It was offered to me as if it were a gift. “Here, my son,” the cyclocross gods seemed to say to me, “take this lead in the Masters C race at Cornwall Park and do with it what you can. Treasure it. Revere it. Treat it with love, kindness and respect and perhaps there’ll be more where this came from. Just don’t be a pinhead and screw it up, ya mo-ron!”
Alas, I screwed it up.
Saturday was my first cyclocross race with my new Fantom CX, it of the $499 BikesDirect.com route. I love this bike but wasn’t sure how it’d perform. Or how I’d perform for that matter. I’m terrible in criteriums and cyclocross is basically a criterium on grass and dirt and mud and forest duff (Forrest Duff, that sounds like the name of a strapping leading man “PT-109 starring Russell Crowe and Forrest Duff;” I digress.) and over logs and through gravel and sand and whatever else a psycho race director like Ryan Rickerts (http://cyclocrazed.com/) can come up with.
He designed a super course. Lots of turns including something called the Circle of Death (sim. to MXC’s Rotating Surfboard of Death) wherein we spiraled ‘round and ‘round and ‘round ‘til we hit the middle and had to reverse direction and spiral ‘round and ‘round and ‘round til we popped out of it. Just after our first time through—we ended up doing five laps of the course for about 50 minutes worth of riding—we climbed a small hill, took a couple quick rights and I found myself in the lead pack of four. Rounding the next turn, the leader slipped and fell and though he got right back up, he kind of blocked off the two other guys so a wide ocean of nothingness opened ahead of me.
I bolted through and was in the lead!!! Did you get that? I was in the lead!!! Got that? My mind raced ahead just like my body was trying to do. Maybe cyclocross was my true calling. Maybe the gods were visiting me for a reason. Perhaps I could become this stud cyclocross-writer-raconteur guy who could travel the country entertaining the masses with my bon mots and stories about my cyclocross experiences. My wife could quit her job and my son could skateboard all over as we traveled the land, cyclocrossing and lecturing and writing from town to town. Sweeeeet!
In the week leading up to the race I’d ridden at Cornwall a lot and though I didn’t know the course I knew the park like the back of my hand. (Let me just throw this in here: about six years ago, I accidentally won a 5K running race in this park. That was pretty silly; here’s the story: http://mcqview.blogspot.com/2006_10_01_archive.html.)
During my practice rides, I found out some things about my bike too. For instance, I can’t just throw it into the big chain ring rather wantonly as I tend to do with my Ultegra-equipped road bike. The Sora (much lower end than Ultegra) front derailleur tends to throw my chain right off the bike, which is no fun at all. So, going into this race, I knew to be somewhat gentle with the Fanton CX’s components.
But you know, … you get racing and the gods bestow the lead upon your shoulders and you wanna keep it. Be worthy of it. Prove to them that they made no mistake. You ARE the one. So on the one true straightaway when I could really push it, I tried to crank it to 11, as it were, throw the chain over to the big chain ring for some extra power and ... guess what? The chain is thrown clear to Haggen’s about 10 blocks away, (it seemed) and despite my best efforts to pull it back on while I’m riding (I was in the lead, by the way), it wasn’t going to happen. Somehow, I yanked something and the bike and I went down hard, me skidding on my right butt cheek for what felt like 20 feet. (It hurt not at all probably because it was actually about three feet.)
I finally got the chain back on, but the back wheel wouldn't move. The rear brake pad had wedged itself against a spoke. ‘Course I took my sweet time figuring this out, and meanwhile rider after rider is passing me by ‘til the last woman—their race started right after the Mens C—was far ahead of me in the distance. I guess I wouldn’t become cyclocross writer celebrity after all. I was given a lead and I’d screwed it up. (And here’s the thing: I had the lead for all of oh, maybe 45 seconds.)
Oh well. Now I was back to just having fun. Riding my butt off, eventually picking off a couple riders here and there for the next 4-1/2 laps until the end when I was just outsprinted by this nice guy I see on the Donut ride all the time (Dave?) who was riding a mountain bike.
All in all, the race was mucho mucho fun. Glenn Gervais also raced so it was good to hang out with him before and after. Next Cyclocrazed race (http://cyclocrazed.com/) is Nov. 17 at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds. I’ll definitely be there.
Maybe we’ll get to ride in the pig barn.