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It’s time for your weekly installment from our intrepid cx crusaders! Stop #3 of the North Carolina Cyclocross Series brought Thirty Sixth Street Racing’s Birdsong Brewing presented by Common Market Cyclocross Team to The Children’s Home in Winston-Salem.
One of the team’s favorite courses from last year proved to be a fine wine, getting better as the years go by, with this year’s edition featuring a slightly revised layout which incorporated more European-skill sections with American-power slogs. Results are as follows:
Rufio – 6th | Series Standing – 6th
TK Hall – 13th | Series Standing – 18th
Rufio – 9th | Series Standing – 9th
TK Hall – 43nd | Series Standing – 83rd
CX 3 (Masters 35+)
Joey Cross – 15th | Series Standing – 19th
David Crews – DNF | Series Standing – 58th
Mansour Benkeria – 20th | Series Standing – 19th
Devin Clancy – 9th | Series Standing – 12th
WOJTEK: FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH… LITERALLY
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Hello friends and future friends.
Another fun and the first”cold” day at FLCX. And when I say cold, it means it was below 80 degrees at the start, and didn’t quite reach 90 throughout the day. A completely flat, but technical course was laid out. 90% of the turns were torn up grass/sugar sand, which I’m slowly getting better at. Tons of costumes at the course made it a blast. Crosscopter was out flying around, so I’ll post a link to that as soon as it’s up.
My first race was the P1/2/open. Only 10 brave souls lined up, but the state road race championships were taking place just 20 minutes away, robbing us of some competition. FLCX has been campaigning for the last 4 years with USAC and FBRA to force the promoter to move the race to take place earlier in the year and out of one of the most fun CX weekends. Florida road racing is dominated by 2 for profit promoters, and it’s pretty ridiculous, but I’ll get into that some other time. I had a horrible start, and got stuck in last place. It was 3/4 of a lap before i moved up to 9th. On the second lap I passed 8th. On lap 3, I fell into the groove with 2 other guys (one of them was Jeremy Powers!) They were going pretty easy, so I decided to sit in with them a little. Powers fell off our group, and I was sitting on the wheel of the guy in front of me. He would ride the sandpit while I ran and gain time on me in the following technical section, and then I would catch up and get back on his wheel in the straight, power sections. With 3 to go, I tried to ride the pit, and had to bail halfway through and lost tons of time. I guess I gave up and settled for 6th, as the last 3 laps, I was hardly even breathing hard. Lesson 1, pass the guy who’s better at technical shit, and make him ride your wheel through the muck. Lesson 2, 5th place pays money, 6th does not. Don’t give up. The 60 min race felt easier than Cat3. I think this is because the field was really spread out, and it’s easy to get comfortable in your position. Next race, I’ll push myself harder.
Single speed had about twenty something racers. I had a great start, and was in 1st at the first turn. I took it wide, hooked the tape, and proceeded to stretch it completely across the path of my competition. We all had a laugh about that one. I was quickly in 4th of a group of 4 on the first lap. 3rd place made some technical mistakes, so the first two got ahead. I had about a 10-15 second gap to catch lead group (which included a pro mtb racer who was just “having fun” in a pretty stupid awesome costume). I maybe could have caught them, but then I hit the heckling/handup zone. I have a reputation to uphold, so I took every beer and cookie I could get my hands on for the remainder of the race. I knew the guy in 4th would fade, so I settled for 3rd place on the 1st lap.
All in all, it was my easiest race weekend in a long time. I had tons of fun. I got a sweet spookyX medal. I didn’t crash!!! Made more FLCX friends. It’s so small here, and the officials turn a blind eye to all the handups.
RUFIO WILL MOONWALK ALL OVER YOUR KIDS
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The line up for SS was the normal 20 people and the course was fast and dusty … End up sitting in 4/5/6 the hole race and finished 5th!
