The long Veterans Day weekend was beautiful with sunny skies and unseasonably warm, early fall temperatures. There was quite a bit of wind as always near the coast and it certainly came into play as you were making your way around the exposed playing fields of the Plymouth races.
The Eco Cross course is a crazy, old-school through the woods jungle-cross course that takes place at a small organic farm. There are lots of narrow trails, tight corners and fun sections.
The Plymouth course on Saturday was the same basic course that has been used for the past couple of years with a couple of minor changes to remove the big perimeter loop around the outer fields. There was a good mix of dirt road, a couple of brief woods sections and some open playing fields touring at the school. There was also one sandy and loose run-up that was challenging for most as well as a few other steep climbs that worked the legs over pretty well.
The Sunday course was effectively the same course as the one used on Day II and saw reuse of certain parts of the Saturday course as well as minor re-routing that distinctly changed the flavor of the course for the better. There were also two deep and loose, but short, sand sections that proved mainly a nuisance for me but were great for spectating.
Coonamesett Eco-Cross – 11/11/11
It was an interesting day for a race. I’d never raced on a Friday before, but I had the day off from school and the race was at noon – a nice break from the 5:00 AM wake-ups that a 9:00 or 9:30 start might require. So, well slept and ready, my teammate Ari and I arrived at the course early, but unfortunately not early enough to pre-ride the course since they weren’t staging and we wanted to get good positions in the starting grid. The start was set up a little weirdly. We went up a hill on a dirt road that we would later descend right into the barrier section. But I digress. I got a start in the second-ish row and probably went into the holeshot in tenth position or so. It was a right turn (after passing the alpaca pen…) onto some smooth singletrack through the woods, then down onto a fire road section with a sharp turn in a hub-deep mud puddle at the end. We came back around to the alpaca area after a little more singletrack, then it was back to the finishing-strait/barriers. Then we rode on a circuitous loop through one of the farm fields with lots of hairpin turns, and eventually were spit out near the alpacas again for the first singletrack section.
I basically spent the entire first lap trying to figure out the course (since I had gotten no pre-ride), so I got passed by a bunch of guys a few times when I took some incredibly bad lines. The rest of the race was a scramble to pass riders as often as I could. Every time the barriers would come around I could usually gain a position or two when the rider in front of me was ambling over them. I also found that the steeper climbing sections I could always push it and make up a lot of ground (I guess my skinny junior body goes up hill faster than those of those big masters racers…) so I tried to do that wherever I could. I ended up finishing ninth out of 42 riders, which I was definitely happy with.
On Friday, I had the day off from school because of Veterans Day, so I went for the three race weekend. The only thing better than a cross race is two, and the only thing better than two is three! One problem: Hours of driving and three days of waking up before dawn for my much-too-willing family. Luckily, Noah offered to give me a ride. We got to the race at about 10:30. The sun was out and the temps were in the high fifties, and the course was pretty short, featured one set of barriers, and was muddy. Our race, the Cat 4s, started at noon. The start was a pretty short uphill sprint on pavement to a left hand turn, then into a singletrack downhill section. I ended up being 15th-25th to the hole shot. I made up some ground at the beginning of the race, before having four or five guys pass me in the middle. The last few laps I passed three or four guys, but the short distance between corners made passing very tough. We finished after six and a half laps (first lap was a half lap). I finished 17th of 43. I wanted the top 25 percent, but I was happy to be in the top half. The race was a lot of fun. Someone stuck dollar bills in the barriers, but of course, grabbing them only seemed practical after the race was over. When I bought a few organic sweet potatoes from the farm’s market, the extra cash could have come in handy! I went home happy and looking forward to Plymouth.
