Yeah, yeah. I’ve been in two ‘cross races since Sherman Cross. I’ve kinda been busy, you know?
I am the reigning champion of cyclocross for the U.P., for the Men’s B category. In reality, it’s a pretty meaningless distinction. It’s not officially recognized by USA Cycling, the UCI or any other sanctioning body. It’s just us guys in the U.P. It does mean I’m a reasonable ‘cross racer. So I decided that for 2011, I needed to move up to Cat A. I was terribly nervous about this. When I was explaining the basic category structure to some non-cycling friends, I called Cat C for “first-timers and old-timers”, Cat B for “normal people” and Cat A for the people who eat, sleep and drink cycling. I’m more of a Cat B in terms of time but apparently Cat A in terms of speed. Sort of.
So when Sherman Cross registration came around I thought it would be a nice, safe time to try Cat A. I’m not contesting the UPCROSS points series anyways, but it wouldn’t hurt any chances I had with the series.
I hit the course early for a short pre-ride, complete with a guided tour with the course designer. The basic setting was the Michigan Tech football field (which is called Sherman Field, hence the name of the race). After big-ringing it around the football field on the track, you looped back around, up a brutal run-up and down a hill to some barriers. Then they had set up this insidious set of progressively narrowing chicanes before sending us along a tremendous off-camber hill climb, around the soccer fields and back up to the football field. It was about a 1.2 mile loop and (for a change) very ‘cross-bike friendly. In case it wasn’t quite fun enough, we did it under the stadium lights.
When the race came around, we lined up and took off. I was in trouble from the get-go. By the time we had finished our lap of the track, the Tylers (Tyler Jenema and Tyler Gauthier) were long gone, two other super fast locals were pulling away and I had nearly gotten taken out by someone on a mountain bike. Three of us formed a bit of a group and headed towards the run-up. The 3rd man had some sort of technical issue when he got to the top and fell back a bit. I chased hard through the chicanes and passed by on the hill heading up from the soccer field to the football field. That didn’t last long, as Chris passed back by going through the Start/Finish area. He was in much better shape than I was and started pulling away.
“That’s okay,” I thought. “There’s at least two riders behind me.”
The first rider (he of the mechanical issue on the run-up) started catching up to me just in time to have another mechanical issue. Even so, he caught back up to me after another two laps and went on by. Then it was just a matter of staying out of last. This was made easier since last place was riding a singlespeed and had already raced that day.
One thing I couldn’t understand was how people were doing the run-up. Most people pushed their bikes up. I think I was the only rider who shouldered my bike, which I’m pretty sure is faster. I do know, thanks to a teammate, that I need to get a little closer to the barriers before I commit to my dismount. I think that will require some time with my Cross Propz before I go flying into a wooden barrier.
Eventually the Tylers lapped me, but nobody else did. That kind of finish works for me, at least for the first A race. And when I look back at the results for some of the bigger A races last year, the two guys I was chasing were finishing mid-pack. Maybe there’s promise for me after all.
The race didn’t go off without a hitch though. Some of the areas didn’t have quite enough light. There were categories that nobody rode in. Still, it was a great way to start out the season and I truly hope it stays around. If nothing else, I have a score to settle with Sherman.