…You know the ones. If you’re having a party-balloon week, these days are a pin. If you’re a puppy, they’re a rolled up newspaper. If you’re Jennifer Aniston, they’re Angelina Jolie.
Caffeinated CX was a lovely mess. A sandy South Jersey Ag wonderland, replete with flow-y off-cambers, a gnarly mtb/skillz section, a road dragstrip, barns, coffee and RAIN! I was schooled at the line by Eric Morgan, a Kelpius rider who, despite my attempting to stuff him into the tape every corner, was faster and cleverer than me. And prolly better looking.
This was followed by a 4 hour drive the next morning to Providence RI, for the third day of the KMC Cross Fest, usually referred to simply as Providence. I wasn’t prepared for what happened. I HAD watched the previous day’s race on the computer, care of Behind the Barriers TV, and was duly impressed by the course and the competence of the pros. (Including Stacey Barbossa and Kathryn Cumming. I know them!) But getting on the course at 9 that morning was crazy. I felt like it was my first time on a bike.
OK, yes, Scott Sugent and I had been driving since 4:30 in the morning, and we HAD raced the day before, but still, on my best day, this was a level above what I’m used to. A roller coaster cut into a park, with three fly-overs and a whoop-dee-doo jump in front of the beer garden. Also, some lung busting climbing and plenty of flat-out power sections that made the legs feel like they’d been stabbed with forks. And when we lined up around noon, it got truly bananas. 180 people in the 35+ Masters field. That’s me plus 179 more people. Most of whom are really, really fucking fast. So I lined up on the seventh or eighth row, seeded by my Crossresults points, and then got pummelled cornering, riding uphill, straightaways and flyovers. Unlike Madison WI two years ago, where I was seeded similarly poorly and was able to couple some seriously heinous conditions with my flawed notion of self-preservation for a pretty nice result, here I just got my ass kicked on a pretty day.
I was extra specially pleased when Scott, who’d registered that day and was lined up at the absolute ass end of the grid, passed me on the penultimate lap. Stoked for him, as he’s riding really well, but it’s like rooting for the guy pulling your fingernails off. When the race, mercifully, ended, I consoled myself with a stroll through the exhibitors tents, scored some trinkets, drank some meh beer, had some great Rapha coffee (still trying to reconcile loving the free coffee and being terrified by their $200 jerseys) and fucked off back to my cave in NJ.
There was a brief and wonderful time-out in Emmaus PA, at Fifth Street Cross, Andrew Bernstein’s love-child, ridden at night with headlights and fingers crossed. Tough place to be an official, great place to be a rider.
And then came Whirlybird CX.
Rain and mud. I like these things.
When the tiny powerhouses start skidding around like squirrels on ice, I often find my mass driving me through the murk and the mud to the firmer ground below. Think a Bison standing in Jello.
Also, I just like playing in the mud. Always have. The shittier the day, the bigger my grin. People I’ve never gotten close to on warm, lovely days often find themselves staring at the muddy brown stripe of my receding ass-crack. It’s a nice feeling. (The riding away, bit, not the muddy ass-crack.)
I had a bit of that at Whirlybird, where I was just seven seconds behind Chris Facas, who has been kicking my ass up and down this year. It gave me hope things were coming together a bit. Ha ha. Hope. (sigh)
Then a weekend of HPCX, aka where hope goes to die. Since there weren’t any other UCI races happening on the East Coast this weekend, lots of talented pro-types showed up, and most of the fields were pretty well filled. Including mine, Masters 45+, with 53 on day one and 44 on day two. Crossresults predicted a 21st place on day one and 17th on day two. Oh, Crossresults, you idiot. I came up shy both days, slotting in at 26th and 19th. Shit happens. It was a super-tough course. Plenty of sharpish little climbs, hard, tight cornering and subsequent explosive exits, power sections, etc. No rest anywhere out there. I wasn’t feeling horrible about the weekend. Until I looked at the numbers. I HEMORRHAGED time out there, especially Sunday. I didn’t just lose to Facas (aka my rectal thermometer), I lost by over two minutes. I have brought shame upon my family. Also, I crashed fucking around on the barriers on the very last lap. I suck at comedy riding.
I woke up this morning thinking “What the fuck did I spend my weekend DOING?” That kind of recrimination usually follows Bourbon, or Imperial IPAs. I remember watching a racer have a major-league meltdown after a race in California. Sitting in one of those horrible sling/diaper chairs, surrounded by carbon and cleverness, as thin as a Clapper Rail in a reed-bed, moaning, literally keening, great torrents of complaint, punctuated by ravenous gulps of green sports-drink – all of his money, his time, his life, pitched into the maw of this fucking sport AND FOR WHAT!?
Some days are like that.