Conditions: Unseasonably warm and dry.
The morning of the final race of the MABRA calendar dawned unseasonable warm and dry. The course for BikenetiCX is adjacent to the Occoquan River so it still held a fair amount of moisture just below the surface which made for some surprisingly slippery sections especially in the earlier heats. Eric (45+), Dan (Tandem), and Sean (everything else) represented the VWS team in an excellent end to a great season of ‘cross racing.
Sean‘s reports are below.
Cat 1/2/3 – DNF
Masters 35+ 3/4 – 4th/49
Cat 3/4 – 18th/27
Masters 35+ – 12th/13
Tandem – 1st/7
190 TSS – 2,244 kJ – 35 miles – 20 laps – 3hrs of racing – 2 podiums
5 races. This was the goal when I registered several weeks ago. Being the final CX race of the season I wanted to go out with a bang at one of the best cross races on the calendar put on by friends I have ridden with for many many years offroad and on well before I owned a road bike.
Race #1 – Cat 1/2/3 – The Recon
Since I was going to be here all day racing I had to have a game plan. Instead of just going all out each race I decided to target some and go softer on others so I could get some results. Even if I went all out in this one I would still not even make the Top 10 and end up fried for the rest of the day. So I planned to use the 1/2/3 as a recon/warmup race for the Masters B which followed. I was going to do about 3 laps then pull out with a DNF. Lesson learned this morning is if I am going to go soft be sure to not be too flagrant about it. The USAC judges decided to use the 80% rule early on me and pulled me after just 2 laps. Oops. Next time try harder.
Race #2 – Masters 35+ 3/4 – The Podium
This was my target race. Crossresults race predictor gave me good odds and I was motivated to do well. Out of the blocks I went too hard and took the holeshot. 90 seconds into the race I slid out with a couple seconds on the field and any small separations I tried to start early were erased in the 2-3 seconds it took me to get back up on the bike. Everyone hit the brakes and we were back to square one except now I had burned a match. I was not alone in my grass nap though. Every person on the podium exited their bike a few times during the race due to corners that looked easy and turned out to be slippery.
I finished the race within 40 seconds of the winner so we were always fairly close to each other trading spots over and over. I spent the final lap shaking off 5th place while closing on my friend from Bikenetic, Brad Hawk, who was fading in 3rd. In the sand pit 5th place right behind me at that time got hung up. I saw this and attacked which ended his motivation. Now it was up to me to get up to Brad. I was gaining ground and knew that with 1 more lap I could have gotten around him for sure. He was fading hard but I did not have 1 more lap. I had about 90 seconds. I kept yelling up to him, “BRAD, SLOW DOWN!!!!!” But for some reason he chose to keep pedaling. Rude. Just about this time his teammate, Lee, starts riding with him outside the tape giving him motivation and telling him where I am as I try to close.
The whole bell lap I was inching closer and closer to Brad but never put in the big effort I should have to grab his wheel. Instead I assumed I would get close enough by the end that I could easily outsprint the little man in green who was fading. Turns out the little man in green can spin. We turn the final corner with me about 2 seconds off his wheel and he gets a good launch once his tire hits pavement and sticks. I try to give a dig but he is gone. By the time my tire hits the pavement it is too late. He is committed and still has pop and the road is too short. Great finish and happy to lose to a good guy.
I got my podium I wanted in this race. 4th.
Race #3 – Cat 3/4 – Try Your Best
After an hour break it is time to kit up again and do the 3/4 race. This was another race I wanted to give my all. I had little expectations beside a pipe dream of a Top 10 and even thinking perhaps the 6th place pie. Neither were remotely in the cards. The race goes and I am nowhere near the front. I spin as hard as I can but my lap times are a minute slower than they were 2 hours ago. I never gave up but was never a threat either. I wanted to see just how hard I could push when totally beat up. I found out. 18th.
Race #4 – Masters 35+ – Brought to You by Nutella
Time for a party lap. I wanted beer hand ups but the park had pretty strict rules on where alcohol was allowed so instead I got Nutella hand ups. LOTS and LOTS of Nutella hand ups. By the end of the race I had all three pockets full of Nutella jars. I had Nutella smeared all over my face from reaching into other jars and taking a hit each lap. It was glorious.
