Race # 6 (45+ Category), Blue Ridge- A return to racing after two weeks off for Thanksgiving, two weeks in which I rode my bike a grand total of one time. I did manage to go on a couple of runs while at the in-laws for the holiday but was not feeling primed and ready to "turn the pedals in anger" on Sunday morning in Blue Ridge. I decided I was just going to take this race easy and see how I felt so I lined up at the very back of the field on a row by myself at the start. After the start it didn't take long for the competitive juices to start flowing as I got frustrated at being stuck behind everyone as they came to a standstill on the left hairpin leading onto the lower ramp of the climb. I worked on the hill to pass people and got by a number of folks by the time we hit the ditch. I settled into a little duel with Bobby and Randy on the first couple of laps as we swapped positions a few times around the course. I think the long climb was a good feature for me and I was eventually able to get a bit of a gap on those guys there. I could see Jim and another rider not to far ahead of me (50 yds??) at this point but that was as close as I would get, they opened up this gap as the race progressed. So for a couple of laps I was just dancing with myself as the guys behind me weren't coming back and the guys in front of me were going away. Then I caught sight of orange (series leader jersey) behind me and had renewed incentive to ride hard as I was in the sights of the 35+ leader. I tried, but fell about a half lap short and got lapped. On the bright side the leader was the only one who lapped me, in weeks past the first three or four guys came by me. I wound up in 9th place.
Some thoughts on Blue Ridge:
- I thought the course was an interesting balance; a long (at least for cyclocross) sustained climb for the little Spanish climbers and the rest of the course downhill or dead flat for the big Belgians. I really liked this coure.
- In practice I decided the ditch was an endo waiting to happen for me so I ran it and re-mounted and rode part way up the hill before dismounting and running it. I also re-mounted after the first railroad ties in the mulch pit and dismounted again for the second set of railroad ties so I was dismounting/re-mounting 5 times per lap. I'm not complaining that's just what I thought would work best for me on this course.
- Note to self for next year: "Learn to bunny hop"; at least a six inch high railroad tie, as that is about all the second set amounted to coming out of the mulch pit.
- The off camber turn on top of the hill felt like you were going to fall off the face of the earth if you screwed it up; it made me feel better to un-clip my right foot on that turn even though it probably made me slower.
- Having gotten lapped the last three races I've gotten an up close view of how guys who are substantially faster than me are riding different parts of the various courses in the race. The thing that has somewhat surprised me is that they aren't really taking the technical/skills portions of the course much, if any, faster than I am. This sort of blows part of my excuse for being slower i.e. those guys are just better bike handlers or have better CX skills. Guess I'll just have to come up with a new way to rationalize my poor performance; they're probably all on drugs, yes, that's it, they're all on drugs!!!
One more race in the series for this season, I think I may double up this weekend and try doing the CX4 race after the Masters just to see what that second race feels like!