Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A love hate sort of thing...

OBRA State CX Championship 11/20/10
By M.M. Blomberg

As a cyclo-cross beginner in 2009, Championship anything sounded pretty hardcore to me. But 2010 has been a year of learning what that intimidating word means in the world of cycling. Earlier this summer I competed in the OBRA Mtn Bike Short Track, Criterium and Track championship races. These races are like any other except for two things. Placing well at these races means big points for your OBRA stats (points lead to upgrades) and top 3 earns you a shiny medal to take home (with bragging rites if you so choose).
With my whole year of racing leading up to this moment, I tried to follow my own advice. Show up and do the best you can with what you’ve got for that day. No pressure, it’s just a race, right?

Saturday was a dry chilly 38 degrees when Beth Hamon (Velo Bela & bike mechanic) and I arrived at West Salem High School for early tent set up (Shane stayed home sick). Beth had been working all year to get a women’s singlespeed category established at cross races and she finally got her wish in Salem. I’m not quite ready to join the singlespeed nation for cross. Maybe next year Beth.

This course was a love hate sort of thing. Some loved it, some hated it but nobody was in the middle. Personally, I just found it to be exhausting. There was still grass and most of the technical sections were rideable during my AM pre ride. Lots of pavement and curbs (some wood ramps provided), two climbs, a wide steep run up and one set of barriers. The off camber section before the run up turned into a foot race run later in the day as the hillside threatened to kick you down the slick slope and off of the course completely. If you are a good climber, this was your day. Hill #1 in the trees on the fence line was muddy with roots and slick rocks with a smattering of forest debris (some ran this too). Hill #2 was a long bark dust running trail leading up out of the trees to pavement. For the less conditioned, this hill was taken on foot by mid race. After the bark dust climb, you are heading back through the school parking lot to the finish. Hard, square speed bumps were an unexpected obstacle. A section cut out of the middle of the speed bump was big enough for one rider to pass through but with a group of riders, your options were bunny hop it (my favorite), ride over it (ouch) or go around. Just don’t forget they are there as a few unlucky racers did.

By my race time, our weather had leveled out to a manageable 50 degrees, no rain and a completely chewed up and slick course. Two of the top Cross Crusade Master A ladies were absent; Sue Grandjean (Showers Pass) and Julie Swearingen (Mountain View). I started in the front row with Sarah Eustice (Bike Attorney), Sarah Tisdale (Sorella Forte) and Jill Hardiman (Existential Velo).

“TIMERS READY! RIDERS READY! GO!!” Our greasy start in the mud leads into a wide rutted S turn. We scramble like the cars in a demolition derby, narrowly missing each other in the hard left turn around the first stake, bikes sliding and wheels sticking in the muddy grooves. It takes all my energy to push my crank and keep my wheels in motion across in these 90 degree turns to stay with the leader. We spill out onto pavement and I hold on as part of top 4 with Sarah E., Jill and Renee Scott (Sunnyside Sports-raced A’s in Cross Crusade). I managed to ride the off camber before the run up on the first lap (not so lucky after that). Rolling downhill with a mucky dismount at the bottom and we slog up the very steep run up. At the top it’s pavement, curb and back to small downhill and another off camber before the only barrier. Reaching the back of the course, our climbing skills are tested at the hill in the trees (thanks Kevin for the pre race tip on taking the right side line). Passing the pit we maneuvered the soft bark dust decent with bank like S curves. A little soft for me to ‘rail’ but I do try to increase my speed each lap to carry me through to the next running trail climb. Climbing out of the saddle, my chase to stay with the front group continues. Passing through the finish for lap 2, I bunny hopped the speed bumps before a right turn up a curb ramp to the muddy start section. Just behind me I hear the familiar sound of metal hitting pavement. Rider down at the speed bump! From the sidelines my coach yells “GO FASTER!” Thanks J.B., the thought hadn’t occurred to me.

More wheel sucking mud and the passing begins.Wish I could say I was doing the passing. Sarah Tisdale gets around me before the pavement as we knock wheels in the turn. I go big chain ring on the pavement sections but the speed doesn’t help when rolling back into nuggety sections. Both are sucking my energy more than usual. Getting passed and passed but I have stopped trying to keep track of the kits. SUCKING WIND! Kim Rueter (Sorella Forte) comes by me, I pass her back but she ends up getting the better of me and I lose another position. In lap three, I take a technical down hill at a funky angle, front wheel sticks in the deep mud at the bottom and over the handlebar I go, leaving a chunk of knee flesh behind. Fans cheer! By final lap 4, I have slid into 9th position and I am just trying to hang on a little longer. Over the sound of my booming heart beat I hear, “COME ON MARGI, YOU CRAP HILLS BIGGER THAN THIS, LET’S GO!” Margi Bradway (Team S&M) has finally caught me on the last hill before the finish. I ask my legs for a donation of speed but they already gave at the office. Passing me on the right, Margi whispered “good job”. My last effort, up out of the saddle to chase her home but just couldn’t catch her. Rolling into the finish, it’s 10th place today. And just like any other race, it ended with a trip to first aid.

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