Finally is right…. After months of recuperation I finally sit down to write the final chapter of the 2012-13 cyclocross season for CX Nation. Just in time too, it seems like this years cyclocross season is upon us. The last chapter takes place in the grand old southern city of Louisville, Kentucky with the Master’s Cyclocross World Championships.
And we are off……………
After a long flight from Oakland on Southwest via Phoenix, I arrived in Louisville to some pretty crazy weather. That night there were tornadoes in the area. I guess a lot of the racers who were staying at the Gault House downtown had to evacuate at 4am. I guess the employees at the Hyatt Place slept right through all the warnings. I followed suit and didn’t even know about the tornadoes till the next day.
Day 1 in Louisville had most of the racers, including myself, racing in heats. Don’t ask me to explain the rules about heat racing. I read the rules over and over and over again on USA Cycling’s website and still didn’t understand. I wasn’t the only one. I heard about 10 different variations before the start of my heat. Bottom line was to go as hard as possible for 2 laps. Ok, now I understand.
My day wasn’t going to be that easy though. A combination of torrential downpours, unfamiliar streets and stupid driving got me into an accident to start the day. Sideswiped by a local. Thankfully neither of us were hurt. We exchanged information, I loaded my side fender into my trunk and went on my merry way. The rest was up to the insurance companies. At least it was a rental….
The “random” draw left me at the back of my heat with some familiar riders. On my right super fast Brian Finnerty, who lives two streets over from in Santa Rosa, the legendary Pete Webber was on my left. We agreed that I would go up the middle, Pete on the left and Brian on the right. Meet you at the front. Conditions were pretty muddy. I got lucky and asked a guy in the heat before me what pressure he ran. He had a similar set up. Because of his suggestion I ran 8 psi lower than what I had and it paid dividends. You see, in this horrible weather, you tend to break the cardinal rule and visualize course conditions from your car or in my case, from the WD-40 tent. Those guys were saviors.
The gun went off and we just slayed ourselves on course, which was on an old golf course. This gave us some sand traps, rolling terrain, carts paths, a run up and a steep downhill. Not a bad course. I enjoyed it. After two laps fire was coming out of my lungs and I think ended up 13th out of 30-something. Webber won with Finnerty in second, I believe, or high up there. This heat was to set us up for the final, in which some 80 riders were going to be competing.
And then I had a day off…. So time for some sightseeing in Louisville. A must see in Louisville is the Louisville Slugger shop, where they make a ton of bats for Major League Baseball. I took the tour and then hit the cages with a replica Ted Williams bat. I used to be good at baseball. Not anymore…I think I hit one ball out of 20. Pretty good entertainment for the guy running the cages.
I toured the city checking out all the nice eateries and coffee shops. This is one of my pastimes when visiting other cities. I had a laundry list of places to go and I hit them all.
My final race was on Friday at 3. The weather was only getting worse. Snow, rain, wind…. This California kid was not liking it. When I arrived at the venue on Friday it was like a ghost town. The professional race was being run just down the street and every vendor had left our scene and gone to the pro venue. I guess I don;t blame them, but USA Cycling really blew when it came to the championship race. WD-40 had left with their power washers that they had some generously donated. There were some in the pits but they were left out overnight and were frozen. It seemed that USA Cycling was enforcing some rules and not others. According to UCI rules power washers were mandatory.
The warm up tent was a joke. It was right next to the one and only food vendor. They essentially shared the same tent. Pretty sure carbon monoxide is not a vital part of warming up. They provided trainers, but not enough. I finally managed to stress myself out significantly and got on a trainer. Paul Sadoff of Rock Lobster fame and a friend of his were really there for me – providing information and getting me ready for the racing. They would become a vital part of me just finishing the race when they headed off to the pits.
Warmed, then completely frozen at the call ups. Several top riders, names withheld, missed their call ups. Did the UCI/USA Cycling put them at the back like they should have? Nope. They just rolled up to the front. Another rule they failed to enforce. 80 riders and we were off. I never wear leg warmers and I had them on that day. It was that cold…. So cold that the mud was being flung up onto my bike and clothing, only to freeze when it hit anything. In hindsight I should have taken a bike change every half lap. As it was I did one every lap. Since there was no water in the pit and the mud was freezing to the bikes, the pit crews had to scrap the bikes off with anything they could find – tire irons, bike pumps, sticks, spatulas, whatever… It was a mess, as you can see from the picture below.
It was the coldest race I have ever been in…and worst conditions. I loved it. I wish I could have raced more. I got pulled (yes they enforced that rule!) and ended up 33rd out of 80. My bikes were ruined. I had to just throw them in the car and warm the mud off of them on the way back to the hotel. I washed them with water in the wastebasket in the parking lot as best I could, then into the shower with me. I know hotels are cringing when they see pictures of this. The shower got clogged with all the mud, but my bikes got clean. I don’t recommend this, but what could I do?
The pro races all got moved to Saturday due to the fact that the Ohio River was going to flood. Huh, in the middle of winter? Fresh snow greeted the most die hard fans and racers as we all went to the Cyclocross World Championships which were being held for the first time ever outside of Europe. What a coup! The course was muddy and cold. Tough conditions for keeping on the bike. I posted up in a section where I could see the racers riding on three separate sections. It was a great crowd with people from all over the world. It was a Belgium team time trial in the men’s race. Light blue everywhere. Sven Nys eventually pulled out the win when his countryman Klaas Vantornout slipped right in front of us. It was a great win for him. America had a poor showing aside from Katie Compton who once again was the “bridesmaid” to her perpetual bride, Marianne Vos of Holland.
All in all a great trip. Maybe a little long, but i figured once in a lifetime. I actually really enjoyed all the weather. Not something we get too often in California. It is always great meeting people and hanging with people who also share your passion – cyclocross. See you all in Boulder for next years Nationals.