Monday, November 5, 2007

Kletzsch Park Cyclocross

The Kletzsch Park course, set up by Team Polska, features a nice little hill that the sadistic members of Polska seem to be very proud of. During the Cat 3 race, while people were toiling up the hill and team members and spectators were encouraging them and cheering them on, I witnessed a Polska member gleefully yelling things like “Suffer! Eat shit!” (Meant only in the best of ways). Needless to say, it was a challenging and interesting course. There was some singletrack and a nice long downhill section that was a reward for climbing that damn hill twice.
At the start of the race, there seemed to be myself and four other women in the category. There was a fast looking (nice bike, toned body) woman who was at the start, but seemed to leave before the race started. The official called ‘go’, and we were off. I had trouble clipping in, and was off a little slower than I would have liked. A few minutes later, I had passed a few people and was eyeing up a junior that looked like she’d be good competition. Little did I know that it was no junior, it was the woman who had appeared to have left, and I needed to stick with her and beat her for the points I needed.
I basically followed her for the whole race. After a few laps I started noting our strengths and weaknesses. She was faster up the first climb of hill, and almost always gained a few feet on me in the scramble to the top. We were about even on the second climb of the hill. I was a little quicker at the singletrack section, probably because of the mountain biking I did over the summer. I believe we were about even on the barriers, but there’s a good chance she was a little smoother and quicker. As you can see, I was using my position behind her to analyze.
I believe she got sick of that. Four laps in, she slowed quite a bit in one section and I asked if she was ok. She said something back that I didn’t catch, but it didn’t sound like “Oh, the pain,” so I let it be. This conversation happened at a point in the course where there were a few switchbacks, and when we hit the straightaway, she took off. It was then that I realized she must have said something like “Golly, I wish you would stop riding my ass and get out front and do some of the work.” After that little moment of revelation, I kicked it in gear and took off after her, catching her at the bottom of the hill.
So it went on. I followed her, trying not to let her get away and open up a gap. I studied where I had to really watch her and where I might be able to get away from her on the final lap. Ideally I wanted to get away from her after the first climb of the hill, because she could catch me on it, but I was afraid there wasn’t enough time after that to break away. I decided that I should try to get away on the singletrack section. So on the last lap, I pulled in front of her on the pavement and got into the singletrack before her.
Unfortunately, the best laid plans… there was a junior that I came up on half way through, and he slowed my progress. I modified my plan to ‘Ride just about as fast as you can in hopes of staying in front.’ I picked it up and zipped through a grassy switchback section, and was expecting her to be right behind me at the bottom of the hill, but she was a few feet/yards back. I tackled the hill, teammates Cale and Kat yelling on the sidelines, and kept up the pace. I tore around the last part of the course and started to come up on one of the female juniors.
Now, don’t be fooled by the female or junior part- this kid is talented. I didn’t need to beat her, because she’s in a different category, but decided it would be fun to try to catch her. She also dogs me at the track, so I thought it would be extra sweet. I came up behind her on a grassy straightaway and cut to the inside of her to drop onto the pavement an instant after she dropped in. Once on the pavement, there were about 100 yards to the finish. I grabbed the drops and dug in. I was cruising toward top speed and spinning away, but luckily not spinning out. She downshifted on her Redline as I came up on her, downshifted again as I was pulling even and downshifted one more time as I pulled ahead of her, nosing her out at the finish line. And as I relaxed and came to a stop on my inferior single speed mountain bike frame, I tasted the air, and it was indeed extra sweet.

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