A Crossfire Hurricane
With all due respect to those who suffered with hurricane Sandy on the east coast, we had some pretty weird weather here in Chicago for the Indian Lakes Resort cyclocross weekend, a 2 day event held on a golf course. I used to golf a lot, so it was weird to be racing my bike around the practice greens and bunkers that I used to spend so much time on with golf clubs and a bag of practice balls.
Sixty degrees and sunny was the plan for Saturday, but it quickly became clear that we were in for some violent weather during the Womens-Old-guys-Older-guys-Single-speeders-Mashup race. Lightning was getting very close and it started to rain. The course was grassy and fairly fast until the rain/hail came lashing down during the 45 mins or so delay for the Cat 3 race that Jostein and I were in. Afterwards, the course was a diaster. Wet and slippery at every turn making just staying upright priority number 1. This should be fun.
I was hoping to maybe break into the front row, but nope, was still 2nd row with Jostein taking up his position in the center in the front row. The first turn was wide and sweeping but with the slickness there was still a good chance that riders would be going down so I took up the inside lane with the crit racing addage ‘cover your inside’ in mind. I got a good start and held my position up with the top 15 or so. Now it was time just to hang on and wait for the attrition.
Two primary course features were a steep run up and three switch back barriers that had to be run. The ‘run up’ looked like a big pile of dirt that they had dug out of the bunkers (sand traps for those that don’t speak UK golf). Even with the rain, if you had a decent tyre/pressure choice the run up was ridable in our race. It got tricky at the top with a few typical cross switchbacks and the ride back down was interesting with no brakes (due to the mud) into a sharp left hand turn around a tree. The barriers were nasty. They were set facing across a steep little hill and you had to run down the hill, make a sharp turn to run back up the hill, hop over the barrier and repeat.
With a few laps to go I spot Jostein hobbling along. He fell and smacked his knee against his stem cap. Ouch. DNF.
The race was spread out and I couldn’t tell where I was, I figured top 10. There was one guy in the distance with one lap to go and I thought I could catch him. I got on his wheel and drafted him down a long head wind section, then came around him before the run up which was just a couple of turns before the finish. It was the perfect plan, now I just needed to not make any mistakes until the finish. Unfortunately, I changed my plan (which had been working) for the run up as it was getting more difficult to ride. My new plan was dismount at the top and then run around the switch backs. After the dismount I ran straight into the barrier and got tangled up. Then I ran around straight through another barrier and slid down then steep slope. I had to go back around to avoid risking disqualification and when I got back on the course I had the choice of cutting up the guy I passed or letting him go, so I let him go and lost that place GRRRRRRRRR. I ended 5th.
Sunday the wind was HOWLING. Jostein was feeling good and excited about our chances vs the others given the wind. The course had been dried out by the wind and was much faster than Saturday. I got a good warm up in and was ready to go. Still 2nd row! but another good start and I am up with the leaders, top 10 or so. Jostein got cut up in the first corner and was a bit further back. The pace was fast and painful and I was struggling to hold on but managed to hold my position and picked up a couple of spots during the first few laps. I caught a glimpse of Jostein out of the corner of my eye, he had made it up to our group.
The top 5 guys in the 3s are good, no doubt about it, and I was struggling to hold on. My drafting was good and I was able to hide in the wind during the faster sections, but after each technical section I found myself dropping the wheel in front and having to chase back on. I waived Jostein by me figuring I would be more comfortable following his wheel. We held our position through the middle part of the race and I just knew that Jostein was resting while I was getting shelled. I knew he was going to make his move and there was nothing I could do to go with him, but it was fun working together for those few laps in the middle.
Jostein attacked our group with about 1 lap to go (honestly, I am not sure I even saw him go). Mike Conroy was up ‘up the road’ by himself by about 20 seconds and Jostein reeled it down to 6 for second place. I dropped off a place or two and ended 7th.
I enjoyed both races, and am pleased to be up at the ‘pointy end’ of the 3s. My fitness has been pretty good, but not training and basically just racing has left me fresh, but slightly off the pace, especially on back to back days.
Credit for some of the photos: Paul Davies, Otto Hansen and William Draper.