Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ed Sander Memorial Cyclocross

Two weekends ago I competed at the Ed Sander Memorial Cyclocross, held at the Lilypons water gardens in Buckystown, Maryland. NCVC holds this race as a tribute to one of their fallen riders. Not only do they put on an awesome cyclocross event, but also use the race as a fundraiser for Ed Sander's son so that he may have a college fund. I never met Ed Sander, who not only raced but also worked for Lilypons, but judging from the turnout, I can image he must have been a great person who touched many people, and I wish his family all the best.

As for the race, it was my best result ever - 29th! (no, it;s not top ten or anything like that, but it is better than last year, and my second top-30 of the season). What really rocked is that not only is this course my favorite of the year, but it was also my first ever truly muddy Belgian-style 'cross. The skies opened up for a few days before the race, so the course was a complete quagmire of thick mud and sucking grasses. As usual, I went out a little too strong, faded over the first three laps, held back afterwards and saved energy for the last lap, where I finally made my moves passing riders to get back into the better half of the race. It was the last pass which got me again into the top 30, though I had to sprint to the line for that one and defend it.

No, you don't win every race, and if you're me, you simply fight for top 30 placings, but there are moments in the race - mini battles, fun technical sections, moments of true grit, and fan support - which makes it all worth it. There's not much better than having a week of great cyclingmemories from races such as this, and then getting to do it again the following week. This race was right out of those scenes of classic European cyclocross racing - trench warfare on bikes - complete with ominous skies, thick mud, minefield puddles, sucking grass, and brown splattered everywhere. And of course, cowbells - everywhere!

This race pushed me as a 'crosser, especially since my first 'crosses were dry and dusty. Last year I placed 32nd on this course in dry, fast conditions. This year I placed better in tougher conditions, a result of hard training and lots of support from family, friends, and the Bike Rack team.

Last year, this section was the "Endo Pit". This year it was just mud and puddles, which actually made this section faster.

Racing through the start/finish area. Honestly, I've never seen a line painted on the ground, so I don't really know where it is, so I had to sprint out my finish to a point where I was sure I'd passed the line and still defend my position.

This was the "just one more" rider I caught and passed on the last lap, not knowing that we were closing out the top 30. He jumped on my wheel after the passed, and came off for the sprint, though I was able to hold him off at the line (to his credit, he's a very good rider and a nice guy).

Ryan Dudek and I clowning around after the race. Ryan wasn't clowning around during the race - he rode a good race to something like 11th place.

Now this is what you and your bike should look like after a real cyclocross race...

...and no matter how much it hurt, you should still have a smile on your face because cyclocross is the most painful fun you can have on a bicycle. Yeah, CX sucks, but we love it for some strange reason and can never get enough of it, even if at times that bell lap can never come soon enough. Sometimes you just want "this race" to be the last CX race you do, but after every race all you want is more.


ajm said...

mazel tov! and happy new year! hope it's filled with CX goodness.

sledgeh101 said...

I love reading your blogs, especially when you say how it's the 'toughest fun' you ever have. It reminds me of those old Ad Council ads - "the toughest job you'll ever love. Ba-da-da-dum!" lol.
Here's hoping this year will bring you cracking into the top 20!

Roogie70 said...

Boy are you nuts...I gues as they say no pain no gain....