Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lion's Roar

September roars into the Northeast with the ferocity of a newborn kitten: warm, soft and playful with an unmistakable fragrance and yet the thing can still bite and scratch. One minute, September caresses you with tease of its tail and the next minute it lacerates your face with a deft swipe of its retractable claws. Yet somehow you don’t mind being assaulted because after all it’s just a kitten. But there is also a foreboding premonition that someday soon the kitten will cease to exist leaving in its place a cold-hearted temperamental old cat whose wintery gaze sends shivers down your spine and whose assaults must now be answered with tetanus shots and sutures.

As unpredictable as September’s weather can be, one thing that is certain is that September marks the start of cyclocross season in the Northeast. Last weekend Nittany Lion Cross, “purred” into Trexlertown, PA so your Bull City Cycling North correspondents took a break from our busy gym, tan, laundy schedule to attend the first UCI Cyclocross race of the 2010 season in the world wide world. Given the multitude of factors including the weather (75 degrees and dry), location (T-town velodrome), significance (1st MAC Series race, 1st UCI race) and big name UCI pros the fields were predictably huge.

I lined up with 119 of my closest friends in the first race of the day and managed to keep from being taken out three different times by some guy who is apparently known to many as “sketchy cyclocross guy”. Somehow I finished amongst the top 10 sandbaggers, mostly attributable to a good starting position which was my first lesson for the day: Like that old dog-sled themed cliché goes…if you aren’t the lead dog all you see is assholes. 120 dudes who each think they can win on narrow course means there is bound to be a Holland-tunnel scale traffic jam in the first corner. Thus making it through the “tollbooth” in the lead group is critical to a good finish. The other lesson I learned was to avoid first race mechanicals by pre-testing gear advance. I saw an amazing number of rolled tubular and pinch-flats, no doubt caused by the bone-dry conditions and exposed tree roots on the fast course. Nonetheless, I was very impressed with how well the event was run considering there were almost 500 racers. I will definitely try to do more MAC Series events this year.

This was also the professor’s sister-in-law’s first cx race ever and she battled her way into the top third…a great first showing. Here she is demonstrating catlike reflexes to avoid a pileup:

(by the way Zoom girl, it’s a race, not a “no-drop” group ride. no need to stop and see if she’s ok, especially mid-course)

It was great to see the UCI pros rip up the course in a dust cloud that Pig-pen would be proud of. Jeremy Powers was supposed to race but had to pull out due to a broken finger sustained during his win at Green Mountain stage race. Rumor has it that he is so powerful this year that the simple act of double-tapping his SRAM levers caused his bones to snap under the force. My suspicion is that he was attacked by his cat while trying to feed it Sport Beans. I guess we’ll just have to wait for the truth to surface in J-Pow’s Velonews Journal.

Next Race: EMS Nor’Easter, which might be the only cx race in the US with actual spectators (dare I say only because course winds its way through a popular music festival featuring real performers)


DukePirate said...

Awesome first paragraph. Even better catlike skills. Cheers!

felonious said...

Our first Jersey Shore reference, too!

co2cycle said...

are you jackasses trying to get the holeshot for "firsties"?
real classy.
Top-ten in a 120 person field is crazy good. Shit, the leaders should just about hit the startline while the last starter is still clipping in.