The course was reworked considerably from past years. Gone were the long transit sections in which rest was possible, replaced with some up/down action going up and around the hill near the pavilion. Also gone was the long uphill climb that terminated in gravel. The two downhill sweepers were still there, one mud and one sand. The kickers on the front near the tennis courts were still there, but slightly reworked. And the start? It was fixed, and perfect this year, with a litle bottleneck but still permitting good flow. That's a stylish way to start a race and very fair to the riders Matt - well done!
I was in a big field with over 100 registered for the M 35+ 3/4. I had nothing at all in my legs so hunkered down with the back markers, and worked on trying not to slip back too hard at the start. I actually picked my way up a bit going onto the grass, caught some wheels, and held the snake for a bit. One thing I noticed is that I wasn't hyperventilating and going nuts here. I just grabbed a wheel, spun, and when he hit the tape spun past him and caught the next wheel, surfing up a bit. At that point, I found a spot on the long string and just held onto it. There was some major cheering going on for me, and for a lot of other people. I didn't look up though, I was locked in, finding a zone. Everything seemed quiet, moving in slow motion. My legs are not fast, my gut's an anchor, but I think my mind has finally adapted to cross. The race came at me in Super Slo Mo. It was like spectating. I could see what was happening, articulate it, and act on it before it happened. I don't have the fitness to truly execute but now *I get it. I get it.* The realization of where my mind was hit me when we spun toward the sand pit, as calm and collected as I've ever been in a race. I heard FatMarc say something that made my day, maybe my season: "You can outhandle these guys Jim... pass them!" He said that at a time when I was thinking that; it was the reinforcement that made me understand why the scrum seemed like such a calm place yesterday morning, and why I wasn't breathing hard for a change. Whatever this mojo is, I hope I can hang onto it for a while.
So I did pass a few guys. Unfortunately out-fitnessing them wasn't in the cards so they didn't stay passed for very long. I could give you a lot more details about the race, but it was sort of a depressing backslide from that point forward. I held the string pretty well for about a lap and a half and then just dropped back into no man's land. Eventually, I caught on with a group of 5 or so guys and we had a bit of a fight. Somewhere in there I realized a few things:
- I may not be a mountain biker yet, but I'm no longer a pure roadie. I found myself cursing "****in' roadies!" whenever I got caught behind somebody in a somewhat technical section.
- The Paleo diet may be on the menu starting after Thanksgiving. About the third time up this silly left/right/left/left/right hill up to the barriers, I heard a sound in my ears that sounded like screaming. Turns out, it was just my thighs. And yes, they were 100% cramped entirely on the final lap.
- If you're going to put the pass on, you have to do it before obstacles. Unless the guy in front of you is king hell mountain biker himself, he will likely be slower than you.
- If somebody non-technical is in front of you, his brake/accellerate/brake pattern will suck the life out of you. As soon as you realize you're behind a guy like that, drop back, get a rhythm going, be smooth and carry speed to the exit of the technical section, where there's room to pass.
Other Coppis rode great on the day, particularly Andrew Welch, who picked up his first MABRA win. He's got rockstar riding qualities.
I also have to do an Ode to Nystrom. He's really influential and a leader (whether they pick him by election, lots, or feats of strength) of the crew that rides around Columbia / Ellicot City / Elkridge / Catonsville. I was riding around the course yesterday and getting a whiff of the Sven influences in a lot of the technical sections. You see, Sven likes to pedal through turns and carry speed. He is smooth and buttery on the course like over-ripe lutefisk, except he doesn't smell as bad. Being influential in that area, a regular St. Francis of Assisi of 'Cross who has given up roadracing to follow The One True Church, I suspect he either designed many of the features on the course, or his minions, er, riding buddies who are used to riding with him, have picked up his taste in cross courses. True to form, you could ride through any of the turns yesterday. Some were tricky, looking like they had no good lines, but having a good line in there if you could find it. But all had lines, if you remembered to keep your spin up. It wasn't "technical-technical," but "cross-technical." Sure, the Sven/St. Francis talk is silly, but the discussion of how the course as Rosaryville was a "typical Tacchino course" makes me think that groups of cross riders wind up developing a common culture. My club's comes from Judd Milne's tastes, and from [correction: I think Sean Groom] who designed our practice course and told us what it was like in Belgium, at least where he rode; and it comes from all the people who join us for the Secret Coppi Cross Practice That Isn't Really Secret each week. Chris and Matt B and friends seem to have a particular notion of what a cross course should be like and although this year's Rockburn course is totally different from last year's, it's has *exactly* the same feel to it, only moreoso, more turns, more technical, more short sections where you ride one section, then do somethign completely different in the next section. I like their taste in course design very, very much. Nice job, Chris and Matt and friends, and mad props on pulling off the back-to-back races with Schooley Mill. And very well put together race with a nice after-scene, Matt B. Fries with Old Bay and Vinegar available as toppings? A+.