Monday, October 12, 2009

How to lose a cross race (HYATTSVILLE CX 2009)

First let me say Big Ups to the city of Hyattsville, Arrow Bicycles, and the cross leads at Route 1 Velo/Arrow Bikes (Bill, Scott, and Ryan) for organizing and putting on a great race this past Sunday.  I had a blast, everyone I talked to had a blast, and I think people are going to come back next year with friends...really looking forward to it.

Now on to the race.  I did the 3/4 (Killer "B"s) race and it started out for me a lot like the 4 race at Charm City...bad start, and the first two laps working my way up from the back third of the pack.  I was a little worried about how the race would unfold since I hadn't spent much time on the bike in the past month.  Work, old house stuff, and other daily commitments had really put a damper on my hobby...which is fine, but frustrating at times as biking is my outlet to release a lot of the stress from the 9 to 5 (or more like 8:20 to 6:35 this past month).  Esmonde and I eventually found us in a strong group of 6 that was being driven by Tim Brown from the Bike Rack.  He was really hauling on the straights and putting the hurt on everyone, but we seemed to be able to hang together due to the technical aspect of the course (always turning it seemed with some sections that really slowed the group down considerably).  With about 3 to go I was sitting 5th wondering how I was going to move up and if I was going to have any pop at the end to make a surge to pass four guys (which I don't think ever happens in cross races...or at least from what I've seen so far).  

There were two spots where I came into some luck with 2 to go to move up.  After coming through with 2 laps showing and right before the barriers, we were grouped together pretty good so I tried to hold my speed right up until the barriers instead of checking early to get ready to dismount.  It worked as I moved up two spots on the barriers and the subsequent re-mount.  Now I was sitting second with Tim in front of me again (I spent two laps earlier in second trying to hold his wheel on the straights and following his lines through the turns) as we headed into the spiral (what a cool feature for a race).  On the exit of the spiral, Tim bobbled enough (may have caught some tape too) to let off the gas and let me through...so I passed, and took the lead with 1.5 laps to go.  Here is where the mistake was made and the race was lost.  I pushed the pace (or at least as much as I could push) through the bell lap and started to try to figure out how I could win.  The problem here was that I was trying to think how to win from the first position as opposed to realizing that I might have had a better shot if I had let Tim take the lead back and then try to make my "winning" move on one of the last several turns towards the finish.  As it turned out, with three turns to go (right before crossing the softball field), Tim made his winning move and surged by me at speed.  He passed me on the inside going into the right hander leading to the pavement.  My only hope at this point was to try to take the same turn on the inside of him as he was carrying enough speed that it would leave him wide going out of the turn.  It sorta worked as I was able to cut the gap to him by a wheel or two and we came out of the last turn with him in front by half a wheel.  The sprint was full on at this point and I ended up second.  As sprinting goes, I think I need more of that 400 meter run-in before the line as opposed to the 50 meters or so from Sunday (sprinting against a guy that sprints slower than I do would have helped too).

Anyway, second isn't bad for an "old" man (I was giving Tim 9 years!!).  I think Tim is a good guy and an excellent bike racer, so as much as I was disappointed with not winning, I was happy for him to get his win.  Some things I'm taking away from the race though:

  1. Carrying speed through the barriers is a good thing.  I think cross racing is like the car racing mantra about "he who brakes last, exits first" or something along those lines.
  2. I need to practice the re-mount and clipping back into my pedals.  I spent a lot of time fighting to get back into my pedals while trying to keep the pressure on during the last two laps.
  3. I need to practice riding through sand. Not a skill I have.
  4. More interval workouts.
  5. Don't lead out the last lap...
Anyway, DCCX is next on the list...looking forward to it.

Cheers.

4 comments:

Bill said...

Great race, Jesse. I think you are spot on with your approach to the barriers. This is one of the rare areas in bike racing in which height is an advantage. I can usually pick up a spot or two every time I dismount.

Ryan Douglas said...

Jesse, I was hanging on every word until you said 3rd corner before the finish. That was the winning move and Tim's instinct was correct. I too lost a place at that corner as I was in the lead.

We both made the same mistake though slightly different in place. I made the mistake leading in to the corner, for safety reasons (17th place is not that big of a deal or worth getting tangled up for).

However, you had the opportunity to "open the door" on Tim as he came around you wide in the corner. Think NASCAR when you are out there. Get big, take up lines, force your opponent to work around you. When you see a rider coming in to that corner wide and hot, extend your turn from tight to wide. This forces the rider to have to move from outside (pinched against the tape) to the inside of you to make the pass. By then you can already be setting up for the next corner. He may have gotten you in the sprint, but you would have been in the lead going into the sprint.

In cross, this is not dirty racing, it is smart racing. Tricks that can be learned from motorcross racing. Nice work nonetheless.

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