My original plan for this weekend was to head over to the Nanaimo to race the Cross on the Rock double-header, but plans fell through so I down to Cascade Cross with Alex instead.
- Forecast: Cool. Rain. Windy.
- Notable course features: BMX pump track, straight shot single track, spiral of doom, one super-steep run-up/ride-up, steep off-camber with a really narrow high line, never ending bumpy grass.
The good news is the steady rain we encountered on the drive down the I-5 to Ferndale tapered off as we pulled into the race site and held off for the entire morning. We were the third race of the day, scheduled to go at 12:30. For the most part, the course consisted of greasy wet grass with a few spots of greasy mud, but wasn't the sloppy mess that I had been planning for.
The day didn't get off to the greatest start: during one of my recon laps I stalled at the top of the ride-up and tipped off course. Into a blackberry thicket. And not just on top of it, but I somehow managed to get tangled in it, requiring the assistance of several bystanders and Alex to be extricated. To Alex's credit, he was more concerned about getting me out than taking photos or video of me lying in a contorted heap trying not to move and cause the thorns to dig in any further. Aside from this hilarious episode, my warm up and recon laps were uneventful.
Fast forward to 12:15 as the Men's B group starts to stage. The start was paved, leading to a gently sweeping left hander, into a 180 corner past the timing tent. I snagged a second row spot with my registration and when the gun went and the guys in front of me were caught literally flat-footed because they weren't watching the countdown clock, I found a gap and accelerated to definitively claim the hole shot before dialling it back into a sustainable race pace.
So, where did things go wrong?
- On the first lap, I knew I was going to opt to ride the low line of the off-camber ditch. I was first into that section of the course so I didn't have to worry about bottle necking, but was still worried about getting snagged in stakes or course tape since they were only inches away to the right of the only rideable line. I caught something with my rear end because as I exited that section, I could hear something making baseball card noises against my rear spokes. It was still rideable, but I didn't want to risk it wrapping itself in my jockey wheels and tearing off my derailleur, so I had to stop and pull it out, losing a few places in the process. Still OK though as it was only the first lap and I was still top-10.
- Somewhere mid-race I took a sloppy line through a turn and got caught stalled up in some fencing. It didn't take me down, but it made me come to a dead stop and let the guy chasing me catch back on to my wheel.
- With two laps to go, I washed out on a turn with a decreasing radius and went down, letting the two guys I had been battling with for places back past me. Unfortunately, I could not find the energy to chase them down again. So long, top-5.
The other factor was that there simply was no place to rest on this course because the terrain was so bumpy. To those who have raced the Marymoor course in Seattle, I would dare to say that this was worse. There was a transition from grass to about 100 meters of pavement before you got dumped onto the single track, but that went by in a few seconds and wasn't much of a break.
What was I happy with?
- Fantastic start and hole shot, obviously.
- Getting the power down on the single track. The surface was somewhere between tacky and greasy mud, but was interrupted every few meters by divots, bumps, or roots that threatened to buck you off your bike. The key was floating just above your saddle while keeping the pedals moving and I was consistently able to claw back a second or two each lap.
- Not panicking during my two major mishaps, managing to hold on to 7th.
What do I need to work on?
- Turns with surface transitions, especially any surface that suddenly becomes gravel.
- Corner exit speed.