Nov 19 2007
Hillsboro – Cross Finals
In case you missed it, fall/winter is officially here: Grey skies. 45°F. Steady rain. Perfect hot tub weather…but more on that later.
Rach stayed home with the kids (wise move) so I headed out with enough time to warm up and get a quarter-lap pre-ride in. I walked around a bit to check out the rough stuff. It was fairly clear that Sunday’s race would be like none other this year. Results from the previous 6 races wouldn’t matter much as the conditions would require a much different set of skills and strengths.
Gone would be the high speed cornering and the straight stretches that called on aerobic endurance. Getting through the mud would require intense, muscle-searing, power-based bursts and handling skills to stay on track. The mantra for this race would be – keep your momentum.
I got a quick warm-up in on the trainer, lubed up with some Atomic Balm, and headed to the line. Brad forgot the current standings so we were left to best-guess the top 10 or so. It all worked out just fine but in the short 15 minutes we were standing at the line, the cold started to seep in through the layers.
My goal for the start was to stay in sight of the front and stay calm. It’s a 45 minute race and we were told that as the previous races had been running 12 minute laps, 4 laps would probably be it.
The gun went off and Mike Alligood, Johnny Vergis, 2 HFV (Wade & Kevin), Jeff Standish, and I moved out front early down the parking lot. The pace seemed fast but manageable. Winding through the muck out back, I found a line to the right that made it rideable up to the short hill. This part stretched out the field a bit.
Mike was out front setting a pretty hard pace as we wound around and then back the straightaway to the start area. Wade and Kevin were behind by 10 yards or so with Johnny V and I chasing.
Grinding through the second mud area, I found a decent line to the left this time and powered through. Having watched a bit of the C race, I knew the turn around the power tower and up the hill was not rideable. We all dismounted and trudged up the hill in what seemed like slow motion.
This group stayed together until the far part of the course by the entrance. By now, our 5 man group was showing signs of breaking up. We went up and down the berm and then back to the slippery downhill by the power tower. Grinding out the bottom section, Jason Crago and I emerged out front.
Jason put a nasty pace on by the finish and out on the pavement. Looking behind, we agreed on trying to open up a gap. I took the lead before we hit the mud.
By now a certain sort of zen was setting in right before we entered the sticky, gloopy mud stretches. Shift down, sit back a touch to weight the rear wheel, point the front wheel where you want it to go, relax the shoulders and start spinning. I think there’s a tendency to tense up when you first hit those stretches because you don’t know which way the mud will take you, wondering if that 6 inch rut is firm or soft. Almost like you’re submitting to it. Not today though. Mud – I am so the boss of you.
Jason and I hammered the 2nd lap. He seemed to lead out on the flat stretches and I was making up ground through the mud. He grabbed the lead going down the mud slope to the power tower. I was right behind, powering through again when something happened right at the transition back to the pavement. I don’t know exactly what but I went down hard on the pavement.
Luckily no one was on my tail so I didn’t get run over or passed. Jason looked back and hit the gas, opening up a quick 15 sec. gap. I got up, remounted and took off with a now-throbbing left hip to chase.
Jason kept the gap for the next lap and a half, pushing real hard. We were running solid 11 min. laps, maybe a touch below in the 10:50’s. I tried a few quick bursts in the big ring to make up some ground but the gap was holding strong at a good 5-10 sec.
Heading into the last lap I knew two things for certain – Jason was riding strong, especially on the flat stretches, but was dismounting early through the mud. I was probably only going to make up ground riding hard through the mud.
I caught him on the mud section by the pit area. We hit the run-up by the crowd together and came up on some junior & clydesdales that he navigated better than I did. He opened up a couple second gap on the low, flat stretch. Entering the mud area by the entrance, he lost his line and dismounted. With the conditions, he wouldn’t be able to get back on until after the run-up after the barriers – about 50 yards or so. This was it.
I took the line to the right that had been working so far and started spinning. Around the pine, I went to the middle, which was surprisingly rideable. I caught him on the turn before the barriers and kept pushing. Up the hill and back on the bike we headed to the slick up & down. Once back up top, we remounted and he took the lead. I’m running out of gas.
We had just the muddy downhill and the short 70 yards to the finish. I had one match left to burn and I chose to use it to pass through the mud at the bottom. For a split second though, mud ended up being the boss of me. At the top of the hill, I lost my line and veered right, losing momentum forcing a quick foot dab to get back on track. Jason had maybe 5 yards heading into the pavement and put a sprint on that I could not match. 2nd place.
It took all of 2 minutes for the cold to set in and my left hip to start barking at me. I was shivering by the time I got my wheels from the pit and downright chattering by the time I got back to the car. This isn’t good. Peeling the clothes off, I changed quickly envying the junior parked next to me with his parents helping him get changed, washed off, and warm. I poured a cup of hot tea from the thermos, packed up the car and headed home with the heater on full.
I skipped the post-race wash, still shivering after the 30 min ride home. I got a quick shower in and parked myself in the hot tub with a beer. That’s right – 104 degrees of love.
For me, this should do it for the year. My hip is trashed. I’m exhausted and have a bunch of other stuff to do that I’ve basically put on hold for the last couple months. I know the USGP will be a good race but I’m just tapped out of energy right now. I am, however, looking forward to the party. I’m sure if you track me down I’ll have a few tasty beers – the good stuff from the cellar, homemade and commercial.