Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Iron Cross and No Luck

One of my favorite races to do each year is Iron Cross.  I've done well at this event in the past, but I've also had some spats of bad luck there.  I was hoping this year would be a good race to help me erase my current string of bad luck race results, starting with my misdirected race at the Fool's Gold 100 at the beginning of September and my flat tire at the Three Peaks USA race last week.  Additionally, with Iron Cross being the next to last race in the American Ultra Cross Series, I needed to have a good race to maintain my series lead.

Three years ago I was the first rider to the top of the Wigwam run-up at Iron Cross with a good lead over the next rider in the race until I got my first flat tire of four that day.  Obviously, I was a bit frustrated after those flats on that day of racing.  But, I think the level of frustration I felt was even a bit higher this year because I didn't even make it through the first trail without suffering a flat tire.  Flatting at the beginning of a race is pure torture to me.  It is so hard to stand on the trail side and watch every single rider pass me, while at the same time knowing that the leaders are getting further away with each passing minute.

I tried to stay calm during my clumsy repair of my difficult to change rear flat tire.  But, my calmness did no good in helping me speed up my repair time and I was soon the very last place rider, including even the racers doing the 50K course.  When I jumped back on my bike, I knew there was a lot of work to be done and I knew it would be a long day in the saddle.  I decided almost immediately to just ride as hard as I could and consider the race as more of a training day for La Ruta de Los Conquistadores than an actually race.  I knew thinking like this would help ease the frustration I was feeling and get me through the day.

One good thing about being in last place is that there is always someone to chase down.  This motivates me to push harder and make an attempt to catch the rider in front of me.  And, overall, my chase seemed to be going pretty well early-on.  I was catching tons of riders and eventually caught the leaders of the open women class and my Team CF Teammates, Cheryl and Selene, on the Wigwam run-up.  I knew these fast ladies started two minutes behind the 100K men and that made me feel like I had at least made-up a little time on my category of racers.

But, at about the same time I was starting to feel good about where I might finish for the day, I was beginning to have serious issues with my steering.  It was very difficult to turn my handlebars and when I did attempt to steer the bars, they would need to be forced back to the straight ahead position.  This made descending at 50+ mph on the gravel roads real tricky and it was even difficult to climb out of the saddle with this mechanical issue.  It felt like metal was rubbing on metal and I feared that maybe the steer tube on my fork had cracked.  This made me a bit nervous and I started to think that maybe it would be best if I just took A DNF for the day when I arrived back at checkpoint two, which was also the start/finish line and the beginning of the third part of the course.

At checkpoint #2, however, I learned that I was the sixth place rider in the large and fast singlespeed field.  I decided to push forward with a very close eye on my fork and headset.  I eventually caught a couple of more singlespeed riders, including another teammate of mine, Roger Masse.  It's always good to see a friendly face in a race and it also felt good to know that only three other singlespeed riders were ahead of me.

Not long after seeing Roger, I soon saw Stephan Kincaid climbing ahead of me.  I eventually caught up to him and saw that he was in pretty bad shape from being involved in a crash earlier in the race.  Stephan was still riding hard and was sticking right with the hard pace I was trying to set.  It felt good to actually be racing with someone rather than just chasing down the next guy in front of me, so I was enjoying Stephan's company and hoping we would soon catch the two remaining singlespeed riders: Matt Ferrari and D-Rapp.

But, as my luck of the day would have it, I suffered my second flat and had to watch Stephan ride away alone.  Fixing all these flat tires the past couple of weeks must have made me a little quicker with this repair because it seemed like I was able to get back on the bike a lot quicker this time.  So, I started my chasing chore again and one-by-one I started to catch the riders ahead of me.  But, this time I only had less than 20 miles to catch the remaining riders instead of 67 miles.  I worried that there might not be enough time or miles left in the race to move back into third, so I dug deeper than I have in a long time to make up my lost time.

During this time, I kept my eyes focused ahead for other riders, but never saw the Stan's Notube kit of Stephan.  I began to wonder if he might have taken a wrong turn or abandoned the race due to his crash injuries or bike issues.  But, after catching the new third place singlespeed rider, Matt Ferrari, I learned that Stephan had moved into second and was still ahead of me.  When I caught the next rider ahead of me and asked how far ahead the NoTubes rider was, it was a little difficult to hear him say Stephan was about 4-5 minutes ahead, especially with only a few more miles of racing to go until the finish.

But, I powered-on anyway and put all my remaining energy into climbing the last climb as fast as I could.  My legs ached and not seeing anybody ahead made my effort seem pointless, but then I caught a glimpse of Stephan through the trees and suddenly the pain I was feeling seemed to vanish.  It was hard to pass Stephan when I did catch him because I knew he had suffered badly to finish this race after his crash.  Hearing his kind words as I passed didn't make my pass any easier.  He is a true sportsman and I have a lot of respect for him and his difficult race that day.

I did not have the race I wanted to have at Iron Cross, but I am happy with my riding and how I was able to overcome the issues of the day to finish as the second placed singlespeed rider.  I've come to realize over the past couple of weeks of racing how lucky I've been over the years.  I'm usually a pretty lucky guy when it comes to racing and I guess it's hard to understand this until things go bad a few weeks in a row.  Hopefully, my spell of bad luck is done for a while now and I can go back to my winning ways.

I'll be doing some regular cross racing the next couple of weeks before heading to Costa Rica for La Ruta and then finishing out the year with more cross racing and the finial American Ultra Cross Series Race, the Gravel Grovel in Indiana.  As it stands, I still have the lead in the series with one win and three second place finishes, but if D-Rapp can take the singlespeed win at the final race, he will be the series SS champ.  My luck over the past couple of weeks sure has made racing interesting lately and it looks like the championship race will be just as interesting.

On a final note, I've got to say thanks to Mike Kuhn and all of his help for putting on a fantastic race.  This year's Iron Cross course was the best I've ever ridden.  Oh, and if you're curious to see what the course was like this year, checkout Jayson O'Mahoney's race video below.  It definitely gives some good views of the course offerings!

Happy Trails....  Gerry

1 comment:

  1. So what ever happened with the steering issue? You left us hanging.