Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Helena, MT double-cross weekend - Day 2

Sunday’s Montana Velo CX course was designed by Helena’s Geoff Proctor who is also the Director of Euro Cross Camp and U-23 and Junior National Cyclocross Coach. We were guaranteed a taste of authentic Euro cross.

We arrived early and walked our hounds around one lap of the course before riding it and the general theme was “steep & off-camber”. Every corner, descent, and rideable climb was off-camber and there were two sets of concrete stairs to run up as well as one set of double barriers.

A modest field lined up for the combined Masters B, Cat 4, and Women’s race including my teammate Mike who was fueled by his first-place-robbing mechanical yesterday. Also in the race was Mike’s good friend and stage race partner, Tim from O-Canada, who also suffered a mechanical Saturday which took him out of contention for the win.

A key part of racing cross is the hole shot and I didn’t have it on Sunday. Going into the first technical section I got stuck behind a group who piled it up in the tight left-hander while the leaders sped off and put 20 seconds on us within half a lap. Doh! But the day’s battle was unfolding just in front of me.

A rider from the Gallatin Alpine Sports Team, who will from this point forward be known as Mr. GAS, was a few wheel lengths in front of me and appeared to be a very worthy opponent. We were only a half lap into the race but it was clear that he would be the main protagonist in my personal “race within the race”. Once out of the first bottleneck, Mr. GAS displayed some serious power on the pavement section leading into the barriers. He quickly opened a 10+ yard gap on me but a strategic error cost Mr. GAS his lead in an instant. The devilish course featured a concrete curb immediately after the double barriers which caused many riders trouble: Do you remount and try to bunny hop the curb or simply keep running? I chose to run past the curb every time and passed Mr. GAS while he was indecisive. Mr. GAS responded with a furious acceleration on the next piece of pavement and passed me again leading into the twisty grass section. An excellent battle this was. Only seconds later, I was able pass Mr. GAS by diving inside on an off-camber 180 degree turn and I could feel Mr. GAS settle in for a ride on my wheel.

Did I mention that Mr. GAS was much taller than me? Yeah, well, when we hit the first set of stairs Mr. GAS was clearing every other stair like Bo Jackson in his prime while I had to touch every stair and just like that he had another 10+ yard gap on me. Note to self: Practice the dismount-to-shoulder technique…lots.

Again, Mr. GAS was powerful on the pavement but I ran the barriers well and closed the gap down to 5 yards heading into the twisty grass. I continued to chase the orange jersey around the course for what seemed like an eternity until the defining moment: Mr. GAS came into a downhill right-hander too hot, went into the barrier tape, and I scooted by on the inside to pass him for the final time. He never quit chasing but would not recover and I would finish the race riding in “no man’s land” and take 5th.

I have a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell.

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