In the CAT 4/5 race I got to the line with 20 mins to start and all of 70 plus people were there as well. I put my bike on the second row, though, for the hopes of a good start! The start was good with me and ten or so guys pulling off the front within the first half a lap. There was two or three guys that had great start but not strong on the course AKA they blow up! The last two laps on the course there was like 50 little targets or kids on the course because they mix SS with kids. Smart, I know, but it just makes the race that much more slow and fun. I should have dressed like Michael Jackson because maybe the parents would have pulled their kids out of the race and also yelled “I’m right behind you” or “who wants some candy.” But anyway I traded I few spot with a few guys and end up 9th of 73 people.
A good weekend of racing all around and thanks goes out to Birdsong Brewing, Common Market and the 36th Street Racing support team/tent party, complete with cookie logs this week!
DEVIN GIVES MEDIOCRITY A CHEST-BUMP FOLLOWED BY A TOP GUN HIGH FIVE
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Cyclocross racing is defined by periods of high intensity exertion interspersed between sections testing your technical acumen on a bike. Barriers, sand-laden off-camber turns, flowing sweepers that tempt you to grab just a smidge of brake, and brutally punchy climbs which can be placated if you just huck that descent a bit faster are just some of the technical elements you might run into week in and week out. This week’s NCCX race in Winston-Salem featured the most challenging element I’ve ever encountered: The trek to the team tent.
“You see all those tents over there, by the start line, positioned near the port-o-johns and close to the vehicles in which 8-tons of your cross-related gear are waiting to be unloaded? All set up by suckers. What a terrible vantage point of the course they have! No, I’ve got a better spot in mind…,” thought Rufio and Mansour. In much the same way Alaska was settled because, ‘Would you look at that view of Russia we have and it’s totally conveniently placed with respect to the worldly-hub that is St. Lawrence Island!,’ the aforementioned parties positioned the team EZ-up near the barriers. Problem being, getting to the barriers required one to cross the course approximately 17 times, negotiate an ankle-twisting downhill, scale the Aggro Crag, and wade the Styx and Acheron rivers into the land of the dead where one would find our team tent complete with its fantastic vantage point. Crews looked like he had aged considerably after one trip and only had four to go.
Setup intervals aside, the course at Winston-Salem was one of my favorites from last year, and although changed for this year’s edition, it was even better. Featuring a hearty combination of skill elements which peg your heart rate because you are praying you don’t crash by taking that turn just a smidge faster and power elements which ensure it never drops below bursting-from-your-chest BPM, the 2013 course was solid. What was not solid was my gelatinous kneecap which I had deftly negotiated a pedal into with considerable force just two days prior. Some would call it a crash. I would refer to it as business-as-usual this year. It was movement constricting enough that I didn’t actually register to race until 30 minutes before the start. I had to make sure that I could successfully emulate the motion of an elderly person getting out of a wheel chair in order to stand up to sprint.
I could, as it turns out, do that well enough that it was game on to race on. Employing this elderly technique, I successfully went from a 2nd row start to the back of the pack by the first corner, which is pretty much how it would have gone with a healthy knee anyway since accelerating at the rate of gravity is totally in my wheelhouse… probably why I’m so good at falling. The race went decently enough with my only goal to ride steadily-hard and finish without incident; place-be-damned I was setting my own pace and trying to put together a complete race. This technique works well for mid-pack finishes, as I crossed the line in 9th/22 , and pleased with my effort and ability to keep the blood inside my body this week.
See, in cross, it’s easy to go really hard, which ends in only two ways: really good or really, really bad. If you’ve developed the skill of keeping your wits about you when negotiating technical terrain with your heart rate pegged, it’s going to wind up good. You’re going to wind up dry heaving as you cross the line, leaving all your energy out there on the course. If you don’t have the skillset, though, you’re going to be leaving body parts out there, as I’ve come to find out rather painfully this season. So, choosing the less sexy, steady-Eddie technique, I was able to pick off riders who had gone out too hard and paid the price. Most hadn’t crashed and had toned it down before they did, which is where my plan pays off. Unfortunately, it’s not a plan that sees the front of a race very often unless you have a hell of a motor, but it is a plan that I’m comfortable with and hope will lead to improvements week in and week out.
