My third cross race ever. Had alot of fun, but I am sore right now. All over. Every muscle, shoulders, hips. Bring on the Vitamin I.
The course. Not alot to discuss. Flat, utterly flat. A single barrier and then a set of 3 and a sand pit. Lots of turns, but nothing off camber, nice paved sections, lots of grass and leaves. A very straight forward course that probably favored a true roadie who didn't fear the sand. The starting stretch was long and wide enough that no real bunching up occurred, at least where I was. It had rained most of Saturday, but the course was only damp on Sunday morning. Not a very exciting course, but as Lou said "everyone has to race the same course, so it's even."
Pre-race. I got there at about 8:45 hoping to get alot of re-ride in, but the course was only about 2/3 set up. Temps were in the high 30s and damp. I registered, then rode the course twice, saw that the sand pit was going to be my demise. Then kitted up, put on the embrocation and headed out. Did some sprints on the road and hit the barriers a few times. Tried the sand pit, first time didn't make it, second time, made it, but struggled. I figured if I could hit it without traffic, I could probably ride it. With about 10 minutes to go I rode back to the car and put another layer of embrocation just on my knees. That did the trick.
The start. I lined up in the front row this time, determined to hold as much ground as I could right from the start. If I faded, so be it. If you listen to what the PROS say, the first 200m in a cross race are the most important. Right before the whistle, a 6 ft. tall guy rides up and plants himself on my left with his bar in front of mine, essentially blocking my path. I gave him a death look, but didn't say anything. I slid over a little to my right and cleared my bars. Whistle went and I was o.k. Held my ground through the first turn as the group went single file. Hard left turn and then up to the first barrier.
The race. I hit the sand pit on the first lap with a group, struggled, but made it. The effort to get through was harder than I thought I wanted to use up there as the rest of the course from there to the start line was super fast, so I decided I would run the pit on the rest of the laps. With about 15 minutes to go I fell into a group of about 5 or 6. One guy on a mountain bike with discs. We would come though the first barrier and I would move to the front of the group. I would lose time in the barriers, but catch up, then get dropped in the pit. Catch up by the start line and then repeat. This happened for 4 laps (I think). 2 of the guys rode the pit and made it out ahead and 3 of us ran. Even running I was last or 2nd to last out of the pit.
Lesson learned. There's a big difference between riding an obstacle during the pre-ride and then at race pace. Lou told me that the sand was ride-able if you hit it at a sprint. I think his last words to me as our group started were "sprint out of the corner before the sand and you can make it." I let the sand intimidate me. If I had ridden it only 2 times towards the end of the race, I would have moved up 4 or 5 spots. Also, if I had cleaned the pit just once, I would have put a gap into the rest of the group and they would have had to chase me, instead of me chasing them. I'm not even sure I saved any energy by running the pit. Better to be the gapper than the gappee.
Result. 22nd out of 36. I finished at the back of a 5-6 rider group, all together.
I watched the 1,2s attack the sand pit. I need to be that aggressive. ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK.