Monday, December 1, 2008

Mud and Men?

Not sure what it is about mud that brings out a playful and curious aspect of our personalities? Generally speaking when its below freezing, 20 mile an hour winds, some snow and wet sloppy ground we tend to stay indoors and mind our beer and TV. However, cyclocross is not your normal sport or crappy weather activity. There is nothing normal about riding bikes around a mud filled course in weather like this.

The course was set up to challenge the riders even in dry conditions with lots of climbs, off camber turns and run ups. When the weather turned bad and got worse it turned the course into a mud fest filled with slippery run ups, slick corners and wheel stopping MUD! I believe every rider was having problems, shifting, braking and clipping into pedals plus the cold wind and mud was enough to challenge the mind let alone the body.

Chris lead the way around a corner on his single speed "Ouch"!

After a spotty start on asphalt the course dropped on to a slight incline that I was able to ride about an hour before the race, but 40 plus riders doing 3 laps took its toll and left all but a few running their bikes up the hill.

At the top it turned back down, over the road, through a off camber dip, around a sweeping off camber turn, through double barriers (i did not fall this time) and back up the hill. This section was manageable on the bike for most riders and lead to a longer downhill that swept around and into a series of "Up & Downs" that would have been difficult on a dry day. On Sunday, not so much! The tricky dismount followed buy a slick run up, followed by a slick decent and yet another run up sent me into anaerobic meltdown.

Having gained the "Summit" and in position to mount the bike again we get our first taste of "clogged cleat melt down". Time Atac being a popular pedal for its quick entry and exit proved to be the proverbial scapegoat on this day. Trying to pedal and clip in with cleats pack full of mud and ice while fighting for breath was almost a game changer for me. Thankfully I realized that most people were having the same problems and managed to fight their way through it.

Once clipped in we were challenged by another sweeping off camber turn that whipped us back around towards the worst run up of the day. A planned dismount that had steps cut into it reeked havoc on the racers. It went up and to the left and sent the very best riders sliding back down on their buts. Not only was getting up a challenge, going down was a bumpy, muddy mess. Trying to mount the bike at the top and riding down was a bad idea, running down did not bode so well either, walking with your bike using it as a cane turned out to be the most productive way to navigate the challenge.

The rest of the course was more off camber corners that frustrated and bewildered the riders. Five laps later I crossed the finish line after 45 minutes of pain. Fortunately, I was lapped and my race ended a little early. Finishing 20th out of 23 was not quite what I expected, but then again what else could I have done. My weight is my issue, period. Racing 15-20 pounds lighter would not guarantee a win, but maybe I could be more competitive.

Even with some of the best wheel sets and bikes taking the course head on, our technology proved to be no match for mother nature . This was a nice little wake up call for the US National Championship December 11-14th and should give us time to modify or prepare for what mother nature will throw at us. Cyclocross proving once again that its one of the toughest racing events around!

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