Monday, November 14, 2011

Trial by Fire

My name is Nathan Ong and I will be blogging about my past weekend's experience(s) at the Schooley Mill Cross event this past weekend. This was my first cyclocross event, my first 'race' experience, and my first weekend with KindHuman Sports. At first the guys had convinced me to join them for the poker relay while borrowing Nate C's bike, but it quickly evolved into borrowing another friends bike for the morning Cat 4 Beginner Race. Before Sunday morning, my experiences with a bike have been mainly road focused so my knowledge of cyclocross was limited to mainly pictures and youtube videos floating around the internet.

So having set up a bike, borrowed from my friend the night before the race, I was not able to ride a single mile prior to Sunday. Matt B, was gracious enough to meet up early with me in the morning and give me a cyclocross101 lesson at 7:30am. Upon meeting Matt in the morning, we got my number pinned on and class was in session. Matt quickly took me to a grassy patch near the start line and showed me a dismount/mount technique which was practiced a few times at walking pace. After doing a few jumps on and off the bike, we promptly went to the circuit and rode the circuit 1.5 times. I tried to soak in the atmosphere and visually keep all the hairpins and obstacles in mind for later recollection. After riding the course and talking, Matt accompanied me to the start line to give me some emotional support.

I arrived slightly late to the start line I was probably lined up 40 or so out of a field of around 65, i'd guess. Once the bell/whistle/voice sounded for the start, we were off! At this point all the adrenaline had come to me and I just tried my best to get a decent position while exiting the asphalt and staying upright while cornering shoulder to shoulder, wheel to wheel with the other riders. Being told that this was a more "technical course" than last year by Matt, I knew it would be tough to gain ground on people while needing to navigate the cyclocross obstacles around the course, so I tried my passing on straights and up slight inclines. I was fairly successful in this wayward strategy and probably passed 10-15 people on the first lap despite losing major time on dismounts/remounts and people falling closely in front of my bike. I felt fairly good about the lap =).

Now unfortunately this is where things quickly went downhill... Inevitably on the second lap about 2 minutes in, I went down due to coming in a bit hot and locking up my rear brake. I got back on the bike as best I could and quickly noticed that my handlebars were pointed in a very different direction to that of my front wheel. This being my first cross race, I suppose I didn't realize that stopping on route to fix issues is way faster (in the end) than riding a possibly broken bike. I trundled on, and subsequently realized that I was nearing my LIMIT. My lungs were burning, my legs were screaming for oxygen, and the flicks of my right wrist could not find any more gears. In my mind, I had accepted the fact that I had blown up spectacularly and was merely a spectator in the race from that point onward. Suddenly all the people who I had passed, were passing me left and right no matter the terrain. This continued on, until I crossed the finish line placed roughly 45th out of 60.

Matt quickly gave me some post-race verbal support and gave my bike a quick lookover. After a couple of seconds fiddling with my bike, it was apparent that the brake was rubbing my front wheel considerably not allowing the front wheel to spin freely. Looking back, this was probably due to improper tightening of the quick release before the race =( . So there you have it, my somewhat "crash" course into the world of cyclocross. A few notable things that I've learned from the weekend are:

  • Cyclocross is quite straining, but fun in retrospect

  • Always double check equipment before the start

  • Smoothness can often times trump pure speed

Thanks to Matt for the lessons, the team for their support, and fun times during the poker race relay shortly after the Men's 1/2/3 race!

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