Wednesday, December 19, 2007

SS Cross Nationals

I went to watch Saturday and brought my bike and all my needed gear. I had planned on riding after the days races were over. I decided in the mid afternoon that I wasn't going to ride. Couple reasons, but the main two were it was cold and course we have frozen, half mud, and a complete mess. I knew the overnight low was going to be in the teens and since SS was racing at 8am I knew it would be a totally different type of course Sunday morning. So bagged my preride plans, put on a shark suit and drank some sweet O'Fallon 5 day IPA. That worked out better because we cheered on The Claw and the officials asked if the Sharks wanted to give out the Masters medals. So how could I pass up a chance to crown Ned Overland National Champ. Space Ghost also joined us on stage and we all had fun.

Saturday night I went back to my parents and got my bike ready. Jeremy lent me a set of cross tires that were more suited for mud. Typically I run some Kenda's that are more suited for fast dry courses. I also changed from a 32/13 gear to a 32/15. Not a big change ratio wise, but given the slick conditions of the course I knew I couldn't run the 32/13 I usually run in dry cross races. I also talked to some other racers who did preride and they ran 36/18 or a 39/22 so I was a little over geared compared to them, but I'm tough. I put in 40 psi in my parents 55 deg garage and figured that would balance out nicely at 15 deg. in the morning. I did the PV=nRT calculation to figure that out. If you can define all the terms of that equation I have a new pair of Cannodale Socks left over from my mountain bike race to give you. I then pinned on my 4 race numbers so I didn't have to do that in the morning.

Sunday morning. 5:20 I get up. My parents live on the east side of KC and I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to get to the race and not feel rushed. Got up had a cup of freshly ground Kona coffee and a bowl of cereal. Got my parents 4wd truck started and began warming that up. I went ahead and put on my cycling clothing. Craft base layer, tights, bib shorts, wool socks, long sleeve jersey. Topped off my coffee and headed out. The roads in KC were fine and I got to the course before 6:45am and scored some rock star parking behind the awards stage. I finished getting dressed in the truck: wind layer, jersey with 4 numbers, arm warmers, stocking cap, helment, toe warmers, shoes, shoe covers, hand warmers and lobster claw gloves. I made it out for 2 full preride laps. I did wear a winter riding coat for 1 lap but got hot and opened that and cooled over. I was fine warming so knew my hands, feet, and body would fine for the race.

The course was totally frozen. Some corners were solid ice. The ruts were solid. You basically had to let the bike go and just focus on pedaling. Fighting to stay out of ruts just caused you to slip and slide more. Don't fight it. I also figured these conditions would help me more than others because I had flat bars and also I was used to riding my SS all the time on mtn bike trails so that wasn't to different than riding a lot of rocky sections back to back to back.

I lined up, at the back. At the front? Chambers, Brown, LeLond, Gunnar. Some bad ass guys basically up front and me in next to last row. We start and I make up a few spots and rows early. I realize I'm running a bigger gear than most so I used that to my advantage. We hit the pavement to grass transition. I went waaaaay wide to the outside. I saw too many crashes Saturday of guys piling into the corner early. I wanted to go outside and not worry about anyone else. That was a good move because I could carry my speed through the ditch and passed a group and then I hear behind me the pile up occur. Sweet! I take the first sweeper easy and try not to fall. I felt like I was going backwards, but really I was making up time on guys. From there it was strung out and we are all trying to stay upright. We pass the pits and take a different line because the bike wanted to, and I pass a few more guys. I then settled in and raced my race. Trying to keep pushing and catching guys and also taking some outside lines. You see in car racing when it rains you typically race off the normal racing line because that has more grip. There is less oil and the track surface has more grip. So did the same thing. Where it was appropriate, I did ride in the rutted and frozen section that was worn in from Saturday, but of line in spots I had more grip and could carry more speed. After 1 lap I had a goal of staying on the lead lap. I did catch some more guys and some passed me. But at least I didn't have a crappy singlelatur because those guys were dropping chains all over because the course was so rough. I also didn't have deep dish carbon rims like many people did. But neither did the top 3 finishers. After 2 laps the Sharks were present and were cheering me on and some other folks were cheering for me too. That was pretty cool and it helped a lot. I did manage to stay on the lead lap and finished 31st out of 80 or so starters. They didn't score some people as finishing, including me, but I talked to the officials and got that sorted. But there were several others who were scored as DNS who did start. Surprised? Not me, because Buddy was scoring the race. I think 108 signed up and 70+ started. LeLonde won, with Brown and Chambers in 2nd and 3rd. They are some fast dudes. I didn't get lapped or pulled so I was very happy about that and then looking at the results I beat Gunnar who is a very fast mountain bike and cross racer.

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