Thursday, December 18, 2008

Forever? Forever-ever-ever? - Cyclocross Nationals Part I

If I were to start this post by saying, simply, that it is a long, long drive to Kansas City, I would feel like I was succumbing to my generation's tendency to default to understated irony for funny.
But really? It's a long, long drive to Kansas City. Made longer by the fact that it seems juuuuuuust close enough to be an almost-easy trip.

I had managed to convince my friend and former Targetraining teammate, Justin Lindine, that driving to nationals would be great fun. He, of the short memory, had actually made the drive last year, in a blizzard, and yet for some reason was easily convinced. Anyone who has ever ridden in a breakaway with Justin will understand that he likes to suffer. I once rode 4&1/2 hours with him in January on a 28 degree day. He forgot his shoe covers and did the whole ride in summer-weight racing socks. I should have been alarmed at his ready acquiescence to this trip.

With me planning to race both the Junior Old Guys race (aka the 30-34 master's race, aka Andy Jacques Maynes TV show where he beats up little kids and takes their lunch money) on Saturday, and J-bomb and I both racing the Elite race on Sunday, we decided to drive all of Thursday, crash somewhere in Indiana for the night, and get to the course in KC Friday afternoon in time to pre-ride. That's more or less how it went. Left Albany, headed to Windham (where? exactly) to collect Justin, re-packed all my gear in his car and we were off.

Only Justin drove the whole way to KC. Booyaa.

We arrived at Tiffany Springs park in KC Missouri at about 4:32 on Friday afternoon. But, not to worry. By my calculations our Westerly location should have purchased us roughly an additional hour of daylight more then we are accustomed to back in the NE. Well, kinda.
We did manage to get on the course, already fast and tacky after the earlier mudfest the juniors were subjected to, and got in about 4 quality laps and a little road spin before it was properly dark. I went from "oh man, why bother?" to "hell yeah I live for this!" in the span of my first lap. I have to say that while the course was relatively straightforward and lent itself to nothing other than a genuine, old fashioned ass-kicking contest, it was a hell of a lot of fun. The uphill was brutal, but reasonable, the obstacles were well placed, and the downhill was super fast, fun and slalomish. The only problem was that after climbing for 3 minutes or so--an eternity in a 'cross--you lost all of that elevation in less than a minute. Ouch.

Anyway, with our legs opened up a little, we settled into the Econo Lodge, and headed into the wilds of suburban Kansas City to find the Chipotle we had seen from the highway. Yes, corporate America, sponsoring a bike racing team will, in fact, pay dividends and create brand loyalty.

And about that burrito hunt: OK, so I'm not the math, numbers and engineering type, but I am not altogether incapable of tying my shoes or reading a map, either. Nevertheless, I cannot begin to imagine what goes on in the minds of traffic engineers. Every road around that wacky place (KC) seems to lead exactly where it seems not to, and you are always routed to another consumer friendly shopping plaza, just not usually the one you set out to find. We ultimately decided on the counter-intuitive strategy of heading away from our destination in order to arrive at it. Zen in the Bible belt, baby.

Anyway, we eventually (and I mean 45 minutes to travel a mile) found the damn Chipotle so we were all demographically appropriate in our dinner choice, as evidenced by the fact that we bumped into Tim Johnson, Jeremy Powers and Lynne Bessette at the next table. Bike racers stick out like (skinny) sore thumbs in the midwest. Food in, magazines browsed next door, back to hotel, TV, sleep.

Saturday was warm for this time of year, a little overcast, pretty windy but definitely dry. The Master's 30-34 race went about as I expected it would with AJM kicking us all in the nuts. I had a bit of a sloppy start from the 3rd row, missed the boat when Schempf and Ali Goulet got away after Andy, also missed Sam Kreig, and settled into the race for 5th and the last spot on the podium with Justin Robinson and Nate Rice. We raced hard, dropped Justin, slacked a bit, he came back, some surging happened, I felt stronger than the other two, and on the last lap I attacked into the last set of stairs, figuring holding the lead through the last 3 turns was a sure way to win the very short sprint on the pavement. The thing is, I had done quite a bit of surgey-surgey and at the top of the stairs, when I jumped back on my bike, I had a bit of an "oh dear" sort of moment, during which Robinson passed me, and proceeded to prove me right that it was in fact an if-in-doubt-lead-it-out kind of sprint. Dang. Justin (Lindine) says I eased up too much trying to be cute and stay in the draft to jump around late. He is so right. Head down, elbows in, don't look at the other guy, because he's only looking at the line. Poop. I never have the sprint during 'cross season that I do on the road, but I think I blew that one no matter what. Anyway, no shame in getting beaten by Robinson. He's been around forever, national team and world's and all, plus he's big as a house and puts out large watts. C'est la vie, and good ride by him. I regret a little bit that I didn't make a do or die effort to drop Robinson and Rice and bridge up to Kreig in 4th place. It was so hard on that hill and so windy at the top that it was pretty confidence draining, or soul sucking, depending on the lap. I didn't slack, and did the bulk of the work in our group, but I just might have been a little too conservative. The good news is my 6th place gets me a front row call up for next year. Andy, I'm comin' back for my lunch money.

So this post has been a pleasant (in segments) diversion from the paper I have been whinging about finishing: Arundhati Roy's "The God Of Small Things" in a cage match with J.M. Coetzee's "Diary Of a Bad Year" with Althusser and some contemporary post-colonial hepcats as a cheering section with Naomi Klein.

The thing about this paper is that it signifies the end of my coursework for my MA. (fanfare, parade, huzzah, fireworks, Souza band, etc) Then I get to spend next semester studying for my thesis exam, which means reading the hell out of all sorts of progressive pedagogy books and Charles Olson's poetry, and then I'll be done. DONE. Charmaine will be DONE with her PhD this Spring as well (yes you will!) and we will parade across the stage together. Still trying to pick a theme song for that cuz, y'know, they let you pick. Right? Seriously, school warrants its own post, and will soon have one.

Next time, Nationals part II: 7 minutes off a Tree Farm, Success, Perspective, Random Redneck Violence, and 24 Straight Hours in the Car.



  1. Vilcome to ja blogoland!

    All I will say is Justin Robinson has a unervy way of hanging on when you just dont think he can anymore. I have faced this in prior junior masters races. Its an uncannny trait of his.


  2. Yeah, I picked up on that. Experience counts, no? And thanks for checking in and posting my 1st comment! :-) Hope your offy is off to a good start.

  3. Blog off to a smashing start, Nathaniel. Still has that new-blog-smell, too. That's the update I was looking for, though I most certainly would have preferred the real-time-over-espresso version. But I'm told I'm needy.


  4. Yeah man, this is good. Unfortunately by starting with Nats you have nowhere to go but down. I saw you and Justin in the background of the infamous hillbilly bike hooligan fight pictures, looking forward to the story.

  5. Down? Not so! Yes my account of the 'cross hooligans will follow. And then there's the season retrospective, 2009 road team report and various non-bike miscellany. February is the bleak bike racer blog month, I fear.