The 2012 Cyclocross National Championships were this week in Madison, WI. I was there. Here's my story.
Monday, January 2, 2012:
I left Marietta with two bikes, six wheels, two boxes of spare parts, a tool box, a stationary trainer, a gigantic plastic tub of cycling clothes, a suitcase with regular clothes, my computer, three helmets, three pairs of cycling shoes, mud boots, tennis shoes, Whole Foods honey roasted peanut butter, rice cakes, and a good attitude. I drove to Evansville, IN and spent the night with my cousin Lindsey, her husband Brian, and their children: Kaden (human), Bella (canine), and Bentley (canine). They fed me lots of good food and took great care of me. Thanks, Blanchards! I love you guys!
I also made a quick stop to see one of my biggest fans - Grandmommy.
I woke up early Tuesday morning and drove to Madison. The drive from Evansville, IN to Madison, WI is boring.
When I got to Madison, I went straight to the course and rode a few laps. It was frozen and terrifying. I went to bed feeling a bit freaked out about Wednesday's single speed race.
I woke up extremely early on Wednesday and went over my bikes. After I had them both dialed in, I headed to the course. I was happy to find that course had thawed quite a bit. By the time the single speed race started, the sheet ice had turned into ice/mud. I can ride ice/mud.
I only did one single speed race this season (which I won), so I had to start in the back of 56 guys. I spent the first lap and a half escaping a scrum of crashes and bottlenecks. When I reached the front of the pack, the leaders were already well up the road, so I set the throttle to cruise and rolled in for 15th. I was expecting top ten, but considering my start position, I was satisfied.
After the race, I had a beer and a salad at a local brewpub and then headed back to my hotel, where I washed my bike in the shower. It was a pretty good day.
On Thursday, I did a few more laps of the course and then drove to Plainfield, IL (near Chicago) to stay with Joy and Aaron and their fantastic two-year-old daughter Emma. When I got there, I found that my thermal skinsuit had shown up. It was supposed to show up before I left Marietta, but when the company called me to tell me that it wouldn't ship until the day I was to leave town, I told them to ship it to Joy and Aaron.
I wondered out loud if there was a screen printing company nearby, and Joy immediately picked up the phone and got the number of Rocket Imaging from her brother in law! I mocked up a quick jersey design in preparation.
Sarah flew in that night, so we picked her up at the airport. I was unbelievably happy to be reunited with my other half.
Friday morning, I awoke to unseasonably warm temperatures. I dropped my skinsuit off at Rocket Imaging and then had some coffee and breakfast. After that I headed out for a ride... in shorts... in January... in Chicago. I found some great bike trails and XC ski trails and spun the cobwebs out of my legs. On the way back to the house, I stopped by and picked up my newly customized skinsuit. I think it turned out pretty good.
For dinner, we had Chinese at the house. Another good day.
We spent Saturday touring Chicago. It was awesome!
I went to bed early Saturday night.
We left Joy and Aaron's at about 8:00 and headed to Madison. We got there around 11:30 (pregnant wife + lots of coffee for me = lots of rest stops).
I took my time getting dressed and looking over my bikes. I finally started riding around about 12:30. My A bike, that had felt fine on Saturday, suddenly wouldn't shift. I turned around to head back to the van, and the chain broke.
I pushed the bike over to the expo area to find a chain. All of the SRAM guys were busy in the pits, so I stopped at the Shimano trailer. I asked a Shimano tech if he would sell me a chain. He said no. The largest bicycle component manufacturer in the world would not sell a chain to an elite rider sixty minutes before the start of nats. Shimano, thank you for making your customer service policy clear to me.
I jogged back to the van and asked Sarah to head to the local bike shop for a chain. When she got back, I put the chain on, and the bike shifted fine. I hurriedly changed out of my warm-up clothes (without ever having warmed up) and into my new skinsuit and headed over to staging.
I was called up in the last row. There were around 100 guys in the race. Before Wednesday's race, the largest race I had ever done was 40 guys. No problem, right?
The gun went off, and I passed a few guys right away. As soon as the group hit the grass, people started crashing and getting tangled in course tape. The bottlenecks were amazing. I spent an unbelievable amount of time completely stopped with nowhere to go. After the first lap, I had moved up about 15 spots and crashed four times. As I started the second lap, I thought now the race starts.
I was wrong.
When I hit the grass again, I could tell that something was wrong. Every time I hit a rut, I could feel something moving that shouldn't have been moving. When I picked up my bike to run around an especially slick 180 turn and my rear wheel fell off, I identified the source of the problem. Somewhere in the first lap, my quick release had been flipped. In twenty plus years of riding bikes with quick release skewers, I have NEVER had that happen. In addition to my wheel falling off, my chain had derailed and wedged itself between my chain guide and my frame - another first. In my semi-hypoxic state, I fumbled with the wheel and chain for what felt like half an hour. I moved over to the side of the course and struggled with my bike while all the guys I had passed flew by. When I finally got my equipment together, I put my foot on the gas, but I must have forgotten to put my hands on the steering weel. I crashed about a million times.
The 2012 Cyclocross National Championships taught me a few things:
1. If you know that you will be called up at the back of a 100 person field, don't get your hopes up. Unless you are EXTREMELY gifted, you're not going anywhere.
2. To be good in mud, you must race in mud. Grass crits and mud races are ENTIRELY different beasts. I can fake it well, but at the top level, faking it doesn't work.
3. I'm sure more stuff will come to me as this experience sinks in.
After the race, I was not a happy dude, so Sarah and I got dinner and hit the road. Planning to drive through the night, I drank a sugar-free NOS after dinner. After 200 miles, Sarah became very uncomfortable in the car (remember - she's 27 weeks pregnant), so we stopped at a motel in Bloomington. Due to the NOS, I'm up at 2:oo am writing this blog post.