Real talk: This cross season has been a difficult one, so far, in that coming into it, I felt like I had already raced the season. Fatigue, low-motivation, poor sleep, too many hard days, not enough easy days, etc. all point towards being a cycling moron. Non-stop racing this year has definitely taken its toll, and I’m hoping a change in protocol (read: TAKING IT EASY) will bring things a bit back in balance because cross is too damn fun not to be excited about. The group we have this year is stellar both on and off the bike, and I’m looking forward to tackling the rest of the season with you all, enjoying every pedal stroke, every no-bake cookie, every bubbly brew and/or Hot Toddy, every awkwardly positioned tent, every post-race pontification party, and every memory we’ll share. Time to clear the barriers and execute a David Crews sexual chocolate remount (seriously, the man hops on a moving bike really, really well).
GEORGE WEIGHS IN FROM THE SIDELINES
While George is out on the DL, check out his latest musings on Ride Rock Hill
JOSEPH CROSS IS VERY SPECIAL (BLESS HIS HEART)
Blast-from-the-Past Bonus Report from NCCX#1/2:
image via CatUp.com
A new season of NCCX has dawned! Time to race. With my move to the 3s I had one goal for this season: try to get in one top ten finish. Then I saw they created a Masters 35+ CX3. That would be my race! But what would be my goal? A top ten in Masters 3 35+ might be totally obtainable without all those hot young hunks in there mucking up my placings with their 300 wattage for 20 minute threshold tests and their super tight asses that look great in spandex and probably in jeans too and look nothing like my flat anti-ass. I decided my goal would be to try to finish as close to BC Roberts as possible. He was by far the most dominate Masters 4 last year. He won all the races he entered with the exception of one and that was only because a Cat 2 roadie showed up. I got within a few seconds of him by the end of the last season. So yes, BC Roberts, I have you in my cross (haha! Get it!??) hairs. Plus he’s just a nice dude and really hilarious and fun to race with.
Saturday – Charlotte:
I hate sand. Plain and simple. I gots no power and when I hit a deep section it slows me WAY down. The line up for this race was pure chaos. There were three races going off in succession – Masters Elite 35 +(Cat 1 and 2), regular Cat 3s, and the Masters 35+ Cat 3 (me!). The race director came down to sort us out: Elite 35+ would start first, then regular Cat 3 and then my race. When we were finally staged I was in the third row of my race behind Slowy Jenkins and I Can’t Get Clipped In McGillicutty. Boo!
My start was terrible but, while still on the pavement, I managed to find a wheel that looked promising. Some guy from Asheville that had done quite well in one of the Masters races I watched up earlier this year. I hung on his wheel as we made our way off the pavement and onto the grass. The run up was a cluster fuck and I lost his wheel and then found myself behind a couple of slower guys. I could see that the group of BC Roberts, Chris Sugar and Andrew Stackhouse were pulling away up the road. I couldn’t get around these guys until we went up that curving hill into the finish line. I sprinted by them and went like mad to try to catch up. My target group wasn’t too far ahead as I came into the sand pit.
Unfortunately, coming into the pit, I had to brake as two guys slowed up for the sand instead of hitting it hard. This resulted in me going into the sand and running up on the back wheel of one of these guys and having to veer right into the middle of the pit – where there were no wheels track and it was deep. I came to a stop and started to fall over and got my foot out just in time and had to run with my bike. Unfortunately, I got off my bike on the wrong side and had to switch sides to get back on. I was now way behind. I decided to ride as hard as possible and see who I could catch, but on the second lap, as I came into the real bumpy section at the bottom of the course that leads to the big drop right before the run up, I saw BC and his group going up the run up. I was out of it. Mercifully one of the gods (probably Zeus) threw a magic missile and did 2d6 damage to my rear tube and I flatted. I rode the flat to the bottom of the run up, hopped off and walked up the hill slowly knowing I had no pit gear and I was done. Some drunk hipster yelled “It’s called a run up not a walk up”. I hopped the tape, threw my bike on the ground and grabbed him by the collar and yanked his face into mine and said “I have f**king cancer motherf**ker! I’m lucky I was able to even ride two laps out here! That’s why I’m walking!”. Not really, but I’m sure that’s what Lance would‘ve done. I went to the tent and sat down and enjoyed the endorphin rush that 15 minutes of all out effort gives you.
