Charm City was good. The new course on Saturday was one of the finest courses I've ever ridden. It had wonderful flow. There was just something to it, and the scene was excellent, with a Burrito Truck and Biscuitheads delivering excellent food. It was great seeing friends I haven't seen since last cross season, and the racing was great, very hard.
My race went okay. I got the DFL bib number and gridded at the very end of the grid - except for a row of guys who missed their callups and gridding. They were behind me, briefly. Dave Tambeaux estimated 100-110 starters.
We went off fine at the start, I avoided the usual first turn pileup, and rode pretty steady for about 1.5 laps. I hung onto the string for that time. At that point, the string started breaking into groups and I was stuck in a group of 7-8 for the rest of the race. For about two laps I worked my way up through that group, picking off one at a time. Finally I was up to the front clump of four. I passed one guy, an NCVC'er I think, and pushed the group by edging forward into the turns, and we sped up decisively and dropped him. Coming into the big tree barrier on lap 4, I had a cunning plan to get the next three. I passed one guy going up the hill, passed another guy at the big tree barrier, then got the third guy at the next yellow barriers. As this was happening, my chest cold and asthma were fighting back against the redline effort, and I was coughing hard. Coming out of the turns past the barriers I lost the front end briefly (for the third time in the race) and nearly stopped. The three passed riders caught me, and they held my wheel to the pavement but I kept coughing. Thirty seconds or a minute of coughing stole my wind, and I was blown up. As we came up the tarmac hill I was fine - it's okay singlespeed territory - but as we crested then began the tarmac downhill to the dirt I was utterly blown and the three passed me. They were blown from the effort too and the little group was shattered, but I was done. I winged it in from there on the fifth lap as hard as I could and recovered around the time I hit the big tree barrier on lap 5. Coming down toward the tarmac the race winner lapped me, then I think Cernich lapped me too. I was pulled, and happily made the throat slitting gesture as I came past the line.
Result: Identical to last year with the winner and #2 lapping me within 400 yards of the finish. Identical despite being in crapola condition, and being on the single. This bodes well for the season if I can keep up training conditioning and diet. Diet is going to be key to a nice November and I have to make 20 pounds do a frickin' Houdini act before then. I think I finished 82d, not great but not a terrible finish in light of everything. Rohr said I rode really steady and that was my feeling on the bike - I didn't blow apart nor did I have any dead spots other than the asthma attack and coughing fit. That's the first time I can ever remember riding a cross race with really good pacing, able to say at the end I couldn't have gone any harder, but also knowing I didn't take any rests.
The single - the Kona Major One stripped down into race kit - worked really well. I need a longer stem to get more weight on the front wheel in dusty turns, but otherwise it is a sweet, sweet ride that is more capable than I am. I briefly tried my tubulars with a single speed adaptor on the rear freehub before the race - that produced what felt like a 16 pound bike - but I couldn't get the brakes to work right so I went back to the Phil Wood / CXP 33 combo with the shoddy Kenda Kwick clinchers. They worked okay. The downhills were awful - I realized how much I like big ringing it down grassy hills and just hammering it. That took away a big gun in my arsenal, and it also took away my road speed, two things I could have used to maneuver myself wayyyy up in the standings, like from 82nd to 77th or something. (Seriously, I'd have been a bit faster with gears). On the other hand, Riskus said later "nothing's harder but nothing gets you in shape faster than the single." So I'm going to ride it some. Not sure I will at Ed Sander, that race is flat and I would hate to be spinning down that long gravel road, at 120 RPM, getting passed. But it will work for other races.
Did anything funny happen? Yeah. I ran across FatMarc and he relayed the contents of a conversation that he had with somebody - maybe Auer - during the race. It was hard to tell what Marc was saying between the croaking voice and obvious Nyquil haze - somebody needs to tell that boy you take Nyquil at the *beginning* of the night, not the end of it. But it boiled down to something like "the Rouleur is out there and he ain't doing bad... what the hell is he doing on the single?" Though that may not be an accurate depiction of FatMarc's comments because I was pretty much incoherent and incapable of stringing two thoughts together for about 7 hours after the race.
Many thanks and mad props go out to Twenty 20 Bikes and Nystrom, Auer & crew. That was a great race (as usual) and a great way to kick off my season. I think 500 or so other folks seemed to harbor similar thoughts.