Cyclocross season is back, so its time to bring the blog back. I had a forgettable first road racing season here in Colorado, so there wasn’t much to write about. The stand-out bit worth mentioning is this: in your first year racing in this state, expect to get whooped!
After road racing season wrapped up, I was completely and utterly burnt out. For me, being burnt out is evidenced by heart rate spiking to 180 upon straddling the bike, and lactic acid flooding my body for an entire ride, instead of just during hard efforts. These symptoms always appear at the end of road season, and I’ve learned to listen to them and take the month of September very easy in hopes of resting up and regrouping for cyclocross season. Resting takes discipline though, and its tough to skip all of the early season CX races that happen in September. It could be compared to watching all the other kids playing on the playground while having to do your homework alone in class.
Thankfully, September has passed! Now free to race again, I loaded up the cheering squad, the DS, and the Warpig, and headed up to the first Colorado Cross Cup race in Frisco, CO. I didn’t have any goals for this first race other than scoping out my condition and the competition. It is a bit unreasonable to expect much in the way of top-end power after a month of avoiding all top-end efforts religiously. I expected to start the season slowly and painfully, and build fitness into November instead of having any pop at the beginning of the season.
Having joned a new Colorado team, Rocky Mountain Road Club, I was also excited to see how my teammates were doing and to have a few familiar faces in my own race. When living in PDX I didn’t have any teammates in my own category, so I always felt I missed out a bit on the communal feel that cyclocross is often known for. I had two teammates in my race, so that was a nice change.
Here is my mini race report in condensed form.
1. On the “go”, everyone took off in a sprint, but I held back to save matches. This didn’t cost any time because everyone slowed down at the bottleneck in the singletrack anyway. Lesson: don’t race with the herd, race your own pace/ability. I would have sprinted if I were at the front, but I was near the back row to start so I was going to be fighting traffic anyway, and there are better places to pass than the first mad dash.
2. Once we hit the singletrack, there were two obvious lanes/lines to ride in, but everyone was following wheels and riding the same line. Lesson: don’t be a line lemming! I simply pulled into the empty lane, gave it a little gas, and sailed by at least 10 riders with very little effort (because we were on a downhill and I wasn’t on the brakes like the rest).
3. The first three laps were rough. Lap 3 is always the lap in a race where I feel like dying. This race was no exception. I was following a wheel I couldn’t hold. Instead of riding myself into the ground trying to stay with the wheel, I made a conscious decision to let my body catch up. Within a lap I got my lungs back and found a stable pace. Lesson: listen to your body, don’t blow yourself up.
4. There are certain parts of every course that are harder than others. Frisco was no exception. I struggled on the gravel and grassy flats, so I conserved there. On the easier parts of the course, which for me were the downhills, singletrack, and technical sections, I turned up my effort to maximize my advantage on those sections. Lesson: Ride your strengths, not your weaknesses.
5. The day before the race I took a few links out of my chain to get rid of the slack and reduce derailing the chain. By doing that I did eliminate dropped chains, but I also made my chain too short for the taller cogs when in the big front chainring. The result was a desperate shift for an easier gear that caused my entire drivetrain to lock up on lap 4 or 5. This stupid mistake cost me about 20+ frantic seconds of trying to un-jam the chain. Lesson: sort your gear out thoroughly BEFORE the race.
6. In the end I worked my way up to 5th place for the day, and was happy and surprised by my result. I didn’t think my body was up for that sort of effort after September, but I think what ended up helping was that x-factor that comes with being competitive: your mind makes up for some of the fitness that you don’t have.
Coming off of this race, I’m excited about the season. I feel like I’ve got some of my mojo back, and I know I can build my fitness in the coming weekends. I know I earned some callup points for the Cross Cup series, so it will be nice not to have to start in the back again.
This weekend is the USGP in Fort Collins, and I’m looking forward to a double header. The only slight bummer is the combined Cat 2 and Cat 3 fields. I’ll have to be realistic with my expectations when racing against guys in the next category up.