It’s almost been a whole week since the first race of the Cross Crusade series at Alpenrose, and I’m just getting around to put down some thoughts. It’s been an insane week around here after racing two days in a row in my first weekend of racing!
After spending all day Saturday at Heiser Farms, I got up at 5 on Sunday to load a few more things, load my bikes, and head up to Alpenrose to get there around 7 am. Having never been to Alpenrose, and knowing that instead of the 100 or so racers we had at Heiser, there would likely be 1300-1400 racers alone, I wanted to make sure to get there early enough to get a decent spot for the team, set up, get through my routine, and be at the start line to race on time! Fortunately, I found the venue easily enough after a couple of missed turns, and landed a spot along the gravel road right on the course.
After getting some stuff set up, James and Tyler arrived in time to take my course pre-ride lap with me. I didn’t have enough time to walk the course, as I did at Heiser, so I just rode it the first time through. Nothing seemed to tricky, but definitely more off-camber, slightly slick areas compared to the day before. Also more areas to gain some serious speed, particularly behind the Velodrome, and thankfully Tyler was kind enough to show me the proper Superman Dismount over the bars, should I choose to put my bike down at the corner at the bottom. (I never did…but PLENTY of folks throughout the day used Tylers technique at that spot.) We headed back to the tent, dropped my jacket, took a last sip of water and headed to the start.
At the start, I found out that those racers with numbers ending in 9 had already been called up, so I worked my way through the mass of 142 riders waiting to get called up, and pulled in behind the other 9s. Since things were a little hectic up to this point, it was only then that I really took in how HUGE this event was compared to the day before. 142 riders behind me (I’d later learn that over 1400 people raced throughout the day), vendors up and down the concourse, almost 30 team tents alone along the row we were in, parking lot nearly full at 9 am. I was getting a tad nervous at the thought of 140 of us, many with novice skills at best, about to head up and then down a damp paved road as fast as we could, heading towards a slick muddy turn.
James appeared off to the right and yelled over at me, “Its like winning the lottery!” because I was in the first group. I saw Dave with his camera and asked that he only shoot from the chest up, to keep the number of gutteral shots down across the internet. I met another guy who’d never really raced, and we talked about locking arms in the front and keeping everyone at our pace. After a few thank yous from the promoter to the sponsors, we were off. Several people passed me, and I passed a few folks myself. As we headed down the first paved runway, and headed towards the corner, the sound of many cantis barking was incredibly loud. Fortunately, nobody went down in front of me, or anywhere immediately behind me, as far as I could tell.
We headed the short distance to the first off road transition and James was there to yell, “Pedal Paul, keep pedaling!” We ran along the edge of the section and turned down the long descent behind the Velodrome to the turn where Tyler had speed-dismounted earlier. I on and off rode brakes down the hill, and made the corner at a speed I was comfortable with. I know, comfortable doesn’t win races (and neither do brakes) but I wanted to get through the race as I best knew how, and not slamming into the ground seemed like a good plan for me, especially on my first Crusade race.
After climbing the next quick hill, heading through the tight slow turns through the trees, and down through the long dirt and gravel area behind the parking lot I remembered what Ron Strasser had yelled at me at Heiser, “remember to recover where you can!” Tyler had also pointed out this very section and said it was a decent place to recover, and then crank, crank crank, when coming out of the turn at the bottom. Seemed like good advice, and I tried to do it each lap. The next section was bumpy and bone jarring, and probably the cause of all the back pain complaints I’ve heard throughout the week.
Before long, we had cruised by the tents, turned 180 back along some more bumpy course (the grass was less bumpy than the actual path), into some more gravel, then a quick turn on the pavement, and down along the pit area. After the pit section, was the grand run up hill, where I actually felt great each time I ran up it. In fact, making that a part of my regular practice helped me in being able to pass folks with my bike on my shoulder.
After the run up, we rode into the Velodrome, did some tight cornering, and into our first barriers. I don’t hit these at top speed, but the speed works for me, and I feel confident and comfortable over them…no crashes or issues on either sets of barriers throughout the race. Back out of the Velodrome, up a slick hill, up and down over the off camber area, and then onto the next set of barriers, more pavement, and then off the bike to run up the concrete switchback stairs.
Around the 2nd lap, I realized I hadn’t eaten before the race. I had half a bowl of oatmeal at 5:30, but nothing after. My stomach was yelling at me, and my head was a little light, but overall, I actually felt STRONGER than I had the day before. It didn’t make sense to me that I’d have to very intense days, long hours, race hard one day, and actually feel better the next day. I’m sure there’s a science in there, but for whatever reason, I just took it and rode as hard as I could. Next thing I knew, we got the 1 lap to go, and then it was over. Just like that.
How’d I finish? 112 out of 142. I’m actually very pleased with that. I can only go up from there, and I did it on the second day of racing in a row, in my very first cross racing weekend ever. At the risk of too much team love in too many posts in a row, I won’t go on about the rest of the team…suffice to say, it was a great weekend of racing, and I’m officially hooked. Watching the rest of the team race, eating waffles with Tyler, tailgating with the team, cheering everyone on, shooting photos, and hanging out after the race…seriously a great day! Looking forward to Rainier (but maybe not so much this hill I keep hearing about….)
Alpenrose Wrap Up Links
My flickr photo page for Alpenrose here.
Wend Blog Cyclocross Diaries thanks to my buddies Heidi and Eric (embeded below)
Crank My Chain Alpenrose Video
Yakima Bike Vigilantes Helmet Cam video – Great if you’ve never been on a cross course before