Sunday, November 3, 2013

'Cross season is finally here.  Although it is the third race in the 2013 ABRA cyclocross series, Marilla Cross felt like the true start of cyclocross season in WV.   The first two races were unusually warm and dry for cross races.  In fact, they were warmer and drier than any of the mountain bike races from May through August this year.  On the other hand, the weather during the week leading up to the cross race at Marilla Park in Morgantown was actually cold and wet with a few snow showers.  Although this is only my third season racing cyclocross, I've been able to gather from other racers that these are the conditions that they look forward too.

On the day of the race, I woke to temps in the upper 20's and a heavy frost.  With a heavy baselayer, warm gloves, and winter riding shoes with longer toe spikes packed, I was prepared for the worst conditions, and the typical conditions seen at Marilla park cyclocross races.  Surprisingly though, the temps warmed into the 50's by the start of the Master's race and much drier trail/course conditions than I   had apparently prepared to ride.  

Marilla park has always been one of the more challenging courses due the bump-filled trails, a steep run-up, the gravel pit with barriers, and the acorns.   But, for the first time ever I had loaded a second "pit" bike.  And it was a good thing that I had.   After a fairly good call-up position, I was able to get into the woods and past the bottle-neck unscathed.  Pushing hard to keep up with the 10 or so riders in front was hard enough without my chain jumping from one cog to the next every time I shifted.    I realized within the first lap that I wasn't pedaling as hard as I normally would, fearing I would break a chain.   Those that I typically raced near--Chris H., Betsy S., and Danny W.--were pulling further and further ahead.  So I swung into the pit area after a lap and a half to switch bikes with the help of a good hand-off from teammate Shawn.  Now it was time to catch up and regain a few positions in the field.

My Cannondale Caffeine F29 was the pit bike of choice today...mainly because it was the only other suitable bike that I have.  The 29er was quickly proving to be the right choice.  Front suspension, 2.2 tubeless tires, and disc brakes instilled confidence on the rough course ahead.    I began passing racers
in the field...Chris, Danny, and a few others.  Zipping through turns appeared much easier with less to no braking than I would typically do with my Cannondale CAAD8 cross bike.   The mountain bike would simply flow over the roots in the upper portion of the course and eat up the steep downhill and gravely sections.  

Although I was loving the feel of the mountain bike on the cross course, I was beginning to feel the leg fatigue of pushing the heavier bike with greater rolling resistance several laps later.  I was still holding my field position, but barely.  Just before the final lap, Chris would overtake my lead.  "Not a problem" I thought, "I still have more than a mile to get this back".    Surely with the bike I had, I could regain and drop him on the last straight by rolling through the roots easier and faster than he could.  However, he began pulling away after a faster transition back to the bike at the top of the run-up.    With every twist and turn of the course, he seemed to be a little bit farther into the lead.   My motivation was there.  The legs, on the other hand, were not.  They had just become to worn out to maintain the level of acceleration that they had during the first half of the race.  Another 10th place finish was in the books.

Thanks to Gary Rodosta and Mark Glass for another great race.
Thanks to JR for a great fall race series to keep me on the bike.
Thanks to PathfinderWV for keeping my bike ready to roll.
Thanks to ProGold for keeping the bike clean.