Welcome to CiclaValley’s annual “I did a cyclocross race column”.
While my participation has been far more scarce than I would like, I guess this is happening enough that experience is starting to show.
This past weekend, Socalcross returned to the Valley meaning it was a required showing to keep my CiclaValley rep.
Once again, I signed up for the C division with the prospect of doing the late afternoon race since the rest of the CV fam was having non-daddy bonding time.
The Sylmar course was the fifth different one I’ve encountered, but for one prime reason, it was the most different.
Each lap featured a few short, but punchy climbs that were steeper and a bit more strenuous than others I’ve encountered.
For me, cyclocross is about maintaining momentum, so if you don’t go into these segments with enough speed or in the right gears, you will pay for it not only in time, but also fatigue.
On hand I ride my longest tenured bike which is also my only ten speed, but what was most unusual about this course was racing in the small ring (36t) the entire time instead of my big ring (46t).
As we were lining up, I was surprised that I still had points to be at the front, but once again I wilted away this advantage fading to 6th place as we made it into the first turn.
I made a few passes to put me into fourth place near the end of the first lap, but from there making up seemed tenuous as it felt like I was stuck from making progress for quite awhile.
One of the problems with passing people was part of the circumstances of being the last of four races which started within two minutes.
Sometimes, the different races got huddled together making it hard to get around certain pinch points.
The pressure of these bunch ups helped me move into third as during the second lap, a rider in front had a slight fall, trying to keep his momentum going on a sharp turn.
Even moving up position wise, I kept doing time checks with the leader in the UCLA kit who stayed a annoyingly consistent 13 seconds ahead of me.
After the first lap, I figured out part of the problem was how poorly my practice laps prepared me for race speed.
Hitting those short climbs at full blast is much different than lightly spinning up them during warm ups, so after the second go around at this pace, I was able to much better keep my speed going.
Watch this pass to put me into second after a lap of being in third. This is going to be a theme…
Now I had one guy left to pass, but I was guessing this tubbier, older looking cyclist was going to have problems closing that gap.
The long straightaway necessitated going full speed.
If you didn’t turn up the jets, you lose seconds and the valuable momentum up that first climb.
I’m not the best technical rider, especially on turns and dismounts, but I knew I had to utilize my skills in the flats and coming up those hills to tick off whatever seconds I could.
I could slowly see the gap closing and with another climb coming up, I tried slingshotting myself to make my move.
We were in lap three of what I thought would be a five lap race, so while having a lead was nice, it sure seemed like a long time to stay ahead.
While I was picking up seconds here and there, I also had to be cognizant of not being too aggressive and catching a flat.
My Garmin was just under 29 minutes as I finished the 4th lap and I tried asking the official how many I had left.
He yelled “two” as I went by causing me to groan with the prospect of pushing it for another quarter of an hour.
My lead kept slightly increasing, but never to the point where I felt comfortable if I had some type of mishap.
As I entered the last lap, I worried in the back of my mind that I would bonk at any point.
There was a soft hill right after dismounting for the barriers that on each lap I could feel my power fading, but I just hoped I wouldn’t bonk.
Strangely though, the deeper I got into the lap, the more it seemed like I had a secure lead.
When I crossed the finish line, I was unsure if I was still in the race.
Sure enough, I found out later they cut the race to just five laps after I passed meaning I tired myself out for an extra lap for nothing!
Winning is cool, but I thought it would be cooler.
That morning, my six year old daughter told me that I should win this race as if it was a choice and I know she would have been excited to watching things unfold.
Didn’t think I had that much of a gap…
Nonetheless, I was pretty tired after putting that effort in and was happy to hang out and see where the afternoon would take me…
…hopefully to beer!