I was reluctant to sign up and go to this race, because as I have been conveying in earlier posts, I am starting to feel quite burnt out. My teammate and trusty travel companion, Anthony Ott was up for a race. We had the choice of Cheshire Cross or Caffeinated Cross. I raced Caffeinated last year, and I was also supposed to race Cheshire last year, but, the heavy rains kept me from making the trip to Connecticut. So, I figured I would give Cheshire a go.
I decided to race the Men 3/4 (scored separately) and the Single Speed. This way I would not have back to back races. My teammate was all for racing the single speed, so I would be racing with him.
After getting up at five or so in the morning, I got out and drove up to the upper west side and picked up my teammate by seven forty five. We then made our way to the venue stopping for food and a nature call on the way. We arrived at the desired time of just before ten in the morning. A few of my friends were also showing up at the same time.
After I got both my numbers, Anthony and I decided to take a peek at the course. In the first part of the course, right before the stairs, I got distracted and did not realize that those in front were on the brakes and thus, I dumped the bike and rolled off the fall in order to avoid ramming into my teammate. I made a mental note that that section required a cautious approach. We worked our way around the course and got to ride the rest of it except for the small sand pit right after the finish line.
After the pre-ride, we both agreed that we were not terribly keen on this course. It felt that it was more of a mountain bike style course. Lots of ruts, roots, and rocks. Back at the car, we had plenty of time to get suited up, fed, etc. For this race I decided to try out the TNR tape to affix my number instead of the pins. I had ordered a 10 pack in the spring for the Park races, but I never ended up using it.
Before my race, I was able to get back on course again. This time, I paid attention to the areas of concern, including Heckle Hill. I was able to ride up the whole thing so I was feeling confident. I settled on riding my tubular mud tyres set at about twenty five pounds per square inch.
Call up was a mess. This was probably one of the largest fields. They could not fit us eight wide in the start grid. They instead made rows of five wide, and this made the wholes start very deep. I was situated on an uphill gravel section of road, towards the back of the field. At the start of the race, it was a mess trying to get traction and there were too many bodies around in the narrow start shoot. Right after the start, we went up a rise in the path which widened, but it was full of surface rocks. Some were marked with white spray paint but with all the riders around we just had to take our lumps.
At the end of this path, we turned left onto a grassy field by the pit. This field was setup with a bunch of switchbacks and gates. Coming out of this section rode onto a single track and the section where I crashed in practice. On my first lap, this section became a bottle neck, so I quickly dismounted threw the bike on my shoulder and ran up the stairs, making a good pass on a bunch of other riders. At the top, back on the bike, we were now in mountain bike territory. The rocky descent had the best line on the right, followed by sections through trees, then a drop off (with also the safer drop on the right) after a tight left-right-left, and and then another tricky climb between trees and rocks which I was able to ride each time.
After this, we arrived back at the field by the pit for more grassy switchbacks, and a mogul. We could opt out of the mogul but the alternative path was a tight slow path around the mogul. My first three laps of the race, I had to dab at the top of the mogul, but I still felt that I lost less time there, than picking the other choice.
Exiting the field we went back into the woods. Here I made a pass on slower riders by taking the poor line across the rock garden. We then came around a right hand sweeping descent with a huge drop off the left edge. This then took us down fast rock strewn section which ended with a right hand bend onto a bridge. The right hander was filled with mud, but a good rut had formed and with caution could be ridden well.
A few hundred meters after the bridge, we finally arrived at Heckle Hill. In our race, the hill was full of hecklers screaming at us. Due to the bodies I had to run the hill. Turns out, I ended up needing to run this hill each lap of both races. For some reason I could not get past the second step, which I had cleared during my practice lap.
At the top of the hill we had more rocks through the woods, a right hand descent and a left right exit onto the mud by the tennis courts. The mud turned to grass, then pavement and we arrived at the finish line. Starting with lap two, we had to go left and go through the the sand pit, which was really not that bad, especially after the one from the week before.
The sheer amount of running up hill with the bike was causing me to blow quite a number of matches. This was turning out to be a course not to my liking. I am glad I was riding the tubulars since I was bottoming them out quite frequently. After five laps I finished my race, not placing too well but good enough considering the course.
At three forty five in the afternoon, with the sun starting to set, I set off in the single speed race. I selected a 38×19 gear and pulled my Di2 out. On all five laps, I was able to ride the mogul without needing to put a foot down. I was also doing better. A few reasons for why I think I was having a better race, despite the lack of gears was that I now had a better understanding of the course, and the lines I needed to take. Also, as the last race of the day, the ruts were well carved into the course, so the sand was easy to ride, and the bit before the bridge was much easier.
In fact, with the course being short, I was getting a bit bored in my last two laps. Brake here, turn here, put the wheel there, accelerate there. Repeat! Repeat!
Due to fatigue, I did make a few mistakes here and there, namely almost getting thrown off the bridge by carrying too much speed onto the crossing. With mud filled tires and a slick bridge surface I let my guard down once and almost paid a heavy price. In the end, looking at the lap times, the single speed race was my better race. In places I wished I could have gone up a gear but once I spun up to one hundred twenty or so I would just go aero as possible and recover.
I will admit, that it was a bit relieving to not have to think about shifting. Who knows, perhaps I will do more single speed events in the future? My teammate Anthony flatted one and a half lap into his race, ending his day with great disappointment.
Maybe next week we can break the spell?: If he does well, I do not, and if I do well, he does not. Stay tuned.