Bright, sunny, cool and dry for day one. A steady light wind persisted all day long. Downright cold for day two with temperatures starting out in the teens and not getting past the twenties all day. Bright sun, dry and more wind. Winter is starting to think about making an appearance it would seem.
The race, in it’s second year, was once again held in a pan flat park in scenic Fitchburg, MA. The course was similar to that of 2010 in many aspects but also included some minor improvements that added additional twists and turns. This helped break it up and made it more challenging. Highlights of the course were a death spiral/pinwheel section, a horseshoe shaped sand section and of course, the flyover. All in all, a good course given what was there to work with.
We had another solid turnout for the final New England cyclocross race of the season and the final race of the year for the fledgling NEBC Junior Development Team. This put a cap on what was a great season for all of us. We successfully introduced 8 young men to the sport of cyclocross. 7 of them are hooked on it and raced the entire season.
Look for more in the near future from the 2012 NEBC U23/Junior Development Team. We will be mixing it up on the road and trails, trying to keep it fresh and fun while developing effective and safe riding and racing habits.
Thank you all for your support.
The now-familiar experience of hurtling down the highway in the early morning on the way to a bike race with my big coffee thermos perched between my legs was made all the more better by a half-loaf of pumpkin bread keeping my hungry stomach company. I ate a few slices while driving to the race. Delish.
When I arrived, I initially pulled into some parking lot on the far end of the race course, but I quickly realized that the lack of porta-potties, registration, and important-looking temporary bike race structures meant I should probably be somewhere else. So I pulled around and parked in the normal lot, registered (single-speed, again!), kitted up, and got out on the course. It was pretty flat and pretty bumpy. Aside from this weird crop circle/death spiral sort of feature, a sand section, a fly-over, and a steep almost-run-up, the course was basically a bunch of power sections linked together.
Since it was single-speed, the field was really small: probably about twenty guys started. I got what felt like a pretty good start and slotted into the first turn better than tenth position, but on the first grassy section a few guys passed me. (I have to really remember to ride aggressively through the entire first lap, not just through the first turn – I’ve been settling into a pace too early.) Through one of the power sections on the backside of the course another two passed – a SLIJK Velo racer and a Zanconato racer – and here, in 14th position, was where I would stay for the rest of the race. The next few laps went by quickly, and I was essentially racing by myself. During the second lap I felt my gear go from a 44-19 to a 44-17; this race was supposed to be singlespeed! I guess I bumped one of the zip ties during a remount or something. Around the same time I felt that my rear brake cable had come unhooked from the caliper. It wasn’t really hurting me though: there weren’t too many sections on the course where you had to be really heavy on the brakes, so I decided not to stop and fix it.
For the entire race I had noticed a GMBC rider floating behind me, maybe ten or fifteen seconds back. When the second to last lap of the race came about this guy started coming up behind me and closing the gap, but I really didn’t want to get passed. I hit the gas and tried to gap him again, but I didn’t really have the legs to push the 17 back up to speed and get going fast again. I just did what I could and focused on hitting every corner perfectly. Coming into the finishing straight on the last lap he was just about to get me, but I turned myself inside-out and held the gap open – and it worked. He finished about a bike length behind me.
I had a good time at my last race of the season despite some interesting mechanical issues. (When I finished I noticed that my front tire had also come unseated – the source of the whump-whumping sound that I was trying to ignore during the race!) And the rest of the pumpkin bread was delicious on the drive home.
