22 Sep Jackson Park 2011
2011 CycloCross Season Begins
Enzo has been scrambling to build his CX bikes over the past two weeks, a sure sign the cyclocross season is here. Being primarily a roadie, I am always late preparing/setting up my cross bikes. Rob Curtis (Psimet Custom Wheels) was kind enough to offer his help building my pit/training bike, an aluminum Ridley. I really like the way this bike rides/handles, a great bang for the low cost. The #1 rig is a 2008 carbon Ridley which doubles as my winter outside bike, for the few times I ride during the nasty winter months.
The pit bike has not worked perfectly in training rides, so I will race the #1 at Jackson Park, trusting it will shift correctly.
I have the pleasure of Heidi’s company driving to Jackson Park, which is nice. Another added bonus, the forecast is for rain, making my first 2011 CX race a real test. In years past the Jackson Park course has been a nice mix, about a 50/50 balance of power and tight turns. This year was clearly a different course with the majority being turns with only 15% being power sections. This is not my wheel house, preferring a power course over a pure technical test any day. I am not bad at technical riding, but far from great at it, so it can be an equalizer. I set up the trainer in the parking lot, go to registration and watch the staging and start of the first race of the day, the 40+ 1-2-3’s. Ward and Brian are racing this race, both having good fitness, I wanted to see the fireworks. The field was large, at least 70 guys, so a front starting position will make quite a difference. Anyway, Brian has a chain problem, racing a new bike, which is a rookie mistake we all have made. Ward was too relaxed at staging and his 4th row starting position was going to make his day difficult, good luck advancing on this course from there. I must say it was entertaining as they finished 4th and 6th, not bad for the first race of the year in the mud.
I am excited to be racing CX again, having signed up for the 50+ race. My plan is to take it easy, keep general fitness until mid November, then start training hard, focusing on Nationals and Master’s worlds.
This is not to say the 50+ races are easy, but the fields are not as deep as the other categories.
While I am on the trainer, I see Bob Downes (Planet Bike) and know I will have to race today. Bob is always focused on CX, being a fast 55 year old, I am sure it will end up him and I off the front. We talk for a few minutes and I tell him my plan to follow wheels until 1 lap to go, then I will ride 1 hot lap to the finish.
I tell Bob the plan and hope he will allow an easier pace, being 4.5 months until the end of the long season, there is no reason for me to have sharp/high fitness now.
The race starts and I make it to 7th wheel by the first single track section. Picking off riders here and there, by the end of lap 1 now third wheel, Bob is leading with Danny Warner( Village CycleSport/Verdigris) sitting second. Bob is pushing the pace riding somewhat reckless, and crashes. I do not understand why he was pushing so hard in the muddy turns, this did not seem prudent. I pass Danny and am now leading our small group of 3. Bob does not seem to like me in the front and takes the #1 spot again. 1 lap later he is on the ground, again, this time I yield, not to run over his nice carbon rear wheel. If this were a big race, I would have ridden over that wheel without a thought, being a local race I was nice. So this is how the game goes, Bob sliding all over the place, taunting another crash a few times per lap. We are close to the bell lap, as I had told Bob earlier, I would go hard with 1 lap to go, attacking them at the start/finish line. I make it to the single track and can see I have 5-6 seconds gap. Wow, no response by either of them, I am excited and keep the throttle full gas. By the end of the lap I have about 12 seconds which is good in the muddy conditions. The first W of the CX season for the old guy and team Enzo/Psimet, it must be the new Psiclo-cross carbon wheels from Psimet.
The fitness was perfect though I suspect the outcome will be quite different next week in Sun Prairie at the USGP. I do not think I am sharp enough to find the podium there, though I will have fun racing my bike.
Good luck to everyone this weekend, see you there.