Let me first say that the planets aligned in perfect formation to bring the Front Range the best cyclocross conditions we've seen in awhile. Temps were cool and sunny on Saturday and Sunday brought a blanket of low grey menacing ceiling of clouds, and rounds of light snow showers all day.
Saturday: Castle Cross
On the drive up from PPTP (Pikes Peak Trailer Park) I started spotting big remnants of a snowstorm that blew through mid-week. While we didn't receive any accumulation of snow in the Springs, by Monument pass and all the way to Castle Rock there was still a decent coating of the white stuff left on the ground. Me thinks there could be mud today !!! By the time I pulled in the lot, my hopes were confirmed, super dirty riders pulling off the track onto pavement and leaving long strips of mud down the road as their tires cleared. A warm-up lap confirmed that 1. This was going to be HARD, lots of elevation gain and loss, super muddy, 3 run-ups, and lots of off-camber jogs. 2) I had the wrong tires on, the Griffo's were not cutting it (pun intended) so it was back to the ever-reliable Michelin Mud 2's which were absolutely perfect for the greasy conditions.
Not sure if everybody was scoping bargains on a Coors Light Team Jersey from 1989 at Velo-Swap or saving their legs and lungs for the sand trap that is Boulder Reservoir but the field size was low, perhaps 50 guys in our group. Because of this I actually managed a front row slot and managed to pull off a very decent start. I was sitting top five for most of the first lap. Then everyone got serious and realized they had numbers pinned on so this must be a race and should get down to business. There was a particular mud hole that I was wary off, since the least goopy line felt as though there was a rock hidden underneath the soup. I felt a rim strike and made a mental note not to hit it again for fear of pinch flatting. So I return to said mud hole on lap 2 and decide to pick a line to the left, I drop in and literally "drop in", over the bars (again) and I land on the backside and now completely covered in mud. I grab my bike and there is so much viscous fluid trapped between my gloves and bar tape, I can barely control my bike, the chain is off so I just slam the chain into the big ring just to get the chain onto the rings again. Despite the lack of control and a few choice words, I'm back on the program and actually having a seriously good time trying to maintain control and not slip too far backwards.
Clydesdale extraordinaire Brian Graves from FMVC caught me after my swim, gave me a very polite "on your right" then promptly rode away from me. I put my head down and started to slowly bridge back when I saw him duck around some bushes on an off-camber sharp left then I hear a string of very vocal expletives and I round the corner to see an impressive bike toss (mind you, not quite as impressive as this guy, but pretty good). Turns out, his sidewall was sliced open on a rock and that was the end, too bad too, because he was really on a tear (pun intended) yesterday.
The remainder of the race is just taking care of damage control as the soggy ground is sapping any kind of power clean out of my legs. Riders a strung out in huge gaps and I seem to be in no-mans land. No one close to bridge a gap and no one behind for a ways. I roll through in 12th happy as a clam, deep in...mud.
Thanks to the crew at Green Mtn Sports, the course, organization, and volunteers were phenomenal.
Sunday Boulder # 3
After spending a good part of Saturday afternoon cleaning mud out of socks, ear canals, shoes, nostrils, gloves, etc. ( I am certain that cleanup lasted longer than the race ). I prepped for sand-fest 2009. I have serious love-hate relationship with the course at the Boulder Reservoir. I think there's something fundamentally wrong with riding/running/struggling through an inordinate amount of waist deep sand. I know that there are specific World Cup courses held in Belgium on courses similar but much, much harder than this, but that's why the punters sit by the sidelines, drink copious amounts of alcohol and hurl verbal abuse at their favorite riders. The pro's should race courses like this, that is why they are pro's and they get paid good money to ride thier bikes in ridiculous conditions. For the rest of us, it's just not that pretty to watch the fumbling, stumbling, tri-poding and wallowing in the sand. (the exception was Matt Pachocha from Velo-News who while warming up, was making everyone look like idiots as he easily rode through a slight uphill, long section of sand that every other mortal was shuffling through)
So why race this ? When I put together a solid race, I have OK results here and actually have decent time ( but I still detest so much sand )The past 2 years, I've been plagued with flats, first time with no spare wheels or a bike, the second year, I was sitting easily in the top 20 and flatted in the front and shanked my wheel change, losing heaps of spots. Today, I ran a super durable fast, fat tire, the Michelin Jet. I have been a huge fan of this tire for a long time. It provides decent flotation, good traction in most conditions and has some hefty casings. I can run these at very low pressures without worrying about finding some sharp object lurking underneath the sand waiting. With some light snow showers overnight, the sand pulled in a nice amount of moisture so some sections were fairly fast and starting to pack down. Despite one of my worst starts in a long time, I was able to put together a pretty solid race with no issues (except for pimping another rider in one of the sandy switchback turns and causing him to topple over--sorry! but I was stuck on a line). I finished up in 20th and got my single BCR point....whooo hooo !
For Halloween, the NACT circus arrives in the Peoples Republic and we are in for a treat(pun intended) as we get to watch how cyclocross is done by this countries best.
Thanks for reading!