Some great results in early-season cyclocross racing. Paul Aldeguer got 11th and 12th 40+ both days at Manions and Ryan Kelley finished 15th in the Cat3s. Bill Jennings placed 4th in a tough 60+ field.
At Boss Cross in Riverside MO, Jennings placed second in the 60+, while Ryan Rochford made up some lost ground in the Cat4 field after an early crash and nearly won his race. It is one of the epic efforts of the season so far. Here is a link to that tumble which really put his Chamois Butt’r to the test. Keep your eye on the left side of the sand pit in the below video.
Here is his race report:
I have only raced 3 cyclocross races in my life (I think) and even though I did fairly well in all of them, I haven’t raced one this year and figured I might as well just race the 4’s again. I pre-rode the course a few times at about 10am, which was an hour and a half before my race started. The weather was pretty nice, calm winds, and a slight chill in the morning that warmed up significantly by race time. As I pre-rode, I ran the sand pit one way then rode it the other the first time through. After that, I decided to try riding both directions. I rode both sections fine, but didn’t have enough speed to get through since I was going slow for the pre-ride. I decided I would just ride the sand unless I was sitting mid-pack, like was possible on the first lap. If I was mid-pack on the first lap, I was going to run.
Fast forward to 11:30am, we line up for the start and I’m in the 2nd row of riders. There were probably between 20-30 guys lined up overall. The officials went over the rules, made sure everybody was there and right on time, the whistle blew. I clipped in pretty quick and accelerated pretty moderately. I could have pushed it much much harder, but my moderately hard start had me sitting 3rd, which is honestly right where I like to be to start a race. About 5-10 seconds into the race, there is a sweeping left 180-degree turn and then 30ish meters later is the first sand pit. Since I was sitting 3rd and was carrying a fair amount of speed, I decided I’d just ride it. I clicked down two gears to get my legs spinning fast for the eventual bogging down that would happen and sat back on my saddle to get my weight off my front wheel. Right at the edge of the first sand pit is a dirt ramp about the size of a speed-bump. I went over it with the front wheel no problem, but when my back wheel hit it, it sent my wheel instantly airborne with shocking velocity. This, I’m sure, was aided by the fact that it pointed my front wheel straight into the sand, creating a nice pivot point for the rear end to come up and over. It’s really pretty astonishing how fast it happened. I barely had enough time to get my hands out to catch myself. At this point, if you haven’t seen the video, I would recommend watching it. It’s the first link on the front page of www.cxmagazine.com or you can go directly to the youtube video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pg9solN8-xw
To be perfectly honest, hitting the sand at 18mph doesn’t hurt much. What does hurt is hitting the sand, coming to a dead stop and then having the bike that is still attached to your feet swing around and punch you straight in the middle of the spine…while your face is buried in sand. Not only did the impact of the saddle hurt, but it completely knocked the wind out of me, which is why I was writhing around a bit and why I took so long to get up. Somehow my leg ended up through the main triangle of my bike, so I was a bit tangled in it, but I really didn’t care. I did notice the bike got pulled off of me by the guys who came over to help. As soon as I could breathe a bit, I tried to blow/spit all the sand out of my mouth and got up to get back on my bike. As I ran off with it, the guys told me my chain was off so I had to put my chain back on which normally takes a long time on that bike. Luckily it only took me a few seconds this time, which was fine since it gave me a little more recovery time. I hopped back on the bike and continued on my way…in last place.
The next two turns are pretty easy to navigate and then comes a more awkward right-hander which I promptly wiped out on. I told myself to calm the f@%* down and just try to get back in a rhythm of some sort. The barriers were the next main obstacle and I did fine on them, but did have a lot of back pain while running with my bike. After that was the same sand pit that I just ate it on, but going in the opposite direction. I don’t remember if I ran it or rode it on the first lap, but the rest of the race, I rode it every time. It’s kind of hard to convince yourself to do something that just nearly killed or paralyzed you, but I knew I could do it so I just went for it and it was fine. After this, I just kept the pedal down and went into CX TT mode, picking off riders one-by-one.
I never looked at the lap counter until 2 to go and I think I had leapfrogged into the top 7 or 8 by then, maybe even higher. I spent the previous few laps spending energy to get to the next group of riders in sight. As soon as I got there, I sat on for a couple minutes and recovered. Once I felt like they were going to slow, I jumped and started heading for the next little group up the course. Eventually it wasn’t groups up the road, but single riders. It took me a while to catch the guy in 4th or 5th place and once I did, I sat on him for a bit which I think pissed him off. Then when we were going up a short little uphill with a U-turn at the top, I decided to pass him there because he didn’t take it quick enough. There was a small amount of contact and rubbing of shoulders and he said “Really man?” I just said “Ohhh yeahhh,” and dropped the crap out of him. For the next minute or two, I kicked myself for not saying something wittier like “welcome to cyclocross” or whatever, but oh well. Those thoughts kept my mind off the burning legs and lungs. I passed one more guy right before the beginning of the final lap and was sitting in 3rd place behind the previous race winner and some guy on a single-speed mountain bike. The SS guy was my next target, but he was moving pretty quick.
It took me about half the lap to catch up to him, but I finally got on his wheel. The first place guy was too far ahead to catch so I was strictly racing for 2nd place at this point. I sat on the guy’s wheel for about 15 seconds and then I clipped a pedal going around a corner, letting a small gap go. I’m pretty sure he heard this and accelerated, but I was able to get back on his wheel pretty quickly. I spent the next minute or two sitting on his wheel and then we came around to where the start line was, which is a wide open grassy straightaway. He tried to accelerate pretty hard, but I was on his wheel easily. I was really nervous because the finish line was about 20 meters after the sand pit where I’d crashed before. This guy had been riding that sand pit pretty quickly (he’s the guy in first in the video) and I was really worried he was going to beat me in the sand pit while I ran it and he rode it. As soon as he stopped accelerating on the starting line straightaway, I jumped him hard to try to get a big gap going into the sand. As I went by, he turned and said “good race” and he couldn’t match my acceleration. I still needed to make it through the sand safely and I did. I remounted and hammered it to the line as best I could, finishing 2nd.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more satisfied with a 2nd place finish in my life…except maybe for Froze Toes this year, which was probably equally satisfying. After the race, my back was killing me. I pretty much couldn’t lift anything over 10-15 lbs and it was torturous just standing up. I couldn’t take full breaths and was pretty miserable, but I wasn’t paralyzed or dead so that was good. I watched James race, snapped some photos, and tried to help him out in the pit whenever necessary.
Today I am feeling lots better. I can lift somewhat heavy objects, like the horse-pill sized ibuprofen I’ve been taking. I’m mildly famous in the cx community for crashing like an idiot, and Joe Fox has offered me free entry to one of the next 2 Boss Cross races which is a really nice gesture. My fitness is not great and my lap times were only ok. I crashed hard. I didn’t win. Most importantly though, I had a really good time racing my bike. It’s hard to complain spending the day doing that.