Cyclocross. In a word the sport is: epic. I'm still in love after all these years. Week 5 ladies and gentlemen of cyclocross racing here in lovely Colorado. This stop Gunnison CO. Affectionately known as Gunni or the G-Spot. The net of the weekend: Pain, suffering, victories, great placings, hard work, snow, freezing rain....joy. More on that in a moment.
The weekend started out at 5:30 in the AM. The RM crew woudl be the, WB, CV and yours truly. WB has the ultimate battle wagon, a very large Suburban, which we jammed 10 sets of wheels (mostly all mine and as you'll read, will be useless as tits on a bull....i should just ride solid rubber tires) 5 bikes, tools, chairs, gear. A battle wagon indeed.
The WB created his (in)famous McWard sandwich. A powerful concoction of toast, Canadian bacon, egg and a secret solution only known to him that resembled mustard and some mayo.) Dee-lish, man. Thanks much for the kindness.
So with coffee, McWard's, bikes packed, we're set. We fire up the Iraqi-conscious V-8 and we're rolling. 3.5 hours later of good road tripping times (and CV's buzz saw from the back) and we're at the campus of Western State College in Gunni.
Ken Bloomer has the course dialed. A nearly 100% grass affair assembled in a twisted maze. Ward and I are salivating as it's a technical course with lots of corners to rail sans brakes and jumps out of the corners to make people hurt. And the weather is PERFECT. Fall weather with a mix of sun and clouds. Like 55 degrees.
We watch CV race his 35Cat4, railing it like a champ and fire the questions at him when he's through. Within a few minutes of his finish, CV is changed, prep'd and ready to be the most unbelievable cameraman and pit crew member of all time.
Day 1: Race 1 35 Opens.
We line up, get the call ups done and the field is small-ish given the distance to the course which many feel is just too damn far to race. The way I look at it: Fun course, great road trip....and boat loads of family planning months ago are not going to derail me. I'm gonna go race me some cyclo-cross! There are maybe 20-22 dudes in the group. We've got dual national champs in here today and Russel Kapius whom I'll talk more about later.
The institution of ACA race officiating, Dean is out there again. "15 seconds gentlemen (I'm intimate with this by now). Go! We're off..
Lap 1 and 2 and it's a dream scenario. Ward, Phenecie, Kiester and this other national champ dude (e.g. he's got the collar and arm bands all present....and toes the line at the start with a nose full of menthol sniffs...so he must be PRO) and we've got a gap. During lap 1, i get squirly on this steep off camber grass section and slide out. Nothing big....and I'm back on my bike in about a second. We're rolling again. By lap 2 I am feeling nice and cozy. Until I hear: thap thap thap thap thap thap thap thap thap thap thap . What the? I roll RIGHT past the pits thinking the thapping is just a bit of mud and then.
A la Research Center. Back wheel blows up. So...I fall off the lead group....again! (ha!)....and hoof it. Brady Kapius and the CV are at the pits and I do a perfect exchange with those guys. Brady catches and CV hands me my freshie. So, like ALL my races this season, the chase is ON. I'm off the back in a big way. One guy caught. Recover, attack....next guy caught. And so it goes until the finish and I pull in 10th. Some dudes DNF'd so I only had like 4 or 5 guys to bridge--attack-->bridge. I'm making a sport out of this these days! Oy!
On to BETTER news, the WB PODIUMS! Sick ride to 3rd place. He and I in the car ride up strategized over how we would play it out with two team mates up there. He held up his end of the bargain! I'm going to ask for a rain check on our next rendezvous at the front WB. NICE WORK Za WB!
Day 1 Race 2: Opens
So after the 35's and even while cooked, WB turns to me and say, 'C'mon man. Let's jump in the Opens. Damn straight. I want a little more. (read: little more abuse). 3 hours later and with a near staff infection brewing in our chamois, we line up with the Open men and get it on. We've got 3 RM'ers in here: Corey, the WB and me.
3,2,1...Go! I win the whole shot and surprisingly feel pretty good. So I want to play a bit for a deeper work out. Ward is with me and I back off to let Brady and Joey Thomson take the lead. It's their race for sure. Lap 1 about 1/2 way through and we go through this super twisty section that literally sends you under a tree. I have already raced the course so I should have it dialed, right? Nope. I hit my back on this mo fo so hard, I think I dislodged a kidney. I have to stop because I am like laugh/moaning concerned that I am going to pee blood. I pull up my panties and get back in it. As the race roll son, I sincerely feel better and better. I got to roll with the legend Dave Weins and I can see Ward in front of him. I look at my watch and it's 55 minutes. It flew by. I roll in at 59:25, 4 minutes behind Joey Thompson. I can not complain. I kind of surprised myself. Ward rolled nicely to an 8th and Corey rocked it for a 5th. Nice man!