Sunday – Raleigh:
I stayed in a hotel in Raleigh Saturday night so I wouldn’t have to get up early and drive. I think every child in the state was also staying there and had been given free reign to run about past their bed times. I woke up early and went to fix my rear
flat in the parking lot. I only had road tubes, however, so I was praying it would hold up. I also decided against running low pressures – I was going to pump those babies to 55 and leave them. Bumpity bump let’s see what happens.
So I set three goals for this race: 1. Finish! 2. Ride the run up every time 3. There’s a certain guy that I see at all the races who is a 3 and he’s always right in the middle of the pack of every race. I won’t name names and I don’t know him and don’t think any of us do, but I wanted to beat him. If I could beat him then I figured I’d finish in the top half of the race field.
I had a much better idea of the line up for this race (same thing as the day before with the Elites first, regular 3s and then us) so I searched out Andrew Stackhouse and tried to be near him – he was top ten the day before. The race director did call ups but only a few of the top ten from the previous day were actually there so it turned out I had a front row start. It looked like we had about 30 in our race. The first two groups went off and then we were sitting on the line waiting with anticipation. I felt pretty calm – but I thought Judy would give us a “you have ten seconds”. Instead she just blew the whistle. I wasn’t anticipating it but I hopped right up and got clipped in immediately and had a fantastic start. We sprinted on the pavement to that first lefthand turn and there was almost a crash going around the turn. Two dudes got together ride beside me and bounced off each other. I was all like “y’all be careful! Nobody needs to wreck today”.
When I get scared I start talking outloud and I can actually hear myself and I think “Dude, you sound stupid. Shut up.” I gave it all I could to make it into the shoot they had set up that took us into the woods. As I was going in it looked like maybe 9 or 10 guys were in front of me so I was like “hells yeah, I be jamming” (I said that in my head). In fact BC was right in front of
me. He’s very thin like me and does not have a nice ass. I negotiated that single track section through the pine needles quite well and as we came out on the second pavement section I blasted by a couple guys and made it onto the grass. I was sitting in nicely. But on the bottom section of the course – that gravel road area and then that really fast section that went through the grassy field and around that tree – I started to lose some ground to the leaders. Then there was the hard section where you start to go back uphill and work your way up and around the course, over the barriers and up the run up. I didn’t fall too far back the first two laps but the leaders slowly got away. I was making it up the run up every time and feeling pretty good about it. Eventually two dudes passed me. And then another and I couldn’t keep them in sight.
With four laps to go (which made me go, “Four laps! Last year my whole race was three laps!”) I looked back and saw Mr. Middle of the Pack coming up on me with another guy in tow. I was like “Shit! I want to beat this guy. I set that as a goal for this race and if you don’t at least try to accomplish goals then what’s the point in living?”. I couldn’t commit suicide at the age of 41. I still have so much to give. They were a ways back for a while but kept getting closer. One time, after the run up, I was winding through that 180 part and he and the guy in tow were only a straight away away from me. I told myself “stay under control, don’t crash or bobble and sprint every time you go through the start finish”. So I did just that. He probably got to within 20 feet of me with his companion in tow, but with two to go, I gave it all I had through the start finish and almost got the dry heaves. As I was going off the pavement into the woods I looked back and I had put a considerable gap on them and I never saw them again.
The last lap I rode hard but safely to the finish. BC was waiting for me and said he wasn’t sure where he finished but maybe top ten. Turned out he was 6th and I got 12th. I was happy with it. I had accomplished all three goals for the race and had not wimped out. Now I needed a Chuck’s Burger and to get jilted by Devin. Both of which were accomplished as well.
Disappointing about Charlotte but looking back on last year, Charlotte and Raleigh were my worst two races. And I have my carbon bike coming this week so I’ll have pit gear for the rest of the races. On to Winston!
image via CatUp.com