6:30 in the morning. All the warning lights on the dashboard are on. Must be going to a cross race…
This has been a LOOOOONG season. It didn’t break the way I had pictured. It broke me instead. I remember going to one of the early races down south, thinking mebbe there was a podium in my future. And then driving home, after getting my ass beat both by better, fitter riders and my own dumb mistakes, thinking what an asshole I was.
Thankfully there’s room enough in the big tent of cyclocross for assholes.
There’s room in Dan’s minivan for assholes, too.
Last Chance CX is like the racing version of the noise a corpse makes as the various rot-gasses rip through it. But more fun. Put on by Jungle Room Promotions, South Mountain Cycle and Cafe and Andrew Bernstein, it’s the final spasm of the Fifth St. Cross series that runs Thursday evening through the meat of the season. At night, with lights, the series is a surreal blast.
Last Chance occurs in the chilly crotch of the morning with all the bells and whistles of a USAC sanctioned event on the same-ish Fifth Street course, the blame for which can be largely placed at the feet of Mike Yozell and the legions pressed into service to string 1.5 miles of course tape around the Emmaus Recycling Center.
At 8-ish we spilled out of the van into a sparsely populated parking lot, the frozen dew of the field beyond winking on the grass like a Disney villain, presaging travails that’d make a great musical.
Christophe and I were doing the Masters 40+ race, which was the second of the morning, so we were out and pre-riding with the 4/5’s while Dan and Forrest, racing later with the grown-ups, relaxed and napped. The course was a chicane-y, frozen shit-show, seemingly designed by a drunk on a Zamboni. Icy off-cambers, fields full of thawing mud, dinosaur-spined ruts, unpredictable slick grass… In a word – Awesome. There was something for everyone to suck at. SO far removed from the mindless run-and-gun courses of earlier in the season, this one rewarded those that hewed to Adam Myerson‘s advice: Don’t Fall Down.
Boring tech stuff: I mostly prerode on the Fango clad A-bike, but ultimately went with the dented PDX-shod B-bike for the first race. I wanted those big knobs under me and there really wasn’t any reason for a slick-ish center tread as there weren’t enuf straightaways to justify ’em. Also, for some reason, I was just more comfortable on the B-bike. Sigh. Too bad the frame is crimped.
Then there was some racing.
Pretty much the whole race in a nutshell in this picture. Two guys working on their 3rd beers of the morning wishing me the best with my crap line up a frozen hillock, and waaaaaay off in the right hand of the photo, far ahead of me, the yellow and grey kit of Lamprey’s Jeff Hetrick, who usually lines up with Dan but decided to spend the morning kicking my ass up and down the fjord instead. (Actually a super-nice guy who wasn’t at all put out that I’d hip-checked him to the ground fighting for the inside corner after the start.)
I got second. And a t-shirt.
Christophe had a great race. At one point he was running a strong third, but a combination of being a talented doctor who flies around the world doing nice things for kids and doesn’t ride for a month as a consequence and some minor brain-fade, knocked him back to 6th.
And then it all went to shit. I decided to do the B race. Which started 15 minutes after the Masters 40+. Clown show. Used the not-muddy A-bike and dry shoes. Wrong tires on the bike and no spikes on the shoes. Tires or toes, I had no grip. I flailed around like a four year old covered in fire-ants. Two times face first into the mud and countless little falls that were arrested only when the skin on my shins found purchase. Realizing if I kept this up I would impale myself on myself, I pulled the plug and happily drifted under the tape to the van, where there were cookies, whiskey and warm clothing. The four basic food groups.
By the time the clever kids got going, the cement-ice that’d bedeviled us had turned into a soup w/ice flavoring. Though Van Dessel‘s Edwin Bull made it look easy, everyone else made it look hard. (Except dan, who made 5th place look comfy.) Forrest’s saddle decided to try to split him in half, so he spent a bit of time in the pits teaching it a lesson with a wrench, putting paid to his and Dan’s duel.)
We banged around the parking lot for a while in various states of stunned, stupid and shiftless, putting dirty clothes into garbage bags, cadging boxes of expired PowerBar “nutrition” from the promoter and watching mud dry. Then we went home.
The season is over. Long live the season!