Sunday, September 27, 2009

Like a criterium. On grass. With beer.

I did the Diamond Blackfan Cyclocross Challenge in Lenexa today which was my first-ever cyclocross race. Like a criterium, a cyclocross race is a circuit race on a relatively short course for a preset amount of time. Unlike a criterium, however, cyclocross races happen on grass and dirt.

New cyclocross racers start at category 4, so I entered the "cat4/beginner" race at 10:00 this morning. The field was fairly large at around 60 people. I started mid-pack and tried to hang on, get a feel for the pace, and move up when possible. Near the end of the first lap, things seemed to be going well when I lost a contact! I realized it stuck to the inside of my sunglasses, so I stopped, reinserted the contact, and got back to riding. I tried to remember to blink more for the rest of the race. The remainder of the race went well, and late in the race I found myself making up most of the places I lost to the contact earlier. I think my overall fitness level was good compared with many of the riders in a beginner's group. I finished 35th out of 55 total finishers. Three other entrants dropped out sometime during the race. That happens fairly often in a cyclocross race because crashes and mechanical problems are more common than in road races. I was really happy to finish mid-pack in my first race!

Because the first race went well and I seemed to be recovering quickly, I decided to do the cat3/cat4 race in the afternoon. That race was for more advanced category 3s and non-beginner 4s. The field was slightly smaller, and the start was much faster than my first race. I hung on for part of the first lap, but I eventually lost most of the group. My technical abilities in mud, sand, and while carrying the bike just weren't on the same level as most of those guys. I ended up finishing next to last at 30th out of 31 finishers. Seven guys dropped out of this race. At least I beat one guy!

The day was fun and not nearly as serious as crit racing. Lots of guys changed clothes and sat around drinking beer which watching other races later in the day. I'm glad I stuck around for more laps and more practice with a faster field even if I got my butt kicked. I'm looking forward to the next race!

My leg after the day's races. Blood, dirt, and sweat are all part of the deal.

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