I only raced the Cat 4s in Fitchburg, which was at 8:30 on Sunday morning. Because of my own stupidity, I got there at 7:15 rather than 7:00 when I wanted to; I told my GPS the address was in Leominster. The first thing I noticed when I got there was it was cold, really cold. Actually, it was passed really cold it was 15 degrees out and unfortunately that is in Fahrenheit, not Celsius. When I went to warm up I only managed to do one lap before I retreated to my car for warmth. After getting the feeling in my hands and feet back, I went back out for some more warmup but again, I only got one lap in. Surprisingly, it was already passed 8:00 (it takes a shockingly long time to get all this clothing on) so had to make my final race preparations. I got my number pined on, went to the bathroom and rode around the parking lot a bit. I started on the second row, all the way to the outside. I wasn’t too happy to be all the way against the fence, but I had a relatively clear path in front of me which I liked. When the race started, I could tell pretty quickly there wasn’t much life in my legs. During the week leading up, I had a bit of recurrence of my concussion symptoms that prevented me from training 100%. My legs weren’t sore or anything, they just wouldn’t go any faster and I started going backwards quickly. It wasn’t long into the race that I got a bit dizzy and it got hard for me to focus my eyes. The problems got worse pretty quickly and I decided to stop. No race is worth brain damage for me. I’m glad that the season is over, because it would have been over either way for me. But this way, I don’t have any future races to tempt me from coming back sooner than I should. I am going to meet with a specialist regarding my concussion and make sure I am 100% healthy before I resume training. Hopefully the road season will be good to me.
Regionals Day 1:
I woke up at 5:50 and started to get ready to leave for fitchburg. I was really scared because I was up against people that were much better than me. My dad and I left at 7 and arrived at around 8 so that I could preride the course a few times before the first race. I liked the course because it was technical in parts but I also thought that it was a bit too flat for me. As we started the race it went well I was holding on to the front group for a little while, but then I noticed that my chain was being really weird. Going throughout the sand which was right after the pitstop my chain fell off and crumpled into a ball. I had to run the next half lap hoping the mechanic in the pit could fix it. The chain ended up being bent in two places and was not completely fixed. In the more bumpy section my chain kept on falling off, and bending it self again. I ended up at the mechanic about 3 times and I don’t think he was happy seeing me there. I ended running into the finish line with my bike, but I’m glad that I did the race because it gave me some good points even though I came in dead last.
Regionals Day 2:
I woke up at 5 to get ready to leave for Fitchburg. I was pumped because I was up against the Cat4 men which is the category that I best fit into. I rode the course to warm up but since I had raced the day before I already knew what was going to be the hardest part of the race. I really didn’t enjoy the course because it was a bit too flat for me, I tend to like a little hillier courses with a good solid run up. We were lined up and the whistle blew, I ended up in a good position at the start and was about number 15 at the 25 minute mark. I began too loose energy because it was so cold and my body shut down on me. I ended up placing 28th and had a fun race ! Hopefully next year it won’t be 19 degrees outside because that was too cold for my legs to handle. I didn’t do as great as I wished but hopefully next year ill come back and do better. On my way home my feet were warming up again and getting feeling back. It hurt so much when they finally got warm. I ended up having my parents buy me a cup of coffee from Dunkin Donuts so that they would heat up faster. All in All I thought it was a fun race but hopefully next year they could find a place to make a hillier course.
I got to Fitchburg at around 7:20 for a Junior race at 9:35. (My dad had a cat 4 race at 8:30 so that’s why we had to be there early.) It was one of the coldest races I’ve ever done (other than the race the next day). After we got registered we went to go ride the course before my dad’s race. It was a long course with two sets of barriers, a fly over, and a sand pit. There was a lot of 180 degree turns and a steep run up that some people could ride up. I warmed up by riding around in a grass field next to the fly over and the barriers. They called us to staging at 9:30 so i went over to where we were staging with Emil. Our race would go first and then the single speed men would wait one minute until the whistle sounded. When we started i had trouble clipping in so i lost some time because of that. After the sand pit i saw that Emil was trying to get his chain back on as I went by. For the first two laps of the race i couldn’t feel my hands or my feet. When i passed the pit on lap 3 i saw Emil and the mechanic trying to fix Emil’s bike. On the last lap I tried to ride through the sand pit but i crashed. At the end of the race i felt like i was going to throw up. I thought this was a good race and I couldn’t wait to race the same course the next day.
