Sunday morning was the Va Du Mar cross race in Spartanburg. Driving up from Columbia, it was raining cats and dogs and the winds were around gale force. The clouds were a gray black and the temperatures were in the low 30s. No worries as the conditions would be prime cross weather and also provide an excellent testing ground for my new "run the lowest tire pressure possible" theory. I showed up at 30 psi, but after a brief walk around the course, I lowered down to a little over 20. The ground wasn't too slick on the backside because of pine straw but the frontside of the course was a mixture of mud and red clay that was quite saturated. I sat in my car with the heater on and listened to NPR to relax my mind. The race was at 10 and it was only 9:15. I texted Eric and he said he was snowed in so no race for him. Ah, such is life. At 9:30, I got out of the car and ran over to registration. I signed up, ran back to the car through a driving rain and continued to stay warm. As "Morning Edition" wrapped up, I pinned my number on my jersey, kitted up and finally got out around 9:55. 10 of us lined up and the race official was laudably brief with his instructions. From what I had seen, the opening pavement would 90 degree into a lefthand turn onto mud and clay. Not wanting to eat it hard at the opening, I started gingerly, in 5th position as we entered the slick section. A roadie from Charleston gapped the other 4 riders in our group as we entered some mud/grass off camber turns. More hairpin sections and it was into a 5 step run up. After the run up, a slow, wet climb and then a quick hairpin into the woods. The roots were slick in this section not to mention my wheel bottoming out several times. I assumed if I flatted, it would be here. At the end of the woods was one barrier that fed directly into a steep ditch. You had to run up it then remount, only to dismount 50 yards later at two more barriers. After that, it was a long but not too steep climb (through red clay) back to the pavement and the start finish. By the end of the first lap, we had regained contact with the roadie and had sadly dropped our friend Justin (a kindred soul from Columbia). On lap 2, it was me, some guy on a Specialized and another guy in a NCCX kit. We rode together until the grassy, off camber hairpins where Specialized and I dropped him. After the five step run-up, Specialized kicked a little on the uphill, constantly looking over his shoulder. I guess he was feeling good and probably thought I was in trouble upon hearing my labored breathing. He was correct in his assumption, but my legs felt great and at the start of lap 3, I rode in the front as I noticed NCCX was trying to bridge up. The thought crossed my mind that I would rather bonk but finish second than relax and have to duel for 3rd. I noticed Specialized was dismounting and running the grassy off-camber hairpin while I was riding it. I realized that this was where I could open a gap on him. After the 3rd lap, they told us one more lap as our times were pretty fucking slow because of the conditions, not lack of trying. Specialized jumped in front of me on the pavement and accelerated into the mud. I stayed with him and when we got to the grassy, off-camber hairpin, as soon as he started his dismount motion, I clicked up a gear, ducked inside and stomped up the hill past him. I looked over my shoulder when I arrived at the run-up and didn't see him. Huh! I was surprised that my asshole move worked but stranger things have happened. I rode through the woods carefree as my rim clanged against roots, my tubes happily bearing the brunt. I got to the second set of barriers and heard my Mom on the side jingling her car keys in lieu of her beloved cowbell, still clad in her church clothes. I rode up the long clay ascent and rounded onto the pavement covered in a mixture of bog water and a nacreous layer of clay goop. The best part of the race was the pressure washer they had. Completely awesome! I went over to the race officials tent and as I checked the results, the race organizer handed me a giant bag of Cameroonian roasted coffee and some tall wool Globalbike socks for my 1st place. I thanked him, said bye to my 'rents and sister and then realized I still had two Handel "Messiah" gigs to play later that day.
Decided to stick a little closer to home this past weekend and head up to Unicoi, TN for the MSG season finale at the Farmhouse Gallery and Gardens.
I would imagine the course would be turbo awesome with a mix of really fast sections and a decent amount of elevation change. I say "imagine" because Saturday was 3o minutes of sleet, rain, deep mud and 35 degree temps.
However, there is something romantic about trudging through 4" of mud in the sleet on a cross bike with guys drinking from a keg on the top of the course. At least that's what i told myself as i tried not to eat shit.
After an over enthusiastic holeshot and 2 really bad attempts at cornering in the mud i settled into 5th place. Taking Kenny's advice (attack on anything resembling a hill) I "attacked" (hardly) on an uphill section, moved into 4th place, and then got attacked by some dude on a singlespeed the next lap. Tried to chase him down, and got close, but it was not to be.
I managed not to crash or flat, which the way this year has been is a win in my book, and rode by myself most of the race, finishing 5th.