Sunday brought the first cyclocross race of the season for me, and for the new MFG cyclocross series. I'd been anxiously anticipating this for weeks now, since the last time I'd dabbled my toes in the muddy waters of CX was way back around Christmas 2008.
A couple of friends of mine came along, and G came to be our official race photographer/snack and beverage dispensary. The race was held out at Big Finn Hill Park in Kirkland, which despite being in 'burbs, wasn't nearly as far out of town as many of the local 'cross races seem to be. I'd done some recon on the course the previous Friday, riding the route that the organizers had posted on the web:
It was a really varied course: a little asphalt, a little singletrack through the woods, a little gravel, a hill or two, and a lot of grass. The weather for the day was very un-cyclocross: 75-80 degrees and sunny, with no chance of rain. This was about 180 degrees opposite from the last CX race I tried, back in December, where it snowed, and I spent most of the race not being able to feel my feet and hands.
My steed for the race was the newest addition to my bike stable, a late-90's Waterford X-11. It's good 'ol lugged Reynolds 531, with some new Kore wide-profile cantis, some mis-matched Mavic wheels, and old-school 8sp Dura-Ace brifters:
After watching my buddy Mike race the Masters 35+ Cat 4 race, it was on. The Mens Cat 4 field was way bigger than I had expected it to be, which probably bodes well for the MFG organizers and their new series, but less so for me, since that meant more people to watch out for at the start. About a few hundred feet from the start, the course narrowed, and I got trapped between the edge of the field and a row or traffic cones used to mark the course. I had to slow and let a bunch of people in ahead of me to avoid having anyone tangle with the cones. Luckily, the field spread out pretty quickly after that, as the course went up a little hill, made a sharp U-turn, and then hit a longish fast asphalt section.
Once the field was spread out, and I had a little breathing room, I settled in and began the thought pattern that I'd keep for the rest of the race: catch the guy in front of me. Rather than worry about my position in the race as a whole, or how many minutes were left, I'd just set a goal of catching the rider immediately in front of me, then the rider in front of him, until I couldn't breathe, or until the race ended.
The good thing is, this strategy seemed to be working, as I was passing a fair number of riders, while getting passed by far fewer. After a few laps, I started to feel the burning set into my muscles, and my mouth and throat became dry as a bone. I passed the start line and happened to notice that I still had around 30 minutes to go out of the 40 minute race! Then I remembered how much agony I'd been in at the last 'cross race. Why did I like doing this again?
Here's me neck-and-neck with "Mountain Bike Mike" over the barriers:
This mini-rivalry made the next few laps fly by, which was great, since my body was experiencing rapidly-increasing levels of pain, breathlessness, and general agony. I finally heard the bell, indicating the last lap and knew that if I could just power through this last one, I'd have the rest of the day to kick back and talk about how awesome the race was. I led Mountain Bike Mike all the way around the lap, until he shot past me after the last corner onto the final straightaway. I gotta hand it to him, he shot past me with authority while I was sprinting as fast as my body would allow towards the finish. Damn.
In the end, it wasn't really about my place in the pack, so much as having a good time, and riding as hard as I could for 40 solid minutes. Even so, I'm looking forward to the posting of the official results on the MFG website sometime tomorrow. The unofficial results that were posted after the race showed me in 19th out of 60 or so riders, but the various categories hadn't been seperated out yet. We'll see.
The highlight of the day was definitely my friend Chris winning the reverse prime during our race. He was a good sport about coming up to the announcer's platform to receive his pink princess pillow and matching helmet cover:
As Chris said afterwards, "go big or go home". Indeed.
I'd like to convince some people to put together a relay team for the next MFG event, complete with stupid team costume, since they have a 20-minute relay category. I had my time to race and try hard, and I think it might be nice to bookend the day with a goof-off race where I only worry about style points. We shall see.
All in all, I think the event was a great success, and I have to hand it to the folks at MFG. The turnout was great, and it seemed like everyone was having a good time. I'm definitely going to make as many CX events this season as I can.
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