Monday, October 11, 2010

Race Report for Charm City Cross

Report by Chad Bartlett

Day 1:
This being my first cross race, I didn't exactly know what to expect. I made my 1st mistake early by showing up to the start area with less than a minute before the start so I had the pleasure of starting in the last row of the group. Considering my starting position, I was happy with the prologue. I was able to work my way past about 1/5 of the field by pushing it on the sprint up the pavement and staying upright through the chaos in the first few corners. For the 1st lap, the field was pretty grouped together so I had to pick my time to pass but was generally able to pass 4-5 people at a time on straight aways and pick off people in some select corners just by braking late and accelerating hard. The second lap was more of the same but the field had stretched out a little more so passing became a little easier. By the 3rd lap I had almost made my way into the top 30 and finally had some room to take the good lines through the corners. By this time I was basically only passing riders in select areas of the course. The sand, the fast but bumpy area in the field turning behind the backstop, the stairs, the straightaway leading up to the really off camber corner by the road, and tarmac section on the finishing straight were all areas I could pick off riders. By the 4th lap I had moved close to the top 20. I maintained a strong pace but tried to keep something in the tank for the last lap. I passed a few more riders and by the time I started the final lap I was right at 20th position. I continued trying to move up and picked off a handful of other riders. I put a big effort in leading up to the stairs to close a gap to 2 riders and pass them. I was now in 16th position and those two riders were right on my wheel for the 2nd half of the last lap. As we came out of the grass and onto the tarmac, I really pushed it hard up the hill to try to put a little separation between us so they couldn't draft on the straight away. I was successful but I had my only mechanical problem as we turned on the the finishing straight. My front derailleur struggled to shift into the big chainring and as we approached the finish line the two other riders caught my wheel and slingshot themselves around me as I finished in 18th place out of a field of 107 riders. I was happy with my first cross race and felt like I learned a lot in those 40 minutes.

Day 2:
After my poor starting position on Day 1, I made sure I arrived at the start area with plenty of time to be called up. On Day 2, I was number 355, so I still was not at the front of the group, but I was in better position than the day before. On the start, I sprinted past some people but mainly focused on getting into a good position on the right side of the road to set up the my passes in the first few corners. This prologue was a bit more chaotic than Day 1. A lot more rubbing wheels and people crashing around me. I think my crit racing experience helped me avoid some of the chaos and stay upright. As we made our way through the prologue, I found myself about 30-40 positions from the front in a dense group of people. I picked off riders one at a time through the corners by just picking my line, staying in a small gear, and punching it a little coming out of the corners. Twice in the 1st half of the 1st lap, one rider tried passing me by braking extremely late into a corner. Both times it ended with him on the ground and me riding around him smiling. A few corners later one of his teammates tried the same move, with the same results. This time I got around him as he was crashing but he took out a few people behind me. I quickly realized that my plan for passing was superior to that rider's plan. His unsuccessful move did help in creating a small break in the pack which took away any pressure from behind me, making it easier for me to move forward. So, thanks guy. I continued moving forward through the 1st and 2nd lap. Just as I entered the big turn around the tree approaching the stairs on the 2nd lap, I was passed by someone who was going into the corner way too hot. He went through the ribbon and soaring off the course cursing. I chuckled to myself because he was surprisingly wearing the same kit as the previous guy. By the middle of the 3rd lap, I knew I was getting closer to the front because there were large gaps between small groups of riders. I decided to push it hard to catch a group, sit on them and recover for a few seconds and then pass and push it hard up to the next group. This plan worked and I made my way into the top 10 by the end of the 3rd lap. At this point the leaders were pretty well spread out and I just had to settle into my pace and try to catch them without blowing up before the last lap. At the beginning of the final lap, I caught the 5th place rider and waited for my opportunity to pass. I finally got it when we got into the open field and the straight away before the stairs. I put in a hard effort to pass him, and managed to stay ahead of him up the stairs and through the technical part after the stairs. He passed me back as we climbed up towards the large barriers and I had nothing left to try to pass him again. I finished in 6th place. Ryan told me he was horribly disappointed in me for not making the podium. I told him he is a jerk and I didn't tell him about his dirt-stash (photo proof to come) which looked terrible.

Overall it was a good weekend and I learned a lot. I was happy with my races and I managed to stay upright the entire time. Maybe that means I wasn't pushing it hard enough but I like to think that it means I raced smart. I can't wait for Ed Sander this weekend to try to improve again.

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