Sunday, October 3, 2010

A homecoming of sorts

Well, I finally had a chance to put my Salsa Ti La Cruz to the test this weekend. On Saturday, I did the APCXS Waynesburg Cyclocross Race and on Sunday, I did the Month of Mud Grove City Cross Race. Both events were a lot of fun and it felt great to finally test out my cross legs again. It was also nice to not have to travel any great distance to get to these races.

On Saturday I decided it would be fun to try doing two cyclocross races at the Waynesburg Race. With the race promoter, JR, offering a registration fee of only ten dollars for each additional race entered, it was hard to pass up doing two races, especially when there was a single speed category available. Interestingly enough, I did not have a great start for my first race of the day in the single speed event. I was totally unprepared for the starting whistle to go off and because of this ended up going into the first turn near the back of the pack. I did a few hard efforts and by the middle of the lap I had worked myself up through the back half of the pack. I then came out of a turn and started to sprint to try to make up some more time. When I made this attack, my chain popped off my front chainring and I was forced to get off my bike and take off my rear wheel to get my chain back onto my single speed bike. By the time I did this, I was at the back of the 50 or so person pack again and knew that I would have a lot of work to do if I want to finish well. I was hoping for an easy race, so that I would be able to save some energy for the elite race later in the afternoon. I considered pulling out of the single speed race at this point to conserve my energy for the later race, but decided I would do a couple of real hard laps to see what happened.

In about two laps, I was able to work my way completely through the pack and catch the race leader and my teammate JPOK. I then figured I would ride with him for a few laps to recover and see how things developed. I started to feel okay again and started thinking that if I drop my chain again it would be nice to have some time to fix it, so I did some accelerations to get away on my own. My gap stuck and it was a good thing I decided to get away on my own because with three laps to go my chain popped off again. I lost a little time putting it back on my bike, but I was able to hold on to my nice lead and take the single speed win.

After the single speed race, I ate, relaxed and prepared myself for the elite race. I definitely used a lot more energy than I wanted in the single speed race, so I knew my second race of the day was going to hurt. Additionally, the field had a good group of fast riders to compete against that I knew would make the race super hard. For the second time of the day, I had another bad start. This forced me to hard, so I could work my way through the pack to get towards the front of the race. Unfortunately, by the time I got towars the front of the pack, the lead group was clear. To make matter worse, my legs felt slow and heavy and it took a few laps for them to feel like they wanted to pedal again. Eventually, I was able to get into a flow and was able to work myself up to fifth place, which was the last money spot in the race. I was stuck in this position for about half of the race and was basically in no man’s land doing an individual time trial. I stayed consistent for the remainder of the race, though, and was able to hold on to finish fifth on the fast, dry cross course.

The second day of racing at the Grove City Month of Mud race was anything but fast and dry. It started raining on Saturday Night and continued for us during the race. I was happy with my racing from the day before and thought for sure I would be one of the main contenders at the muddy GC Race. But, once the race started and the speed picked up, I knew pretty quickly that I was asking more from my legs than they were willing to give. I am not sure if it was the cold, wet weather of the day or my two races from the day prior, or a combination of both, but I could not get them to go fast. It was hard for me to watch the lead group of racers ride away and know that I was going to have to ride hard all alone again for a second day. I accepted this fate, though, and suffered for an hour, basically on my own, to finish in the top ten.

Win or not, it is always fun for me to go back to the Grove City M.O.M. race. Back in the mid 1990’s, when I owned a bicycle shop in Grove City, I did a lot of my mtb training at this park because it was so convenient. After riding in the park for a year or so, I thought it would be a cool place to put on a race. I think it was in 1995 that I was able to organize a Month of Mud Race at the park with the help of Gary Bywaters. Back in those days it was definitely more of a mtb race than a cross race, but some of the same trails are still used for the race held there now. I didn’t grow up in Grove City and only lived there for a few years total, but it still feels good to go back to place once called home.

Happy Trails, Gerry

Thanks to Benjamin Stephens for the photo.

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