Monday, September 24, 2012

Cyclocross Preamble

Fall arrived this weekend and rushing in on its wind streams is the beginning of the cyclocross season in earnest. Woot! Leading the charge has been the Tuesday night CX series that began four weeks ago. These races are held in a park right off a bike trail in a first tier suburb of Minneapolis. More than a few things about this series make it a good time.
1) I can bike to it. Word! It ends up being around 7 miles and mostly on a bike path so the round trip feels good.
2) The discount rate, $15 for the first race, makes for a reasonable entry fee. Though the $10 it cost last year led to no complaints of a heavy wallet, I can't say a discouraging word on the loot exchange.
3) It is great to see my single speed brethren. Though there is no SS category in this series, the CX calendar is full of races "singling" out us one speed cheek beaters. Competing against the same gearless junkies the last few years in the numbered or age categories is now hitting the next level since we got our own place to shine.
4) The race environment is low key and efficient. Keeping it simple is so under appreciated. There are no sour faces.

So enough of my race series hand job, how have these races gone so far, you ask. I have raced the last two weeks and the change in race style is putting the legs into a confused state but one that can be remedied. Two weeks ago, it was over 90 F and that is not CX weather but CX fever was at 104 F!! I took the ride out there at a slow pace. It seams that with age, I need 5 miles just to start getting the legs to work. I mean, who do them lazy string beans think they are? Well, I guess they own me for race time so I gotta listen...I digress as usual. Anyway, for the last mile plus, I latched on a body who passed that looked to be heading to the races. It was a real windy day so I spent the energy on high cadence as opposed to more wind breaking. Upon arrival, I noticed a bit of dust kicked up in the air. The course was like Pig pPen from Charlie Brown, I tell ya.
For real! It was gonna be tought but I was gonna try to ride in between the dust. I signed up for the 35+ and the cat 1,2,3 race. The 30 minutes of 35+ race started with a stifling dust storm and I immediately felt as if I was caught in the Grapes of Wrath. The dust was thick. I figured that being up front was a good idea and I lined up two back. My plan was foiled by the guy in front of me forgetting how to clip in and nearly taking a few of us out. So 30-40 riders led the charge into the first turn, and then I hit it. Whatever right? That's what I said and got to passing folks. After a few laps, I got on the wheel of the same dude I tailed on the way in. There I stayed and finished the race.

Come end of the race, I felt like I had a sandbox in my throat and drank as much water I could and then lined up in the back of the 1,2,3 race. This one I took at a different pace and as 45 minutes went on, my legs decided on taking a slower pace. I finished but was shelled from the heat, dust and over zealous attack of the CX course.

Last week, I signed up for only the 35+, my body took a beating the week before and I wasn't feeling too stoked to race in the first place but the cooler weather, 60's, was enough to kick me in the pants. I got there and was happy to see a bunch of folks and got into the race. Once again though, I lined up in the second row, only to be held back by another clip in issue...What am I? A magnet for those who can not clip in correctly at the start of a race? Fine, it is good to put this pressure on the legs and pass a group, catch a group and then pass the group. It fills the competitive cup. I felt good after the race and ended up happy with the results from the two weeks of racing. That happiness lead to days of red, bloodshot eyes. Though I can't blame the eyes on wacky tobaccy, I just want to state that mud was picked out of the eyes the next morning.

Yesterday, I needed some miles so I got on the CX bike and rode away to the River Bottoms. Next to the Minnesota river lie a seires of paths and tracks with more than enough opportunities to get your sand riding skills on. I really dig riding through sand and the 40+ mile round trip is always a good feeling for the legs. On the way home though, I stopped off at another installment of Bandit CX. These races are thrown at a few discrete areas around the city. They go across railroad tracks, through single track, up and over all sorts of crap, and often end at a firepit or VFW. The entry price is your signature on a waiver sheet and the prize is that you are having a great time. Flaming danger dollars are up for grabs and it is always festive. Time was running short for me so by the time the race started, I would be able to take two laps and then ride home. On the first lap, I got to hustling and took the lead about halfway through. I lead into the single track and lead for the second lap. At the railroad crossing on the third lap, my escape was planned but tharted by a passing train. By the time the train passed, there were about 10 heads ready to bring the heat again. I hit the bike path and rode away from the race happy from a great day on the bicycle