Conditions: Below freezing, muddy, and snow!
The VeloWorks-Spokes Etc. team email listserv was gearing up for this race nearly a month in advance, with plans for a group ride, heckling, team tents, and more. The weather put a stop to some of those plans, but did’t stop Mike Kirby, Eric Sorensen, Sean Chisham, and CX rookie Nate Graham from taking their places at the starting grid for several races. Eric continued to add to his reputation as “Mr. Podium” with a 3rd place finish in the Masters 35+ 3/4 and a first-ever podium in a 1/2/3 race with a solid 5th in the Masters 45+ race! Mike took 4th in the Men’s 4/5 that also saw Nate go from 75th to 25th in his first CX experience, and had Sean with a solid mid-pack finish after a mechanically difficult race. Sean also raced the 3/4 and had a much smoother , more enjoyable race, despite the snowballs launching from the team tent…
A special thanks to our primary sponsors, Veloworks and Spokes Etc. Bicycles, for providing us with shelter while we warmed up or cheered our teammates on. Special thanks too for the Wicked Wash crew, keeping our bikes spick and span after (and before) our races! A big shout out to the Bike Lane and Bike Lane team for putting on yet another incredible event. And finally, a big thank you to Kaitlyn and Leslea for bringing beer and cake!
Here are race reports, straight from the horses’ mouths.
Eric Sorensen, M 3/4 35+ and M 1/2/3 45+
Last race of the season and I wanted to end it on a high note. Had a front row starting position for the 3/4 35+ race and was there to win. Got a TERRIBLE start and dropped back to 15th or so in the first 1/2 lap. No excuses. Guys were just killing it at the gun.
Passing was really tricky in some places and it took me a good 3 laps to work my way back up toward the front. I closed down the 2 leaders with just under a lap to go and was able to rest for a little bit. I made a big move at the top of the run-up and was getting a gap, but went down around a switch back and the gobbled me back up. I knew it was slippery and tried to tip-toe it, still washed out.
Still with the leaders, I set up for the sprint. Sitting in the catbirds seat, 3rd wheel, I put it in the big chain ring just before coming down on the pavement, but when I went to attack, the derailleur wouldn’t move the chain and things started grinding. So, I jumped off the bike and ran like I was being chased, because I was! Fortunately, we had a big enough gap that I was able to hold on for 3rd. I had been running a 28t cassette all year, but used a 32t today because of the climbing and the slop. It worked perfectly until I went to the big chain and it got stuck in the big-big and wouldn’t come down. It goes to show, how a couple small mistakes can lead to missing an opportunity. All the more reason to have a great team around you to support you when things go awry. #VWS2014
Came back in the 45+ 1/2/3 race an hour+ later. While I wasn’t fresh, I felt like I had juice to make a go of it. Was able to get a front row starting spot (filled in from my 2nd row position) and had a GREAT start — if only this had been 2 hours before! — and hit the first turn top 5. I was able to battle with several riders for places 3-7. The last laps were frustrating, as they were for lot of guys, as my cleats were packing up with mud and ice every time I had to dismount (3x a lap) and I was looking at a 6th place finish with 1/2 a lap to go. Then a flat tire by of the guys in front me and I was in podium position. I managed to keep the bike upright and keep my feet on the pedals enough to roll in for 5th place. My first 1/2/3 podium ever!
The team support was awesome — Nate had my pit bike ready for me (I think it might have helped!) and was getting great cheering all through the course. The tents, the munchies and the propane heater were $$$.
Now, back to the business of VWS 2014.
Nate Graham, M 4/5
I’ve raced my bike exactly one time. There’s not much to my palmares other than some empty space and a few wistful daydreams. That didn’t stop me from dreaming up a way to give cyclocross a shot, and thanks to the generosity of a fellow tall teammate, I scored a sweet Specialized CruX race rig in time to sign up for the Capital Cross Classic in Reston.
Conditions could not have been more perfectly “Cyclocross”. It was below freezing, it had rained a lot in the few days before the race, and on race day morning, I passed salt trucks on the way out to the race course – SNOW!
Having received some short-notice schooling from Mr. Podium and Kirby in the days leading up Sunday, I had a vague idea of how not to make a fool of myself, but it could really have gone either way. After warming up, testing my tire pressure, and catching a few pre-ride laps, I took my place on the starting grid. By nature of my sign up time (last-minute) and my past results (none), I was in the very back of the 79 rider field.
A last minute bit of advice from His Podiumness proved valuable. “Keep pedaling at the start. People will ease up into the first turn; take the outside line and keep pushing”, Eric told me, and dutifully, I listened, staying on the gas as we sprinted through the first pavement section. I hit the first dirt section in the pack and started moving my way up. After a brief hiccup involving hitting the red tape and running through a crowded section of turns leading up to the barriers, I hopped back onto the saddle with all the grace of a wind chime in a hurricane and headed for the hill.
Practice makes perfect – it’s an old phrase. But I was very thankful for what little work I put in after the Stairs. Shouldering the bike came naturally and I managed to pass a few more folks on foot. The Chute was also less scary after pre-riding it, and I used a less-chosen outside line that helped me scrub some speed and stay at a comfortable pace through the descent. I got to really kick it up after the muddy bog that awaits descending riders, and pulled away from several different groups in that same spot during the race.
The pack strung itself out after the first Chute descent, and I spent the rest of the race picking new “carrots” to chase and overtaking people in sections that played to my strengths – the punchy uphill climbs where other riders were out of the saddle or off the bike – and did my best to limit my losses in areas that challenged me.
On the final lap, I managed to pass a fellow who had decided he needed to shoulder-check me coming off the Chute, and was feeling good about that heading into the last muddy ascent above the bathrooms. While a trio of riders managed to get tangled up above me, I stayed on the saddle, spinning a low gear. I timed my arrival perfectly, splitting the just-formed gap between two and right onto the wheel of the third. I followed his line through the switchbacks and, heading into the final off-camber descending left-hander, took the outside line and emptied the tank into the final descent and straight to the finish! I timed my sprint perfectly and earned a 4 bike length victory in the sprint for……….25th.
Okay, okay, I know – 25th isn’t exciting. But having started nearly dead-last, and in my first cyclocross race ever, I think I acquitted myself well. I made some quality passes, I did not embarrass myself dismounting or remounting, and I took a beer hand-up! All in all, a fantastic first-race experience. Cyclocross, I will see you again soon!