CX Race Reports

Late posted but more race reports from Adam:

Casco Bay Cyclocross

Adam Walton Cat 4 10/13/12

I made my my longest trip yet for the Casco Bay race in Portland. Originally this was to be a family trip with an opportunity to get to know a city we hadn’t previously visited, but ended up as a solo trip. Coldest morning of the year to date with a frost on the ground as I left Concord. Whilst somewhat warmer by start of the race, it was still only low 40s. The race is set in a park overlooking the ocean, very picturesque.

The course had good variety with a long pavement section, some technical turns and off-camber, a couple of treacherous descents and the toughest run-up I’ve encountered yet. The start was fast and I had to work hard to stay in touch with the guys in front of me, I definitely lack raw sprinting speed compared to my opponents, who I guess have raced on the roads. I’m not sure I ever fully recovered from the effort spike at the beginning of the race and unusually for me didn’t pick up many places thereafter (my typical race profile is to get stronger and pass people in the second half of the race). I took one spill and kept plugging away but found the race very hard, my heart rate monitor showed an average and peak rate higher than it had ever been in a race before. The loose descents finally convinced me that my brakes didn’t have enough stopping power and I have subsequently replaced them with TRPs. The other technical issue I experienced was mud not clearing from my cleats and pedals so that clipping in with tired legs became a real challenge. I use Shimano SPD pedals which have been great but I do remember reading that mud-clearance was a weakness of this design. Not overly concerned because so far this type of cloying mud has been rare.

I really ‘bonked’ on the last lap and was disappointed to lose a couple of places but my finish place just below halfway in the field so ended up being one of my better results. I attribute the lack of endurance to a couple of weeks of traveling and other stresses leading up to the race.

Minuteman Road Club Cyclocross

Adam Walton Cat 4 10/14/12

After an exhausting race the day before and generally feeling empty/flat for 24 hours, this was the first time that I turned up without 100% certainty I was actually going to pick up my number and start. The heavy rain overnight didn’t help my spirits either. Lancaster is close to where I live but I still arrived late and didn’t allow time either for a full course inspection or a proper warm-up. As a result I lined up at the start with my lowest ever expectations for a race, thinking of it more as a training exercise than a race. After all the rain the course was covered in slippery mud and the main challenge was going to be staying upright through the many tricky turns. No run-ups or significant elevation changes but a couple of new features for me: a sand pile and two half-buried poles (which led to my first ever in-race bunny hops – painfully slow and wobbly).

Despite my low expectations (or perhaps because of them?) I was relaxed and had a lot of fun. Having great mud tires (Tufo Cubus) helped a lot, I felt I was getting traction when others were slipping. I had some good scraps with a group of 5 or 6 people around me and then, when a couple of riders fell, managed to gap and stretch away. On the last lap I managed to claw back more than 200 yards on the next guy in front and ultimately pass him. This one place was very significant because it just gave me my first Top 50% finish on Crossresults. This was the best race so far in terms of both enjoyment and outcome and a great way to lead into a 2 week race break to recharge the batteries.

Canton Cup

Cat 4 10/27/12

Reading reports of other races I’ve sometimes seen them described as ‘grass crits’ and Canton was certainly that on Saturday – with a significant amount of pavement included as well. The warm, dry weather meant that there were few technical challenges and the course rode very fast (my average speed was significantly higher than any previous race). There was a fun and very rideable ‘run-up’ that, for me, was never straightforward but apart from that it was flat out, power down for most of the way. With the fast pace, and the fact that this was a 3 lap race only for Cat 4, this turned out to be the shortest race yet for me, just 27 minutes long. I guess if the organisers had known the conditions in advance they would have made this a 4 lap race or just used the standard time limit method.

Despite the benign conditions, this being a Cat 4 race, guys were still going down on the corners and I had 2 riders fall immediately in front of me with a lap or so to go. I couldn’t avoid the wreckage, managed to stay upright but lost a load of momentum. Including Sunday’s race I’ve now only had 1 fall in 6 races which is gratifying. I missed out on a top 50% finish by the one place that I lost in the extended 300 yard sprint to the finish. That’s still good progress for me but I didn’t leave the event feeling fully satisfied with either myself or the event, I need to work on my speed on the flat.

Orchard Cross

Cat 3/4 45+

This was one of my favorite races of the season, and not just because my family and friends turned out and I had a full cheering section. Great course with lots of variety, a fun family atmosphere, costume race and apple cider donuts too – what’s not to like. The guys at NorEast Cycling deserve a lot of credit. The headline for this day was that my NEBC teammate JOHN MCGRATH WON THE RACE. I was too far back to see how he did it it (other than riding crazy fast) but it was exciting to be in the same event. This was my first time competing against Cat 3 riders which was reflected by starting out close to the back of the grid and my expectations were tempered accordingly.

The course snaked through Applecrest Farm with some nice twists and turns through the orchard, some double track and sketchy gravel turns. There were frequent elevation changes but no major climbs. My race had 2 distinct parts and reinforced the importance of a) pre-race strategy b) mental momentum. The course included a tricky series of ‘ups and downs’ on a loose bank at the back end of the lap. Since I was with the family and it wasn’t fair to get everybody out of bed too early, I hadn’t scouted the course in advance to decide how I was going to approach this. For me the right pre-race strategy would have been the low risk option of running it every time. I ran it on the first lap because everyone did and arrived on the second lap full of confidence as I had been riding well. I tried to ride it without having a clear plan of how to ride it and I blew it badly, probably losing 4 or 5 places in the process. Mental momentum is the best way of describing what I lost along with those places: I rapidly went from feeling strong, fresh and confident to feeling like an exhausted loser out of my depth. I was shocked by how much worse I felt physically as I got back into the race. In the end I did okay but feel that I probably lost more than a minute on my finish time despite actually being delayed for not much more than 20 seconds. Another mental mistake was putting a hard sprint finish in on lap 4 when we still had a full lap to go, it was a question of hanging on after that but I guess it’s good training to have to continue to ride when totally spent.

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