Friday, October 23, 2009

Mad Anthony and The Grinder

Considering it's almost the weekend, I feel kinda foolish finally posting something about last weekend's racing. Given the caliber of these events, I figured I should at least give them their due.

Better late than never.

Let's start with last Saturday's Race:

The race took place on the grounds of historic Fort Wayne, a fort constructed in the 1800's to defend against the British invading from Canada. Last Saturday saw an invasion of another kind, when scores of cyclocrossers stormed the steep run-ups of this twisted race course.

Twisted, it definitely was. The start consisted of a 100 meter straight followed by a sweeping left turn into what can best be described as a grass wall. This thing was steep, I had a bit of trouble riding up it during my practice laps. Once at the summit of the grass wall, it was a 180 degree turn right back down... What followed was a series of chicanes, 180 degree bends and straight-aways that offered absolutely no quarter whatsoever. Then there was a two-track "road" around the outside walls of the fort. This dirt was packed down really well so you could really get some speed, the only problem being the razor sharp pieces of brick and foundation sticking up from the ground. Hit one of these and your tire was toast. I think a lot of racers learned this the hard way. The course then took a turn and it was into a really dark tunnel through the actual fort walls. Really cool. A lot of the photogs were lurking in the shadows to get a unique shot or two of the action. Exit the tunnel and it was up a cobblestone street to the top of a steep embankment and then right down it. This descent was a bit steep, I'm a bit embarrassed to say, on my first practice lap, I went right through the tape trying to negotiate the drop off... Next, a turn into a set of barriers and right back up the same hill we just went down. A few twists and turns later and it was back to the start/finish.

The course was great fun and the venue was very unique. The start even featured a guy dressed in civil war garb that signaled the start by firing a musket. I also managed to get 7th place, which happened to be my first top ten of the year!

Saturday took a lot out of me but I had another race to do on Sunday.

Sunday's Race:
This was the Lower Huron course in Belleville, MI. This is a local favorite due to the variety of terrain and a nasty run-up affectionately referred to as "The Grinder". This was your more typical Michigan 'cross race, with a sand pit, 3 sets of barriers, and the aforementioned run-up, all taking place in a Metro Park. The race went ok, even though my legs didn't feel quite 100%, I ended up coming in 9th.

I'm not complaining. I'm making progress, and my goal this year was to finish the majority of my races in the top 10 in the "B" category. Well, that's 2 out of 5 so far. I had a bit of a bumpy start, but I think I'm finally back on track and riding where I want to be.

NOTE: To those of you keeping tabs, I rode the Challenge Latex tubes both days and have a few observations to report:
  1. They are light and seem to allow for much quicker spin-up
  2. Watch the tire pressure - they have a harder "feel" than what the actual pressure is. I recommend having a good pressure gauge to double check
  3. There was a few times during the races this weekend where it almost felt like I had a flat. I didn't, but it felt a little wishy-washy
  4. My friend Steve was running the same tubes, he pinched a bit of the tube between his rim and sidewall. The tube failed pretty catastrophically on his first lap. The latex is really flexible, it's very easy for it to get trapped between the tire and the rim when your mounting them.
  5. Make sure you use powder in your tires when you mount them, it keeps the latex from sticking to the inside of your tire.
  6. I'm a fan (at least until I flat during a race), they have some drawbacks but I think the light weight and the better acceleration make up for it.

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