After trying out my first big cyclocross race in Gloucester last weekend, I was pretty pumped for the mid-week event known as “The Night Weasels Cometh,” organized by my team manager, Colin Reuter. While I hadn’t exactly stormed the podium at Gloucester, I was hoping that a better start position might give me a better shot at a respectable (not embarrassing) result.
I drove the three hours to the race yesterday afternoon—accompanied partway by former Colby skier Alex Jospe—arrived with enough time to warm up, and got on my bike. The course was challenging, and very wet. For some reason, I guess Colin thought it would be funny to dump a whole bunch of junk in everyone’s way: a big metal pipe, stairs, and barriers. I think in the cyclocross world, these are known as “obstacles,” but to me, they are just “sh— that slows you down.”
As I was pre-riding the course, a guy in an orange jersey passed me and gave me a funny look. He turns around and goes:
“Woah, that’s an interesting set-up, are you running center pull on that or something or what?”
I had no idea what he was talking about. I was pretty sure he was referring to my brakes, which were altogether of the normal and entry-level variety—not any kind of special weenie-cyclist set-up or anything.
“Uh….yeah, yeah—center pull, yeah.”
The dude keeps riding along, and he’s riding faster than me so he’s pulling away, but he keeps asking me questions.
“Really? So are you running the disc pads on those?”
Again, no idea.
“Oh yeah, yeah—running the disc pads.”
The guy keeps mumbling to me, or just himself, as he pedals out of earshot. It was a very strange encounter.
In Gloucester, I’d been slotted two-thirds of the way back in the 125-person field, which made it very difficult to move all the way up to the front—especially given my general cyclocross inexperience and inability to drive my bike around corners proficiently. For this race, I had been blessed with the relatively 25th position, out of something like 75. For the record, I was racing Cat. 4, which means, for all intents and purposes, that I suck: it’s the lowest level of cyclocross racing, which categorizes riders according to speed/skill level so that the sketchy dudes with hairy legs don’t screw up the skinny guys with shaved legs.
The race started, and I felt okay for about three minutes. Then things started going downhill. First of all, this race was being held in a relatively compact area at an alpine ski hill, which meant that, aside from there being sweet snow guns hanging out, that I could hear everything the announcer was saying. Which, two laps in, consisted of this:
“Wow, what an impressive performance! Here comes Peter Goguen for his second lap in first place, who’s only fourteen years old!”
Bear in mind that at this point, I am not even close to coming around for my third lap—I’m still up near the course’s high point. And I’m hurting, a lot.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this race is being led by a fourteen-year-old!”
Later: “We’re more than halfway through the men’s Cat. 4 race here, and on a Wednesday night, I bet all these riders are looking forward to finishing and cracking open a cold one. Except for our leader, of course: 14-year-old Peter Goguen! His dad will have to have two for him!”
Keep. Rubbing. It in.
More from the announcer: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Category 4 men’s race—this is entry-level bike racing right here! That’s what the sport is all about. And you don’t even need to be fit to do it, because the races are so short!”
–I’m cresting the top of a hill and starting to come down one of the twisty, muddy descents. There’s a guy behind me. As soon as we pick up speed, I hear, “NO BRAKES!!!” and the guy immediately takes out my rear wheel, leaving both of us on the ground in the mud.
–Riding a mountain bike in a cyclocross race is like taking classic skis to a skate race. Not that I have anything against guys that are doing it—it’s great to have people trying out the sport and not worried about equipment—but they sure as hell shouldn’t be beating me. Except they are. One dude on a mountain bike totally smoked me (although, to be fair, it sounds like he may have been a pro mountain biker), and another forced me to do battle with him for an embarrassing amount of time before I finally dropped him. By a few seconds.
–Since Colin is my team manager, I was volunteering at the race. The day of the race, Colin sent out a volunteer schedule with a note that included the phrase “Lemme know if I accidentally scheduled you during your race or something.” (Along with the phrase, “if you want to help other than your designated time, you can try to find me, Linnea or Chip, or you can just scream obscenities at people racing in the rain. Not even joking, that is helpful.”) I was scheduled to do registration from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. My race was at 5:30 and lasted for 40 minutes, which I guess I thought for some reason meant that I would have plenty of time…
So I’m racing along, somewhere out on the course, and I hear the announcer saying my name. Sweet! That must mean I’m doing well! Except I’m not, and I’m nowhere near the announcer, so he must be getting someone’s name wrong. Then, as I ride closer to the PA system, I can hear him a little better.
“Nat Herz! We need you to report to registration immediately! We’re looking for Nat Herz! You need to get to the registration table as soon as possible—the ladies are getting antsy!”
Well, of course the ladies are getting antsy. (They wanted to get ready for their own race…) And my race is going so poorly that I even contemplate dropping out for a second, because the announcer really does sound pretty concerned. But I don’t—I just laugh.
So, thus ended my racing experience for that day. It sucked. Fortunately, there are less than 24 hours until my next one (which, for the record, will be my fourth race in seven days): the Climb to the Castle. As such, there are some important questions to be answered:
–Fast rollerskis? Slow rollerskis?
–Smack talk? (I don’t see anyone from the SkiTrax elite team on the start list, though, so that only leaves one option: Ollie Burruss, prepare to get dominated.)
–Stakes for the FasterSkier challenge? Ice cream? If I win, I get to be editor-in-chief for the winter (enough with this associate crap…)? Unlimited baked goods from the farm? And what if I lose (which, given every single interval workout this summer, is more likely to happen)? Any ideas?
I leave you all with the first video interview of the year. More after tomorrow’s race…
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/bpWDWd0yA5c" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]