I really wanted to make this race a total celebration of a great day but was concerned I might get pulled again so I gave it some effort each lap just to stay off the judges’ radar. I finished the race only down 1 lap so I may have over done it. I could have probably been fine down 2 laps and eaten more Nutella. Dang that stuff is good.
Race #5 – Tandem – Rubbin’s Racin’
The last race of the day was supposed to be a fun event. On course with the Tandem race was also the Anything Goes which is just that. A free “race” of two laps riding anything you want wearing any costume you want. There was some crazy fun stuff going on behind us.
The Tandems went first with a 1 minute separation to the Anything Goes behind. We were only doing 2 laps as to not run into the rear of the parade of crazies starting next. Dan and I had borrowed my best friend Pete Beers’ full suspension mountain bike tandem the day before to learn how to ride. After about an hour of practice we felt comfortable enough to race it the following day here at BikeneticX.
From the start I can’t get clipped in properly and we lose the holeshot to the Bikenetic team and also a father towing his little girl on a trail-a-bike. We are able to get around the family pretty quickly and safely but now we are stuck behind Jan and David. I have never raced tandems. This was only the second day Dan and I had ever even ridden on a tandem. I was the captain in the front and Dan the stoker in the rear seat. Winding through a tight cyclocross course chasing another tandem is surreal. Just impossible to pass.
The straights are the only chance but tandems are not knows for being rock solid machines. The one we were on was amazing when it was new. It still is amazing but it has been beating up a bit over the years from all the friends who have borrowed it and returned it with this and that broken or abused. The rebound dampening on the front fork is totally shot. We bounce around like a low rider on hydraulics. The rear shifting ghosts shifts all over the place any time we try to apply power. The front chainring won’t go into the big chainring cause the front derailleur is barely hanging onto the bike.
So now we enter a straight and I tell Dan we are going to pass and to apply power. We start to come by the right hand side of Jan and Dan on their death machine but we can’t pass quickly because every time we pedal harder the chain skips. Team Bikenetic are barely keeping their ship afloat just like us and did not even know we were passing. They drift right and start to crowd us into the tape. I am not worried too much about tape. I am worried about a course stake grabbing Dan’s handlebar and taking us down. So I get us far enough forward that Jan who is the captain on the Bikenetic tandem knows I am there. When he eyeballs me I then hold ground for the pass and out go the elbows.
At this moment I was thinking to myself, “So this is how it all ends. I die on a tandem.”
Luckily Jan was feeling generous today or my elbows were pointy enough or the fear of death was stronger with him than me at that moment. Whatever it was Dan and I were able to finish to pass in time to get through the next bend in the course. I yell back, “Rubbin’s Racin’!!!!” and off we go.
It did not take long to get out of sight of Bikenetic and by the end of lap 1 we are up a full minute. Same on the next lap. 2 minute gap to second place and my second trip to a podium that day.
Season recap – Well Beyond Hope
Riding the tandem with Dan for a top step was the perfect way to cap off a fantastic cyclocross season. I went into this Fall hoping for a Cat 3 upgrade and maybe a Top 10 in a 3/4 race. I finished the season with 2 Wins, 6 podiums, and 11 Top 10s and my Cat 3 upgrade despite a mid season sprained ankle, 3 flat tires, and a broken wheel. My friend and new teammate Dan got podium time including a win. Eric set the example all season stepping on a box pretty much every time he suited up. Kaitlyn and Kim and Brian and Clay rode cross for the very first time. Chris scored Top 10s and came dangerously close to the podium several times. Thom got muddy again this year and was always fun to bounce heckles off. Tom got Wonky in the Singlespeed class including podium time which left him speechless. Mike shared grass a few times as well. If I left anyone out I did not mean to. There was just so much awesome this Fall. We should do this again sometime.
Eric‘s long-winded report is below.
I raced hard. I took 3rd place. It was a good race.
Sean’s handlebar video: