Where to begin? First time competing at a Nationals level event. I had some audacious goals. Perhaps goals that I didn't really deserve to have, especially since I'd never been before. Knowing how important my family is to me and reasoning that it would do more negative to be away from them in the time between my non-championship race on Tuesday (1/3/17) and the championship race on Friday (1/6/17) than the good it might do to be there to evaluate the course and minimize travel, he suggested day trips for each race. At four hours without any traffic snags, the drive to Hartford was just at the upper limit of what I'd consider for a day trip.
I left later than planned Tuesday morning and hit bad traffic on the drive to Hartford. My four hour drive turned into more than five hours. This put me at the venue MUCH later than planned, and I really only had about 45 minutes to get my packet, get kitted up, and get myself to the staging area. It was cold. It was raining. I really didn't even want to race. Truth be told, I didn't even want to get out of my warm and dry street clothes. But, I did. Getting to the staging area with no time for any significant warm-up, I started to do some sprints on the paved sections around the start. That's when I realized that the only bike I'd brought (my "B" bike -- another story for another time) was skipping. With two bikes and three sets of tubulars and one set of clinchers, wheels get moved from bike to bike A LOT. I'd forgotten that the wheels currently on this bike had actually spent most of their time recently on the "A" bike that was still in the shop. The "A" bike was getting a new chain and cassette due to excessive wear. In reality, it was the cassette on this wheel that probably most seriously needed to be replaced and while it wasn't skipping on the "A" bike with its chain that had worn together with it, on this "B" bike with a practically new chain, the chain and gears didn't mesh well, and thus the skipping. Since the problem was worst in the small gears, I was able to minimize the skipping by being a bit selective about which gears I was using, but when anaerobic and dealing with slippery conditions remembering which gears to not use is often the last thing on your mind.
I had a second row call-up and was just trying to stay upright the entire race, protecting myself and my equipment. With the crazy descent that later became know as the "slip and slide" -- and was removed from all subsequent races the rest of the week -- this was a tall order. Somehow I managed it, though, for the entire race. I ran around the pile up on the "slip and slide" on the first lap. On the remaining laps things had thinned out a bit and I was able to ride it each time. Riding about 85%, I finished in 9th place. Besides Dave Hildebrand and recently retired pro Adam Myerson, the only guys ahead of me would be in Friday's younger 40-44 Championship race. I knew a lot of the other 45-49 year olds had skipped this non-champ race, but I was still feeling good about my odds for Friday. I'd seen the course at speed, hadn't crashed in some crazy wet conditions, and besides need a new cassette, my equipment had survived unscathed. Beside having mud in places I didn't even know I had, it was a relative success.
That said, the late arrival underscored the need to get into town the night before. Having recognized the potential for this decision, I'd previously made a refundable hotel reservation for Thursday night and actually extended it through Saturday morning so that I could stay to attend a dinner being planned for our Mid-Atlantic Cyclocross group, which is an awesome group. More on that in next post.
Thanks for reading! Thanks to Bike Line for sponsoring and supporting our cyclocross team! Please consider them for all your cycling needs.