Garmin Connect data for Bay Area Super Prestige #2, Candlestick Point As I've gone through this first season of cyclocross racing, I've discovered various things about myself, and the sport, that I need to understand and work on. My lack of off-road riding experience has lead to a couple of hard crashes, and a set of ribs that's still a little sore over six weeks after I dinged them up. Poor warm-ups and not fighting for a good start position has left me in the middle or at the back of the pack at the start of the race, causing me to drop time and positions that I just can't make up in a short cross race.

This past weekend, at Candlestick Point, I resolved to change those things that I could. Coming of 21st place in the first Bay Area Super Prestige Race, I felt like I would be competitive if I just got everything lined up right. The race was on Sunday morning; Saturday all day, we got the first big rainstorm of the year here in San Francisco. So we'd have a nice muddy race -- "real" cross conditions, which I found myself excited about. Back in my younger days, I liked racing in tough conditions, so hoped it would give me a mental advantage.

Got to the course at 7 AM for my 8:30 race, and got onto my bike to check out the course. It was a super fun layout -- lots of tight turns, little hills that you could either run or ride, one big runup, a couple of sets of barriers, some fast pavement sections. The rain had left it very muddy and soft in places, but really, just a blast.

Registered, and then my teammate Jeff was super excellent enough to put my bike on a stationary trainer so I could get a good cardio warmup in without slogging through the mud on the course. Morgan and Lauren got there with the Team Oakland tent at about 8:10, right as it started to pour again. My awesome teammates set up the tent, and then scooted it right over me, so I could keep warming up underneath it. Finished the warmup at 8:20, and then headed right to the line so I could get a good position for the start.

The whistle blew, and we were off. I was about 15th into the first corner, and started working my way up. On the first two laps, there was a rider in front of me who kept trying to ride up the slick hills before stalling out half way up each time, and then blocking the path.

This became progressively more frustrating, and finally I shouted out, "Come on, dude!" Apparently, this pissed him off, as he said, "Then pass me, Mr. Bike Cop." So, I did. I guess I feel a little bad about it, but it was just really, really maddening.

With my way clear, I worked up through the field, until I came across Travis Ma, who I had raced against on the last lap at Mclaren Park -- apparently, we're pretty damn evenly matched. I pulled up on him, we said hello to each other, and then set about our race. I went ahead of him and led through most of the second to last lap, feeling pretty good. But after we took the bell for the final lap, he went out ahead of me, and I started to struggle to close the gap.

On the final time up the muddy run-up, Travis did a great job remounting his bike and getting right back up to speed. I had a bad remount, landing a little more squarely on the guy parts than I would have liked, and it resulted in a 20 meter gap. Try as I might on the last bits of the course, I couldn't close it down, and he ended up beating me by 10 seconds.

That's the bad news. The great news was my 8th place finish, under a minute off the winner's time.

What's more, by my math, I think I might be 10th overall in the series after this race, which is pretty damn cool, too. It might even mean a call-up, so I can start on the front row of the next race in two weeks.

Looking at the lap times from my Garmin, I'm shocked at how consistent they were -- the first lap was different, and the other four are all within nine seconds of one another. So that good start was key, as it kept me from giving up a lot of time in traffic like I did at Mclaren.

I'm really happy about how cross season is going so far -- learning lots and lots each time I go out and race, and feeling like it's starting to pay off in good results. Now, of course, I'm torn. Part of me feels like I should go ahead and upgrade to the 35+ B race, where I'd get hammered, while part of me wants to do a couple more C races and see if I can get up in the mix for the podium.

After the race, cleaned up as best I could, and then hung out with my Team Oakland crew, doing hand-ups of water for them in the race, and enjoying a sausage and beer.

Cross, it should be said, is just silly, silly fun.

AuthorMark McClusky