I got to the race at 7:30 for a cat 4 race at 8:30. When we got there it was under 20 degrees so this was the coldest race I’ve ever done. We didn’t have a lot of time to ride the course plus it was the same course as yesterday’s so we already knew it. Once it was time for our race it was only 19 degrees so i couldn’t feel my hands or my feet again but it was for the whole race. When we started i clipped in a lot quicker than the day before so I got ahead of some people. When we got to the spiral everyone was clumped together and it was slow. With my experience from yesterday i ran the sand pit and passed some people but later on they passed me back. On the third lap when i hopped the curb my left foot came unclipped when i was in the air for some reason. Luckly i had control of the bike and didn’t crash. On the same lap when i jumped over the barrier and my pedal hit my ankle which made me stumble. Today race was faster than the day before because the ground was harder and the course was worn down from yesterday.
My dad, brother, and I got to the park at about 6:30 on Sunday. It was completely dark out, and it was very, very cold. It was well under 15 degrees, much colder than any weather we’ve had so far this year. The sun came out eventually, but it never really warmed things up; by the end of the race it was still only 20. I tried as hard as I could to spend the whole morning in the heated car, but the officials told me I had to get out as it would destroy the course to do my pre-ride in my dad’s minivan. So, I unwillingly made my way to registration on the rock hard ground, picked up my number, changed, and got out on the course. I was wearing three pairs of socks, two of them wool, and my feet still froze. My hands froze as well. And everything else. Unfortunately, I don’t think my legs every really thawed. I would re-enter the car to warm up, and every time I left again, my whole body would tell me “it is too cold.” Most of my success in cross races has come from my ability to power by people on the power sections. In these frigid temps, my legs would give me some power for half a second before freezing up again. Also, the ground was frozen, so it felt like I was riding one of those bumpy clay Spanish-style roofs (from the North Pole instead of Spain). It was a recipe for failure. But, I had to remember that the conditions applied to everyone.
The course was pretty flat, had a small and a large set of barriers, a sandy section, a rideable run-up (aka hill), a flyover, and a spirally turning section. There were a couple of power sections. In general, it wasn’t that technical because the venue was almost completely flat, but the sandpit was a challenge for me because it had a turn in the middle of it.
I sacrificed my usual warmup routine for ten extra minutes in the heated car. I’m not sure whether or not this was the right choice. The best idea probably would have been to get a good warmup in and then spend five to ten minutes in the car right before the race, but for some reason the cold must’ve limited my brain function as well, because I didn’t think of this. So, I lined up at the start without a warmup (apart from my pre-ride). Emil and Brandon also raced the Cat 4’s. When the jackets flew and the whistle blew, the sprint began. I wasn’t aggressive at all during the start because of what happened the week before, so I had to settle for being in the bottom third to the holeshot. This was a problem, since my frozen legs wouldn’t let me use them, no matter how much I begged. I managed to get to the middle of the pack by passing people when they made mistakes (like taking turns wrong). On the second lap, I tried to ride the sandpit. It was definitely do-able, but in order to stay upright around the corner, I had to go so slowly that everyone could just run by me. I ended up coming to a halt, and I had to dismount and run the rest of it anyway. I lost four or five places there, and that was about where I stayed for the rest of the race. As soon as it was over, I went straight into the car to defrost my feet. In terms of my results, Sunday was my worst race of the season. I finished 32/61. However, racing in such cold weather was a good experience to have for next cross season.
I’m sad that cross season is already over. It has been a great experience for me. I came to my first cross race in October only having done a single race ever before, and feeling unfamiliar with racing and the community. Now, after what has felt like much longer than a couple of months, I feel that I understand the racing experience and that I am a part of the racing community. These past months have confirmed that I love to race, and they have taught me why. I can’t wait to be a part of the club again next year for the road and mountain seasons. I’m extremely excited for road (as I have always considered myself a road cyclist) and I’m also looking forward to trying out mountain. Until then, I’ll be doing lots of winter riding and some cross country skiing.