Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013 Cyclocross Season - Week 3 - Moose Cross

Moose Cross is a race that I helped start six years ago in Victor, ID.  I remember planning the race that first year and wondering whether anyone would come to Victor, ID to race cross.  Now the race draws over 100 racers from all over the west.  I know first-hand that it takes a ridiculous amount of work to put on a quality cyclocross event and I sincerely appreciate the great job that Victor Velo and the Fitzgerald's Bicycles team did this year in putting on Moose Cross.

Heading into Moose Cross weekend, I was feeling a bit over-stressed and over-cooked.  It was the perfect storm of "life stress" and fatigue.  In fact, had it been any other race than Moose Cross I would have pulled the plug on the trip and stayed home to recharge the batteries.  In hindsight, my perception of being over-cooked was dead-on because I came down with a cold the Tuesday after Moose Cross. Doh!  

Saturday's Master's Race
A big field lined up on Saturday to contest the Masters 35+/45+/55+ race and I had a first row call-up based on registration order. Woot! Why not pin it off the line and see what happens?  I will tell you what happened:  Sputtering, black smoke coming out of the tail pipe, and a massive slow-down halfway through the fist lap...that is what happened!  As a result, I think most of the field passed me.  And nothing kills your mojo faster than having most of the field pass you. I wanted to quit only 10' into Moose Cross, Day 1. Ha!
Everything changed when I saw Fitzy on the grassy knoll.  In classic Fitzy-style, he had launched off of the front on lap #1 in an impressive display of fast-twitch ability and took the first lap preem but was now riding mid-pack.  With about four laps to go, he had a good 30" on me.  From this point on, all that mattered was catching Fitzy! It was ON!

Trying to shake Fitzy through he Grassy Knoll
With two laps to go, I had closed down the gap and was on Fitzy's wheel.  Strategies were bouncing around in my head as I calculated where I was faster vs. where he was faster.  I really didn't want it to come down to a sprint between Mr. Fast-Twitch and myself if at all possible. Just before the end of the lap I made a pass on the short pavement section.  As the lap bell rang signalling one lap to go, Fitzy was right on my wheel.  I gave it everything I had up the railroad tie run-up because I know Fitzy has an advantage there with those long legs of his. And then came the grass. There was a tricky little single barrier on the grass that was hop-able but I chose to run that section while Fitzy hopped it. He was like a skinny piece of velcro...I couldn't shake him. With a hard right-hander before the finishing straight, this was going to be tricky.  After clearing the final corner, I sprinted for the line and expected to see Fitzy pull along side for a bike throw...but I crossed the line alone, well in front of my nemesis. Evidently when Fitzy stood up to unleash his own furious sprint, he cramped. Doh!

That was some serious mid-pack drama and made for a memorable race despite not feeling my best at the start.

Sunday's Masters Race
Sunday's course was the reverse of Saturday, with a few minor changes. To make it interesting, we had rain overnight and the grass section was very slippery for our race.

Where's Fitzy? As I scanned the start line, the black Fitzgerald's Bicycles skin suit was suspiciously absent. Sunday's race would present a new set of adversaries shortly.  I took a conservative approach to the start and didn't blow myself up right off of the line.

As the race quickly unfolded, I found myself in a battle with Pocatello Idaho's wily veteran of cross, Bob Walker, and a rider from Montana wearing a red jersey who, from this point forward, will be respectfully referred to as "Big Red".

Bob, Big Red, and myself were very evenly matched in terms of power. Whomever made the least mistakes would win this little mini-battle.

The slippery grass claimed its victim when Bob aggressively tried to ride an off-camber section that we had been running on previous laps. Bob lost his front wheel, went down hard, and Big Red and I squirted by on the inside.

Note to self:  Just because you can ride a section doesn't mean that riding is necessarily faster. Try both in practice.

Big Red was a monster on the power sections and I could barely stay on his wheel. My only shot was to get around him on one of the technical sections and hope I could stay away. However, Big Red was having none of that. In fact, he had his own trick up his sleeve. Big Red was pinching off every inside corner through the grassy knoll and left no room to pass...none, zip, zilch, nada.

Once we got through the grassy knoll for the final time, Big Red dropped the hammer and I was not on his wheel when he dropped it. The gap went from one bike, to two bike lengths, to more than three bike lengths very quickly and that is how it ended. Good job Big Red!

After the race, Bob Walker and I relived our glorious duel and he jokingly accused me of taking him out on the grassy knoll. Ha!  Fun battles mid-pack in the Moose Cross Masters Races for sure!

Be sure to put Moose Cross on your 2014 Cyclocross Race Calendar and "Like" the Moose Cross Facebook Page to stay in the loop.

Lastly, check out the Moose Cross album from Cody Downard Photography.

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