I could’ve won the race Saturday. Well not Saturday Saturday but Saturday in an alternate universe where I had about 10% better bike handling skills. But for about 200 yards I was indeed leading, after passing most of the field on the first climb.
Jenny and the kids had no interest in attending. I drove (!) myself (!!) to the venue. I could have ridden: it was warm and not (yet) raining. Glad I drove.
Arrived early for the 10:25 preview which was itself early. Got in a full and proper warm up lap…then had 45min to kind of kick around Edgefield for funzies. In the preview, the race surfaces were all tacky — indeed my cleats were in danger of mucking up. So I was worried (unnecessarily…) that this would be a “fast” race and thus not well-suited to my abilities (climbing, slogging, suffering).
Scant minutes before the 11:30 field began gathering around the start line (no callups (!!!)) the sky just opened up on us. What was tacky in the preview became slippery snail snot in Lap 1.
Staged mid-pack. In a field of 22 dudes this was basically “at the front” but could have just as easily been “at the back.” The start threaded through the concert field, behind the Red Shed, between the hotel and dock, then to the west edge of the property along the golf cart trail. Just before the climb I was, I dunno, eight guys back? Ten?
Then began the climbing. Oh sweet merciful Goddess the climbing. So awful, so slippery, so technical. Chest-bursting quad-burning pain. In the snail snot we had to stay seated and power up with our quads, and by the summit I was holy crap first place with so much energy in the tank. I put a dozen or more yards on the guy behind me and for about 10 seconds led a race for the first time in my life. I had the brief and awful and very misguided thought “I could actually win this.”
Well my lack of bike handling abilities paid negative dividends here. This climb ends on an awkward left-turn-slash-ditch-crossing for which I dismounted, awkwardly, and remounted even more awkwardly. Before the turn onto the first chicanes the two riders behind me had overtaken, and by the end of the first descent so had about five more guys. Of course, there were more climbs to come and on those I clawed my way back to third, which I held into the loooong descent along the east edge of the race. But then came the truly technical stuff and dude after dude passed me. By the time we rounded the docks on Lap 2 (before the climb) I was comfortably between fifth to seventh place — which place I might have held (with some yo-yoing) through the race.
The first crash (Lap 2) was relatively minor, just after the tall barriers on the descent to the middle field. I overcooked a right turn into the chicanes and slid out. A recoverable crash for sure, and only lost a few places. But as soon as I remounted, my body shifted rapidly from victory mode to we are done now, yes? mode. In the few seconds of not-pedalling my legs decided “surely you have come to your senses and are now soft-pedaling back to the firepit!” I still passed my rabbits on the climbs but running (and climbing, as in rock climbing, see photo) posed a really hard challenge. By Lap 5 I was fairly walking out of my climbs.
The second crash (Lap 3 or 4?) was more-or-less the same place but a lovely endo directly only my forearms. Luckily mud is soft so no physical damage, but I lost almost all my momentum, and spent the last laps holding onto the two or three guys around me. I had enough left for a pitched battle for 11th place of 22
So: my best Master B race ever! Top half anyway.
Pedalers is the best CCX race in Oregon
It is to the Oregon racing community’s shame (but yay for me!) that it isn’t massively popular. Oregon CCX race snobs grouse about the giganto field sizes and carnival atmosphere at Cross Crusade races — hey remember CCX in the 80s before it was cool? With the gnarly venues and the small field sizes? The whole “fifty idiots in a muddy field” vibe? Well guess what bozos, that’s the vibe at Pedalers! Except at, you know, a giant brewery/distillery/hotel multiplex, with firepits and table service and warm (indoor!) places to sit.
I’ve never raced in Belgium & especially not in, I dunno, 1952, but somehow this is what I imagine cyclocross races in Belgium felt like in 1952.
The course — which every year several racers declaim “the hardest” — has a brilliant WTF feel that mercifully hasn’t chilled since its first year. It has so many features that are just plain wrong. A ditch at the top of a climb. Mossy bricks. A descent into barriers. A descent into chicanes. A descent into barriers into a descent into chicanes. Curbs. A bona-fide wall to climb. A pavement-curb-gravel-corner-barrier(!) transition at the finish line.
Usually I race Pedalers and Barton back to back, and I like it that way. Last year I missed them both. This year I only raced Pedalers and now that it’s Monday and my legs aren’t barking, I regret skipping Barton.