Sunday, October 3, 2010

Six Mile Lake Cyclocross

I had originally talked to my friend Andrew about going out of town over this weekend to do some climbing, but after much deliberation we set our sights on a day trip to Index on Saturday instead. This plan had the added bonus that it would allow me to do my second cyclocross race on my new bike on Sunday, at the Six Mile Lake venue of the Seattle MFG Cyclocross series.

Climbing at Index on Saturday was fun, we headed up to the Upper Town Wall and started on a 4 pitch 5.11b called Heaven's Gate which was super fun. The first pitch was rated 5.10c on gear and felt like the hardest pitch of the climb (happily for me Andrew took the sharp end on this pitch), then the rest were sport pitches at 5.11a, 5.10+, and 5.11b. I led the two 5.11 pitches but they were not too hard and really well bolted so I didn't have any problems. After rappeling off I was feeling pretty tired but Andrew was just getting started so we headed over to another climb called Tempistuous, which was a 3 pitch 5.12a. I agreed to do it under the conditions that Andrew lead everything and then winch me up after him on top rope. The first pitch was supposed to be 5.10c, though it seemed like a hold must have broken since it felt way harder, and this was followed by a pitch of 5.11b and then 5.12a. The climbing was hard but really good, so I was happy that Andrew was so highly motivated. By the time we got down the sun was just setting, so we had the pleasure of doing the walk out in the dark as neither of us had brought a headlamp.

The next day I spent the morning prepping my cyclocross bike so that I would avoid the mechanical problems that had plagued me at Starcrossed, and I had also since reglued the rear tubular. Roanne had graciously assented to make one of her rare appearances as my support crew/fan club, so we loaded up the car and headed out for my 1pm race. After arriving at the venue I got kitted up and rode a few warm-up laps before circling back to the car for a photo op before heading over to the start line.

Check out the bike! So awesome! The Cat. 1/2 field was pretty small with only about 15 riders, with a nice wide start zone so everyone had a front row start. The gun fired and we were off; unfortunately I had a pretty bad start and was one of the last riders out of the first turn I spent the first half lap working my way up until I was chasing about 20 meters behind the lead group. I hung there for a while, but couldn't quite muster the turbo to close down the gap and tag onto the back of the group. Here I am chasing with another rider who had stopped for a bike change and eventually rode clear of me to join the leaders and finish second (I like to think that he couldn't have done it without my domestique duties):

Eventually the elastic broke and the gap began to grow, and I soldiered on in the no-mans land between the leaders and the rest of the also-rans:

After about 15 minutes of riding solo I was joined by Alex, my old nemesis from back in 2005 when we were battling for the Seattle Cyclocross Series title in the Cat. 3 field. Alex and I were able to push each other a bit, with me being faster through the corners and technical sections but struggling to hold his wheel on the flats where I was quite clearly out gunned. Here is a shot of me leading him over the barriers:

As the title of this post implies, the race was held in a park that contained a lake, so there was a nice sand section along the water. I love sand sections on the cyclocross courses, since it either means that the more technically adept riders can make up some time by riding it where others are forced to run it (which usually works in my favour since my bike handling abilities outweigh my power), or it means everyone has to run it which also works in my favour since however meager my running abilities are, they seem to be above average among cyclists (maybe something to do with my long spider legs). Here is a shot of us passing through the sand section, in this case it was pretty easy to ride but you could still lose time if you picked a bad line or didn't keep the bars steady:

After a while it became clear that try as we might, there was no way we were pulling back the riders in front of us, but we began to start lapping some of the Masters 1/2 riders that had started behind us, so however weak that is as an accomplishment, it still made the racing more interesting and gave us some added motivation. Here we are picking off a few of these riders:

Notice how I am cooly adjusting my glasses as I move to the front of the group. If you can't be strong you might as well be stylish! Alex and I were battling it out for 5th and 6th position, and since the course ended with a bunch of straight sections where we was stronger I didn't feel particularly optimistic about my chances, and sure enough he turned on his jets and rode away from me about 4 corners from the finish and I wasn't able to pull him back to even pretend that I was contesting a sprint. Oh well! It was still a great race and reminded me why I love cross so much (because it is so stinkin' fun). After cooling down for a lap I tracked down my attractive one-member fan club and we enjoyed a delicious grill cheese sandwich before packing it in and going back to headquarters.

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