When we last left off, I was regaling you with the tale of my failure to actually race SSCXWC (which was followed by Team Rapha‘s failure to respect the only rule the race has). Oh well. The day after, I hopped on a plane to Japan, and even raced my bike twice while I was there. But I’d like to address that in the context of the trip (i.e. put it off), so I’m going to pick up with the first race I did as soon as I got back to the states, which was…
Bay Area Superprestige #4: Cyclocross Coyote Point
I came back from Japan fatter, slower, and more jetlagged than ever. What better time to do the final race of the big series in these parts? This is one of my favorite courses (though perhaps not as much as the hilltop Coyote Point course, which was, sadly, not used this year. Almost as sad as missing both races in Golden Gate Park this year, but I digress). In any case, resplendent in my orange bubbles, I lined up and tried to make myself invisible behind the first few rows of Serious Business B-tards. I mean, look at these guys:
(Photo by Jeff Namba)
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
So we’ve got Jason “Chasing the Podium™” Ferrier, a 12-year-old that doesn’t feel pain, the usual Above Category Hit Squad, and a Cal Giant Rider. I didn’t think they allowed those guys in the B’s. Anyway, I knew this was going to be a punch in the balls, but there was no turning back.
The whistle blew, and we were off on that paved straightaway leading right into the main climb of the course. Thanks to Nate K’s awesome video, I have documentation of (my ass at the) the start of the race:
I didn’t take off like a rocket, but at least I didn’t do too badly on the pavement, which then led into the dirt climb…
Note that John Luk is here, executing his patented “line up early start in the front of the B race then get passed by everyone” technique. This photo is of course illustrative of how far I had moved up going into the climb, or how far he had dropped back in the first 30 seconds. For the sake of both of us looking better, I’m going to go with the former.
Things actually got super-hectic on the climb. Even though the speed was reduced, it was still a case of 80 guys trying to get onto the “good” line, so there was a lot of bump n’ grind going on. I stayed upright and managed to not get bogged down or stopped behind someone.
In any case, back to the video. I actually GAINED positions on the climb. Whoa. Then at the top, I actually attacked and got even further ahead, after utilizing my “almost hit a lightpost” riding style. Amazing, right?
I was having a good race, technically-speaking. I kept it together on all the technical sections, rode the gravel and steep parts, and all that good stuff. Of course, every few minutes I would be passed by a few guys, which conclusively answered Steven Woo’s question of “Where’s your Japan fitness?” (the answer, by the way, is: Back in Japan, by gorging itself on ramen and pastries). But I wasn’t stressed over that, I just didn’t have the speed to run at the front of the pack. Fine. I was still enjoying myself!
Then, on the last lap I found myself locked in a battle with another rider. Now, some people might battle for the win, or the podium, or even a top ten finish. But one of the nice things about ‘cross is that you can be in the middle of the pack there’s always SOMEBODY to race. Well, I had found my man and caught him up the climb, then made a move to get ahead of him right before the first part of the descent. And that’s when I decided that I needed to open up a bit of a gap to last me for the rest of the lap. So when I got to the second descent (the bumpy, hardpacked rooty one, as opposed to the swoopy loose slow one) I got into the drops and off the brakes…
And then, that sickening sound. Pshhhhhhhhhhh. Whether it was the extra speed, extra weight on the front wheel from being in the drops, or my general lack of finesse, the result was the same. I had pinch-flatted my 32mm tire on this mountain-bikey descent. And as my tire rapidly deflated, so did my hopes for the top-half finish I was headed for a moment earlier. I think my common sense leaked out too, because I was soon running down the middle of the track on the descent, running afoul of Captain Morgan, before realizing that I needed to get the hell off the racing line.
On the other hand, the “racing line” happened to also go directly past my lovely team tent, where all manner of handups were on offer.
(I’m the only racer to have appeared in two consecutive photos by David here, and if you look carefully you’ll noticed that it’s not the same beverage in the other photo).
So I decided to enjoy my forced march… After my spirits had been sufficiently lifted, somebody helpfully pointed out that the Ritchey neutral wheel pit was 10 meters ahead. So I went and got a wheel and rode out the rest of the race. If I hadn’t flatted, I would have probably finished in the high-30s or low 40s, but I ended up 58th, out of 79. C’est la vie.