Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Double Bill: CX Nationals and Perth CX Weekend Bonanza

This past weekend marked the first of two double CX weekends on my schedule this season.  I love doing races back to back, but its surely a good thing I don't have opportunity to do that every weekend. If I were flying solo it wouldn't be a big deal, but it must be awfully tough for those with families. I'm happy to take in a couple each fall.

Saturday's race was event I've been 'focusing' on all season. After welcoming my son in March, my plan was to take things as they came with road and mtb racing and try to be in good form for CX. Nationals would be in Toronto, mid-season, so I'd have ample time to tune up. As the weeks progressed through October, it became more challenging to get adequate training in outside, so I hit the trainer to do intervals. Hopped up on a colleague's dad's home brewed echinacea and goldenseal tincture and regular doses of vitamin D, I was staying on top of the multiple bugs entering my system via ample exposure to my kids. Friday involved more Toronto driving than I'd curse anyone with, but I felt good if not a bit mellow come Saturday morning.

Last year's Nationals, also in Toronto, was rather lackluster for me. I was coming off walking pneumonia and not at my best. Jamie was going well though, and I think we rode a bit together, if memory serves. This time round we were once again the two Tall Tree riders representing, though this time flying the Steelwool colours, given the launch of the Truffle Pigs we're on. Jamie's still ramping up, after a busy foray into home renos over the last couple months, and was hoping to improve on his 12 place finish from 2010. I'd come 7th, and was aiming for at least a top 5, if not a podium. You have to aim high.

Steve, who recently returned to Toronto, his hometown, to take up residence, was on hand helping us out with logistics (taking our jackets and knee warmers) and taking photos. He'd be one of many with Ottawa ties to cheer us on along the course.

The morning had broken cold and clear, frost covering the ground and rapidly melting as the sun cast its glow over the hill and flat grounds of Pine Point Park. We couldn't tell how deep the frost penetrated, so we could only speculate about how the course would evolve over the two hours of racing preceding our 11 am start. Riding from 8:00 until 8:45 gave us a rare opportunity to experience what the local B racers often undergo. Slippery, but fairly predictable.

The race course would have to be characterized as 'turny.' Turns dominated its design in terms of handling, but at the same time, a medium sized hill also featured heavily, as racers were routed up it three different ways. One approach was a steep bank that Rob Orange impressed many on by riding up, while most others ran. I ran, after never making it in practice. The other two ascents were different, one switchbacking with a kick at the end, the other a straight run up with the same kick. I can honestly say the hill was not my favourite feature. Perhaps if I was 5 or 10 pounds leaner I'd like it more. Perhaps not. The other aspect of the course that was significant was the long flat straights on the backside. There was little wind in the morning, which made these less difficult for strung out riders than they could have. Overall, the course was well balanced by these three main components.

Log Barrier in the Woods

Log Barrier in the WoodsRun UP


I won't go into gory details, but suffice it to say that our Master 30-39 race was high paced and painful. Jamie drew a front row call-up, and I say in the second. Too much traffic off the start required a 100% effort on the second straight to move up to the front. Heading into the woods, a singletrack, no passing sector, I was third. The Albertan in front of me was clearly strong, but braked in every turn as the man to beat, Peter Moog, National Champ three years prior, didn't brake, and pulled away. I spent a great deal of effort trying to get by, and did, then tried to claw my way to Moog. I was at the limit, erred, went down, and the next two, both Albertans, went by. From there, I was not able to close the gap that opened, and only narrowed it to 4 seconds, despite my best efforts. Jon Barnes took over the pace making, rode strong and skillfully, but we didn't make up ground. After he, like many, went down on a greasy turn on the backside of the course, I had to go hard, and this proved decisive, as I opened a gap and rode out the last lap to claim 4th spot. In hindsight I could only wonder whether I ought to have never chased Moog in the first place. Looking at the lap times, I think it was the right move, it simply didn't work out. Hopefully Nationals will fall in Eastern Canada next year, and I'll get to try again. Congrats to Mr. Moog, Chris McNeil, and John Clark for their podium performances. Moog took his fourth National Champion jersey home (in a row), quite a display of dominance! Thanks to Jon Barnes for riding like a gentleman. I dedicate my 4th ahead of Jon to Rob Parniak.

Jamie improved on last year's result in 11th spot, despite coming in with perhaps less form. Experience counts for an awful lot. Next year it'll be a top 10! If we go.

That's enough for now, I'll post photos from Perth on Wednesday.

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