Day 2 Race: 35 Opens.
Early this AM, and after 1000's of CC's of WB's insane gas pumped into the room's atmosphere, we wake up and open up the curtain to our awesome Super 8 motel palace to see gray clouds. Hmm, OK, not bad. This looks like good cross weather. Loading up the truck, it starts coming down. Rain and snow....and 37 degrees. Epic.
We get to the College, unpack, suit up in waterproof pants jackets, gloves hats and roll the course to warm up., It's essentially the same as yesterday but the opposite direction with some improvements made...and some good decisions on Ken's part to make certain areas of the course safer.
CV rolls his 34 Cat 4 race and pulls in an awesome 9th. Nice work boy. We again ask him tons of questions and he dials us in on all of the sketchiness. Our warm ups proved that all that grass was turning into a skating rink.
I dial in the Rock Lobster and set the Dugasts to about 40 PSI. Even with that, I....and the REST of the field...will be hitting the deck.
3,2,1....Go! We're off and heading for a sharp right corner off a dodgey wet sidewalk. I just want all of us to get into the race without a pileup so I yell I want the corner!. Menthol Natn'l champ wants none of that and takes this mad inside line and I ye;; out "What the F!" he's like "Hey, it's bike racing!"....and this begins the first tumble...more like a slippy slide down the grass. I'm up and don't lose virtually any places. I'm behind Menthol Champ and as we start flying into this hard at speed grassy apex, Menthol wipes out.
Of course I'm thinking Nelson: Ha ha! (It'll come bike to bite me).
So we roll and I am with the lead group. Ward's marking Phenecie....who incidentally is racing again today AFTER he crashed severely yesterday and probably needed a CAT scan. He's still looking good though.
Slip 2 happens on the back stretch. Whoosh! I am down again. So are like 3 other guys. I have to sort out my shit and I'm now in like 10th place. We roll on. SHWAP! I'm now caught in a tree! Ha! Gotta untangle from that! Continue ON. I start picking off dudes and by now it's 2nd to last lap. I bridge to this guy and I think by now we are in about 6th and 7th place. In front of us is the Red Rocks Velo "blue train". Thee guys in a team time trial: Russ Kapius, Clay Harris and Jared Shuttleworth. They have like 30 seconds on us and another 20 to Phenecie and Ward. I'm like: "We've gotta work together to brid...".Swoooosh!...D'oh! I am on the ground AGAIN! Ha! So now, generally pissed, I begin what I am coming to know as "My Race." Play catch up.
I bridge to the first guy. Catch and pass him in the run up. Later.
I bridge to the first RRV guy, Jared. See he is suffering so say Adios man. Later. Clay is riding well so I put in an effort and hear HIM go down. As much as I think Clay is an awesome guy, I smile and punch it to get to him. I know he's OK 'cause he's up and I bridge and sit. Sorry Clay. I see Clay put his head down and I punch it again. One guy to go. Russ "The Killer" Kapius. I bury it and launch an attack from Clay to get to Russ. I want to be on the podium SO badly with Ward I can taste it. I am in the 42 x 12 and start to make ground. We are in the grass straight away and we need to come around a tree down a grassy embankment to come back in the opposite direction on pavement to the start/finish. Russ slows down around the tree to ensure he doesn't crash. He's through nicely. I come at the tree like 5 seconds later and I am through nicely. Russ punches it and even in a Cipolini-esque sprint, I can not catch this guy and settle for 4th. Now I know where Brady gets his genetics.
Russ, INSANE job man. Nice work. THAT is bike racing.
Better news: WARD GRABS THE "W". SICK Our man WB, Ward Baker, nails the 35 Open W putting in a last lap attack on Phenecie that wasn't able to be countered. Great job man. I am so proud of the effort!
All in all, it was a great and epic weekend of racing. # races in 2 days and very tired legs.
Couple of Blog-related side notes:
~Colm, great to meet you man! Thanks for reading my trashy 'cross site! I heard you say to watch out for our favorite Saint today man. man. You are a good Irishman. Keep 'crossing HARD!
~My wife calls me from home to say they were out with the kids and some cyclist asked if they were "mud and cowbell's kids?". HA! Awesome. Indeed they are.
Cyclocross rules. People who like cyclocross rule. Therefore, you folks rule.
Credit MOST of these photos and ALL vids to CV!! Thanks man!!