...this is the kind of stuff I'd post on it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cyclocross 2009: Rad Racing GP

Last Sunday was the second event in the new MFG cyclocross series, the Rad Racing GP.  The race was held at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood (SE of Tacoma, for those like me who didn't know where it was).  The park itself is a regular fixture on the Seattle Cyclocross series, and many of the racers I chatted with before the race had ridden it before.  To use a little bit of "foreshadowing", I give you this description of part of the course, from the Rad Racing GP site:

"Rounding out the course-features is the Legendary "Kona Knapp-Time Run Up", 80 meters of the most thigh burning, lung searing, longest and steepest run up in the country. This feature is what Steilacoom is known for and in 2009 it won't disappoint. Love it or hate it, you have to race it at least once."

I've got some pictures like this of said run-up later in the post, but seriously, they don't do it justice.

Due to some unfortunate auto trouble on the way down to the park, I didn't have time before my race to check out the course or do any practice laps.  I'm lucky I was even able to limp my stupid car into the parking lot at all, so I was thankful to even be at the race in time to get my number pinned on.  After milling around in the staging area, chatting with some of the other racers, the race official showed up to stage us for the race.  The first couple rows were supposed to be the top 16 riders in the MFG standings, followed by the rest of us.  Since I was sitting in 18th, I was surprised to get the call-up to start in the front row.  Apparently, many of the people in front of me in the MFG standings weren't at this race.  And who should I find myself sitting right next to, but the now familiar Mountain Bike Mike.  I have a feeling it's going to be like this all season...

I was excited to be starting in the front, since during the last race, I'd spent the majority of my time passing riders that had started in front of me.  As soon as the starting gun went off (yeah, they actually used a gun!), I sprinted out to get in front of the pack.  For a brief moment, and I do mean brief, I was sitting in first place in an actual cyclocross race!

From there, it was all downhill, and I'm not talking about topography.  After staying in first place through the long straightaway, and the first corner, I began to get passed.  And passed again, and passed again.  This continued throughout the race, to my dismay.  I tried to think about what I could be:
  • Was it residual effects from all the beers I'd had over the weekend?
  • Were my brakes rubbing?
  • Was I getting a flat?
  • Was the competition full of total sandbaggers?
At any rate, the majority of the course was incredibly fun, consisting of some flat grass sections, some non-technical singletrack, a fast downhill section, a trip near the edge of a lake, and a long asphalt straightaway to the finish:

The rest of the course consisted of the aforementioned gigantic run-up.

This. thing. was. MASSIVE.  Since I'd never gotten my practice laps, I'd never even seen the thing.  It was freaking ridiculous.  I'm pretty sure that most people weren't even able to actually run the entire run-up after the first 2 laps.  It turned into more of a "stumble-up".  Luckily there was a little downhill singletrack immediately after where you could kind-of catch your breath.

Here's the run-up:

From the bottom.

 From the top.

It was a fast course overall, and for some reason, this race was only 30 minutes instead of 40.  That worked out to 4 laps, which meant 4 trips up the soul-crushing hill.  Even though it went quickly, I still had time to ask myself the perpetual CX question: "Why do I like doing this again?"

I did get a shout-out from one of the race announcers as I crossed the start/finish on my 3rd lap.  He said something to the effect of "look at this guy, on the sweet Waterford".  I'm glad he could appreciate some nice USA-made lugged steel.  I'd converted the Waterford to a 1x8 setup, and taken some slack out of the chain, and it performed perfectly the entire race.

When it was all said and done, I ended up in 21st, out of something like 40 finishers, with maybe 10 more DNFs.  Not bad.  I just couldn't figure out why I spent the race getting passed, instead of passing, like before.  I think at the end of the day though, I should proably just take a tip from Phil's South Side Cyclery:

"Ride more & worry less!"  True story.


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