This is my first time attending a UCI event. I guess that means it is a big sorta thing. However, I’m not going to be there to watch the pros race. I just can’t hang out that long this weekend. Things to do, you know?
So, HPCX is the “Highland Park” Cyclocross race, but it isn’t in Highland Park. It is in Thompson Park in Jamesburg, NJ. Highland Park isn’t a park, but a town, and is pretty close to Jamesburg. Confusing. Ah, wait. They supply this great “Technical Guide” with all sorts of information about the race and I see now that the sponsoring clubs are Highland Park Hermes and Rutgers University Cycling. It all makes sense now. Thanks guys, you put on a great event.
Oh! An awesome thing has happened. I’m back from my vacation in the wilds of West Virginia and finally able to access the interwebs and guess what they tell me? Chris is going to be racing with me this weekend! Our teammate Phil is bringing a bike for Chris to race on so Chris has registered for the race on Saturday. This is going to be great.
Ugh. I’m looking at the clock and it is 2:30 AM. I can’t sleep. 2:50. 3:05. 3:35. 3:45. Please brain, go to SLEEP!
OK. I give up. I’m up already. Lock the bikes on the roof and lets go. I’m rolling into Chris’s driveway precisely at 5:30 AM and there’s a light on, so that’s good. Hmmm, guess what? There’s no traffic at this hour on Saturday morning and all the lights are green so of course we arrive at the park a bit on the early side. I think the sun is almost ready to pop up. There is about a dozen cars in the parking lot, so at least we’re not the worst of the bunch.
Here’s friendly Phil rolling up in the Volvo! How nice to see a familiar face on this lovely morning. Yawn.
The bike Phil brought looks fine, but wait… It is the same as mine! How great is that? It is the same durn bike. Built differently of course, but they’re both orange Salsa La Cruz’s. The handlebar on Phil’s bike is… Interesting. Time for some pre-riding!
The course is pretty cool. I like it. There are some tricky bits where some will ride (me) and some will run and FINALLY a couple of places where I can open the taps a little and pick up some speed! I’m looking forward to this. Chris is making some adjustments to his rent-a-racer but it seems perfectly functional once he’s done and now it is time to go line up for Chris’s first cyclocross race. Sigh, it seems like only a few weeks ago that it was MY first race. Wait…
I’m lined up in the 5th row I think. Chris is somewhere in the back but I can’t see him when I look for him. We are lined up waiting for the guy with the words to stop talking and just blow the whistle already!
My start is OK. As per what seems to be the usual in these Cat4/5 races, I hear some crashing going on behind me. There’s a little cursing, behind me, and I hear a wicket go down amid the sound of stretching and snapping tape, all blessedly behind me. In fact, most of the folks in front of me seem to know how to ride their bikes. Its a little unnerving, actually.
Lap 1 goes well. Lap 2 I almost lose it on the off-camber after the barriers. My rear wheel slides out as I try to re-mount because I’m dragging the back brake a little but too much. I get all “moto” but catch it just in time to regain my footing and give up on the bike riding thing. I think I’ll run this section from now on.
The best part about this race, for me, is that I have some of the New England teammates here to cheer and jeer at me. Phil is there and Eric showed up in time for the start and every lap mentions something about squid, which keeps me all jazzed up and looking for victims. (see “Town Hall Cross” for information regarding the squid reference)
I have a good battle going on with Mark Steffen, a King Kog rider. He’s stronger than me today but he keeps on having one problem after another. He seems to be either powering away from me or crashing, which lets me back by. Late in the race he drops his chain in between the cassette and spokes. I look as I go by and it is DEEP in there. That will be the last I see of him.
But no! He must have had a surge of adrenaline from that chain-jam and it isn’t long before he’s back on my wheel. I’m cooked, but we’ve reached a technical handling section and he yells to me “take your line, you’ve got more skills than me”. Well, isn’t that nice of him? It doesn’t help one bit when the hill starts though and he goes right around me once we turn on to the final climb. I just don’t have any energy to chase him down. Damn.
I finish in 27th, 5 minutes and 8 seconds behind the leader. Chris finishes in 53rd but got caught by the leaders on the last lap so his race was shortened by 1 lap compared to mine. Lucky guy. A good showing for his first race and on a borrowed bike that he’d never ridden until this morning! The results show 78 finishers and 1 DQ (illegal feeding) out of 90-some starters.
Also, here are some pictures from Phil and Eric’s Cat 2/3/4 race.
Yes. I’m doing this again. I wake up much too early but at least it is in the 4 o’clock hour this time. Thank goodness.
Chris can’t make it this time so I am on my own for the drive this morning. I’ve got my mug of Earl Grey and a DunkinDonuts bacon-egg-on-a-croissant sandwich for my road breakfast. Race fuel.
My pre-ride shows that the course has changed a little, but not much. The start-finish straight on the pavement is longer and the first turn goes right instead of left. Most of the sections are the same or similar, but they’re connected differently.
I got a 3rd-row call-up this time, which is exciting. That’s the farthest forward I’ve been so far. Eric once advised me to go hard on the first lap and see where that puts me, so I give it a solid effort at the start. I’m up to 10th going into the first turn! I’m sticking there and hanging on to the tail end of the lead group by the end of the first lap, but I’m paying the price for the 1st-lap effort and I don’t have any gas for the start-finish straight. 4 guys go by in a small group and now I’m in 15th.
The course is in better shape today with more grip in the corners and less moisture on the ground. I’m finding a couple places where I can put on speed and it gives me a chance to really battle for position and I am actually enjoying this!
I lose a couple more spots on the uphill sections but stabilize in 16th. Then comes my usual mid-race stomach cramp and someone starts to catch me. It is William George of Ride Brooklyn. He goes by me but I’ll be damned if I am going to let him get far. On the penultimate lap I hear Phil give me encouragement at the barriers and that helps me close the gap on William. When we get to the pavement I find that William has even less energy in his legs than I do! I draft him and then when the hill starts, I slowly go by on the inside. He says something unintelligible and I wonder what it is he wants to tell me, but all that matters is I’ve got my place back.
Then a chill wind blows. I feel like a I’ve got a second burst of energy and I can really push. That’s weird.
But who am I to argue? I guess it is time to put the hammer down! I’m enjoying my last lap immensely and I look behind me to see I’ve got a good gap on William. I don’t even have to really sprint at the finish to maintain my spot. This feels good!
My last lap is my fastest lap and I cross the line 16th. This was my best cross race yet and I really enjoyed it. The course was cool, it was awesome having teammates around, and I’m kinda excited about doing it again.
Eric and Phil’s race isn’t for a while yet, but I’m not going to miss it since they went to the trouble of waking up this morning to come and cheer for me! They’re sticking together a lot today, which makes it easier to keep track of their progress but a little trickier to photograph them. They both are making good progress, working their way up through the field.
I’ve come to realize something distressing though…
I’m a horrible heckler. I’ve got one good one in me per day, maybe. After that I’m all “Go!” and “Come on!” Pathetic really. Does anyone have any good heckling hints?
Give the videos below a chance to load and see what I mean. Please help me!
Next time I’m remembering my cowbell. Enough cowbell ringing should make up for a lack of heckling chops, I figure.