First CycloCross Racing Season.

After a few years listening my friend Kurt P, Brian H. and Brian Q. talk about Cyclo-cross and how fun the sport was decided to look into it this year and went down to the Gran Prix of Gloucester Part of the Verge New England Cyclo-Cross Series Day #1 to see Brian Q race. The weather was cold and rainy and the course turned out to be a mud fest.

I began watching the race in progress and immediately I was hooked by the lay back vibe, the challenge of something so different and how fun it all seemed. Then Quigley’s race went off and when all was set and done he finished 6th and I was ready to jump into the challenge.

By Monday I was researching for affordable bikes and by Tuesday I bought a Felt F1X 2008. I went online to register to for the Providence Festival also part of the Verge Series as a Cat 4 and on Wednesday I met with Quigley on a local park to do some training and practice technique (mount, dismount, cornering, etc.) I also got a bunch of advice from him and KP and I was feeling ready to tackle this new challenge.

Providence Festival Day 1 and 2
I drove to the race with Brian and barely got in time to register and do a bit of warm up but didn’t have much time to ride the entire course. The course was very challenging and I was feeling very nervous about it because I was way out of my comfort zone. My breaks were iffy since it was a new bike (and the stock breaks weren’t that good to begin with) and while Quigley try to fix them I had to go line up.

This was my 1st time starting on a mass start, riding cyclo-cross, with iffy breaks and unfamiliar handling tubular low pressure tires. We started on a stretch of road were I line up almost at the back of the pack; the gun went off and I started pedaling as hard as I could, as I began cornering into the 1st turn into the dirt my wheel wiped out and I went down, 1st time in my 5+ years of riding bikes for triathlons. AS I went down some others went down with me and everything slowed down. I was feeling embarrassed but at the same time I just hopped on my bike and kept going.

The race went out in a blur; I remember pain from going as hard as possible, being nervous about the challenging corners, ups and downs and passing people. Eventually I finished 48th out of 71 Cat 4s, felt down of my bike another couple of times and discovered my breaks were rubbing all along. The next day I got there a bit earlier to warm up and my breaks were still giving me trouble but I lined up and went all out. This time I was doing a bit better though still feeling unease about my riding skills. On a big drop down I stick my tire into the dirt and my breaks locked up and that was my race, I DNF.

City of Champions CX race
I spent all week doing some training for the race (intervals, skills practice, etc) and got my breaks to the LBS to get those fixed. I got to the race and during the warm up I notice my breaks were now not breaking at all. I tried to fix them but I ran out of time and had to start. I lined up again and since I report to the start line late I started at the back of the pack. Again I went as hard as I could and after falling down of my bike a few too many times I finished 27th out of 42 Cat 4s.

Minuteman CX race
The very next day after City of Champions was the Minuteman CX race, the day turnout to be windy, cold and super rainy hence the course was wicked muddy. Still having issues with my breaks I started the race and it was the toughest race so far. With no breaks and muddy turns I battled staying on my bike and went down repeatedly, still I managed to finish 23rd out of 52 Cat 4s.

Down East Cyclo-Cross Day 1 and 2
Before the next couple of races I had it with the breaks, the spring in one of them wasn’t working and causing all those issues so I went to but some new breaks and also ordered new wheels and KP hooked me up with a deal on tubular tires. We drove to Maine for Day 1 and it was cold and rainy, again I lined up towards the back of the pack and off we went. The course was fun but still my inexperience riding on mud was quite obvious and yet again I was struggling to stay on my bike on muddy down hills though it was nice to have breaks for a change. The field wasn’t very big and even with all my troubles I managed to finish 5th out of 28 Cat 4s and earned my 1st Upgrade points.

The rest of the day was raining non-stop, we stay up there with KP which kindly lets us crash in his house and the next morning we went to the race. We took the wrong way and yet again I was arriving late to the race so I couldn’t ride the course pre racing and the course conditions were worst than the day before due to all the rain through the day. The mud thick and like 4-5 inches deep hence some portions were impossible to ride and better to run. It was the toughest cx day for me for sure after going over my bars 3 times I finished 8th of 31 Cat 4s.

Canton Cup
After some more training and skill practice I did the Canton Cup and this time they had the option to race with Cat 3s and 4s besides the usual early Cat 4s race so I decided to jump with the 'fasties'. This time I had a chance to line up in a better spot but I must confess I was intimidated so I started way the back yet again. This was the 1st race I felt much more comfortable on my bike, it was obvious the new wheels/tires and breaks made a big difference. I spent the entire race passing people and managed a 34th out of 76 which was my best finish considering the quality of the field.

Cycle-Smart Day 1
I showed up to this race with bigger expectations than my previous races. By now I was feeling more confident of my abilities, my fitness was improving and overall I was feeling more confident riding on packs. Still during the warm up I could tell I was feeling off and like coming down with a cold. I lined up and started towards the back of the pack as I registered late for the race. I had a good start and pass some people and during the race I had a great ride and managed to stay on my bike and save a few wipe outs. Still I was feeling off but kept pushing and even though I wiped on the last turn to lose places I finished 32nd out of 112. The next day I had to skip the race as I came down with a chest cold.

Plymouth Festival Day 1
I wasn’t able to train much during the week as I was on a Z pack and recovering from a chest infection. By Saturday I was feeling better so I went to the race though during the warm up I could feel I didn’t have much power on my legs. I warm up and got late to the start, hence yet again I was at the end of the pack. I managed a good start and was mid pack by the 1st turn and completed the 1st lap in good position but I was struggling to keep the effort high, by the 2nd lap it was obvious I was still recovering so I stopped and DNF and also skipped Day 2.

BayState Day 1 and 2
After more rest I finally felt better mid week and did some cx training and the “pop” on my legs was back. I registered early for this race so I knew it was going to be 1st time all season I was going to start in a good spot but I had to face my fear of starting on a pack and just suck it up by going hard. I drove to the race and got there with plenty of time, did my warm up and I was ready. I started on the 1st row and managed to make it top 5 on the 1st turn, I stated in there most of the race and I was excited I was riding so well. I began pushing to catch the top 3 places as I could see them but instead of focusing on my rider at a time I just lost my focus and cooked a few turns and soon enough a lost 3 spaces and finished 8th out of 27 but felt great overall.

Day two was planned as the last race of the season hence I wanted to finish on a good note. I was excited I felt good the day before and while I could feel my legs fatigued from training on Wednesday and racing the day before I was happy to start on the 1st row again. The gun went off and I managed to make it to the 1st turn in top 10, I remain in contact with the leaders and slowly I began picking up places. My legs were hurting and my chest burning but I kept pushing and made it to 5th place. With 2 laps to go I heard the announcer say my name saying I was closing on 2nd to 4th place so I kept pushing until I caught 4th place. I passed him and on the last lap I was in contact with 3rd place, he had a good lead on me but slowly I pull him in and on the last stretch I was in striking distance. After we went through the last u turn we had a straight shot to the finish line so I change into big gears and began hammering. I could get my chain to get into the big ring hence even tough I pushed as hard as I could he managed to cross the finish line probably by less than 1 inch ahead and I missed the podium. Still I was excited as it was my best race ever and earned 2 more upgrade points.

All in all in was a very fun season and this has become one of my favorites sports. It was such a learning experience and I think made me a better endurance athlete and a better rider for sure. I am kind of sad already that the season has come to an end for me but I appreciate I give cross a try and I’ll be patiently waiting for September 2010 for my 2nd season.

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