NCCX opening weekend. Day 1: Cary.
Couldn't find parking so I found an awesome, semi-illegal spot near the course. Very handy for dragging two bikes and a spare set of wheels to the race. Got there just in time to see Jam Master Jay lining up for the start of the large B race. 100 meters on grass before a slight uphill to right-hand bottleneck. Jay made it through without too much trouble and steadily worked his way into the top ten. I haven't seen results yet, but Jay looked to be riding confidently and smoothly. His face during cx races does not show an expression one would call cheerful, but there is a sort of calmness in his determined grimace. He gave a great performance in his first race in the B field, which required a 50% increase in race length, and oh the difference 15 minutes can make.
Linus and I lined up next with four other singlespeeders, the women's B field, and a bunch of juniors. I'm used to lining up next to semi-pro roadies who scare the crap out of me so it's weird racing against a 13 year old kid (to be fair, we were racing at the same time, not against one another). And then we were off. Linus, the mechanic, dropped his chain around the first turn. I think it was because he was wearing his Bitter Dose jersey instead of the Bull City kit. I was chasing the elder Hawkins boy (on a mountain bike older than most of the juniors) and some other dude on a mountain bike and trying not to get caught by a re-chained Linus and they younger Hawkins. I was using the singlespeed race to get warmed up for my later race and work out some of the kinks of the course, so yes, you could say I was sandbagging. I did try to stay out of the way of the people who were doing their primary race. If I messed up your game, let me know and I'll give you a big lead-out next time.
It was hot. It's always hot at the Cary race. Dusty, grass and mulch. I opened up my sunglasses case but found no sunglasses. My contact lenses frowned. My legs, on the other hand, felt alright. Lined up toward the back of the Men's A field, where I belong. About 35 people, much larger than ever before, which in some ways is bad because I'm not really racing for top ten (out of twelve) anymore, but in other ways is good because I'm actually racing against a bunch of other people. The fast guys are still fast, but there are now more slower guys like me.
So we're off. Someone's chain immediately explodes. See you and your $25 later. Things string out and I'm working my way forward. People are surging, then fading. Bikes are falling apart, or something, I can't be bothered to figure out why dudes suddenly stop. I'm feeling good--cyclocross good, which means feeling terrible, but in an optimistic way. A couple of laps down and I see the start/finish line: 9 laps to go. Fuck. This is not some stupid crit with 2 minute laps. That's a lot of riding still to be done. With 4 to go, I'm starting to feel bad--cyclocross bad, which means feeling terrible, but in a pessimistic way. My energy level is low. Dudes I was chasing are nowhere to be seen. Dudes I had passed are now seen again, gaining on me. Don't panic. That next guy is going to catch you, just keep riding tempo and don't blow up. Two laps to go: I blow up. I keep pedaling, realizing that I'll be lapped soon. I can see the leaders, but unless I stop before the finish line and wait, they are too far away to lap me, and finishing like that is far too undignified. Not to mention there is still one other rider behind me who isn't going to get lapped. So I go onward, bonking in full effect. I find some smashed Jelly Belly Sportsbeans in my pocket and eat them without water. They are somehow both delicious and repulsive. I have no water and I'm not sure if throwing up would make me feel better or worse, or if it's even possible. Keep riding. Don't crash. That last dude is definitely going to catch you--just finish the race. I finish the race and sulk back to the car.
I sulked back to the car just as the rain started. Ben had arrived and was warming up for his first cx race. Linus was also getting ready. It had been humid and dry all day, but as soon as they started the C race, it started pouring. I had totally destroyed myself and went searching for things made of food and clothes without chamois. Unfortunately, I missed most of the race, but I made it back in time to see guys crashing most awesomely on a descent that for every other race was dry and bumpy. Very ridable, but the type of thing you'd likely roll a tire on. In the fresh mud, people were rolling themselves, or sliding. All sorts of carnage.
I've sort of hogged the spotlight, but these races are always best explained in the first person. Hopefully the other guys will share their experiences. Corey was also out there, cheering us on and taking pictures, and hopefully he'll get some of those posted up too.
Next time, NCCX: Raleigh.