After finally having found the team and jersey that compliments my cross/classics/steel bike + wool jersey fascination, I feel I owe more to the "team" than just wearing the colors at the local cross events, so here goes with my first race report from Northern California!
This being my first season attempting cross, all races are new to me, but this past weekend a race appeared for the first time on our Northern California (NorCal) schedule that looked intriguing enough for me to lay down $35 for the pre-registration fee ($10 over what normally goes for registration around here). The race was held at the Cow Palace, an indoor arena on the outskirts of San Francisco, and happened to coincide with the annual San Francisco Bike Expo. The course was short (just over four minutes per lap for yours truly, about 3;30-3:45 for the winners) but offered an extremely daunting obstacle for riders in NorCal...MUD!
The race started on the finishing straight, which was about 150 meters of a paved climb at about 12% gradient. Then it looped into the indoor arena for a short loop (100 meters) of the Cow Palace proper that included three little BMX style bumps that encouraced the cyclocrossers to "catch some air." Then it was out of the Cow Palace for a 200 meter paved single-track descent into the mud. After about 300 meters of mud, the only obstacle of the day appeared, yet that was about a 40-meter run-up that the promoters had convienently built up as a stair-step climb.
At the top of the climb was about 25 meters of mud, which served as a transition to the death-defying (in my humble opinion) descent right back down the same hill that was just climbed as the run-up. The descent ended into more mud, as well as a quick 90 degree right-hander, followed 15 meters later by a 90 degree left-hander. Then, it was roughly another 100 meters in mud, after which one was greeted by another BMX style obstacle, and then a transition into the typical dry hardpack of NorCal. The rest of the distance on the loop was made by endless corkscrewing in a cattle paddock (with a few unplanned puddles from a rainstorm on the previous day) until the course returned to the start/finish straight.
My race was typical of my entire season; I started slowly to learn the course (despite having already ridden five warm-up circuits!), then my natural strength takes over as in the last 15 minutes (a 45-minute race) as I pass slowing riders to finish in the middle of the pack. This race was punctuated by my fear of the descent, especially since the quick right- then left-hander caused a few broken arms, shoulders, and collarbones throughout the day. I did find that my lap time improved by about ten seconds over the last three laps as I ran through the transition between the run-up and descent, instead of remounting and riding the mud all the way to the descent. In the end, it was a fun day, especially since it came on the day my parents flew in to visit my wife and me for the next week. I also ended up finishing 19th of 41 finishers!
Hope you enjoyed the report! All pictures are courtesy of my wife, Melanie!