The Ice Weasels Cometh

Woke up on Saturday, 18 degrees. This was going to be a rugged day to be racing a bike.

Threw down my go-to breakfast, Eggos w/PB & Nutella, coffee, and packed the car. A bottle of nuun on the ride down and we’re parked in the field across from the course in Wrentham by 10:30 or so. The temps are barely over 30 now; well into the teens with the wind chill, and I can’t believe the number of cars. This is going to be awesome.

I brought Mr. Stompy, armed with 38×18 gearing, new pads, and a brand new set of IRC/Panaracer Crossfire tires. Just tooling around the crusty snow near my car, I was thinking “ohhhhhhh shit”. Once I had some momentum it was ok, but pushing this gear in the snow was going to really, really suck. Hopefully everyone will be in the same boat.
Oh but they won’t be. Most of us brought real-deal cross bikes, but there were mountain bikes and disk brakes in the field. Pretty lame. Go find a mountain bike race.
I get out for a warmup lap, and the course is very flat, very fast, and if not covered in snow, covered in ice. If you’ve ever had the pleasure, riding a bike on ice is basically russian roulette. My race is 45 minutes of this.
We stage for the start, and just before the whistle, I look down at my front brake and one of the pads is just gone. Just as the “WTF” enters my head, the whistle goes off and I blow the start. I try to take off, nearly wipe out two other people trying to clip in. 2/3 of the field is already gone. This sucks.
I was relaxed and had really good energy though, and I slowly reeled people in. Per usual, gave up a few positions to dumb mistakes. Right up until about 2 laps to go (we did at least 8, it seemed eternal), I had good energy and good power. I was slow and tentative on account of the conditions (a front brake would have been nice too), but overall this race was very encouraging. I know right what I’m missing in terms of fitness and I expected it. It’s the threshold power I should have been building during the 2 months I was held out of racing. But there’s definitely a good base there. I can feel it. This is really awesome because base building starts in three weeks, and I feel like I’ll have a huge head start. Overall, definitely the strongest cross race I’ve had in a long time, no matter how the results shake down. The field was 40+, with lots of super strong riders. I had fairly low expectations, all things considered.
On the single barriers I was consistently getting my doors blown off. I would run them, remount, and notice a guy already flying past me. How the hell is this happening? A few laps later I saw why – guys are bunny hopping them. In the snow and ice. Holy sh*t. That worked for some people. I heard it not work for some people a few times right behind me. Overall I saw a lot of crashes. I also saw a lot of mechanicals; not something you’d expect in a singlespeed race.
Right after a single barrier remount, I crashed hard. It was exceptionally stupid because at the time, I was thinking about how I saw a guy do the exact same thing on the lap before. The mind is very powerful. My bike flies out from under me and I slam to the ground. I’m ok, but my bike is still skidding across the ice. I scramble on all fours to retrieve it as a few riders pass me. I must have jammed my hand on something when I fell, because later in the race I notice my left hand is stinging and I can barely use it. After the race I peel off my glove and find I have a huge blister/friction burn right on the center of my palm. Awesome.
Then the double barriers. Every lap there are 100+ screaming fans there waiting for you, going nuts, and as you round the corner and bring the scene into your field of vision, all you can smell is BEER. It was hilarious. It was unbelievably cold to be standing out there; I have a huge amount of appreciation for the turnout. Especially Kristen; she stood out there for the entire race, freezing her ass off and snapping photos.

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