Well, today was my second attempt at figuring out this cross racing. The first thing I am going to have to figure out is how to take a practice lap without wiping out. Much like last week, my auspicious debut on the course began by going butt over tea kettle down an off camber piece of the course. Well a good 20% of this course was going to be off-camber, what a great start.
This will provide you with the visual of the course as it was set up in Sir Winston Churchill Park. For those who ride the tuesday night rides, you will note that the wild and woolly Russell Hill road snakes to the east of the park, where we begin our mad descent back to the Jail. I didn't start my Garmin at the start of the race (i forgot to hit the button until 70% through lap 1). So think of starting at the beginning of the straight away that ends at the red button. I want to take you through some of the challenges of this course and racing.
Lap 1 was typical racing. Everyone is juiced up to go and while 40 minutes passes quickly you don't have to come out of the chute hell bent for leather (particularly toward the back of the pack). As we went into turn 1 (red marker) the group was bunched making the next immediate hairpin a challenge. 5 guys went down coming out of turn 2 stopping the rest of us in our tracks. In cyclocross, these routes have yellow caution tape on stakes outlining the course and vets were telling the guys to break through the tape in order to go around the crash. After the horseshoe, you go south parallel to spadina and then back, this is just about speed, but it is made a little more challenging on wet grass (I couldn't have imagined staying upright on this course if it was raining). Then we came to the first off-camber piece. Parallel to stclair they put you on a side hill, the first time I tried to stay high in practice only to wipe out. This time I went low and stayed upright. A u turn and back the other way. Up and over two barriers, jump off the bike and then get back on. However, here you have to be back on and clipped in quickly as you make a quick left up the hill, then back down, followed by an off-camber up hill as we start to go south and parallel to spadina. This is where it was challenging. In practice i managed to stay on the bike for this whole piece, in the race, you depended highly on the guy in front of you to stay on his bike, if he crashes, you are not making it, there was nowhere to go around. 5 times through this area, 5 times I had to put a foot down, but never fell off- nice. then we cross over that gravel road and do a huge decent on grass. Putz around with some climbing and offcamber stuff. Another climb coming back up to the road and then we started out toward Russell Hill. Other than a hill climb, not a lot was going on back there, just huffing and puffing. We get back on the gravel road and make that sharp right turn just before spadina - another hill climb. Then finish things off up top.
So I have to say that I wasn't as happy with the effort today, felt like i couldn't get things going and found no rhythm. From the last race, I ran my tires with very little pressure, which meant when i was riding the gravel I always felt like i was bottoming out - riding the rails of the rim. Supposedly that is what you do in cyclocross (at the end of the race, i had all kinds of grass growing out of my clinchers). The climbs, were shorter than last week but took it out of you given the number and the off-camber riding was truly challenging to stay upright. So what about being lapped?!
Well, as some of you know I have a competitive streak and while I have not settled into this racing yet, I am going to keep at it. Today, as I started into my 4th of 5 laps, I hear the announcer advise that the leader was beginning his bell lap!! He was averaging just over 6 mins/lap, which in my view was crazy fast. However, I was not going to be lapped and pulled if I could help it and so the extra effort began. I wish i had my lap splits as that lap would have easily been my fastest trying to stay ahead of this speed demon. Good news was that I held him off (although he probably gained 30-45 secs even on that lap) and stayed on his lap, the bad news was I still finishing some 8 minutes behind the winner.
This is proving to be challenging racing. I would encourage all to take a look at this type of racing given you can do it locally and it takes up just 40 minutes and it doesn't hurt so much when you crash.