Sunday, January 25, 2009

Southern Cross Race Report

First cross race is in the books. This was not your typical CX course, but rather two laps of a fantastic, technical cross course with 36 miles of gravel roads sandwiched in between. The gravel grinding section included a 12 mile climb.

While the weather was warm (50 degrees) and dry at my house when I left, by the time I arrived at Mulberry Gap, the temperature had dropped 10 degrees and it was raining. Pretty much par for this time of year. It did not bother me much, other than the fact that I did not get to warm-up.

90% of the racers were on cross bikes. Uh, oh! Not having a cross bike, I brought Indy. With all the freeze/thaw and rains, the gravel roads were extremely soft and muddy. Having never ridden a cross bike, I thought I might have an advantage. Duh!

During the pre-race meeting, Eddie informed us that there was a 7 mile paved section as well. Well, crap! I knew that was going to hurt.

I started out fast, as I wanted to be on the train once it hit the pavement. I definitely had the advantage on the descents and passed quite a few initially. I had put on a Planet Bike mud fender to try to keep the mud off my glasses. That was a waste of money as within the first 5 minutes I had to shed my glasses in order to see.

I was up with the lead group ... until the paved section. I popped off pretty quick. My 26 inch fat tires were just no match for the cross tires. I managed to hop on another train, not moving quite as fast and was able to hang with them for a few miles. I knew if I continued at there pace, I would blow early, so I let go and rode within myself.

It was a little frustrating seein the first place woman head off with the lead train, but I knew there was a loooong, steep climb to come and was hoping I could reel her back in. The Mill Creek climb was gradual (5-7%) and the crossers still had the advantage. I just played it smart and slowly reeled a few back in.

At the halfway point (junction of 630 and 17) I traded out CamelBaks and began the steep climb up to Potato Patch. With a grade of 12-17%, I passed a lot of crossers who were walking. Here I had an advantage as I had the better gear ratio. Hats off to Thad, who made the whole climb on his 26 inch singlespeed!

On the climb to Potato Patch, there was a bit of ice, but luckily the rains had melted most of it. Eddie had said that the day before it was a solid sheet of ice and impassable. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of 1st place, but no such luck.

I think I made up a little time on the 7 mile descent off Potato Patch. I pushed it a bit, but did not cook any of the corners. There were several cars on the course and I did not want to become a hood emblem. What were these people thinking, driving through the slush and mud! Times like these I think these roads need to be closed to vehicular traffic to save the roads from being completely trashed.

Once I hit the last few miles of rollers back to Mulberry Gap, I caught up with Farmer G and rode with him. He was not feeling the love, but we helped to drag each other to the finish. We passed the Applegates on their tandem amd Andy said (as I passed them) that he was "girled." I begged to differ as they definitely had the unfair advantage. I would have died pedalling that bike up the 12 mile climb!

Once I hit the CX course, I was back in my realm! The first part was a supersteep hike a bike straight up a ridge and it went on forever. It was TransRockies debris torrent steep! I loved it! I did not even feel Indy's weight as I carried her on my back. I thought I caught a glimpse of first place at the top, but was not quite sure.

Once at the top I remounted and went through some singletrack, down a steep paved road, hopped a couple ditches, rode up some gravel, through a creek and dismounted for a run up. On the run up, there SHE was! I went into stealth mode and dug deep. I passed her on the run up, hopped back on the bike and went hard and fast. She passed me on a short paved climb, but once we hit the dirt again, I had the advantage. I was able to negotiate the barriers better and run up one last steep muddy section. I heard her curse under her breath and knew that she just blew! I gunned it hard up the last paved bit to the finish!

Holy cow! These sprint finishes maybe exciting for the spectators, but are extremely hard on my legs and heart. A whole new, albeit short, level of suffering. But it does feel good to come out on top.

I wonder if the race would have been any different had I been on a cross bike. I definitely would NOT have liked the climb up FS 17 on a cross bike, but for the flatter sections, it might have been easier. A bit of give and take, no matter what kind of bike I had ridden.

I later learned from Andrea (2nd place) that she had drug her CX bike up the steep hike-a-bike by its front wheel. I was very thankful for the cross lap as there I definitely had the advantage.

Thanks to Eddie and Namrita for a wonderful event full of suffering. And thanks to Ginny and Dianne for hosting the event and serving some great post-race food.


Lisa said...

Nice, nothin' better than pipin' someone at the line! Glad you got her at the end. I bet you never thought those hike a bike skills would be so handy!

Danielle Musto said...

I'm going to start referring to you as "first place Carey" :-) Congrats on another good race!!!

PS. Some day you need to try IronCross. It has the mother of all hike-a-bikes!

Lisa said...

Oh, and BTW, should you ever need to borrow a cross bike, it so happens that I have a nice carbon one that I put an XTR derailleur and 11-34 cassette on. That cassette is larger than CX standard, but I get to stay on my bike a lot more than some others with a 11-27. You'd have been fine going up FS17 with that gearing.

Liz Schleeper said...

That is such a freaking awesome story! I agree that you would kill Ironcross whatever the bike, but I would say get a cx bike. Several from here (VB, Norfolk VA) had signed up to do Southern CX and I did not realize it was this wkend. I guess they sold their spots because I saw them all in town. Anyway, congrats.

Unknown said...

Great job Carey!! The girl you passed is Andrea Wilson out of Memphis. Spoke with her last night and today as her and her boyfriend came up to race the cross race here in Chattanooga. Talk to you soon...take care.

Unknown said...

Nice! Not what I expected from a CX report.

cornfed said...

Hey Carey. Thanks for the friendly conversation up Potato Patch!

Great race and strong finish!

Hilary captured (and encouraged I think) Andrea's bike drag and it's on my blog She captured a photo of almost everybody grunting up that run-up that I'll try to get posted sometime today.


Lynda Wallenfels said...

Nice riding.

Emily said...

Way to go, great racing Carey.
Sorry I missed seeing the exciting sprint finish for 1st, I was probably 40 min back secure in my position in fourth/last place :)
I thought a CX bike was great on FS17 btw, though the descending was a bit sketch.