photo taken by LukeI got a late start to the "Save Ferris" cx race in Northbrook. That figures. Since it is the closest race to my house and I took for granted that I could sleep in a bit and not pack the night before. Big mistake. I wanted to arrive with at least an hour to register, attach my number, warm up and pre-ride what was rumored to be a challenging course (it was). Instead, I got there only about a half hour before race time and, in the rush to get on the course, attached my number on the wrong side (rookie mistake thinking that all races require the number on the same side). Luckily a patient race official was able to right my mistake with seconds to spare before the start.
The one practice lap I got in told me the story of a very technical, twisty, off-camber festival. No barriers to jump over (rats, I'm getting good at that) and two stair climbs. This is going to be, er, fun.
I registered to race both the 40+ Masters race and the 4a race. It was a damp 37 degrees when I arrived, but at least there wasn't any wind. As usual, the Masters got off to a very fast start and my position near the back didn't help much. As we got through the first section of twisty, off camber turns through the trees, a rider went down ahead of me. I was able to avoid hitting him or the many riders around him and dismount, run past them and remount. Looking good, but not for long. My first fall came on the hairpin turn at the top of the sled hill. It was the first of four or five falls on that initial lap. I attribute this to either my being too aggressive on the turns (which is an improvement over my usual tentativeness) or the lack of the right tires for the conditions (as if I have any others). I also decided to run that turn for the rest of the race.
The first lap cost me time and confidence and I wound up taking 27th out of 31 which is a slight improvement over Hawthorn. Ed got a nice shot of me looking pretty intense:
I now had three hours to kill before the 4a race. I ate a sandwich, drank some coffee and a lot of water and put on some additional clothing for warmth. I also took a few pictures and rode around to pass the time and help keep me warm.
I did get in one more practice lap after the women's race and this was key. I got some great advice from Tom S on how to handle that first hairpin turn on the bike and was able to practice it two or three times.
For the 4a race, I made sure to get a good starting position. This was important as there were 54 riders in this field and that first turn would probably get ugly. Not being in the top 10, I didn't get called up, but I did get in the second row.
I hammered the start as if it were a closing sprint and kept good position for the trees. I handled that hairpin turn on the sled hill perfectly (if a little slowly) and raced a nearly clean race. Unfortunately for me, I lost time every lap on the stairs to faster climbers and the various areas of the course that were muddy sapped my strength and speed. It was also getting windy which didn't help. I was very happy with my race and thought I did better than 42nd place.
Overall, a really great cyclocross race. I prefer the more technical course, because, well, they're more fun. There were also a lot of photographers out and you can see their pictures here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
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