The course - The base of a ski hill - fast sweeping bumpy grass corners, a nasty mud slick climb, some tight 180's.
Weather - Gorgeous night race under the lights. Calm, 7 degrees. Light drizzle during final 2 laps.
Bike setup - same as always - tubulars 26/28
My start was a$$ - really all I need to say about it. Took a few pedal strokes to find my pedal, but by then, I had been passed by many who were looking to get a good position for the first little climb about 100m after the start. From there, I settled in and starting picking riders off who had passed my off the start. I did however, have a few crashes. Some of the corners were slick right at the apex - my favourite. I found myself washing out the front wheel and going down - sometimes pretty hard. Once, hard enough to knock my shifter about 45 degrees inward. I had to bash that back into place as I rode.
As the race went on, I found my groove. There was a nasty, mud covered climb. 1st gear mashing style, and if you weren't in the saddle, you'd spin the rear tire. I run a 36/25 first gear, so it was pretty hard on the legs, but I found myself making time as I found a dryer line in the grass, helping with the traction issue. My troubles came came in the tight corners. I didn't have the confidence to carry the speed, so I lost some time that I had gained in the climb. Tripoding and sliding - a lot. Then the drizzle came, which made it worse. I could still carry speed thru the sweepers, but those tighter corners were my nemesis.
All in all, it was a decent race - finished 7th. Not too bad, and still kept my momentum with the season points. I was 3rd, leading by 5 pts.
The next day was totally different. Cold. Minus 2 and a driving wind. The ground was frozen, with a few soft spots - but no mud. This was prime terrain for the tires I was running, which struggle in the slick - but excel in more solid, fast, bumpy ground.
The course - same layout, but the surface was quasi-frozen, some ruts - but soft enough that they didn't throw the bike around.
Weather - Minus 2, traces of snow flurries, winds gusting 20-30km/h...brrrrr!!
Bike setup - no change.
Today was cold enough that I had to resort to legwarmers and a wind vest - something I don't normally wear - but it was that bone chilling!!
The start was - well - crazy. I was staged to the front row, clipped in fast, but it got crowded very quickly. I had to preserve my real estate by sticking an arm out (JR i think??) but I survived into the first corner. From there, it was the same as before - picked off a few - but this time stayed with a few guys and traded the pace lap after lap.
The climb was much easier today - kinda. My legs hurt from the day before, but the surface was such that I could stand up and pedal and not loose traction. This was huge as it allowed me to stretch the legs out, then sit for the remainder of the climb. I also tried something a little different into the tighter corners, braking with the rear only. I think my problem in previous races is that I'd brake too much with the front wheel - locking it up as I'd try to turn and end up falling. This time, I layed off the front brake and used the rear almost exclusively. I was able to carry much more speed, with confidence, locking up the rear ever so slightly to slide around a corner. It was working great.
Managed 6th. Very happy. Ended up 4th in the points after some strong finishes from other riders this weekend. Still, very stoked.
As I said before, the big test was how one is able to recover from one race to the next. A guy who beat me on Saturday night, was nowhere to be seen on Sunday. The conditions were challenge too - a slick, mild evening transitioning to a cold, frozen day the next. Must of been the beer and fries (thanks Rod and All Seasons Inn!!)
So the season is done - a few closing thoughts:
- My belgian tubular method worked like a charm. I'm totally sold on tubulars, although there are limitations. You're pretty much committed to tire choice unless you have money for a second set of tubs, or you're willing to go back to clinchers in favor of grip (in mud for example).
- I still need a mountain bike to improve technical riding (MJ - hint hint)
- My aluminum bike is TOTALLY holding me back (just kidding, but hint hint MJ)
All in all, it was a fantastic season. I started out in C Cat last year, having never race before, now finishing 4th in the points in A Cat. I'm very happy with my progress and the experiences I've gained this year. Now for the sappy part:
Found out this week that I am in fact moving to Ottawa in the summer - which means this was the last season of New Brunswick Cyclocross. Its been so much fun, and I'd like to mention a few names:
The Radical Edge crew - Brian, Rod, Ash, Jamie, Jeff, Mike, Josh - and the rest....Thank you for your camaraderie and friendships. I've never ridden with a more focused and dedicated group of athletes.
Dean, Glen, and the rest of the SJ crew - Thanks for your sense of humour, post race beers, crazy ivans into the first corner, close races and Darlings Island.
Rheal, Andrew, Mike, and other Moncton folks - some close races all year, a great course at Dieppe (my fav), and some laughs over dinner at All Seasons.
Sheila and the other Velo NB staff - Thank you for your insane amount of work you put into races and sorting out the results.
Finally, MJ - my wife. What a trooper - she drags the kids out to most of my races, or otherwise taking them to swimming lessons while I'm out playing on my bike. Thanks for your support and helping me do what I love.
The Chronicles will continue thru the winter as I suffer on my trainer (free skinsuit on the way - thanks Sufferfest) and I plan on carrying on into the early road season, then offer a new perspective on 'cross in Ottawa - apparently the scene is pretty big.
Thank you all for reading....until next time!!