Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fact: Sandbaggers love sand.

I get teased a lot for being a sandbagger, but it must be true. During the cross clinic this weekend I was only truly at home in what surely must be my natural element: sand.

The cross clinic I'm referring to is the Badger Prairie, Planet Bike, Jonathan Page (or some combo of those words) cyclocross clinic. For those who don't know, Jonathan Page (JP) is the US's highest finisher at the Worlds, which is a big deal because the US is not known for its CX skillz. He rides for Planet Bike, which is based out of Madison, so he dropped by the Badger Prairie course to give a workshop.

The workshop started out with introductions, and I kind of butchered mine. I forgot my name first off, and then I'm pretty sure I came off as overconfident. I said something like "...and I took the Cat 4s by storm last year." As embarrassing as it is now, it was worth it if only for the response it got. I've never heard such a rich array of short noises. There were shocked, offended and amused 'Ha!'s.

Please let me explain the context in which I thought that was a good thing to say. We were in the afternoon section, which meant we were supposed to be 'advanced' cyclocrossers. This meant a lot of experienced racers, a lot of them in Cat 1 and 2. I thought my Cat 4 winnings would be laughable. I probably should have skipped the humor...

JP is a nice dude, but not an incredibly good teacher. He's been so good for so long, he doesn't remember to explain little things that now come naturally to him. Luckily, one of the guys from Planet Bike filled in the gaps- JP would go over a certain thing, like mounting and dismounting, and then the other guy would fill in things like "And you'll see he always keeps his hip on his saddle to stabilize the bike."

Anyhow, it was a good trade-off as we were not an incredibly good class. We couldn't help but make little cracks about things and snigger just a little while he was teaching. What can I say, we were in high spirits. It was a nice day, if a little hot, and Jonathan Page was there to teach us about cyclocross! Excitement abounded.

We started out with a warm-up lap and then began dismounting and mounting. We learned a lot of good things. Things that I could tell you about, but then I'd have to kill you. The secrets of National Treasure Jonathan Page will die with me. Suffice it to say, I learned some new things, and felt a little better during the practice time we were given. I had to keep concentrating on my form, though, or I would forget to do one thing or another. I started getting a little frustrated after working for about 30 minutes and not attaining World level perfection, though.

I cheered up a little bit when we practiced cornering. Again, I learned some new things that I think will make me faster and more confident this year, which is exciting to think about. Gets me all pumped for the season.

After a short break, we went to a different part of the course and practiced going across sand. At last! Something I wasn't going to struggle with. Since this year was so wet early on, the Kettles got sandier and sandier (and the sand got deeper and deeper) throughout the early mtb season. I wasn't very good at the sand traps until Bethany told me the secret: sit on your seat (all your weight right on/over your seat) and use the front wheel as a rudder. It was the best tip I think I've ever gotten. So clear, so easy to implement. And it works amazingly well!

JP demonstrated, and then we all reluctantly started charging across the volleyball court. I had thought that perhaps the skinnier CX tires might be different than mtb tires, but it worked essentially the same. After a few warm up tries, I got to feeling very comfortable and started showing off. Of course, that resulted in me slipping and falling all over someone else's rear wheel and taking us both down right in front of JP. I had it coming. But after dusting off the sand, I very happily kept zipping back and forth on the volleyball court, trying to see how slow I could start and still make it. It was like a pig wallowing in mud: who knew sand could be so much fun?

The bike:
It was getting a lot of oohs and ahhs, which of course was flattering. Whenever someone complimented it, I just wanted to say something like "Yeah it sure is awesome!" Thing is, Cale practically picked out the the entire thing, so I'm not really responsible for the build. And I've been acquiring the parts over many months- I'm certainly not rolling in spending money, as Denny could tell you (You'll have the money tomorrow! Don't deploy the kneecap-breakers!)

But the bike, the bike! Once we tuned a few things, it was riding really well. There weren't any fit issues, and the whole thing felt very natural. It finally feels like mine, instead of some nice bike that I can see but not touch. With that, I'll draw this novel to a close.

Cross season: going to be good.
Me: excited for cross season.

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