Monday, November 28, 2011

MABRA Championships at Taneytown

Today's race was the MABRA Cross Championships at Taneytown Memorial Park. I was the only KindHuman rider there but I am somewhat of a Cyclocross Socialite so I found some cool people to hang out with. This race is not in the MABRA Super 8 Series so it wasn't one that I was really focusing on but I thought it would be good to race it so I still feel fresh next week for the last race in the Super 8 Series. I didn't have huge expectations going into this one because of rain and holiday plans getting in the way of training. I really didn't ride near as much as I should have this week. On top of that I went for a hike on Friday that was supposed to be 7-10 miles but turned into 16 miles of hiking through Shenandoah National Park with about 3000 feet of elevation gain. I haven't done much hiking, walking, or running lately so this was certainly a shock to my legs. I basically wore my compression socks continuously from Friday until my race started today in an effort to combat the soreness in my legs. So with all of that in mind I really was setting my goals lower than I should have but I did want to grab at least 1 upgrade point since I was 1 point away from the 10 needed to upgrade to a Cat 2. With 40 racers in the the field, that meant that I needed to get 5th place or better. So my goal was 5th place. When I got my number I was surprised by my 1st row starting position since I have only done 2 races in this series and I didn't place well in one of them due to mechanicals. But I took that 1st row position without complaining. The course conditions were pretty rough. I think this park may have been a water park at some point because it retains water like no other. It hadn't rained since Wednesday but there were huge mud bogs and plenty of large "bodies" of water to ride through. So after some pre ride laps on the Pit bike I line up on my sparkling clean Kona Major Jake. I've been trying to figure out why I've been terrible at my starts all season so I was determined to get a good jump on the field. I know I'm not a sprinter but I should be able to get off the line quickly.

The whistle blew and I was clipped in immediately and off. I made it to the 1st corner in 2nd position. BEST START EVER (for me)!! I took a couple of bad lines and was sitting comfortably in 3rd position. I remained there for a bit and as I passed the pit, i made my 1st mistake. "BARTLETT DOWN!!" I hear from a rider behind me as my wheels slide out from under me on a slick corner. I get back up with only losing one position. I made it through the 1st 2 major bog sections pretty well but I definitely took the slower line through it and lost another position. I'm in 5th place now as I pass the pit for the 2nd time of the lap. In an attempt to get back into 4th I try to pass on a slippery off camber straight away and wash my wheels out from under me again. Quickly I get back up and didn't lose any more spots. I run through the Run-Down/Run-Up section smoothly and remount before the next mud bog. This mud has a chain link fence on the right side and the easier way through was right next to the fence. So I take that line but the mud decides to throw me into the fence wedging my right shifter between the fence post and the chain link part of the fence. I get it out but lose another position. Now I'm in 6th as we get to the off camber turn that follows the mud. My tires are caked and I go down again. I'm right back up and now getting pissed at myself. I go through the start/finish and towards the 1st half of the lap that we skipped on the 1st lap. They made the prologue avoid that section because it was super muddy and technical and they didn't want us sprinting right into that with a large group. So right as I get into the mud I have to unclip. I remount and make a sharp right turn into a slick off camber straight away and again my wheels go out from under me. I'm pretty sure I've already crashed 5 times by the time I do one complete lap. Now I'm telling my self to relax and race smarter and let other people make the mistakes. This goes pretty well and an amazing battle starts between 2nd and 5th place. There were gaps between all of us. I bridged up, passed, bridged up, battled, passed, bridged up, battled, passed....until I was in 3rd place. For the next 2 or 3 laps positions 2 through 5 changed pretty frequently. I've never been in such an intense battle. With 2 laps to go I start running a lot more of the mud and start putting a bigger gap on 4th and 5th place because of this decision. Finally positions are claimed by the start of the final lap. I'm in 3rd with a 15-20 second gap to second place that I was bringing down pretty quickly. 4th place was about 20-30 seconds behind me now and 5th place was about 20 seconds back from there. I continue to hammer it through the straights and focus on staying upright on the turns. I continue running more of the mud sections. At the final mud section I decided to let my momentum from the hill take me into the mud and then dismount. Just as I was about to dismount I was tossed into the fence again. This time my brake lever and shifter were wedged in the chain link fence and I couldn't get it out at all. I spend about 20 seconds trying to get it out of there and then it broke and came free. I'm still ahead of 4th place but I only have about 5 seconds on him. I have no rear brake and 3 sketchly turns to go. I get through those cleanly and I'm on the straight away. I try to shift my rear derailleur but the shifter is broken and I'm stuck in my biggest cog. I shift into the big ring and start spinning my ass off to try to hold off 4th place but with a couple of shifts of his gears, he took me by a few feet at the line. 4th place.

The broken shifter was pretty frustrating to me mostly because it caused me 3rd place but I did get my upgrade points that I wanted so at least I had that. It seems like they should start changing the 4th place podium step from saying "4th" to "Chad's" because I've been 4th for 3 weeks in a row now. At least they know what size stuff to put in the 4th place prize packs. Overall it was an unbelievably fun race and an epic battle. I made some new friends and maybe a new nemesis.

Photo by Lauren Howe

Photo by Lauren Howe

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