Sunday, October 20, 2013

Race Report: CX of the North #2 by Kirk Groves (@LSVLKirk)

On Saturday I lined up for CX of the North #2 in Loveland. It was the same general location as 2012 States but the course was very different. In general I liked the course better than States but it was ***really*** bumpy. Here is a video of the open racers going over one of the many bumpy sections to give you an idea:  My arms and shoulders are sore today after all those bumps.
Much of the race was in and around a bowl, picture half the size of the Bowl of Death in Louisville. Other features included a decent amount of off-camber riding and two set of railroad ties. Many people choose to ride the ties but I ran them after taking into account risk-reward. The highlight of the course was a steep muddy descent into a corner, around to a muddy section across a steep incline. After that it was a 180 and then up that incline. To make things a little more interesting some spectators had thrown a cooler of water on the last incline.  Here is a video of that section on Sunday -- it had been raining for an hour at this point so it was much worse than on Saturday when I raced.

I received a first row call-up and was second into the first bottleneck. I stayed in 2nd for the first 1/3 of the lap. Descending down into the bowl the guy in front of me got sideways in a corner and then dropped his chain in the next. I wasn't planning on being in front of the race at this point but I looked back and I surprised by the size of the gap. The good news is that there was $25 prime for first over the 2nd set of barriers in the first lap -- I was racing for free. At the end of one gap my lead was 42 seconds. As the race progressed my lead was dwindling but not at an alarming rate... 42 -> 32 and down to 20 seconds as I heard the bell for one lap to go. I was thinking about riding clean, avoiding the big mistake and keeping a consistent yet high pace. Knowing the field would accelerate as the race progressed I tried to keep a bit in reserve so I could accelerate and cement in the win in the last lap.

On the last lap after I ran through the section in the video I mounted and heard a disgusting stomach turning sound -- my chain was off and it was jammed. I got the chain back on and had lost 2 places, I was disappointed but in position to podium. After a couple pedals strokes my chain was off again and it was super jammed this time. It took what seemed like an eternity for me to get the chain unstuck and back on, I'd lost track of the number of racers who passed me. The chain was stuck under my chain guard -- you know the thing that is supposed to keep your chain from dropping in the first place. I continued on but I'd lost my fight, I didn't know where I was but I knew a top-5 wasn't possible. I continued on and dropped my chain twice more before I made a bike change. I was shaking my head in disbelief as how my luck had turned. I grabbed my B bike from the pit and came across the line with my head hung. My last lap was 2:13 slower than my next slowest lap. My sure win became an 8th place.

I swung by the shop on the way home to have JD take a look at my bike. He found that I'd bent the chain in the effort to get it unstuck -- likely the cause of the repeated drops. I had him throw a new chain on my bike is ready for more next weekend. That's cyclocross for you.

Next Saturday is my favorite location -- the Xilinx campus. I'll be itching to ride a complete race start to finish.

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