Uncle Sam GP Cyclocross-Troy, NY Race Report
I used to live in Albany, NY once upon a time, in a tiny studio basement apartment. I didn’t spend a whole year there, maybe 6 months, so I never got a good lay of the land and had only been to Troy once. Despite this, I found Prospect Park pretty easily. I only missed one turn, made a “get directions and find a bathroom” stop in a Stewart’s Convenience store, where the manager threw a homeless man out of the public restroom for my benefit. Yikes. But this post is about the cyclocross race. So let’s get to that.
It was cool and windy Saturday morning. I had, in a too big for my britches moment, reg’d for both the Cat 4 morning and the Elite 1/2/3/4 race in the afternoon. I didn’t stay for the Elite race, mostly because I couldn’t justify killing and extra 4 1/2 hours on a beautiful Saturday when I hadn’t spent any time with my girlfriend in 2 weeks. Priorities.
I pre-rode a lap and thought the course was just great. Grassy, twisty, turny, with a wonderful snaking steep downhill (my favorite part). This course still ran pretty fast. There was only 8 women starting after the Cat 5 men, and the juniors lined up behind us. The start was at the bottom of a long steady hill, and if you’ve been paying attention, you know this is not a good sign. I am not great friends with hills, inclines, climbing, or anything resembling anything that gains in elevation. Hills like to push me back, to flick me off like an annoying gnat. And while this wasn’t a super steep hill, it was a long stretch, and by the time the course leveled off, even the juniors had past me. Dead last. First time that has ever happened.
But I tried not to let that rattle me. I had the entire field in sight, spread out like a line of bees from a hive. I caught a young woman and past her, and just tried to keep in contact with the line of women in front of me. They slowly slipped away from me and I was soon alone. I passed a couple of the men who started ahead of us, and a few juniors, and passed another woman who had shouldered her bike and was running the course, obviously dealing with a mechanical. Soon I was all alone again, unsure of what was happening in front of me, but realizing it could be anything, so I just pushed.
I executed well, more or less, with the technical. I didn’t bonk or gas out on this race. I had one big fail when I didn’t get into a small enough gear for a technical turning hill and had to dismount, but I recovered and remounted with a good kick, and got a little cheer from onlookers (hey onlookers, every little bit of cheering really does help). I tried to go fast where I could, to sprint where I could, use the downward momentum from downhills and to ride the corners swiftly. I felt good with my effort, but was really not happy with the result. I lost any chance at a mid pack finish on that starting hill. And who knows if I could have hung on if the start had gone differently? I think what’s become really clear to me is that my speed and conditioning is no where near where it was this time last year. Being unemployed half of 2013 was awful, but man did it make me faster. I came in 6th, I should have come in 4th if race predictor is to be trusted. So not the result I wanted, but a better race for me. I had fun and raced more of this race.
Next weekend is Gloucester, and I’m only doing Saturday, and hanging out to watch the Elites in the afternoon. I’m really looking forward to the day. The field limit is 85 and sold out. I’d like to crack the top 50%. If I have a shot at this goal then this is the weekend to do it. I’m still not where I’d like to be to achieve a top 50%, especially in a field of 85, but I performed better this weekend than last, and felt stronger than any other race this season, so I’m heading in the right direction.
PS-And addendum to Big Elm’s post–I didn’t come in last, I was 9th of 12. Further evidence to never, ever quit.