Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Providence Cyclocross Festival 2011

Cyclocross. A crazy, mad, dirty, painful, gut wrenching, sufferfest. Also, possibly the best thing to happen to cycling since you decided to race deadmans curb when you were 3 years old.

Having never done cyclocross, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Other than watching Behind the Barriers, and chatting with friends about the madness that is Cyclocross, I had yet to experience the mashup of road and mountain that becomes cyclocross. We arrived at a reasonable hour Friday night, Ben and I drove ourselves down late after work to meet up with team at the hotel. Naturally, having an early start, we were up until 1am chatting and causing mayhem in the hotel.

Day 1: That morning, we arrived in Providence, RI ready to roll. I threw on my kit an my numbers and ventured over to the Shimano Neutral Support to have my front derailleur adjust before the start of the race. Having lost track of time, I missed my start by at least 2 minutes. Thanks to the kindness of the USAC officials, I was able to start late. I chased hard and began to pick riders off one at a time through the technical sections of the course. On every straight away and run up, I was also able to move my way through the field. Having never practiced mounts and dismounts, I found myself quick, but sloppy at the stairs and barriers. Around lap 3, I was getting the hang of things.
With two sets of stairs and a set of 2 foot barriers at the top of a hill in the middle of a hairpin of section next to the beer garden. I managed to chase back and ended up finishing in the 50s. Not good, but considering that I missed the start... not bad either.

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Day 2: The course for day 2 was much more suiting to my riding style. I started on time and the back of the pack. With a long paved section, I knew I would be able to overtake many. Each lap and straight away I was able to over take more and more riders. Going into the final lap I was sitting in the top 20 when I dropped a curb and felt my rear tire start to sag. When I reached the barriers following a long fast straightaway, I was able to check my tire while leaping the barriers to find it going flat. Because of my flat I was forced to go slow up the paved section and carefully descend the dirt switchbacks before the pit. Going into the final switchback, I dismounted and sprinted into the pit where Shimano provided me with a spare wheel. Remounting and sprinting to catch the field, I was able to get back into field and catch some of the riders that overtook me while I was in the pit. Finishing in 36th, I know I have the strength to catch the pack and lead the field.

On top of the fun of racing, the festival itself was a blast.  With the Veloswap, vendors and wonderful food, there was always something to do in case you got bored watching the international pros racing on the same course.  I spent much of my day browsing the Veloswap and getting to know the vendors and dealers who had made an appearance at the Festival.  Custom frame builders also made appearances, however their highlight was Friday evening at the builders ball.  Having missed the ball, the least I could was check out all the custom steel and carbon frames scattered throughout the venue.

Having survived my first 'Cross race weekend, I am excited to continue competing in 'Cross.  It is quite possible that it is more fun than Road, but that is to be determined by future races.

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