Yes, I know, the Sucker Brook Cyclocross Race in Auburn, New Hampshire is one of the more well attended races in New England (392 starters this day). It's a well laid out course in a good location, early enough in the year that the weather is usually not a deterrent.
I like to take credit for some of the early success of this race. The promoter Jack Chapman is a friend of mine. A few years ago at the first or second running of the event I thought the race was on a saturday instead of sunday. I showed up and jack said 'hey, we need someone with some racing experience to ride the course.' They had it staked out but no tape, so I took a spin.
For some reason Jack thinks I'm a good racer. I know this is because I won the first race in the EFTA series as a sprt vet about a decade ago, and he had the unfortunate task of telling me I was DQ'd because a couple of years earlier - when I wasn't a member of efta and had only done one MTB race all season - I did a race in the expert class.
NHTMF rant -
It turns out they have a rule that if you _EVER_ do a race in one class, you can _NEVER_ drop down to the lower class. I remember that expert race, I got there too late to enter the sport class and had driven almost two hours, so I waited around for the expert race. I hadn't been racing much that year and had no license so I did a day-of. I ended up almost getting lapped and dropped out.
So two years after racing _one_ race all season and not racing _since_ then I'm told I can't _ever_ race as a sport with EFTA again. Sure, force an upgrade after a few wins, but to DQ someone for a rule they didn't know existed when they weren't even a member of the organisation?
Fuck EFTA - should mean "Eastern FuckTards Association".
I've done one EFTA event since then. They had a cyclocross class at the Watershed Wahoo one year and I got second out of about 40 guys. It's the only 'cross race that I ever beat Chronoman and that was because he flatted a few miles before the finish. They couldn't exclude me from that race because they had no category breakdown, and didn't even award prizes. I think I remember it only cost $10, and I wouldn't even have done that except Chronoman knew I had ridden that course half a dozen times and wanted some company and intell.
If any 'friend of EFTA' reads this and feels compelled to comment, this is my pre-emptive response: fuck you you fucking efta fuck.
- end NHTMF rant
So the year I showed up at jacks race and pre-rode the course, I made a couple of recommendations. You know the stairs? Those weren't there. They just had an off camber ride up. I told him to build a 180. Yeah, that was my idea. Now they have the stairs, which is better anyways.
Anyways, The weather was fantastic. Warm and dry. I actually like sloppy rainy courses, but warm dry is a good second choice. I have no illusions that I'm going to podium in a 'cross race. It's not why I do it. I race 'cross because I enjoy the style and I want to support the sport. (another mini NHTMF rant - Yeah, I don't prereg on purpose. I don't mind paying the $5 late fee because I know it helps support the promoter of a class event, so to all of you ignorant fucktards that think I'm a cheap SOB, fuck you you fucking NAV fucks). So I line up at the back because I don't want to get in the way of the guys that focus on 'cross racing as their main sport. It's better training to ride through traffic anyways, and if I ever start seeing myself consistently in the top ten I'll consider pushing my way up to Chronoman at the start line.
They do a great job setting this course up. Lot's of good places to pass, wide corners, nothing you would need an MTB for. If there was any one change I would make it would be just a bit more pavement. So I start off working my way up from the back. There are a few guys I like to mark in 'cross races because I know they race all the time but don't usually podium. Tom Stevens is one, Dave Leedburg is another. I passed Stevens in pretty short order and saw that he was was falling further back with each lap. Leedburg started out behind me, but pretty much paced me up until the last lap, maybe only 10 seconds behind. With 3 laps to go I started doing a lot of trading places with two guys from bike link. It turns out the stronger of the two was Paul Lynch, but he wasn't to quick in the corners. The other was Dan Russell, who was not as fast in the straights as paul but better in the technical sections.
I had trouble in the sand pit. It was rideable, but keeping the bike straight was a problem for me. Here's a good picture of me almost bailing on one lap (though I never did bail in the sand):
And another once I figured it out:
Lynch would catch me and pass me in the straight fast sections (once in the sand as well). I would come back up to him in the corners and technical parts. At one point I finally got enough of a gap where I passed him and left him, but dropped my chain and he came back up to me. He knew he wasn't cornering well though, and twice he swung way wide and waved me by.
On the penultimate lap, I was behind him and decided to draft through the start line all the way until after the stairs. He's a big guy and pulls a decent draft. Russel was behind us. When Lynch pulled off and waved me through, both russell and I went through, then russell passed me through the barriers. I stayed with him then passed him on the fire road before the sand. Coming out of the sand I shifted to get around the 180 on-camber turn (by the ball field fence) but my chain dropped in the spokes. Both russell and lynch came by here, as lynch had used his power through the whole fire road section to bridge back up to us. I got things running again to - you guessed it - draft lynch all the way to the stairs. I passed him on the 180 after the stairs and russell was in my sights. I managed to close the gap on him through the twisty up-n-down and fire road, and passed him just before we hit the sand again. He muttered "shit" as i went by. He latched onto me as we passed the ball field again, and now we were catching someone from the 35+ field. I jumped around the 35+ guy just as we hit the pavement and went into full crit mode, holding off Russell for 15th place (yay! 15th fucking place!). Still, it was fun actually having someone to race with for the last couple of laps rather than just riding alone.
I didn't know who the two bikelink guys were at the time. I saw another masters racer of great repute afterwards and described the guys. He said, 'geeze, that sounds like lynchie, he waved you by? I'm surprised you and your bike are in one piece, lynchie never lets anyone by'. This sentiment was echoed by chronoman, who quipped 'I've seen lynch take on a stand of trees and the trees did _not_ come out on top'.
It was a fun day on a great course. After, I picked up a 24 serving tub of Gu drink mix for $5 (SCORE!) at the Naults table.
My next event is the Pinnacle Challenge, a focus event for me that I hope to do well at.
I'll let you know.
(If you repeated hit the refresh key on that pinnacle link, you'll eventually see a guy in a bright yellow BOB kit coming out of the covered bridge. That's me at the race in '06).