I love Ashland, Wisconsin. (I may have mentioned that before.) Consequently, I love heading to Ashland for the Baycross cyclocross race they put on. Sadly, they dropped it down from a two-race weekend to a single race. The good part is that they only did a Saturday race, which means I can make it back for church on Sunday.
Part of what makes sport beautiful is that it is a combination of luck and preparation. You can be physically at the top of your game and a stroke of bad luck derails your best plans. You can come in to an event underprepared and come out on top due to pure, dumb luck. Baycross this year was more of the former, unfortunately. I have actually been training this fall, instead of just trying to hold on to summer fitness. As I’ve mentioned before, I set up my bike with some new parts and am generally well-prepared for this ‘cross season. So the Tricross and the Dark Horse went on the roof and we went down to Ashland.
Due to some scheduling goofs on my own part, I didn’t get my normal warm-up. I soft-pedaled around the course once , changed into my METAL skinsuit, massaged in some embrocation and went out to try just a few sections of the course. Of course, during one of those sections I rather botched a dismount, which caused my rear tire to burp some air. I walked it back to the pit and topped off the tire, which basically brought us to the start time. So feeling rather unprepared, I ditched the jacket and lined up.
I had one of my better starts, slotting quickly into 5th place. Things were pretty tight for a while, then the guy in second attacked. The guy who had gotten the holeshot couldn’t keep up and the rest of the top 5 (including me) shot by. Going into a 90-degree right turn, the leader went wide and burped his front tubeless tire a little. He recovered well and took off again. (This corner is important later in the story.) The pace got a little high for 3rd place and I slid past.
As we came around the end of the first lap, the leader stopped for a wheel change, putting me up in second place. The leader and I swapped places a couple of times before I settled into the lead. For the first time ever, I was in the lead of a regional Category A cyclocross race! I didn’t have any aspirations to win the race, as there is a local fast guy who is a level or two above me. (For reference, he finished the 2010 Chequamegon 40 in 2:25, whereas I registered a 3:15, some 750 riders farther back.) However, I thought second place was a real possibility. I was feeling strong and the course seemed to suit my strengths. And oddly, I was passing people in the straight pedal-y bits again!
No sooner had these thoughts run through my head when I went around the corner that had almost taken out the leader before. The tire burped, folded and I went down. It wasn’t a hard crash, but I had lost all the air in that front tire. I had to run with my bike on my shoulder for the better part of a mile before I came back within range of my wife and kids, who got to act as my pit crew. I hollered, “I need my other bike!” and they had it ready when I got back around to the beginning of the lap. In that time, I had gone from first to dead last.
But I was wearing my METAL kit, I was out there flying the Twin Six flag, and there was no way I was giving up. Even though I was the only one on a singlespeed, I was going to catch up.
Well, I only caught one person and almost caught two more before the end of the race. I’m faster on my sweet Twin Six Dark Horse belt drive singlespeed than some people are on geared bikes. That’s good to know. And I have to say that riding that bike is sweet. So fast and so responsive!
So I finished next to last, but still had a great race. I was pleased and really look forward to the dedicated singlespeed races I have coming up later this month.
Look, if you do cyclocross at all and live anywhere near Ashland, Wisconsin, you simply have to check out Baycross sometime. Grab a room at a local hotel, spend a day and enjoy this wonderful little town. Race on a great course and stick around for a swag giveaway where they run out of names before they run out of swag. The competition is fierce but the riders are super friendly. If I could only choose one ‘cross race to ride some year, it would be Baycross.
I found out at this race there is a local who uses a picture of me racing cross as his computer desktop image because he loves Twin Six so much and I was there representing the brand. Something tells me that’s why they do it.
Next up: Swamp Thing II in Lansing!