Monday, November 17, 2008

The Chase for Start Position

Toronto International Cyclocross Race (UCI-1)

In the third month of my quest for UCI points, I boarded a plane to Buffalo with a final destination of Toronto to be accomplished by car. Why fly to Buffalo and then drive two hours to Toronto? The green back, my friends. One way trip to Buffalo: $88. One way trip to Toronto $325. The auto trip rout also included a lovely stop at Niagra Falls which I had never seen.
I arrived just before sunset on Friday, November 7, 2008; quickly put the bike together and rode over to the course which was about 4 miles from the hotel. It was cold, below 45 and windy and cloudy. Thankfully, the course was set up.
The course set up for the next day, Saturday, was excellent and suited my riding style: A long flat section in the beginning, followed by a steep up hill which u-turned to a quick descent with a hard left at the bottom. The neatest part of the course was a bowl of technical ups, downs, and off-camber turns that reminded me of the Nationals course in 2005 and 2006 in Providence, RI. I practiced the more technical parts of the course several times and then headed back to the hotel to set up for the next day.
Saturday arrived as a cold, extremely windy day typical of late fall cross racing. I lined up in the first row based on current UCI standings which is always an advantage. I got a good start just behind Natasha Elliott who is having a phenomenal year. As we went through the barriers, I lost a few spots and a few more as we headed into the wicked head wind. There’s not much drafting in cross! I settled into about 12th place and, then, started picking off riders in the more technical spots, like the wheel-eating mud ditch that only three of uscleared each lap. Ultimately, I rode into 8th place and secured the ever treasured UCI points.
The TREK bike handled great on the technical aspects of the course and TREK’s light frame was much appreciated up the steep, short, power climbs. I rode SRAM Red, as I always do, and it shifted perfectly through some very thick, wet mud. I’m always amazed how well that stuff works in the worst of conditions. The top three riders that day were Natasha Elliott of Canada; Dawn Anderson of Canada, and Kristin Wentworth of the U.S.
Day Two of the Toronto International Cyclocross Race arrived in similar fashion with considerable wind, cold, and clouds; but, also lurking was a new course. Unfortunately, a significant part of the course was up a ski hill that resembled a mountain bike race because of the steepness. The steep up-hill course was lengthy and made more difficult by extreme mud created by a hard, long rain the afternoon before. (The deluge on Saturday occurred at the start of the Elite Men’s race and turned their course into an almost unmanageable icerink on which few excelled.)
As I talked to my fellow racers, we all agreed that those with micro-drive gearing that included a 34 front chain ring were going to be the ringers of the day. While I normally would have loved Sunday’s course with it’s climbs and multiple twists and turns, it proved almost impossible with my gearing in terms of competitiveness. I slogged through to finish 12th. I wasn’t nearly has giddy as I had been the day before. But, that is the joy (and pang) of racing that definitely has kept me on point this week as I waited not so patiently for this weekend’s racing. The top three riders on Sunday were: Natasha Elliott, Kristin Wentworth, and Rebecca Wellons.
Over and Out. Catherine