Sunday, January 13, 2013

Brief season review & 2013 CX National Championships M50-54

by JP McCarthy
Doing fine up the "Koppen-Badger" at CX Nats

What a finish to a long season!  After flailing away in the first half of the Chicago Cross Cup series, frequently finishing in the teens amongst my 40+ cronies, I settled into the top 10, finishing 6th overall & 6th in the Illinois State Championships.  I had a couple of 3rd-place finishes in non-series local races, too.  My trips over the Wisconsin border to USGP & Badger Cross were not so successful, but the brats were outstanding & the experiences valuable.
Head-down at Douglas Park Afterglow with Newt, Dave, & Mike

With the new year, I finally admitted my 'racing age' & joined the 50+ crew for New Year's Resolution.  Saturday I was whipped by a guy from Philadelphia & schooled by Bob Downs & John Shull.  Philadelphia & Downs rested for Nationals on Sunday, leaving Paul Curley, Scott from Virginia, John, & me to duke it out on the ice.  My first win since La Bagh Woods!
NYR Sunday 50+ podium with Paul Curley & Scott Paisley

The National Championships course was treacherous on Thursday afternoon for the M50-54 race.  There were many sections of water & mud on top of ice, especially on the descents.  Another tough section was the approach to the "Koppen-Badger" climb, where a few inches of soft snow sat on top of frozen ruts.  I had an OK start from the second row, luckily staying just clear of a crash at the holeshot.  I was top 5 by the top of the Koppen-Badger, where I could see that Steve Tilford was already on the next climb.  I was right on the 3rd-place wheel when I fell hard on the ice just before the double-barriers.  The ice-slide left my hands soaked & freezing, & both controls were askew on my bars.  I'm sure I accelerated while on my butt on the ice; so I was still close to 3rd-place after the barriers.  But 2 & 3 rode away while I punched my levers back into position.  Then the cold set into my fingers.  And on the following descents I was scared of the course.  So I freaked out, fell a couple more times, & lost a bunch of places, maybe as far back as 8th or 9th.

I guess I was weary of freaking out after a couple more laps & took a clean bike from Richard.  It's a bit risky to go from disc brakes to cantilevers mid-race, but I wanted a clean bike for the final laps.  Besides, I'd asked Richard to pit for me & I didn't want to leave him with nothing to do!  He did great job of preparing my disc bike for me again after only 1/2 a lap.  Back on my 'A' bike with straight levers & with some blood flowing to my fingers again, & with some good guesses at how to ride the most difficult/treacherous sections, I rode the final 2 laps with some confidence.  I moved back up to 5th-place in lap 4.  In lap 5 I was motivated by a glimpse of fellow CCCer Danny Warner closing on me and by a spectator who said I was in 6th.  So I gave it my all to reel in 4th-place.  I wasn't making much progress with my feet on the pedals, so I 'danced' up the railroad ties (according to an eloquent spectator), closing the gap, and I passed him through the barriers.  I stayed in 4th-place with a 25-second gap by the end.
Not feeling so well up the CX Nats' back-side climb with twisted levers & frozen fingers

We don't get much practice racing in these conditions.  I learned a bit more about equipment & bike set-up (glove selection, lever set-up, brake pads) and confirmed what I thought I already knew (steel toe spikes!).  The most important lesson is that I can come back after sliding ass-over-tit through frozen slurry.  I'll try to avoid that next year; but if it happens, I'll come back quicker!

I certainly did not expect to podium at Nationals.  I'm just glad that there are more than 3 steps on that stage.  I'm very sad to say that Tilly was injured during his second lap.  I wish him a speedy recovery & many more titles!
What an honor share the podium with Steve Tilford! He raced 3 laps with a badly injured shoulder.

  • Thanks to all ChiCrossCup competitors, promoters, & supporters for the leg-thrashings, the encouragement, & the jeering.
  • Thanks to the suppliers of outstanding equipment & apparel who make this sport (almost) safe & (somewhat) comfortable: SRAM, Zipp, Avid, Redline, Challenge, White Industries, Time, Prologo, Vermarc, Lazer, Wigwam, & Bontrager.
  • Thanks to SRAM Neutral Road Support!
  • Thanks to Natasha for not changing the locks.

Shiny object

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