Friday, October 28, 2011

A mid-season reflection on ‘Cross

Cyclocross season 2011 brought with it some changes, no more races in Ottawa which meant a bit more driving and perhaps (hopefully not) less participation. The first race of the season was held at the first time venue of calabogie peaks. Last event there was likely the off-road tri I did about 4 years ago. The day was beautiful and sunny, the course was a delight for most - although some professed to have a hate-on for the sandy sections, while I despised the loose hill climb with no toe spikes. I expected to have a mediocre race (and season) due to the type and amount of athletic endeavours in which I had partaken as of late. Surprisingly found myself up with the almost top guys of Belinkey and Heins only to have dropped a chain and 50 m just prior to the last lap. Somehow I summoned a suitcase of courage and bridged the gap on the flats to eventually sneak David (who did a LOT of work throughout) at the finish to take 3rd.

Race 2 was the always fun madison at the familiar and typically mtn bikey venue of Almonte. Noah and I were teamed together and we seemed to keep a great pace with some of the other Tree teams of Grant and Matt, Rodd and Alex; and while Andy took a bit out of Noah I managed to keep Jim in my sights. The weather was a contrast to the previous week, coolish and grey with a few spittles, but a dry race.

Race 3 brings us to what was last year a very bumpy frozen Renfrew fairgrounds. This year still had some bumps but was a bit more forgiving...the Clement PDX seems to have aided as well. A group of green Trees were up early to set the course. While not my favourite course I do find it fun with the spectator stands to wind up and around...and later to observe from. A great start again for me but somehow on a second lap remount my pedal came out of the crank-arm. It must have worked loose on practice laps and ....This dropped me from Jay’s wheel in 5th to about 45th place as I tried to put the pedal back in by hand then failing that one legged it along the back stretch and bumpy grass to eventually reach the parking lot where I got a wrench from Andrew Olive. A couple minutes later I was back in the game and passing people left and right....kind of a surreal experience. Managed to put in some solid lap times that would have otherwise put me into contention for the top 3 again but alas only made it to 20 or so. Another lovely day was had.

Race 4 took us to Logos Land Christian retreat....which kept me thinking of dismounting over lego barriers. Never heard of this place before but it seemed to be a hit with all who partook. This was an exceeeeedingly long course but it was shaping up to be another dry day after imminent threats of a deluge prior. The base here is very sandy which was quite forgiving and would result in a pretty manageable course even in wet conditions. The length of each lap was daunting and after a start right at the back of the pack due to an ill-timed pee break as Bob was speaking prior to the start, I had to hammer through the field in desperation. Withing the first lap I caught Dave Munden, J-C and a few others to ride with. We did a lot of leapfrogging though the course as it contained such a wide variety of open flats, twisty woods, sandy ruts and a couple of hard grunts. Dave washed out at the little stream section before the picnic table section and this was the opportunity for J-C and I to hammer some distance. Eventually we came to Chris Olsen riding backwards and the three of us did some leap-frogging over the last lap. On the last hill after the barrier then 180, J-C put the quads to the rods and rode away from me. I had nothing left to hang on and just concentrated in staying ahead of Chris for another 3rd place finish.

Finally race number 5 brings us back to a challenging Renfrew course at Mah-ta-way park. A few cool mtn bikey elements along with a lot of flat power sections were augmented with a tricky off-camber greasy ditch section. I managed to ride this one on the low part, while others had success with the top. Many had difficulties here. This time the ladies started 2 minutes ahead and as suspected we were clamouring to get space in the ditch and again at the steep dirty climb into the forest. Traffic on the first couple of laps negated riding this climb but after than it was a least for a few of us. Apparently many in the first race were not successful or not even attempting to ride it. The slick dirt however seemed to serendipitously dry out a fair bit for the second race. The forest is lovely and even though your are still hammering for the first 50 m into it there seems to be a tempered reprieve - if only for a fleeting moment - before the VERY tight switchbacks down. With the addition of Andy Leger, Marc the point, and Old man Orange the top end of the field had some stiff competition and some points defrayed. A 6th place sounds a bit slack but was actually a pretty solid race, tho with a 15 second lead on Belinkey and J-C coming down the last gravel road they almost caught me at the steep run-up to finish. This was again a beautiful warm sunny day...very un-crosslike !

So after five races the series seems to be going pretty good for everyone. The Wooly Trees are experiencing some great results and everyone seems happy with their new steeds. Will have to wait til next year and a smaller size to join that club....I’m having better results than expected and more importantly, a lot of fun so far. This weekend will be a Halloween break but next up will be Perth...a really fun course last year so I look forward to that...and the rest !

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