Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cyclocross 101

He said there would be beer. All the deliciously cold beer I could responsibly drink. He bragged that Boulevard Beer was a sponsor. They loved bicyclists and would be there imploring us to replenish our carbohydrates with their craft brewed product. Wheat. Pale Ale. Bob's 47. Dry Stout. I signed up for this (dang) cyclocross race. What is cyclocross? Read Justin Bose's verbose post. All I know is I spent money to upgrade my bike, went to the gym (a few times), started running again, rode harder in the weeks before the race all because BPZ (Brian Prosser-Zoolander) promised free beer.

I was thinking about which beer would slake my dry throat as I started up the hill at the beginning of the 3rd lap of my first cyclocross race on Sunday, Sept. 28th, Cat4 Beginner division, riding the wrong bike, kitted out as RacerX. Even though I had drank plenty of water before the race, I was parched, it was sunny and hot, and in the blur of tents/shelters, I wondered why I hadn't seen the beer tent? Because there "done-weren't" no stinkin' beer tents. The city of Lenexa Kansas does not let alcohol into the park. I felt like Charlie Brown after seeing the rocks in my halloween sack and/or Jeff Spiccoli after Mr. Hand tore up his class schedule.

But I digress. The race. Yes, this is about the pain, suffering, vainglory and testosterone that is cyclocross racing. No bones about it, it was fun...and all those adjetives above.

My first problem turned out to be very good fortutious turn of events for me. I had planned to race my 32 year old, 29 pound Schwinn Varsity converted to a Single Speed for the race. My one speed gearing was a bit tall for the course, I knew I could make it around the course, but would be difficult. I rode the course a few times thinking the steep off camber hills would be tricky, I could get up them fresh, but it would be a long day. Luckily while stretching in the parking lot, a guy saw my kickstand on the Varsity and mentioned that they wouldn't let me ride with a kickstand--too dangerous; might impale someone. Luckily, I have brought my old mountian bike and was able to switch pedals and line up with another iconic, old, heavy, lime green mid 1990's Trek 8000 with a very squishy front fork.

It's fair to say there was at least one worst bike in the race; some guy was riding a WalMart Schwinn Moab. Besides that, it was bike-a-copia all around. Very sleek Kona's, Specialized, VanDussel's, Treks, Moot's, Surly's.... Single Speeds. 1x9's, all very sleek and hot. All these bikes looked like the kinds of horses you see in Barrell Races or chasing down 'dogies' through the sagebrush in the prairie. Fast. No bling. Cool. No nonsense. They were stud-bikes, and I was riding the runt of the Clydesdale litter with bum knees, not strong enough to pull a plow, not fast enough to pull the coach to church, and a serious momentum robbing lurch up/down from the front shock every time I hammered on the pedals.

There were 60 Cat 4 Beginners in the race, and about 20 Single Speeders. Cat 4 Beginners are suppose to be like me, old, not really ready for the race, somewhat in shape but not the skinny, sleek, strong, sandbaggers that I saw all around me.

In the group was Prosser /Zoolander-my co-worker pictured on the left

the left who goaded me into this along with other bad/good ideas, and on the right Bill Hendry, codenamed Quadzilla, ex-Marine who could ride his mountian bike into Afghanistan/Pakistan, find Osama Bin-Laden and bring him back slung over his shoulder. Really. Semper fi, dude. Prosser poses, looks back and drops you. Hendry has of Jefferson(Forrest Whittaker) in the football game vs. Lincoln after they wreck his car in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Prosser and Hendry were up front in the starting box, I made sure I was near the back of the pack at the start. They started the singlespeeder's 1 minute behind us. I didn't see them until the race was over, relaxing with Brian's wife Stacie & kids, looking like they'd been finished for a while. Results? Hendry came in 5th, Prosser came in 10th. I came in 41st out of 60.

First lap was interesting, after letting the rabbits go ahead, I was in a group of about 4 guys, all of them my age-ish and my weight, but all with sleek bikes. I found that shifting around corners was good and on the first sharp steep hill I went to a really low gear and almost popped a wheelie going up. On the up sharp right of the 3rd camber/hill, 2 guys crashed and I went around them on the inside. Cool, just passed 2 guys. I won't come in last place.

Then in the chicane area, heard a guy yell INSIDE, and blew past me. The first singlespeeder. He was fast, then about 4 more. I kept the next guy in my sight for most of the first lap until we came to the sharp uphill/dismount, carry over the barriers. I had just done my first dismount during the practice lap, and made a good one, and passed my rival running up the hill. 3 down. I found I could jump back on and get in pedals pretty well.

2/3's way into the lap, we had to go down a steep hill, around a double sand volleyball court, then run diagonally across it. I passed a guy in there, found my bike would cradle up on my shoulder pretty well, much lighter than the Varsity. Then I passed another guy up the steep hill back. First lap and I hadn't died. I was holding my own against the the limp, lame and over-confident.

Rest of the way pretty much the same way, I did feel good in that I passed 4 other guys, then caught 2 of the single speed guys and passed them on the last lap. Note to self, gears are good. It was nice hearing cheers (jeers?) from the crowd...well Stacie & Justin Bose anyway who sort of noticed I was all by myself on the course and chortled something. Stacie has almost made up for giving the bogus report that she saw e wearing a "Journey" concert T-Shirt. Almost, but not quite. (It wasn't a Winger T-Shirt was from the Barefoot Bar...)

Then the bell lap was here, I finished and it was good to be done. Time was 38:49 for the race. I had my watch on and did splits for each lap, and was pleased to find that each lap was faster (by 3-4 seconds) than the prior lap. I told this to Prosser, and he commented that it was obvious that I didn't go out hard enough.

Now, 6 hours later, I feel the good heavy molassas/latcic acid in my legs. I'm moving sort of slowly, and feeling pretty good about the race. Will I do it again? Maybe. Possibly. Probably. The bikes are too cool, the courses are too fun, and next time, really-no kidding--not joshing you this time, there will be beer.