Get ready for a lame race report. I think it was back in 2006 when USAC changed rules for cross categories. They used to follow road, now they are independent. This was when I was still a Cat 4 roadie. After petitioning for upgrade to Cat 3 road early this year, I was upgraded. But this still left me in Cat 4 cyclocross. Probably not that big of a deal, as I have only done one USAC cross race, and that was a few years ago. I really am a Cat 4 as far as skill goes. I might have Cat 2 fitness on the road, but cross is very different.
The Velo-Cross masters categories were Cat 1/2/3. So I was stuck with Cat 4 or 3/4. The 3/4 race was at 1pm and I did not want to wait until this afternoon to race. So I signed up Cat 4/45+. Lame, I know.
I chose to do this race primarily to learn and observe. It was not something I was going to stress over. I can always tell how much importance I place on a given race by how well I sleep the night before. Don't sleep at all: A-race, very important. Sleep intermittently, half normal amount: B-race, somewhat important. Sleep like a baby: F-race, where F is for fun, result is irrelevant. I slept like a baby last night.
Yesterday I picked up a Ridley Crosswind bike from a teammate to try out at this race. He's selling it, and I was always unhappy that I couldn't put bigger than 30mm tires on the back of my Dean Ti cross bike. The Crosswind can accommodate some really big tires. I set it up with some burly 38mm Conti's. I was going to race a bike I had near zero time on.
Dave on mandatory run-up
So the Cat 4's 35+, 45+, and Juniors lined up together. When asked if we wanted separate starts, enough guys said yes, so you could "tell who's who." I thought this was silly. There were all of what, less than twenty 35+ guys, and ten 45+ guys? WTF. We had different number series, so it was obvious who your competition was. So the younger guys went off 30 seconds ahead of us older farts. In my tiny wave, I was 4th into the woods. That first run-up off the track was rideable if nobody was in your way. I didn't bother trying first lap. In the woods, I quickly started catching younger guys. Most were really cool and let me pass. Others made me work for it. I also passed the three 45+ guys that got the hole shot into the woods. I didn't know how many 35+ guys were in front of me.
In the woods, there was a screaming descent that you could barely brake to a stop on. After rounding a 180, you went right back up. It was tacky loam and quite rideable, but with traffic, a dismount was required on first lap. I cleaned it easily on all the remaining laps. They had a big wall of car tires around the outside of this downhill hairpin so out of control riders wouldn't eat red oak. Half of this course was more of a mountain bike course than a 'cross course.
By the 5th lap, a single 35+ guy was ahead of me. This was nice, as the only riders I was passing now were a couple lapped riders going really slow. I could focus on nice, steady TT effort. Hard to say if I was gaining on the 35+ leader in the end or not. He finished less than a minute ahead of me completing our 6th and final lap, after taking the 30sec lead start into account, he was only 12 seconds up.
I noticed that most of the riders were much more proficient at running up hills or over barriers than I. Starting out, I didn't think I would gain any net ground against several guys. I'd pass them on parts I could put the power down only to lose it at the barriers. But the pace I was going... I can do that for an hour on Mt Washington. This was a 33 minute race, and you could tell which riders were popping in the first 10 minutes of the race. I wish the race went a couple more laps. A larger field would have made it a more realistic training race too.
Video credit: Beth Penney
I did have an entertaining moment when the results were posted. John Coscia finished 2nd in the 45's was sure he won the 45's. I was standing behind him and he was like "who's this Jansen guy, how did he get in front of me," questioning the accuracy of the results. I said "that be me." We started talking. I mentioned I flew past the three guys that got the hole shot on the first lap. He assumed that when he came back on the track on final lap and saw no one there, that he was in front. We talked a while, moving on to hillclimbs. He's done Washington a number of times several years ago. When I told John I just did it in 1:05 on a broken bike, he was like, "ah, no wonder you were ahead of me." We had a nice talk. The cross world doesn't overlap much with the hilly road race or hillclimb world. In the hillclimb world, many people know of me through my website. In masters road racing, riders get to know you after several strong finishes. Before my race today, Eric Marro yelled at me "Jansen, what are you doing here? There aren't any hills!"
I'm planning to do one more serious race this fall. Not sure if it will be an A or B race. It is the Iron Cross race in PA, dubbed America's Longest Cross Race. It is not a USAC sanctioned race, however. They have that the day before on a traditional cross course, called Iron Cross Lite. Iron Cross does draw some talent. Chris Eatough won it the year I did it. Andy Applegate won the masters last year. Iron Cross covers around 64 miles with 7500ft climbing. One run-up must gain upwards of 500ft. When I did this race a few years ago, I think it took 20 minutes of hard hiking and grabbing trees to help pull yourself up. This year's race will take over 4hrs for me. There will be hills. Those that have done D2R2, Iron Cross is similar, a little more than half the distance with more ATV/jeep road content.