Monday, November 5, 2007

Estabrook Park

We arrived at Estabrook pretty early and registered. After some confusion about which side the numbers went on (“It said ‘right’ up at registration!” “Well, I just asked an official and he said ‘left’. They must have changed it.”) we got everything straightened out and went for warm up laps. I went out early with Matt/Teal to check out the course. The team usually practices on it, but for the race they had changed the course to be a little longer. There were a lot of switchbacks and some more barriers. It was a good lap to check out the changes, and I felt pretty loose and smooth over the barriers.
Shortly after returning to the car, it started raining in earnest. Everyone watched it, either with apprehension or hope, depending on the level of masochism in the individual. In the back of everyone’s minds was a steep dirt hill that, if wet, would become the proverbial ‘slippery slope.’ Luckily the rain let up after a while, and due to the trees covering the hill, the trail didn’t get muddy.
As we lined up for the start of the women’s race I looked around at the competition- four other women, some of them on slick bikes and fit looking. At the start, I got stuck in the pack- not quite where I wanted to be. I was behind a woman that I’ve raced against these past few races and knew that I had to get out in front of her. If I stuck behind her there was a good chance that the other women would catch up. I didn’t know their abilities, so I thought I would assume that they were all monsters of cross. I broke free of the other women in the first half of the lap.
There’s not much more to say in terms of strategy. During the switchbacks I kept noting when the woman in second place would appear so I could keep track of where she was and if I was gaining or losing ground. I stayed out front for the whole race, and my teammates cheered me on with incredible zest. The cheering was AWESOME. Of particular note was Josh, who at one point was ringing several cowbells in one hand and blowing a horn with the other. He also ran alongside to heckle/cheer me. It was awesome to come past the group of Pegasus and hear all the cheering, and I definitely picked it up when I knew I would be in view of those crazies. I tried not to slack off too badly when I wasn’t.
The cheering was what made this race. I watched the Cat 3 race with a bunch of people on top of the hill, and it was incredibly fun to yell at and cheer on all of the racers. Most people shouldered their bikes and ran up the hill, but there were a few who rode the hill, or attempted to. There was one guy in particular who kept trying and falling just before the top. He wasn’t getting quite enough speed at the bottom, due to a log there designed to force people to bunnyhop. He tried several times, and the fourth time he didn’t make it, he picked himself up and turned around to much cheering. He was going to go back down the trail for another run at it. This time he made it a little further, but was about to fall over again when hands from the crowd came out to support him and push him on to the top. Wild cheering the whole time. It was awesome. The other spectacular ride-up was a guy who consistently dominated the hill. The last time he rode up it, he did wheelie at the top for several yards. A wheelie. Damn. I don’t think anyone got a picture of it, but it’s forever engraved in my memory.
Overall a fun race with an interesting course. It was great to have so many team members around, and so many Pegasus racers, at that. And overall a very good weekend of racing.

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