Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2008 Capitol Cross Classic - Reston, VA

A true cyclist is not a fair weather cyclist, and a fair weather cyclist is certainly not a cyclocrosser. Nowhere was this more evident than at this Sunday's Capitol Cross Classic; a thin sheet of snow and ice covered the ground as air temperatures hovered at or below an icy 30 degrees for most of the day while the winds blasted from 20 to 40 mph over the frigid waters of Lake Fairfax.

And it was to this quaint suburban summer retreat that the MAC cyclocross series came to on this barren and desolate winter day for its series finale, the Capitol Cross, presented by The Bike Lane and the Potomac Velo Club. Inhospitable as the weather may have been, the Capitol Cross is the de-facto end of the season party for the MAC/MABRA 'cross scene, so the atmosphere was warmed up by the good social vibes and celebration of all things velo (velo with knobbies and cantilever brakes, of course). Also warming things up were the heated bathrooms and the heated "HQ" building, where riders could sign in without frostbitten fingers.

Not heated, however, was the course. In fact, the open section along the Lake Fairfax dam concentrated the worst aspects of the day's weather to all those who had to race along it, leaning precariously into the brutally strong and icy winds. But once across this forbidding no-mans land, the course turned into a true cyclocross paradise. The run-up from the lake was longer than ever, and harder with the installment of new railway ties. After a grueling slog through the ensuing gravel (read: rocks) section, a key feature of the course reared it's infamous ugly head - the technical downhill and the very slick off-camber, where many a bike and rider met the ground.

Being my last race of the season, I was looking to go down with all guns firing in the C Men's race, even as I was just getting over being sick. Two years ago I came to this race as a spectator, witnessing my first ever cyclocross race. Last year I came here to race at the tail end of my first 'cross season, finishing 44th. This year, after a season of three top 30 finishes and two top 20s, I came looking to keep this season in the top 30. Despite falling on the off-camber, I made up time and positions on the run-ups and the climbs, and finished the day in 26th, taking that position in a sprint to the line. Otherwise, I had a great time out on the course, making my passes on the run-ups and climbs. At the end of it all, it was nice to finish and find the warmth of my car and the warmth of my fellow 'crossers afterwards on this very arctic day.

Afterwards, I turned my attention to supporting my Bike Rack DC team mate, Matthew Bartlett, in the B Men's race. Bartlett won the C Men's race at the DCCX, and has been riding strongly in the Cat 3/4 races since. Bartlett had a strong day out on this very challenging course, finishing the day in 25th after steadily moving up all during the race. Also in the race was my friend Mike Giancoli of Hup United. He missed the C Men's race earlier in the day, and made it up with a brave ride in this field of some very fast and strong riders.

Overall, a great race and a tough day and an awesome way to end an awesome season for myself and my team. 'Nuff said, here's lots of pictures. Thanks for reading this and checking out the blog, and stay tuned to The Complete Jewish Cyclist for more of your kosher cycling fix.

C Men's Race

The cold and frigid start of the C Mens race at 9:00 AM. I'm in the blue and black Bike Rack kit, just behind Steve Riskus of AABC.

Charging the fast downhill section out of the forest behind Lake Fairfax. This descent became dicier with each pass.

The infamous off-camber was the crux of the race, especially for the C Mens race when the ground was slick and hard, offering little purchase. I went down here.

Getting back on while being passed by Elliot Caldwell, whom I would have to race against later on in a sprint to the finish line.

The run up was a real challenge, as it was made longer this year than in previous years, but turning off of the frigid exposed section of the Lake Fairfax dam was actually a nice relief.

The run up was crucial, as I was able to make up a few places here, but it did take a massive effort.

Descending out of the forest and off of the dam, this was a part of the course to gain plenty of speed and keep the pace high, as a brave spectator looks on in the freezing cold.

3/4 Mens & B Masters

The Unholy Rouleur himself, Jim from Squadra Coppi, leads a group up one of the technical climbs out on the course.

Joseph Ventosa of Proteus is both an very nice guy and a hearty racer. He does something like two or three races, and can be found hammering on both a geared bike and a single speed.

Not everybody is Sven Nys, but everybody races 'cross, and anybody who races 'cross is commendable and exciting to watch.

Around the Race Venue

The heated bathrooms just yards from the start line came as a luxury on this brutally raw day.

The strong gusty winds had the course tape flapping wildly all over the place, even tearing it down in many sections.

It was a long windy drag to the finish line, where the banner flailed in the strong breezes.

The race venue provided an nice gathering area, providing exhibitors from The Bike Lane, REI, and a food vendor serving warm food and drinks (sadly, none of it kosher). Many of the tents actually blew over in the winds.

Steve Riskus (AABC) on the left, and James McNeely (Squadra Coppi) on the right trading war stories from out on the course.

Tom Jones and Chris Mattingly of Proteus. which of these free sponsored BMC 'cross bikes is mine...

...none. Mine is my trusty, tried and true Cannondale Optimo Cyclocross (not free nor sponsored, but masterfully serviced by the master mechanics at The Bike Rack).

B Men's Race

Riders warming up and staying warm for the B Men's race...

...and look who's doing the Bs! Michael Giancoli of HUP United came for the C Men's race, but showed up late so decided to mix it up in the upper classes. Mike's a kick-ass C racer, so it's rad that he made an on-the-spot decision to do the notoriously fast Killer B's race.

James Mcneely having a pre-race chat with Giancoli ("dude, my hat and sweater are so much warmer than your helmet and skinsuit right now").

My Bike Rack DC team mate and winner of the C Men's race at the DCCX lines up for the start of the B Men's race.

Giancoli at the start as well, with yet another cool variation of the HUP United team kit.

Bartlett in the opening lap, working the switchback midfield.

Giancoli comes through the same section a few moments later.

Bartlett powers up the climb, beginning his surge up through the field.

Giancoli climbs the hill as well as riders begin to fall behind him as well.

Off the damn and through the forest, Bartlett settles into his rhythm.

Giancoli also finds a line through the increasingly slippery corners.

Bartlett working the run up, where he displayed fine form as the race progressed.

He also showed fine form on the slick off-camber, staying on his machine through this dicey section.

Giancoli on the off-camber, guiding his Rock Lobster through a good line.

Nearing the end of the race, Bartlett gives it full gas towards a fine 25th place finish in this grueling race on a brutal day.

Giancoli powers up the climb, also near the end of a good race. He came to race the C's, and ended up racing the B's, and with a series of excellent finishes this season, this was an heroic way for him to finish up the 'cross season. HUP HUP HUP!


YS said...

Dear Jason,
You have now created a whole new catagory of hard core in my mind.

Much love and as I was told before going in to the army - Don't get dead.

Chris Mattingly said...

I look surprisingly Ben-like in that picture. But thanks for the shout-out anyway!

That race was amazing--a great last race.

Mike said...

From one Jewish blogger and crosser to another, yasher koach! Good to see you represent in NoVa.

Shabbat Shalom!

Matt said...

A little late to comment here, but good racing in the brutal cold that day. Glad I could get some good shots of you during your race. Thanks for returning the favor.