The recent weekend saw Roger and I plus a jolly band of other New York CXers head up to Northampton in Mass for the 24th annual Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross race. Having had a good first race of the season the previous weekend at Marty Cross I was pretty nervous by the time the end of the week came around. CSI is a bigger race with bigger fields and a more demanding course. I had a friend texting me to say I’d have a good shot at a podium and although he was only being nice, this just compounded the nervousness! I decided to spread the nerves bug and message my other buddy, who’d had good form recently, and tell him he was going to do well in an attempt to get him worried too!
The course was longer than your typical CX race and meant that we ‘only’ did three laps. It was a mix of long flat grassy straights, grassy turns, a double barrier hop, a technical wooded section and some interesting and very steep transitions between the woods and grass. Day 1 had a stacked out field of 150 which subsequently meant registration took ages. I almost missed my griding and managed to squeeze in at front where I’d been allocated. After the minute warning I was still pretty chilled, it’s the 30 second one where I started grinding my teeth and my eyes widen that usually gets me going. To make things interesting though they forgot this and blew the horn shortly after the minute warning, I was a million miles away thinking about ice cream or something so got a pretty bad start but managed to stay up in the top ten for the hole shot. My lack of warm up became apparent after about 3 seconds into the race, it seems an extra layer of embro and two caffeine gels don’t quite cut it against a proper warm up.
The steep climb up transition from the field into the woods went well, holding my position and not falling on my face. The techy sections in the woods were great, a good mixture of turns around trees, plenty of roots, some off camber mud turns, a little bit of tarmac thrown in to speed things up. Having grown up mountain biking I loved this stuff. By the end of the first lap my buddy Matt Erchull (Cycle-smart) and I were on the front taking turns with a little gap forming, this is easy right?!
Wrong – then came my first wash out on the grass meaning I dropped down to fifth or so. This put me in front of my other buddy Tim Willis (Kruis CX), who gave me some encouragement and told me to sort it out! With Roger hovering around the business end of the group too, it was reassuring to have a group of New Yorkers keeping it tight up at the front. The commentator enjoyed creating an audio battle scene between us out of towners vs. the local New Englanders, making for a more dramatic race.
After my first error I managed to work my way back up and have a brief spell on the front, only to bin it again on one of the grass corners and then repeat the same process but this time wash out slightly in the woods… I suppose at least I was consistent.
Entering the final lap there was a good group of four of us, me in third wheel. Completely blowing out of my arse at 8:30am in the morning at the end of a race meant for some poor tactical decisions, I just didn’t know what to do having never been in this situation before. Coming into the finishing section I did manage to jump a guy coming into the second to last straight but wasn’t able to come round the lead guy for the final sprint. He was wearing a wig though so I wasn’t too disappointed; this was cross after all…
Being from the UK I’m a Cat 1 beer drinker but only a Cat 5 Heckler because although our cross scene is strong, its tame compared to the US in the entertainment sector. So the remainder of the day was spent hovering around the beer tent practising some good natured heckling of friends in the later races, something that definitely needs more work on, and watching the elites men’s and women’s fields showing us how it should be done. I’m going to get Roger Parmelee to be my heckling coach. The guy has got this dialed!
Day 2 race report coming soon…