Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New England Velo Cross Challenge

So I had my first cyclocross race of the season this past weekend. I sufferred for a bit but it was fun. And I do love the fact that there are plenty of races within an hour or so from home. That means I can get a race in and usually be home around noon... Much different from the all-day committments of most mountain bike races (although, I do love mtb racing).

This race was in Londonderry, NH, and it was a mix of pavement, grass and trails. Here's how it went down: The race started with a half lap on a paved oval track followed by a hard left turn with a short little uphill that lead into the woods. This small hill had good line in the middle but was soft on the sides. It was rideable with a good approach but would be a run-up if congested. You then had another left turn, a short downhill trail, then a hard right turn up a steep hill that would definitely need to be run. At the top of that hill, there was a longer trail section that was fairly fast with very little in the way of techincal obstacles. After a short rise, the trail turned right and went down a steep hill with a near hairpin turn at the bottom, followed by a soft uphill that again would need to be run up. At the top, the trail was slightly off-camber but easily rideable. A few twists and turns and you were out of the woods and on to some flat grass areas riddled with caution tape and 180-degree turns.

We were then directed up a short, steep, soft hill that again had to be run up. At the top, we were greeted with a short stretch of sand that was also best to be run. After that, we crossed the pavement and went into the infield of the track. A couple of twists and turns, and two sets of barriers later and we were back at the start and ready for another lap.

I got a good start but I was NOT comfortable with the speed and closeness of the other riders as we were rocketing from the pavement into the woods. We were "criterium" racer close and that's not something I'm accustomed to. That's not really come up for me in other 'cross races I've done and it's certainly not something I'm used to from mountain bike races. I backed off and that put me back many places. Once in the woods, I was further hampered by a small stick that caught a ride in my derailleur. I knew I had abandoned derailleurs on my other bikes for a reason! I lost probably almost a full minute as I unwound the vine-like stick from my cogs and derailleur, and I'm pretty sure I was at the back of the pack. Damn. From there, the rest of my race was uneventful, and I slowly worked at moving back up through the ranks.

I think I finished around 15th out of nearly 30. Not great, but that's racing. Thanks to Tom Merrill for the pics!

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