After the mud and snow fest of Supercross I spent the early part of the week cleaning the bike, pulling my crank, cleaning and repacking my bottom bracket, cleaning my brake pistons and seals, and pulling out my rear derailleur pulleys. A torrential downpour engulfed the tri-state area the night before Bishops Orchards CycloCross Race, creating more messy mud and rivers to race through, perfect conditions for a super clean bike.
As per usual, I had signed up for the 10:00am Men Cat 3/4 race and the 12:30pm Men Cat 4/5. I picked up Lionel at our usual meet and greet location off the Long Island Expressway. It has been a blast this season having Lionel as my travel and racing buddy. Always better to travel with people then by yourself.
We got to the venue with plenty of time to spare. They parked us a bit far from registration making things a bit less convenient. The Junior races were taking place at this time, and thus course inspection was not possible. This race was going to be like many of the others, learning the course on lap 1.
The course started off on the tarmac and proceeded uphill, changing over to a grassy field before reaching the finish line. Past the finish line, there was a 180 turn followed by a short straight. I found that arching the turn wide I could carry a lot more speed through here and pass a bunch of people all bunched up on the inside. Heading back, we were faced with a 90 degree left which brought us down a muddy embankment, followed by the 180 right hand turn to go back up the muddy embankment. I do not think many were able to ride up this bit especially on lap one with everyone packed together.
Up the embankment, we turned left again. Remounting here was difficult due to the sloppy mud, so I had to run further down to get on some more packed grass and get the bike up to speed. This then presented the difficulty of getting clipped in with mud in the shoes. I had to get engaged fast because we had left turn down another muddy downhill. At the bottom of the hill we would then turn left again. But this area was completely covered in loose sloppy mud, and I needed some momentum and pedal attachment to power through this mess.
Right after the left, we would turn right and go over a bridge, and here is where the real fun began. Coming off the bridge we were dumped into mid shin deep water (if one was standing). This 100 ft section of the race course was completely covered in cold water. As we powered through the water, it kept getting deeper. In my second race, the water covered my feet even on the upstroke. I am proud to say that I rode this section every time and did not have to run it.
Getting out of this river, we were greeted with a left turn, and a very long straight of watery mud and grass. A bog? In both races I was more or less able to ride half of it, but then I would just bog down. I tried the right side. I tried the left side. I tried some hopeful grassy sections in the middle. I tried the wet puddle sections. Nope, nope, nope, and nope. Nothing worked for me.
At the end of this section we had a muddy uphill with a left turn at the top. Being off the bike there was no way I could get up this bit on the bike, so I stayed on foot to the top. At the top, a left turn down the back side and into a muddy right hand sweep brought us to an off camber muddy straight which had a slight uphill to it. On the top of the drop before this section, I would remount on the descent, prying I could keep the bike going where I wanted it to, then on the straight bit I would slam my feet on the pedals to clear mud and try to get the clips engaged as they were much needed.
In my second race, in my attempt to get uptrack, I spun the bike out and was 90 deg to the course. By some miracle I was able to correct and keep going.
At the end of this straight we had a right hand turn into a step climb which turned right again at the top, followed by a straight section between the apple trees. Another 180 and another straight. Somewhere in this switch back section, there was a left hand muddy climb which I was able to only ride in my second lap of my second race.
Up at the top we meandered a bit around all the apple trees. We then hit another nasty muddy series of turns up a steep climb. For the life of me I could not ride this bit and had to run/walk to the top. Finally past this section, we meandered around the apple trees some more, and then we came upon a nice straight which brought us downhill towards the road. A right hand sweeping turn put us on a gravel crushed stone straight paralleling the main road. I found out that you could go flat out through the turn, and keep the momentum going on this gravel section. I was able to real in several riders this way.
But the fun was short lived. Another right hand turn dumped us back onto a muddy section. It was not horrible but it was unmistakably leg sapping. At the end, a right put us on the paved section with a steep uphill to the finish line. All I can say is that this uphill was diabolical.
For the most part the whole course was all mud and required a lot of work to keep the bike moving forward. At the end of the race the bike was completely covered in mud and grass.
In my first race, I managed to complete four of the five laps. The organizers messed up the scoring so I am taking those results with a grain of salt. The second race, I was able to complete three out of the four laps, finishing 31st out of 72. The advantage I had in the second race was that I knew the course. It was also dreadful knowing what to expect. But my disadvantage was that I was already shot from the first race.
After my first race, I had to wash the bike, pull apart various stuff to get the grass out in order to make it functional for the next race, then change into dry clothing, and eat. That did not leave much time to recover much before the Men 4/5 race.
I am still glad I did both races. The drive home with all the families coming back from Thanksgiving was probably more painful then the two races. It took close to four hours to get home.