Cyclocross Race #4…the last one of the year
Unfortunately, this will be my last race report for the year due to some tendonitis/knee issues. I’m hoping to resolve these problems in time for some spring mountain biking, but it was a fun race and a good way to end my “serious” riding for the year. Luckily the race was nearby and I was able to ride to it, making for a good warm up before taking some practice laps around the course. (Ashley interrupts this broadcast for an important announcement! It was on this ride that I was able to test out MY new mountain bike! Post coming soon!) Initially I was happy to see that the course was pretty flat, but the flat nature of the course seemed to make the racing even faster, and therefore harder.
Before the race started I decided I would just pace myself for the first lap or two, in order to make the race easier on my knee, but that plan was thrown out of the window as all of the other riders pushed the pace from the start. A fast start tends to be part of ‘cross racing, but I was racing in a different series than in my previous races, and it seemed like they sprinted from the start much faster than I was used to.
So right after the start I was already losing quite a bit of ground and found myself having to push much harder than I was wanting to. A comment by Kate on a previous race report mentioned that you know you’re doing ‘cross right when you puke or cry, and I was definitely wanting to do both (make sure check out her awesome blog!). The initial portion of the course included some quickly undulating hills, as well as a lot of tight bends that required exiting corners out of the saddle in order to hang on to the pack. Considering standing while riding was making my knee hurt more, I had to stay seated and watch as most of the pack pulled away.
After some quick and tricky muddy descents I arrived at the barriers. Luckily I have been improving at getting over the barriers and back onto my bike quickly, and I managed to pull some other riders back in the lead up to the barriers and then over them.
Then after the barriers there was a smoother long stretch of dirt to ride over, which then lead to a couple of tight bends while descending into a swampy and muddy section of the course.
This section also ran through an area of trees, so roots and branches had to be avoided, too. It was this swampy and technical portion of the course that I was expecting to lose a lot of ground on throughout the race, but it actually ended up being one of the areas where I could make up time and defend my position by keeping some distance between me and the next placed rider. I was much faster and comfortable in this section, so I was riding harder through it when I could, sliding my way through some corners to keep my momentum going.
Then after leaving the muddy swamp section there were some longer straights that were interrupted by hairpin turns. This section also went through some pretty thick and tall grass, and was a major energy drainer. Each hairpin turn scrubbed away all of the speed I could gain through the straighter sections that connected them, and I was definitely losing time and energy through them. Luckily the last tight turn led to the start/finish straight, and it was easy to gain some speed before heading to the first hill of the course.
This race ended up being tough because after a couple of laps I lost the pack in front of me, but managed to stay in front of the riders behind me relatively comfortably. This being the case, it was hard to keep track of whether I was losing or gaining more time to the riders in front of me, and it became hard to pace myself and not run out of energy. So for most of the race I was racing alone, which made for a bit of a strange experience. It was kind of like going out for a solo ride, but with people chasing me.
Either way, I ended up riding hard the whole time, and when the race was over I was exhausted as usual. Then I realized I had to ride home. Luckily I had time to relax a bit before riding home, and I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I would recommend it to anyone else, especially if they have a lot of hills to go over.
My quick little cyclocross season was a lot of fun, and I would recommend ‘cross racing to anyone looking for a fun way to exhaust themselves, and I will surely be back for more next year. I am also planning to do some mountain bike racing, and I am sure I will be doing some race reports of those as well, so I am excited and looking forward to another racing challenge!
Ashley’s Additional Comments:
I must say that I’m a little disappointed in J’s report! He forgot to mention the best part! You see, I went all out with my screaming and cheering and grunting this time. In fact, I was so loud that he heard me even when he was in the woods, out of my sight. My grunting and cheering was so intense, I actually made him laugh: