With Hurricane Joaquin pushing rain up the east coast for days, the cross races during the weekend fell under the banner of #hurricanecross. VWS racers jumped into the mud with both feet with some excellent results and loads of fun.
Anne Arundel CX
Anne Arundel, MD
Conditions: Dry and cool
First time racing the AACX course. First time racing as a Cat 3. It was interesting. Lots of mistakes on my part and nerves got the better of me.
Preride went way too long and I pumped the tubulars up way too high. I then let myself cooldown too far in the 40m before the race start and never woke the lungs back up.
Race started out much harder than my previous races. The start drag went on an eternity and no one would roll over and allow me to just take 3rd into the first turn. Had to actually keep up the sprint. How rude.
Went into the first choke point out of traffic in 3rd and then negotiated the first 2 technical features well to establish an early gap on 4th place behind me. Then I proceeded to hook a course stake and get hung up in the tape. So much for all that effort on the only technical section of the whole lap.
From here on out it is all pedaling. Lots and lots and lots of pedaling. The course is essentially flat in an open field. Nothing to separate corner carvers from pedal mashers. The pedal mashers had their way with me.
I kept bleeding positions and eventually ended up in 8th with about 3-4 laps to go. And there I stayed. I pulled back some time on 6th and 7th in the last 2 laps but it was pretty much over. I finished alone in 8th. About 46s off the long podium and 2m27s off the winner.
A Top 10 in my first race as a Cat 3 and I came away with a lot of lessons learned that will hopefully make me better in future races.
Schooley Mill Cyclocross
Conditions: Dry, breezy and Cold > Cool as the day went along
With #hurricanecross weekend a distant memory, the course at Schooley Mill was dry and fast. Known as a speed course, it puts a premium on smooth cornering and attacking the one kicker hill on the back side of the course. Chris (8th in 4/5), Dan (12th in 4/5), Thom (38th in 4/5), Brian (48th in 3/4 35+), Sean (15th in 3/4 35+) and Eric (16th in 45+ Open) tested their skills. Race Reports are below.
Cat 4/5 Race
For those who didn’t drive out to the Schooley Mill cross race, it was cold. Very Cold. The temperature for the start of the 4/5 race was right around 31 or 32 degrees which was close to a 40 degree temperature drop than what we’ve all been used to. I lined up in the front row for the start and from the whistle, sprinted up the road and entered the beginning of the course in 4th or 5th position. My legs felt heavy and my lungs were on fire from the cold but I had never entered a cross course this far up in the line so I pushed myself to stay in contact with the lead group. Roughly 3/4 of the way through the first lap, the true top 3 or 4 leaders gained some separation and I settled into a steady pace with 3 other riders and luckily had a team mate, Dan. My biggest mistake was running my tire pressure too high. I wasted a lot of energy sprinting out of corners to catch back on instead of taking the corners at a nice smooth pace and steadily accelerating out. Our group of 4 dwindled down to a group of 3 during the 2nd lap and the 3 of us took turns doing the pace making. Midway through the 3rd lap, the fatigue was really starting to settle in and it was noticeably more difficult to hold a steady line and take the corners as smooth as necessary. The third rider with us tried to cut an inside line and make a pass to get around Dan and I, but ended up locking up his front wheel in my quick release skewer and crashing. Dan and I kept riding a steady pace through the end of the 3rd lap to the start of the 4th lap until he had a mechanical on the road leading to the start/finish line. Dan stopped to fix his bike so I kept pushing on and rode the last lap solo. I could see a group of 4 or 5 riders behind me that were moving at a strong pace so I tried to stay focused on limiting my mistakes and keeping my pace steady. I made one last big acceleration on the climb on the backside of the course thinking that would solidify my finishing spot and keep the chase group behind me and luckily it did. First top 10 finish in cross thus far.
If Dan hadn’t had those mechanical issues toward the end of the race he would have finished inside the top 10 as well. Dan looked much more comfortable than I did toward the end of the race.
So much fun. So so so much fun. Six teammates racing in various fields and a ton of friends on other teams out there. I arrived before the first race of the day to recon and stayed all the way through the Mens 3/4. Long day in the sun cheering so hard I lost my voice.
Oh, and I did the Masters 35+ 3/4. Since I upgraded to Cat 3 I am out of the 4/5 field but the Masters race is right after the 4/5 so we can all cheer each other on. Brian was signed up in 4/5 but arrived a bit late so he got to jump into his first Masters race of any flavor.
I had no series points since this was my first Super8 in Masters 3/4 but did have a very early registration so lucked out on a third row grid position. Sprint goes pretty well and into the grass somewhere in a Top 10 and safely navigated the first choke points.
There were some strong dudes out there and after 4 laps I was sitting around 16th. Bell lap I pulled back 2 men to get up to 14th but one of them got me on the final sprint while I was sucking air from the effort.
The rest of my day was spent playing pit mechanic to Eric, loaning out 2 wheels, repairing Jay’s brioken chain, and heckling. This is what cross is about. Insulting your friends and laughing at their pain while also doing everything you can to help them stay in the game.
Some days you chase the bear, some days the bear chases you. Some days you break your bike.
The weather was perfect and I was looking forward to putting some of the cornering practice I’ve been doing to good use at Schooley Mill. Right from the whistle, however, I missed my pedal and parlayed my front row starting spot into about at 20th place position going into the first turn. I quickly moved up a few spots and could see that the leaders were not jumping away so I took my time. And by the middle of the 2nd lap, I had made contact with the lead group of 5. Of course, just as I arrived one of the riders attacked up the backside kicker hill and I was on the rivet once again.
I stayed in contact and as we approached a small log hop about 2/3 of the around the lap, I checked up my speed too much avoiding a rider in front of me and mis-timed the hop. While the front wheel cleared, I cam down with my full weight and momentum on the rear wheel and exploded. Literally, check the picture. Wheels are not supposed to be that shape.
I threw the bike over my shoulder and commenced my run-a-bike back to the pits. Sean and former mountain bike teammate, Chris Dobroth, met me in the pits and had my bike ready for me. While it was good to be riding again, the mountain bike definitely was not as nimble as the Crux. I resigned myself to just holding my position and having a little fun the rest of the race, but as I passed the pits the next time the guys yelled, “Pit next time by, we’re changing out your wheel!”
Sean had brought his wheel and even, because of the difference in gear ratios, swapped out cassettes during that lap. The bike hand-off was super-pro as Chris caught my mountain bike and 3 steps later I jumped back aboard the Crux that Sean was holding. Now I had to reward the awesomeness of my pit crew.
I chased hard for the remaining lap and a half, passing at least 4 guys in the last half lap alone and managed at 16th place. While it may not have been the high place I had hoped for, the support from teammates was awesome and I was glad to keep my placing above the top half of the field despite the mishap.
Look for more race reports coming soon from DCCX, the MABRA calendar biggest weekend of racing.
Sean’s handlebar footage is below.