Race Report: Grand Prix Erik Tonkin #4 (Zaandercross), 9/21/2013

Published 2013-09-22

A good day, tons of fun and not a bad race for me. You could read last year’s report to get a feel, the course was not significantly different. Although there was no log crossing and one less beach run.

Zaandercross has a bad rep, and the crowd showed it. Only 51 entrants, which seems tragic for such a cool spot. I’ve decided Zaandercross might be one of my top-five or so venues, despite having everything I’m bad at (sand, running, straightaways, stairs, lots of barriers) and nothing I’m good at (mud, climbing).

Weather threatened rain all morning but stayed dry (for me. The kids got a dunking. More on this below). Rain during the night wetted the sand down a little so the (external) misery was low.

I staged pretty much middle of the pack, next to Thom. Thom has a feathery new bike (“Bea”), and has worked (that is to say trained) all year to make this his season. So: he was out of sight early after the whistle. The long gravel road along the dike served to thin the (already manageable) pack, and I quickly jumped to umpteenth place. My bad spots were always up onto and down off of the dike. Need more handling skills.

I approached Thom on the back quarter of the last lap — by this time he’d dropped back to me more than I’d gained to him, although we were both passed by the same two or three riders. For a glorious thirty yards or so I passed him but lost my traction in the final sand section — a place I had ridden through every lap prior — and he beat me at the end. Curses! This might be the only race this season where I stood a chance of catching him.

14th of 51

About the sand

Sand is a great leveler. I got passed once on the sand and passed many myself. Every lap I caught at least one guy on the beach, and usually finished with enough strength to catch a few more after (where everyone recovers.) Inasmuch as I have a “’cross strategy” (p.s. I don’t), it is: “attack when everyone else is suffering most, then attack harder when they’re recovering.” This is hugely taxing physically but not mentally. Somehow I have amazing Hulk powers at moments when the race feels hopeless: after a crash, on a climb, on a sprint after a climb, on the recovery straightaway after the 70yard beach run, in the sleet, when mud is in my teeth. The greater the misery the better my racing.

The Gunnar is plumb too heavy. That kind of hurts to write. This is an expensive bike and kind of a dream bike for me but seriously. Gotta be a 25lb+ bike. I could’ve beat Thom with even one pound less weight on my shoulder.

Kiddie Kross

Frenchman’s Bar is a fantastic park (beach, playground) and a good cross venue for families. There’s room to run and you’re always within half a mile of the car. A big playground and rodeo-style kiddie course (so they can ride in circles when they’re bored, not just during their “race.”) Orion took about ten practice laps, and worked out his strategy for the barrier.

Just before the kiddie race Iris stepped on a bee and got a stinger in her foot. This was the first time in my life I’d seen a bee stinger in someone, I’ve always read about “scraping the stinger out” but never did this in practice. She was recovered enough by noon to race, but then literally minutes before the Kiddie Race started the sky just opened up. Big drops of Hollywood rain falling hard and stupid. Of course the kids loved it The kids (not just my kids, all the kids at these races) always love it. Iris is riding her new-to-her pink pedalbike but I took the pedals off so she can scoot (she’s getting really proficient at scooting, after some early trepidation. I kind of don’t want to discourage her at this moment.) Orion on his 16-incher. Both in their new raincoats! Ada wanted nothing to do with being covered from the weather and got soaked through. What’s she gonna be like when she starts riding, I wonder?

A fun day, we ate four waffles. (They are big waffles.)