Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Murrysville CX: CRASH and FLAT

Last weekend I decided to travel North to Pittsburgh to compete at the annual Murrysville CX (cyclocross) race.  It seemed like a well respected race, and it's only about 80 minutes away so not too far, and the regularly scheduled ABRA race that was supposed to be on Saturday got postponed.  So it was a no brainer.  Especially because it gave me another chance to go at it before next weekends State Championships.

We (Carly and I) got a little lost but showed up in plenty of time for me to get all my stuff out of the car, put together, and then go pre-ride the course a couple of times before the Masters race started.  It seemed like a long course, with lots of straights and a run up that was rideable by many.  So not too technical- bummer.  And it had a long (200 yards+) section of pavement where you gained all your elevation as you crossed the finish line.  Spoiler: unfortunately there was also only a 1 sided pit area, which was directly adjacent to the starting area.

I wasn't feeling stellar, but after only 1 easy day on the bike (plus a 40 minute run and 2 hours of XC skiing that left me very sore) it wasn't super surprising.  I figured I just needed to get a good warm-up in and I'd be fine.

So that's what I did.  I spent time on the course riding around (probably 15-20 minutes), some time spectating, then about 20 minutes on my trainer, then another 10-15 minutes doing hot laps on the course again before my race.

Photos Courtesy of Greg Flood
 I got to the line early because I heard there were no call-ups.  I lined up dead center in the front row.

As I stood there, I took stock of how I felt.  Fine.  Should be fun.

The whistle blew and I took off like a rocket.  I quickly got the lead from the field, and as we got to the first corner I slowed considerably as it was clear I could let off a little and still be first to the grass.

Everything was going fine.

Then, as I rounded the second corner, no more than 40 or 45 seconds into the race, I caught my wheel in a little divet, and slid out.  Only my second time this season I've hit the dirt.  But, unlike last time, this was to have dire consequences.

Because it was so early in the race, the riders behind me were very close, and going very fast.  As I went down, everything went into slow-motion.

The first rider swore, and just rammed into me.  He slammed into my back and flew over the top of me, his bike twisting and getting caught in mine.  Another rider stopped short but still clipped me (I think) and the others scrambled to get around.

I quickly got to my feet, riders passing on left and right, and ran with my bike.  My back was really hurting.  I also felt like I was in shock, and I was breathing really hard.

I jumped back on the bike and by the time I got my feet into the pedals I was probably in 12-15th place.

It took me at least a lap to even bring myself back to reality.  I was so out of breath, and I felt like there was a giant chunk out of my back.  All I could picture was a big meaty piece of flesh just ripped from my back, bleeding profusely.

But I was relatively fine.  After getting yelled at by Carly for a while, I snapped back to life.  I grit my teeth, and got to work.

After another couple laps, of much swearing by me, I worked my way into 3rd place.  In fact, I was in 3rd place with a solid gap to 4th.  But another rider was moving up.

Once I was past everyone it was clear I was going to catch, I started to sag a bit.  There was a lot of motivation to pass folks in front of me after the crash, but once past them...the effort began to wear on me.

On the 4th lap it was clear the guy in 4th was going to catch me.  After 3/4 of a lap of trying to put attack and stay ahead, I decided to slow up a little and see what would happen if I let him catch me (That is, I had the thought, I can just get a little rest, and then ride his wheel, and out sprint him at the end.  Since it's a non-series race, I might as well try something new?).

So of course, he caught me about 1/4 of the lap through the 2nd to last lap (lap 5).  I did exactly what I said I would.  I jumped on his wheel, and was thinking...damn, this might work!  But, as we crossed a section of gravel, I hit a big rock and I heard the horrible, horrible sound of air escaping from my rear tire.


So, now I'm in trouble.  I'm only a 1/3 of the lap in and I have to make it all the way over to the pit which is all the way back at the start.  I yell to Carly, "TELL DEREK TO GET IN THE PIT I HAVE A FLAT!!!".  Derek was there getting ready for his race.

All I could think, as I watched 3rd place ride away, was "I can't believe this is happening, and my F$%&@#G tire better not roll off the bead".

Everything quickly went downhill from there.  With no rear tire, I slid out at least three times after that.  And, I couldn't get up any speed because I had no traction and was afraid if I hit something hard the tire would come off and I'd have to run.

Well it didn't.  Thank god.  But by the time I got back to the pit, I was in 6th place.  Damn.

I rode into the pit and chucked my bike.  Team manager JR was standing there waiting for it...and I didn't see him!  Oops.

I grabbed my pit bike- my single speed- from Derek and rode out.  Pretty quick.  Nice job guys.

As I rode away, I was pretty mad, and tried my hardest to catch 5th place, but my SS didn't have as good of tires.  And it was tough, being tired, and pushing the gear in some areas.  No spinning on the SS.  But I race on this bike, so not sure why it was so bad this time.  But it felt like my legs were lead and I couldn't put any power down.

And then I slid out 5 times in the first 1/2 of the last lap.  I also caught my bars on the tape of one of the corners and it stopped me dead, and I ripped the tape.

So by the second half of the final lap, I was battling for 7th place.  I attacked through the back side of the course and through the barriers, and had a small gap.  In hindsight, I should have pushed the advantage and attacked through the twisty slalom section.  But I didn't.

So when we hit the pavement with 50 yards left to go, the guy with the gears jumped out next to me and blew by me like I was standing still.  I rolled over the finish line, exhausted and pissed.

Bad race. Yes.

Fun race?  If not for the crash, it would have been fun.  Power course, not a lot of technical stuff.

But there is positive.  Even with all the crap that happened, I still got 7th!  That's pretty amazing given how bad it was going.  And while I got no upgrade points for USA cycling, I did get prize money from the 7 deep pay out.  So I got to buy some chili and some hot cocoa from concession.  The chili was awesome.

I hung around and watched Derek's race, took some video, and spent time hanging around the fire with the team and other racers.  That was the most fun part of the day for sure.

Next weekend: Monster Cross.  So excited.

If you'd like to see some videos from the race, CLICK HERE, and scroll to the bottom of the page.