Rain in September = Mud in September

 

It rarely rains in California, let alone in September.  September and October are usually the best months – no fog, no tourists and tons of sun.  It was not to be last weekend as a freak storm front rolled through Friday night and Saturday morning and dumped over an inch of rain on NorCal.  Perfect timing for my first race of the season in Sacramento, actually Vacaville.  I raced this course last year and they had a pretty good hill with a steep downhill.  Turns out they decided to not have the hill in this year, which was fine by me.  But now I wondered how the cream would rise to the top on this flat course.  Well the rain separated the cream for us.  Luckily I brought the EZ-UP tent.  We stuffed three people under it for warm-ups.  With the wind and rain it didn’t really matter where you were – you got wet.  Ryan Rinn from Vive la Tarte and my teammate and CX Nation athlete Zac Stanley got cozy with me under the tent.  I pre-rode one lap and that was good enough.  Lower the tire pressure, it was going to be a mudfest.

Hole Shot Sac

The hole shot and totally clean

I went with the disc bike which was a good choice but probably not the best as you will see.  I got the hole shot, but then preceded to get passed right away.  being a one hour race I tried to pace myself and only followed this guy after two others went.  So there were four of us in the initial 1/2 lap.  Then the ‘gangbusters guy” died a fast death and  I got caught behind him as he blew up.  I tried to get around him, but he blocked me into a tree…not on purpose.  But that was it for me.  I lost contact with the top 2…I think.  More on that later too.  The rain kept coming down and down.  I was surfing the mud, trying to stay in the saddle and using my hips ad much as possible.  Tire pressure was key and was taking similar lines each lap.  I tend to not vary lines unless I see another rider take a line that looks faster.  The minute you deviate is usually the minute you go down.

Mud Sac 1

Getting tacky

Round and round in the mud it got messier and messier….and more fun!  I didn’t see many people on the course.  We were pretty spread out and I couldn’t really tell who was in my race, since there were three categories on course.  I went down a couple times, but was up pretty quickly.  That cost me some time.  Second to last lap I come flying down the one fast section of the course and realize my brakes are a little soft.  The bottom of the hill went into a turn and going straight meant you were pin a concrete ditch.  Not a good option.  Bell lap I came around again and went pretty slow but I had no brakes, so acting “on the fly” I went off course (there was no tape so legal…I guess) and up a hill.  The hill scrubbed my speed and I was able to jump off my bike as I started downhill again.  I jumped back on in the turn and continued.  I could have been hurt pretty good there, but made it through unscathed.

SACCX#1 Brian

Splish, Splash Photo by Tim Westmore

End of race, but not end of of a little controversy.  So Sacramento has a chip system which they put on your helmet.  Well they don’t really work in the rain.  Mine I guess fell off on lap 2.  So they only had me doing 2 laps and I was in last.  We also have numbers so I had to wait till they figured it out.  I remember getting past the guy who got #2, but oh well.  It was a blast and I was honored to get on the podium.  Great start to the season!  Time to get some new brake pads.

Sac CX

The podium – Rapha umbrella in view

And we’re off….

Cyclocross season keeps getting earlier and earlier each year.  Don’t get me wrong I love cyclocross, but not in 100 degree weather.  I prefer the Cold Miser to the Heat Miser.  If you get that reference I feel sorry for you.  Haha.  So instead of hitting the races in early September, CX Nation had other plans…clinics.  We held three clinics again this year but at all new venues.  Places to ride your bike are becoming like leprechauns, hard to find and wrought with endless lies of gold never to be found.  But wait….I did find some gold in the cities of Oakland and SF.  Lake Merritt gave me a chance and let me scare the geese away for the day so I could have a clinic with 15 brave souls.  The next weekend brought me to the home of the San Francisco 49ers.  There is actually another park next to the big one the 49ers play in and yes we can ride bikes there.

Clinic SF

Men’s Journal writer Dan Duane gets his leap on

Dollar Grab

The infamous “dollar grab” needs to be practiced

After teaching a couple clinics during  the first weekend of cross season, I decided to skip another weekend and hone my skills on some Maryland single track.  I traveled back east to hang out with my lovely wife after she had a big business conference in Washington DC.  Our nation’s capital is a pretty amazing place.  So much history with the museums, war memorials and political nonsense.  Makes for a fun place to visit.

DC

Changing of the guard – Tomb of the Unknown – A “must see” in DC

Saturday we headed on the train (public transportation for us Californians = weird) up to my wife’s Aunt and Uncle’s place in Maryland.  I had brought my shoes and mtb pedals in anticipation of doing some riding with “crazy Uncle Bob”.  I actuality he is not “crazy” at all.  He is just a 60 year old animal that bikes, climbs and skis all over the world.  57 countries and counting….  He is the fittest guy around.  So we scrounged around in his candy shop in the garage and came up with some suitable equipment that I couldn’t bring.

Bike

This was my trusted steed for the weekend – mechanical brakes and all. My hands hurt…Note the race number on the handlebars.  He hadn’t taken it off since the race in June.  Nice touch…I was legit.

photo (1)

And this was my “Euro” helmet – matched the kit. Nice work Bob.

Now most of the places that I ride in NorCal are notoriously dry and dusty in the summer with gardens of rocks.  Back east it is the exact opposite.  Lots of single track, packed down…fast and flowing.  Throw in about 20 log bridges (which I never see out here) a couple of “death bridges” (where if you fell it was certain that you would be injured) and it was game on trying to keep up with “crazy” Uncle Bob…on his single speed.  I was in heaven.

Bob in trees1

Uncle Bob in some sick Maryland single track

I didn’t want to leave.  Well maybe I did.  It was nice reprieve from the California heat, but it was time to get cracking on cross.  First race for me this weekend…..