on lap one were a cluster - being so far back, there was a lot of braking, jostling and wistfully watching the front of the race maneuver seamlessly about 3-4 turns ahead of us.

I settled in, closely watching the other women competitors through the twists and turns. When I came through and saw 3 laps to go, I quite literally told myself that meant that I only had two - I was FULLY expecting to be lapped by the front runners of the men's race, as I had been at Quad. By that lap, I was attached to teammate Mark L. and a "Dr. Gonzo" racer (that's what was printed on his butt, which is all I saw). They rode smoothly, gapping me off in some corners and on the uphills, but I chased and could catch back on on the flats and power sections.

Going into the penultimate lap, I figured this was my last go round, but I was still with Mark and Dr. Gonzo. I had paid attention in the previous lap, and was able now to stay with them in the corners, pedaling through instead of coasting and sprinting. And then they slowed down. It became obvious that Dr. Gonzo was drafting to conserve energy, and I couldn't get around both of the riders. When Dr. Gonzo finally passed Mark just before the barriers, I shouted at him to hop on Gonzo's wheel and stick to it. That got me the evil glare from Dr. Gonzo, and he stepped on the gas to open an insurmountable gap.

Mark cramped at that point, and I left him to chase the racers ahead. Suddenly, I could see the race leaders on the course behind, and I literally talked myself through the latter part of the lap - spectators on the course probably wondered who the crazy lady was as "Don't get lapped" "Don't let Curtis lap you" "C'mon Cathy, go, go, go" came out of my mouth (in pants) as I desperately tried to NOT get lapped by Curtis, or any of the other leaders.

Curtis was coming, I stepped on the gas. I needed to ride the technical hill section cleanly to stay ahead. As I sprinted towards the start/finish, I checked under my arm to see where Curtis was, and pumped my fist when I realized that I really was going to finish on the lead lap! Wahoo!

I just needed to ride one more lap, and to ride it clean. I did get passed by the last racer on the course who wasn't lapped, shouted at the Elite men who were warming up that I WAS still racing, and finished off the race ecstatic - I had won the women's SS race, and I DID NOT GET LAPPED by Curtis! Success!

It hurt. It was hard. But it was oh so much fun. I don't think I've had that much fun racing my bike in a long time! So excited that this series is in place. Of course, now there is a giant sucking sound as I look at results and realize that I might need to do more of these races than originally planned to defend my position - maybe that was the intent ;).


Ian said...

I agree the zip ties are cheating a little bit, but if you want to have 50 person SS fields and have an SS series you have to allow it I think.

A dedicated SS CX bike is a pretty specialized piece of equipment.

Cathy said...

Ian - definitely good points! It just frustrated me a tiny bit to hear someone saying, "I can't figure out which gear to choose" as I was riding what I had, regardless!

That all said, it WAS fun racing in a 50 person field.

tmc said...

Not wanting to be called a cheater, I used it as an excuse to buy a new bike. :)

mkr said...

We had SS road bike for years and a few years back decided cross would be a neat SS adventure. Rather than have three SS bikes (as we also have SS MTB of course) we ditched the road in favor of a cross bike that we just swap rubber on in the summer.