Before long, I saw the Shogren bus rolling down the hill in the opposite direction, so I swung the Grumbler around and followed them. They went to the house where I had originally stopped to look for a sign denoting a bicycle race. There was in fact a sign, but it was not visible from the direction I drove in. Oi.
The race started at the bottom of a steep gravel hill, but the rest of the course was smooth and short grass. The traction was awesome, so I could really rail the tight turns without worrying about slipping (but I did have to worry about clipping a pedal.)
15 minutes later than scheduled, I lined up next to Stephen Rowand, who had beaten me last race at Marilla. We were given a quick 'go', and I and stuttered trying to get my big gear turning through the rocks. I was one of the last ones to get to the top of the hill, but after a few minutes, Steve and I got off the front and started to build up a little lead. For the better part of two laps we traded places, I would pass him on the open flat sections, and he would come back when we hit the tight spots.
|From Drop Box|
|From Drop Box|
After crossing the line I waited for Justin, who had just completed and enjoyed his first bicycle race. I stumbled over to the garage and loaded up on cornbread, chili, and hot chocolate in an attempt to recover before the A race. We stood around ringing cow bells and watching Stick win the B race in cuffed jeans before heading back to the grumbler for warm clothes.
Soon enough, it was time to race again. After I making some coffee, I felt fresh, so I rolled happily down to the start line. The A field was small, but with Gunnar, Gerry Pflug, and others, it was going to be a plenty fast race.
Again I had trouble getting my 39x17 started on the hill, and I immediately found myself in dead last with Stick. I hung near the back for the first lap, but on the second I decided to go for it.
|From Drop Box|
(photo cred be bestowed upon the rob lochner)
A few seconds later, we hit the twisty section again, and Gunnar decided to crush my dreams. He went flying by, and hooked up with Gerry, and they immediately started pulling away from me. At that point, riding two races fixed was starting to catch up with my legs, but I held onto third for a while longer.
On the next lap, I hit an off camber turn heard a "fwoosh!" and my back tire went soft. Knowing I had burped it, I silently swore, but decided to keep riding until the tire pulled off the rim or went completely flat. Every time I hit a bump, or did a hard turn, a little more air leaked out. I rode it for three more laps and stayed in 3rd, but at the 40 minute mark, I had to either stop or risk a spectacular crash. Betsy offered to let me use her bike, but the pedals were wrong, so she ran off and grabbed Justin's cross check for me. I jumped back on the course, but I was almost in last by that point. I decided just to concentrate on finishing the race.
I don't know if I could have held onto third for the remainder of the race, but if I wouldn't have flatted I would have tried like hell to. The Bruceton Mills race made me realize that I have the speed to hang with the fast guys, but I don't yet have the endurance to go all out for two races (racing the fixed gear probably didn't help.) Next year I'm going to run a free wheel and try to be competitive.
Gerry did end up beating Gunnar, and was rewarded with an absurdly large trophy. I ended up as the 3rd SS for the series, and was given a slightly smaller trophy for my SS win earlier in the day. I'm pretty sure that will be the last cross race for me this year, but with five days to go, the Dirty Dozen is looming.
Cross' next year looks like its going to be pretty outstanding with JR's 8 race Appalachian Bicycle Racing Association series.