The Velo Cross/Shedd Park Double

Damn.  I haven’t written in a while.  You’re only reading this because I forced you to, or you have some tacit interest in Velo Cross or Shedd Park which has dumped you at my doorstep weeks after the events were held.  

I didn’t race Velo Cross last year, because I think the hostile takeover of the velodrome was bush league bullshit.  But because this race is orchestrated by NEBC, who were not a party to said bullshit, I saw through my own personal politics and also Chip helped me view this in the right perspective and I got out and raced in the final field of the day, which was the bikes with one gear race.

SINGLESPEED CYCLOCROSS.  When I started racing ‘cross in 2008, it was on 1FG.  It was rare to find others doing the same.  We generally got our asses kicked, and that part of it sucked.  But then there was Ice Weasels. That was the first time I ever raced SS against others of similar handicap.  I can’t express the abject relief you feel when you realize that this scenario is actually a race.  It was that one event that validated the concept of SSCX for me, and I looked forward to doing it again.

So Velo Cross was my chance, years and gears later, to try it again.  I had two weapons to choose from.  Mr. Stompy was ready for the call, decked out in brand new Mud 2s and a rear wheel stolen from my Sheldon Brown tribute set.  But not to be denied was the G&T.  Adorned in tubular glory, I ziptied the front shifter and hacked the rear derailleur cable to yield a single gear experience.

Stompy is a pure SS, and you feel it in every turn of the crank.  Stompy weighs pounds more than the G&T, but the drivetrain is bliss by comparison.  The parts are just more substantial.  The White freewheel.  The 1/8 inch chain.  The solid steel square taper Sugino track crank.  This shit isn’t going anywhere it’s not supposed to.  It just goes forward.  A serene, smooth feeling pedal stroke.

Then there’s the locked-out G&T.  You don’t get quite the same experience.  Everything is designed to derail, and you miss all of that simplistic stiffness in the transmission.  It’s not quite the Sunday in church that you get from Stompy.  Pedaling the bike in this way is more gritty and unsettling.  But G&T has merits beyond this.  Tubulars.  Aluminum/carbon construction yielding pounds of weight differential.  Superior brakes and handling.  In the end, the Van Dessel would prove the appropriate weapon for today.

I blew the start of this race so badly it was criminal.  I fumbled the clip-in like I’ve never ridden a bike before, and found myself lurking in the bottom quarter of the field.  It was generally fun times.  Due to lack of opener, my legs felt like cement, but as laps wore on I loosened up.  Of course by now, it doesn’t matter.  The guy in the photo below said something like “You’re just going to ride away like that?  After everything we’ve been through?”

Tour de Robocop Industrial Plant

So we’re getting into 2 laps to go territory, and keep hearing Curtis Boivin‘s name.  That means he’s somewhere close behind, very likely to lap me, and I waver between these moments of complete and total acceptance of this fact – and the associated one less lap I will have to race is enticing! – and a completely irrational idea that I can stay ahead of him and finish on the lead lap.

So I begin looking over my shoulder.  A LOT.  Sometimes I think I see him, but I’m not sure and then I think I’m just seeing things.  I get to the hill in the woods with 1.5 to go and make this one decision: race like you’re not racing tomorrow.  The thing is, I’m racing tomorrow, and subconsciously I’m saving something for that.  But now, I’m not.  I’m playing a little game where I trick myself into believing that if I ride spectacularly hard right now & leave myself with no ability to race tomorrow, that’s okay because it will have been totally worth it.

So that’s what I do.  I start railing it, thinking I will somehow not get passed by Curtis.  Smashing my legs stupid.  And no sooner do I exit the woods and enter the BMX “rhythm section”, here he comes.  I am fucking dead meat.  I am tantalizingly close to making the finish line and I know I am screwed twice.  One, because today’s gamble will not pay off.  Two, because tomorrow is definitely going to suck with nothing to show for it.

So now I go into “white man dancing” mode in the rhythm section.  I have no idea how to ride this shit.  I’m just trying to get through it with zero technique.

I watched Dylan flow through it in the race before, and tried to do what he did.  Except while trying to do that, I keep looking for Curtis, who keeps getting closer; now less than 10 seconds away.  So this comes to a head as I completely blow the landing in a small whoop section, eject from the saddle, and land square on my stem.

Somehow I recover this without even really stopping, and I jam on it.  Now I know I’m dead, but the line is only a few hundred feet away around two squirrely paved corners.  Maybe five seconds apart now but I go for it anyway, sprint my brains out to the confusion of many a spectator, and mercifully succeed in a lead lap finish while Curtis was back there probably stopping off to help a lost puppy or autographing boobs.  These are wins, people.      

HAHAHAHA PLUMMER THERE IS A TOMORROW.

It’s at Shedd Park, and it was definitely time to pay the price for yesterday.  I could not go with ANYONE.  I tried like hell but I was definitely not working with a full tank.  The two wooded climbs & the associated switchbacks were where I kept time on people.  Then I worked like a dog to find & keep a wheel down below, and ideally it’s a good wheel, but generally it is not, and placing degrades as life passes by.  No gifts.  Not even on your birthday, birthday boy.  I did learn something though – in spite of being away from it all year, I still love climbing hills.

Rare action photo where I lead others in competition

The biggest bummer of all from this weekend was the ILLUSION OF SUCCESS.  In spite of clinging to hard-fought lead lap finishes both days in fields featuring reasonably fast dudes, my effort at Velo netted awful Crossresults points.  And my finish at Shedd Park, while nearly identical to last year, was worth nearly 100 points more (more = bad).  Clearly the points market is in some kind of correction right now.  It’s why you need to diversify your portfolio and make investments outside of the mixed field markets.  I’ve been in them a lot lately, and it’s not a good play to abandon your long term cyclocross retirement strategy of effortless mid-pack masters starts.  The big point money; your equity builder, is in pure 1/2/3.  It’s just like I told you.

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