Sunday, September 26, 2010

Its on: The 2010 Cyclocross Season Kicks Off With a Bang!

Today was a beautiful day for cyclocross in Ottawa, you know, in the sadistic sense cyclocrossers evince when talking weather. Steady rain all night, then a fine mist in the morning made for ideal conditions for those with a penchant for slip-and-slide and a good set of tires. The rain subsided early enough to ensure we'd get a chance to enjoy challenging conditions without having to worry too much about getting cold.

A full squad of Tall Tree/Steelwool Bicycles riders were on hand today, with Mike and Anna and Glenn letting loose in the first race. The format has changed this year, with all ladies categories running along with the Masters B and kids in the first race, followed by the Senior, Junior, and Masters A fields.

Beyond the sea of green, it was obvious that there was an very large turnout today (238 racers!!!), and many spectators as well littered across the course. I was extremely happy to see what appeared to be more kids racing than any other year, as well as special course modifications to accommodate their smaller bodies: a skipped uphill barrier and a lower barrier as well. After seeing some of the kids courageously dragging their bikes over barriers in previous years - AND returning to race again - these lowered barriers seemed brilliant. The more fun and accessible cross is for the kids, the better. I can't wait until my daughter is able to try a race, maybe another year and a bigger bike will do it.

The A race kicked off near 11am with a fast start. Rodd and Neil were both out of the gate very well, and I found myself in the top 20 not feeling like I was going tooo hard, which seemed like a good idea. The course was excellent today, with more turns that previous Brittania courses I've raced, and really good spacing of red-line and tempo sections. I consider a run-up a red-line section, as these are normally where I tend to come close to blowing a gasket, then have to recover from. I find the courses where you can hammer then recover and repeat the whole time more fun than those where you have to keep the pace more or less pinned all the time. When its technical the skills come into play more and everybody recovers more, so the race unfolds differently than more roadish courses, like Kanata tends to be. Good times.

Rodd's classic green Michelin Mud tire/wheel he offered me to use performed extremely well, confirming Michelin was mental to discontinue the tread. Confidence inspiring in the wet, fantastic! Since my Steelwool Truffle Pig is still under construction, I was on my Secteur 18 road bike we had built last year. Thankfully, the wet grassy mud was flowing well enough for clearance to the brakes not to become a problem, and the bike worked flawlessly. Sure, a tire sharper than my 30c Grifo in the back would have been nice, but that'll have to wait until I've got the TP. Two tubulars...crazy time it will be!

I managed to work my way up, contra my usual.......fade.....back 'method,' which was pretty fun to experience, that is, after the imploding feeling subsided post first lap madness. I found myself riding with Keirnan Orange, Warren McDonald, Steve Proulx, and Imad El-Ghazal after a while, and recall Greg Reain blow past us about mid-way in. Steve pulled away, and after some back and forth, including Warren drag racing down the finishing straight and flinging mud UP my nose(!), Imad and I ended up paired up heading into the last two laps. I turned on the 'jets' and attempted to shake him, but there was no doing, he was riding too smoothly and strong to break off. On the last lap I eased up and Imad passed, so I went into 'tactical mode' and planned to tail him closely and come around for the line. Well, I learned a valuable lesson, as a botched turn heading toward the final barriers allowed Imad to open a gap, and I simply did not have time to close it fast enough to come around at the end. We went for it full on, and I'm pretty sure I didn't bet closer than half a bike length away. Awesome sprint finish to a great race; it was good to work with Imad to get a bit of space between us and the others. I look forward to more battles like that over the season.

I'm very happy to report that my 10th overall spot behind Imad netted me my first cyclocross win evaaarr, which I am really excited about. I don't think Shawn Marshall is on form at the moment after weeks away in China wrenching for the US National Road team, so I'm pretty sure its going to take a lot of effort to have a hope of winning another. I was pretty uncertain about how my season of endurance riding would set me up for cross, and I'm both pleased and surprised to find that I am able to handle the intensity pretty well. As long as I keep learning every race I'll be able to improve each race, no matter what the results show. I also predict a number of the newer Tall Tree racers will be making big leaps in their racing over the course of the season. Their excitement and satisfaction at the end of these races really is the best thing about going. Well, that and the kids flying around on the course; that's the best thing, really.

See you all next week for the Madison! Then its time to Frolic!

Brad holds it down for the Tall Tree Beardos
Jamie, best finish ever?
Martin and Pascal rode well together.  Here Martin ATTACKS!
Rodd had his best start ever and ended up fifth in MA
BMX Jim had his first taste, and he likes it!
Neil, tight in the skinsuit, as usual.

 Here is a great shot by Sarah, Rodd had
no idea of the chaos behind him.
He ended up in a sprint with Glenn,
after he had dropped him,
then slid out on the second last corner. DOH!

Rob "Parsnips" Parniak. Check out the shouldering in the air!
J-to-the-P. Cool as a polar bear's toe nails, as usual.
Jay Heins was rocking the best horn, from a Dutch bike, I believe.  Excellent. 
Yep, this is what you do to avoid vomiting.
Then move to this. The modern man is not afraid to show vulnerability, right? I"m very modern. 
Neil, Pascal, Brad, Jamie (and that's me on the ground, grovelling). 
See what I mean, Pascal looks like a PRO Frenchman. BMX Jim, not so much, but he sure does look like he can kick your ass.
Imad and me, post race, all smiles. Great ally to have in the races, let me tell ya.
Creative re-enactment.

This is Rob's patented post race face. He doesn't tend to resort to flopping on the ground, unlike someone. No, he's just not that modern.
Post race coffee at Bridgehead. Oh so sweet.
Two Xtracycles in our camp today. Rodd's was full race-wagon. I can't wait to roll to races like this, hopefully next year. Much better then risking the tubulars on the way across town.

Thanks to Steve and Tanya for their photos. If you have a link you'd like to share, post it up in the comments.


Anonymous said...

Here's a few more CX photos..


Pascii said...

Funniest part of the race: The smell of about 10 different embrocations at the start line and buddy next to me commenting on it.

rob.parniak said...

Funniest part of the race for me was the guy next to Rod on the start line saying, "you surely win the prize for oldest bike in the race!" Referring of course to his beautiful custom steel frame built in 2009.

Matt Surch said...

Thanks for the pic link Dom.

Pascal, could you smell my embro? Coffee, reserved for the special days. Mmmm.

Rob, that comment might just top the one I received at the US border back in the summer. I love it, totally cracks me up.

My funniest moment: Sucking Warren McDonald's wheel through the finishing straight mid-race and having more than one chunk of mud fling up my nose off his rear tire! Hilarious!

Madmountainmike said...

Awesome work all.

Matt - fantastic season just keeps on going !