One Pedal Stroke

One pedal stroke.  It doesn’t take very long.  At my normal cadence (90 RPM), I spin the pedal in a complete circle in 0.666 seconds.

One pedal stroke is also how long I went during my race in Ashland before my singlespeed decided to give up.  The tension on the belt yanked the wheel so that it started rubbing against the frame.  I had to ditch it and run back for the Tricross.  Fortunately, it was only 30 yards back, so I didn’t have far to go.

Here we are ready to go.  I'm already looking down at my malfunctioning bike.
Here we are ready to go. I’m already looking down at my malfunctioning bike.

Now here is me just 30 seconds later:

And now I'm on a new bike, giving the field a 30 second head start. Somehow, I'm still smiling.
And now I’m on a new bike, giving the field a 30 second head start. Somehow, I’m still smiling.

There’s nothing quite like giving the entire field a 30-second head start.  I caught up about a half-lap later and settled quickly into a group with two other guys.  We spent two laps shuffling around before we dropped the guy in the yellow, green and red jersey.

The group of three.
The group of three.

That was the situation for the rest of the race.  We swapped places for a couple of laps because he was riding the pedal-y bits faster than me, but I was riding the technical stuff better.  I decided I could take him in the last couple hundred meters, so I would just ride his wheel until it was time for the sprint.

My riding partner for a very long time.
My riding partner for a very long time.

This included one of the signature features of the Baycross course: The Pit of Despair.  Here is just one picture of the Pit, to give you some kind of idea of what it’s like:

The Pit of Despair, in fine form for 2013.
The Pit of Despair, in fine form for 2013.

I lost track of how many laps we did and had now idea how long we were even riding for, since my Garmin was attached to the other bike.  My wife said she saw 1:18:00 before we were done.  You always get your money’s worth at Baycross!

As we went into the penultimate lap, I had a little bobble just before the Pit of Despair and my partner decided to attack.  I tried to respond, but my legs wouldn’t have it.  Perhaps I just didn’t have the fitness, perhaps I had burned my matches catching up to the pack on the first lap.  He ended up finishing about 15 seconds in front of me.

It was a very long, very wet and very muddy race. We didn’t do our normal overnight stay at Splashland or some other local hotel, but I still love going over to Ashland.  The amazing thing is how the organizers recognize my whole family.  I feel more recognized there than at the Marquette UPCROSS races!

I say this every year, but I love going down to Ashland and you really need to get there for Baycross someday.

River Park Cyclocross

The next day, we got wrapped up our Sunday School teaching as early as we could to head down to Marquette for one of the UPCROSS races at the River Park BMX track.  It’s been several years since I’ve been to River Park and it was fun to see a slightly different course.  It was a time crunch getting down there — I had to get dressed in the car so I would be ready to warm up when I got there.

A long twisty sand pit.
A long twisty sand pit.

I had spent some time the night before trying to fix niggling problems on both bikes.  I straightened the wheel on the Dark Horse and tweaked the brakes  a bit.  On the Tricross, I tightened up the saddle, cleaned the chain and took off the bottle cages (which I didn’t get taken off for Baycross).  I started out on the Dark Horse again, but had the Tricross ready to go again.  And again, that was a good thing, because the axle slipped again and the tire was rubbing on the chain stay after a little over a lap.

Chasing in vain. I only made up 2 spots from the back.
Chasing in vain. I only made up 2 spots from the back.

I felt pretty decent off the line, but got stuck behind someone going through the first little sandpit.  That put me dead last… again.  I couldn’t believe it happened twice in two days.  I thought I had a fighting chance to get back into the fray again, but between the misbehaving singlespeed and very tired legs meant I was hanging off the back the whole race.  I did manage to pass two people such that I didn’t finish in the very back, which was nice.

I’ve heard that a cyclocross race is like a mullet: business up front and party in the back.  Being, for the first time, hanging at the back, yet not completely suffering, I got to experience that.  There were licorice hand-ups at the Start/Finish line that I grabbed a couple of times, much to the delight of my kids and the other spectators.  I tried to keep the race useful by practicing my line through the sand, trying aggressive lines through the corners and so on.

The epitome of 'cross fashion: paisley jersey and polka dot socks.
The epitome of ‘cross fashion: paisley jersey and polka dot socks.

I didn’t get lapped by everyone; just the 4 leaders.  I probably would have been pulled in a USAC race, but got to finish out our unsanctioned race.  I think I’ll go ahead and give myself the Lantern Noir, as coined by Craig Etheridge.

I may be at the back, I might be taking licorice hand-ups, but I'm still riding hard.
I may be at the back, I might be taking licorice hand-ups, but I’m still riding hard.

To finish up with some fun, I shoved the licorice back in my mouth and let it dangle while I crossed the line.  Why not?  ‘Cross is supposed to be fun, right?

A licorice walrus.  Cross is boss.
A licorice walrus. Cross is boss.

I always try to figure out what I can learn from my races.  This time, I realized that while my Sunday race is usually better than my Saturday race, that’s only true when everybody else raced on Saturday too.  I learned that I still have a lot to learn about being my own bike mechanic.  I learned that you can race hard, finish way at the back and still have a blast.  I learned I really want a new, lighter bike with disc brakes.  I learned I want to take those extra pounds back off.

Three or four more races this year.  I haven’t decided which bike I’m going to race.  Hopefully at least one more dedicated singlespeed race though.

As Rapha says, “Keep Calm and Cross On!”

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