Plymouth Festival of Cyclocross I
My start time for the Cat 4s in Plymouth was 9AM both days. This unfortunately meant getting up at 5. I woke up on Saturday feeling pretty good and well-recovered. My mom and I left at 6:15, and got to Plymouth about an hour later. The weather was slightly chillier than the day before, but still very nice. I overdressed, but not enough to really bother me. The course was dry, featuring one set of barriers and several run-ups. It was a pretty hilly course compared to the other races I’ve done. During my pre-ride, my chain fell off a frustrating six hundred times. I took my bike to the guys in the Shimano bus. The mechanic played with my bike for a few minutes, removed a few twisted links from my chain, tuned the derailleurs, and it shifted fine for the time being. At the start of the race, I was staged in the third row back, and I felt good. I decided to go for the hole shot. About 20 feet into the race, I was in good position. I had already made it past one guy and it looked like I had at least top ten to the first right-hander. I had a lane by someone, so I tried to accelerate through it. He had no idea what he was doing. He was swerving all over the place, and I got taken down. I managed to get back up after the entire 80-man field had run me over. With a giant surge of adrenaline, I remounted, determined to catch up. “Oh, wait…” I thought, “A chain is a useful thing to have on a cyclocross bike. Better put that back on first.” So, I got off my bike, put my chain back on, and crossed the start line a minute and a half into the race. I made the top half my goal, so I rode hard for the rest of the race. I made up a lot of ground, and finished 28th. It was an interesting change to be passing people the whole race, instead of starting at the front and battling with people of equal ability. Saturday was an odd day, but I had a lot of fun anyway. Considering I had mechanical problems and a crash, I couldn’t have asked for much better!
My dad, my dad’s friend, and I got there around 7:30. My dad and I were racing the cat 4’s at 9:00. Once we got our numbers, we got out on the course before the juniors started their race. While i was on the course, my left foot kept on coming out of the pedal. (this had started at a training race on Wednesday which caused me to crash because it came out on a pavement section on the course) Luckily my dad’s friend let me use his pedals. After we fixed this, we went to go warm up in a parking lot that nobody was was using. After that we went down to the staging area early so we could get a good spot (not knowing that this race was staged by cross results) I got staged in the 6th row with Ethan Pearl. As soon as the raced started I heard a crash up ahead of us on the left side. I went around the crash site to see Ari getting up in a hurry looking ok. I got dropped by most of the field and Ari. I luckily didn’t have any other problems with my pedals or anything else on my bike. Overall it was a good race, I didn’t get lapped by the majority of the field but I could of done a lot better.
Plymouth Festival of Cyclocross II
On Sunday, I was ready to race. I had left at 6:45 with my mom and we arrived at Plymouth at about 8. Arriving at 8 gave me enough time to go through the course once before the juniors race started. I felt as if the course was a bit too flat for me. I liked the technical parts in the forest because of the fast turns that we had practiced on our Wednesday team rides. I took a good fall in the sand because I was not paying attention to the route that I was going to take and I accidentally turned my wheel and I flipped over the handle bars into the sand. I did not feel as if the race went too well for me because of over dressing I overheated too quickly and lost energy really fast. All though it was not my best race I felt as if it was a great weekend ! Im excited for Velo Cross next week and hopefully I can stay upright !
On Sunday, I was a little beat up from the previous day’s crash and the general impact of two consecutive days of cross. However, I was still excited and motivated to race. This time, I brought with the whole crew: My mom, my brother, and my mom’s friend’s 4 year old kid. We got to Plymouth at around the same time as the day before, quarter past 7. The weather was great for cross: High fifties, but a little windy. The course was different than on Saturday, even though the venue was the same and a lot of sections from the first course remained. The new course featured one set of barriers, a run up, a short technical downhill section, and a couple of crash-inducing sandpits near the finish line. It was much wetter than Saturday, and a little longer. When the race started, I wasn’t going to risk going down again. I took it easy in the first few hundred feet, hanging in the middle of the pack. I hit it when the field spread out. On the second lap, I was sitting in about 20th place, and a great motivating force arrived: a teammate. Determined to win my battle with Noah, I raced hard and managed to avoid crashing in any of the sandpits. We passed a lot of other people while racing against each other. I ended up twelfth, with Noah close behind me at fourteenth place (out of 74). I savored the sweet revenge from when Noah had beaten me on Friday. Sunday was my best finish yet at a cross race, and it was a great end to the long weekend. My three-race weekend was fun and successful, and I’m excited for next weekend!