Race Report: It was a fine, fine sunday...
As we head into the second half of October, cyclocross (and fall here in the PNW) is in full swing. Yesterday's race (4th of 6 races in the MFG series) was held at Seattle's Warren G Magnuson Park and it was a perfect fall day for a race -- a crisp, cool air hung around all day with a slight wind blowing off of Lake Washington, all set against a palette of trees with leaves in various shades of orange and yellow. Spectators and racers alike packed the park and I think it's safe to say, everyone walked away with a great experience. I know I did!
The Magnuson venue is one of my favorite courses and yesterday's conditions allowed for some fast racing. I knew racing would be fast, and I was mildly concerned I'd be able to keep any sort of acceptable pace. I was fully expecting to get lapped and given I hadn't finished a race this season, I thought I might run out of gas again and get another DNF (not that I care whether I DNF or finish, because I still have a lot of fun. Still, it IS nice to finish what you start).
I lined up for the Cat3 race, excited to debut my new cross bike, shivering at the back of the group for what felt like a really long countdown to the gun. And then we were off. The starting straight is a long slightly uphill drag with a nice stretch of grass before the first hairpin corner. The fast start combined with the hairpin split the group immediately into the contenders (2/3 of the group) and the rest (1/3). I was in the back of the rest and soon in no man's land as I don't have the technical skills or confidence to keep pace through the technical parts (e.g hairpin turns). But nevermind, I was feeling okay for once. I kept at it, getting out of the saddle after each turn trying to get maximum power and often with my hands in the drops trying to keep an aggressive position. The first couple of laps flew by but then I hit my trademark "pit of despair" in the middle lap. I kept going and tried to focus on the cheers of my friends, breathing, and repeating in my head: just. finish.
And then I crashed. I took a corner off the grass into some gravel wide and that was the mistake -- the outside line had loose gravel and i went down. luckily, I was going slow and I was up quickly. but then I fumbled clipping back into my pedals and a few awkward pedal strokes topped with frustration later I was back at it.
As the second half of the race unfolded, I realized that I was slowly but surely gaining back some ground on a trio of riders ahead of me. I picked off one rider and spent the next lap trying to get up to the other two. While this was happening, the duo split and it was just one I was chasing. Then I looked over my shoulder and realized the second placed women's single speed rider (Heidi Wood) was bridging up to me. I wasn't surprised as she is really strong but it did motivate me to keep pushing. In fact, it was great motivation to try and catch the rider in front of me AND hold off Heidi behind me. She ended up catching up on the back side of the course when I completely botched a corner and went wide into some deeper gravel. I wished her luck as we both powered up the hill and coming into the finishing straight, I used gears to my advantage and passed her with my goal now to catch the rider in front (he was less than one hundred yards from me now). I gave it everything I had and caught up to him just before we headed into the first hairpin and I shut the door to prevent him coming around me. He complimented me on catching him and accelerated to latch onto my back wheel. While he chased, I drove through the first set of barriers and when I botched my remount (I've had the hardest time clipping back into my pedals this season) he passed me and that was that. He got a small gap that he kept to the finish.
Did you catch that? I finished! First race of the year! AND, I finished without getting lapped. Win. Win.
I want to thank everyone who cheered and/or heckled. I was listening, and it definitely helped. And man oh man, my new bike was AWESOME. It performed flawlessly and I only hope I did it justice yesterday. A huge thank you to Seven Cycles and Cascade Bicycle Studio for building a wonderful ride.
MFG #4: Stats
WHERE: Warren G. (not the rapper) Magnuson Park
DATE: 20 October 2013; 2.40p PST
WEATHER: 46° F; overcast skies; no precipitation
CATEGORY RACED: Men's Cat3