Sunday, December 15, 2013

Enumclaw Cycloclaws - Season Finale

Author: Dwaine Trummert

The Seattle Cyclocross event calendar ended in Enumclaw last weekend as did the author’s race season. The season as been a fun time for myself and the many folks I met along the way. It was also a time of learning.

Learning about the sport. And learning about myself.

The weather was awfully nice for Cyclocross racing in mid December. The temperature was in the mid 40’s and the rain stayed away. The course was also quite nice. It featured a good variety of terrain. Some fastish turns on the grass. Some really tight turns on the grass. A longish mud section. Some technical single track. A few hundred yards of pavement.

The toughest and longest run-up my tired legs had ever seen. And a short section through a covered equestrian arena.

Photo by Rod Hart
With the move to a midday start and less flexibility on pre riding, my pre race ritual has changed a bit. I was able to get in three laps of course recon after the 10:15 race. Instead of using these laps as warmup I used them to learn the course. There were a fair amount of technical sections and it took a while to figure out what worked and what didn’t.

Based on what I saw on the course and how strong the riders were at the last event  it seemed wise for me not to work hard to get to front like I did last time. My plan was to ride at a steady effort right from the start.

With a little spare time before I needed to warm up I meandered about and ran into Kristofer Koehn. I congratulated him on his win at Sprinker. It was interesting to hear him talk about his thoughts on strategy during the last lap at Sprinker as we approached our sprint finish. We also chatted about racing and training and I found out he is actually a triathlete who does some Cyclocross on the side.

When it came to get warmed up I rode around in circles (almost
literally) on the paved paths between the various barns scattered about the Enumclaw Expo Center. I waited until just 10 minutes before the start before ending my warmup. There was not much point in arriving early as the first two rows would get called up and I would be starting from the back regardless of where I staged.

As the smallish field assembled, only 18 riders in my class, I caught up with Dimitri who I met at the Fort Steilacoom event. Dimitri told me about the winner of that race (who won by 1.5 minutes) and that he is a former champion in another discipline. But our conversation was cut short when, much to my surprise, I heard my name in the list of riders called up to the front row.

At first this seemed like an error. But I then remembered that the promoter allows some riders who upgrade mid season to take eighty percent of their season points total with them to their new class. I thought I had missed the deadline for that transfer so my callup was definitely a surprise. It also called for a change in race plan.

There is lots of value in avoiding bottlenecks on the racecourse and being in the front is the best way to miss them. The new plan was to start at the front and stay at the front until the field strung out a bit. Then hang on as best I could.

As usual my recon work included lots of attention on the first few corners. This paid handsomely as I was in fourth coming out of corner number two. By about the 6th corner I had moved up to 2nd which I held onto until we approached the giant run up.

I couldn’t hold the leader’s wheel any longer and began the inevitable process of letting fitter riders go by. As the race went on I found that I
Photo by Woodinville Bicycle
could get some of them back in the technical sections, but overall, I was slowly going backwards. My highlight in this process was losing Dimitri (who is definitely fitter than me) on the run up but then working hard to repass him two minutes later in the tight grassy zig-zags. I managed to hold him off for six more minutes before he passed me (for good) at the run up.

As the race went on I found a pace that delivered respectable speed and suffering. The exception was the run-up. The soil was a little loose.

The hill was steep. And long. It kicked my backside every lap.

On the positive side I heard my name and ‘Go Cyclopaths’ emanating from the crowd as I concentrated on not falling at the barriers. As my lone fan shouted my name I did my best to hide my suffering.

One of the lessons I’ve been slow to learn is the best time on the last

Photo by Woodinville Bicycle

lap to push into the red zone. At only one of my races have I crossed the line having used everything up. At Enumclaw I again started pushing too late. I was able to dispatch one rider in the final third of the course and was quickly reeling in another before running out race course.

After the race my fan introduced himself. Fellow cyclopath Rod Hart had been cheering for me at the barriers. We talked cycling and Cyclopaths and Cyclocross while I regained my breath and composure. He also shared some photos of me staying upright over the barriers. It was nice to finally meet Rod and put a face to the name.

In the parking lot I saw Kristofer and asked him about his race. It was only after our race that he admitted that he hadn’t trained in weeks and wasn’t taking this race too seriously. Turns out he has already shifted into training for an early Spring half Marathon.

When I checked the results I found that Dimitri had finished 2nd.  My front row start and perseverance paid off with a 5th. Kristofer finished 9th.

On the drive home I replayed the race season in my head. My season featured at least the following: A number of podium finishes. Graduating to play with the big boys. Getting to the front of the pack, even if only temporarily, while swimming in the deep end of the pool. And stepping off zero times while racing was under way. (Wood should be touched when this is said.) In addition to the racing I met a bunch of cool cyclists who, like me, just happen to like racing bicycles in the mud.

Thanks for reading. See you at The Climb.

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