Last year I had my Thanksgiving Cross-a-palooza that went really, really well. I was really excited to come back to the Detroit area for the last race of my 2013 cyclocross campaign. Some kind of circumstance forced the race from Lake Orion High School back to Bloomer Park (a place I’ve raced before), but I have to say I wasn’t excited about that change. The course at Bloomer Park last time didn’t really match my strengths — lots of turns and not a lot of places to really pedal. I was anxious to go back and nail that course.
Yeah. Not so much.
The day started out poorly, since I had not packed for the weather. When I looked on Thursday, they were predicting high 30’s; the thermometer read high 20’s. I dragged out all the heavy stuff I had with me: my Twin Six thermal skinsuit and thermal jacket, the heavy Nike thermal base layer and Giro Hightower merino socks. On went the Rapha Winter Embrocation on the little bit of exposed knee. I was still pretty chilly as I started warming up and went out to preview the course. Especially with my heavy Pearl Izumi gloves on, I was already getting worried. The course was immensely twisty. There were hardly any straight sections. We were taken up onto the outside bank of the velodrome at the park, which was a terrible mess. Rains the day before and snow that morning had made the ground soft and muddy. Consequently, my slightly worn-down Kenda Slant Sixes were spinning under me and I had to jump off and run it every lap. This transitioned immediately into a nasty, muddy, off-camber section terminating in a 180-degree turn back along that off-camber hill. After that: turn after turn after turn.
I recall hearing some of the pros complaining that the Trek CXC Cup was so twisty and turny that there weren’t places to pass or use your motor to put some time into the competition. That course was arrow-straight compared to this.
Eventually we were dumped onto some fairly wide singletrack with more heavy-duty 90+ degree turns. They even sent us down a sledding hill and right back up it. I could ride it during my preview, but as the tires packed up with mud during the race, I ended up running more. That packed mud into my cleats and I struggled to get clipped back in over and over.
So, in a nutshell, the race went terribly. As soon as I started, my chain was grinding and skipping. I slid around in the mud and crept my way around the corners. The mud splashed up onto my bike and froze there. And I came in dead last.
It was incredibly frustrating. When I finished, I was glad to be done and just about ready to throw my bike into the woods. I was very happy to change, load the bike up and head to Famous Dave’s for lunch.
What is confusing to me is that I’ve gone out for runs twice in the days since that race and have pounded out some of my fastest miles. I’m clearly in shape, I’m clearly fit. But I was a wreck on that course on Saturday. My belief is that there can only be two points of failure here: me or my bike. If I’m fit, then it must be the bike. I’ve already blathered on at length on what kind of bike I might like and I’m definitely set on replacing my Tricross.
So it wasn’t the greatest end to my season. It just puts me in a frame of mind to come out crushing it next year.