The course was pretty long (I heard 1.8 miles) and included a set of barriers, a technical section winding through pine trees and up and down steep gullies, and had a pretty long hill climb. At the base of the climb someone wrote "PAIN" in red spray paint. There was probably around 100 feet of elevation difference between the lowest point on the course and the top of the hill and there were numerous 10-20 foot wall climbs and descents. The highlight/white-knuckle section of the course was a steep descent to a 180 turn then a run-up (or ride up) the same hill followed by off-camber turns down the descent again.
With all the climbing on the course, the per kilogram part of the Watts/kg equation was going to drag me down, but I wanted to see if I picked up any time on the rough ground of the course.
The "B" field was really big. After Chris and I lined up in what I thought was the back of the field, about 3 ranks from the front, about four more ranks of riders lined up behind us. Wow--the 'cross fields really grew this season!
At the start, I was slow to clip in my right pedal and slipped back. By the time I was in, I was just out of contact, and chased back into the group. The course started with a couple hundred meters of gradual uphill. That stretched the field out right away so there wasn't a big traffic jam. On the downhill leg, I made up more ground. I hung on all the way around the course and actually did a pretty good intense effort on the hill.
At some point, a light drizzle started. It had been raining on and off before the race started. By the second lap, my glasses were getting hard to see through, so I slowed down and put them in my jersey pocket. That was actually a pretty sketchy maneuver on the rough ground and I slipped about 30 seconds off the pace of the group I was in.
The light drizzle eventually turned into torrential rain and there were a couple booms of thunder. I felt water drain into my bib shorts and pool up around my back.
The race sort of turned into an impressionist blur at that point. I'm nearsighted, but my eyesight isn't that bad without glasses. I could see the group I was chasing relatively well, but I wasn't making up any ground, but I wasn't losing a whole lot of ground.
On the third and final (due to weather) lap, I closed the gap on the way into the technical turns. I practically heard Paul Sherwen's voice in my head "he's got to take some risks on the descent to close the gap" so I kept my fingers off the brakes as much as possible. I was all over the place on the downhills and practically bent the frame around the tight turns from standing on the outside pedal so hard. My speed outstripped my skill. One of the turns had a big mud puddle that was the consistency of pudding. My front wheel washed out and I went down instantly and slid a couple of feet.
I was a little stunned, but got up and checked the wheels and the bars. Wheels ok. Bars ok, brake handle moved a little. I was back on the bike and up to speed in no time. The stem had rotated a few degrees, which made the technical riding a little more challenging.
I got passed on the uphill just before the finish, but thought I'd be able to beat him to the line on the downhill, but ran out of meters. I placed low, but I did a pretty good effort for me. I had the throttle open all the way most of the time. Now, a few hours later, I feel like I fell down a flight of steps while carrying an armload of snow shovels, which means I had a good day of cyclocross! My practice session earlier this week actually paid off. I was a bit smoother over the rough ground (which was most of the course) and could ride hard without getting beaten senseless. Next time out, I'll try to ride with some anaerobic punch.
Many thanks to all the people who made the race today possible. It was a great course and a lot of fun to race.
I'll preview the Leroy CX race this week as we're working on it.