Monday, November 8, 2010 sponsors me for my first UCI elite race weekend

After my first weekend of spectacularly fun 'cross racing with the cat 2-3-4 group, an emotional breakup ensued and I decided it was time to face the semi-big boys of the cross world, the elite UCI men C2 category - don't ask me to explain. I just finished reading an essay trying to grasp the UCI's convoluted point system. It's enough to know C2 means bottom of the barrel as far as cyclocross eliteness goes.

Northampton, MA & Look Park were the gracious hosts of the 20th anniversary for the Cycle-Smart International 'Cross Race. A fun filled weekend of 'cross racing in the heart of New England was sure to excite all, me included. I headed up from CT in the 'rents SUV Saturday AM flying solo and arrived 3 hours early which gave me plenty of time to do the proper cyclocross race preparation. What's the ideal race prep? Well, it's still a soon to be released masterpiece in the works, but it goes something like this: sign in 5 (I was already way behind!) hours before your start time, doff your warm clothes for a flattering skinsuit immediately so the chill sets in early, then pre-ride the course 17 times before the race so you know the intricate corners, that magical line that floats you through the sand pit, and what rock or root to step upon next during those dreaded run-ups.

Currently I'm not partaking in my own game plan, and I chose to sit in the car with the heater on high, and eyed my new skinsuit (thanks!) with trepidation while I tried to figure out how to attach the three numbers to the hyper stretchy sleeves and back. I ended up following Mr. Dan Bonedeth's, NYC cyclocross extraordinaire, lead and illegally trimmed my sleeve numbers since my puny biceps are nowhere near large enough to support the 6" wide numbers. The rear I guesstimated, and only tore one corner when entering the lycra cage. My best job yet.

Saturday was a beautiful and sunny fall day, albeit a bit chilly, but I'm sure it classifies as warm in the cyclocross handbook. I drew my number enclosed in an envelope from a big box, and ended up near the back of the grid. Not surprising. Starting in the back sorta sucks in 2-3-4, but I had a hunch it would really stink in the elite category. My hunch didn't let me down.

After getting my tires checked to make sure they conform to the UCIs max tire size, I entered the corral and awaited the whistle. I didn't have to wait long, thankfully, and then it was all out war. A full blown sprint with 50+ guys down a narrow grass track. I got a bit lucky and managed to pass a decent chunk of guys. I probably rolled in to the first bottle neck around 25th place.

The first thing I discovered about the elite men is they are significantly more aggressive. I was elbowed a few times early on. I had a few guys cut me off around corners only to gain nothing. Those same guys dropped off the radar only minutes later never to be seen again. The second thing I learned was they do not like to be passed, and will do everything they can to make the pass difficult.

The first two laps were brutally fast, and I was thinking an hour of this is going to be extremely difficult. Fortunately, it seemed after two laps everything settled down, and a much more sustainable pace began. I was with a group of 4 or 5 guys and we traded positions off and on for the entire race. The leaders were long gone after the first choke point, and I quickly learned catching them was simply not going to happen. The chase group ahead of us was not in sight either so I ditched my aspirations of a top 10 finish, and focused on a top 20. A few guys here and there throughout the race would crash, or go out with a mechanical so my chances were pretty good.

By the end of the last lap we had dropped one guy from our group and another was dangling off the back. I tried to sprint to catch the guy in front of me but could not catch him so settled for 17th place. In the money, $31!

Day 2 can be summarized in a few short paragraphs:

I went to a cyclocross race that was colder than the day before, hated my warmth stealing skinsuit (it looks GREAT though, thanks even more than the day before, and was seriously lacking motivation to get out of the car. Today I had JPOW embrocation to test out on my chilled joints, courtesy of Jeremy Powers himself, who hosted me at his place for the weekend. And does it indeed JPOW! when applied, it's like, mmmm, DAMN, pow!, my skin is on fire but at least it smells nice. I guess that's a good thing. It helped me feel warm and safe.

Anyways, I warmed up a bit then hit the grid. Started in the very back today. Was near dead last going in to the first bottleneck. Passed some guys then my rear tire decided to pop off the rim and burp a heap load of air. Tubeless treated me nice for 3 races but failed miserably Sunday. I went to the pit but entered it from the exit point and was told I'd be DQ'd if I went back out on the course. How many rules this year am I going to break???? Not this one. One does not mess with the Union Cycliste Internationale!

And thus ends the illustrious story of Sunday's race. DNF!

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