So Sunday I raced…well rode, my first ever Cyclo-Cross race! OMG what a blast! The race was the first in a 12 Race Series put on in Southern California of which I am hoping to get to around half in the next 4 months.
As with the clinic I was taken to another part of Los Angeles that I had never been to. Whittier Narrows. Becca and I loaded up the van Sunday morning and headed out around 7:30, we were running about 30 minutes behind schedule as the plan was to get there at 8:00am, practice ride the first 30 minutes on the open course. Then there was a One Lap Race at 9:00am. Masters 45B at 10:00am, then Beginner C at 11:00am. I had bought a season five race pass which refunded my first race fee and then every subsequent one was only $5.00. Three races for $40 I was in! This also allowed me to see where best I might fit in, as usual I fit between two camps; plenty of fitness but no skills!
Of course all the above is written with hindsight and after several emails to the RD about how all works and plenty of use of the hashtag #cxnoob!
Becca had also brought her CX/Gravel bike with a view to maybe getting on course. She actually had a 2.5 hour run on her plan and was going to run down the San Gabriel River path and back and would hopefully catch me during the last
So the fact that we got there late meant that I missed the warm up and the start of the One Lap Race. So having gotten pinned with my number and all kitted up, I slipped onto the course around the half way mark and gingerly made my way around for a lap and half to at least get a feel for it. It was, as expected, twisty and turny and included just about everything you could expect. Several tonnes of sand had been delivered to provide the sand pit, there were off camber turns, steps to run up, hurdles climbing/descending chicanes you name it it had ticks in most of the boxes.
The combined practice race loop was a great idea. After nearly eating it on one of the run ups when I failed to unclip and my bike decided to see if it could jump over me I had a better understanding of how to avoid doing that again! Some stutter stepping through the hurdles, a messy dismount on a 180 degree reverse camber turn and a very bumpy lap I was done!
I changed my number and Becca said that she had decided to stay and watch and would run in the afternoon. So I have her to thank for all of the excellent photos below as well as helping put stuff in the pits, providing hand up water and ringing the cow bell like the Russians were coming!
So at 10:00am I stood nervously at the back of my wave. The start of a Cyclocross race is basically an all-out sprint for positioning and there was no way I wanted to be at the pointy end. I settled into the back half and focused on each obstacle as it presented itself.
I also started my Garmin about a mile into the race…so there’s that to work on next time too! As I settled in I was able to improve my navigation through the obstacles. Dismounting and running up the stairs no problem. Zero stutter stepping through hurdles. I even tried to ride through the sand pit, only once, I ground to halt after about a bike length in! In the end there was only one obstacle that foiled me every loop, the darn off camber 180 degree turn around a tree. I dismounted for it, tried to ride it and nearly toppled over down the hill, tried dabbing my way round and in the resorted to unclipping on one side and dabbing into it then unclipping the other and shuffling up over the brow of the hill. Pretty it wasn’t but it did the job!
I started to pick up people and was slowly moving up…hah well in my mind I was. I was tussling with a couple of guys for position, and was actually racing! Towards the end of Lap 3 I shouted to Becca that I needed water and to meet me I the pits. I passed through the Pits twice in different directions. She was there and handed up a water bottle, I took a deep swig and dropped it! Yes I have been watching YouTube!
Hot and not in a good way!
About 20 yards out of the Pit Lane the course exited onto a paved footpath. As I rode out on this I felt my back wheel go flat. I dismounted and ran back to the Pits. Becca had tubes and a track pump. Note to self, spare wheels! I flipped the bike and whipped out the wheel! I lover Kevlar beaded tires, one lever in and around, I pulled out the tube and was able to put the tire back on with just my thumbs! I think this was the quickest change I have ever made, maybe 3 minutes…of course that’s in my head, but it was seriously fast!
One handed pump! I have had this pump for 15 years and now it finally matces someting!
That said no matter how fast I was when I exited the Pits I was well off the back. I passed through the Start/Finish and was called out with two laps. This left me a little confused but I dug in and rode through finished off another loop and started my fifth?
Now this is where my complete noobness shone through. As I approached the end of the fifth lap I saw the next race staging. I eased off as I saw some riders in front of me stop and exit the course. I slowed and stopped and asked another rider what to do as I hadn’t finished my final lap. Here I was explained to that the race basically stops when winner has completed the estimated number of laps based on the duration of the race, in this case 5 laps based on the 40 minutes. So I had been lapped while in the Pits. Just to put this into perspective my time to complete almost 5 laps, excluding the missed first mile was 53 minutes, second place was 42 minutes! So technically I should have stopped after being lapped!
By the time I had figured this out my next race was staging and I needed to be re numbered and catch my breath. I decided to sit this one out. I had an extra loop on the first race and an extra half a lap on my warm up so I had gotten my monies worth on the circuit. More importantly I had had a complete blast and learned a massive amount! I am never going to win any of these races and my biggest competitor is myself but as long as I am having fun it’s good for me! This actually turned out a good choice as in the end I had a flat in my front tire too so I would have had a miserable second race.
Other than the flats the bike was great. The gearing worked well and I wasn’t spinning out. The ride and saddle was comfortable, well as comfortable as the course allowed.
A quick clean up and the bike was in the Van for the drive home! These are the best of the photos!
So in no particular order some lessons learned;
- At a minimum spare wheels or bike in the pits, changing a flat is not going to cut it! I would like to look at Tubeless.
- Get there early and ride the course, it’s open so you can. I had no idea!
- Maybe carry some water. The cage on the bike is pretty weak sauce so I need to get a stronger one.
- Start the Garmin, don’t need this for the race just for the data, I used my Fenix3HR but I am considering getting a 510/520 for the ease of use. Also if I crash I won’t risk the watch which is a lot more money to replace.
- Don’t be afraid to mix it up, I’ll be standing a bit closer to the front the next time…closer to, not at!
- Kit choice was perfect; Pactimo Ascent Jersey and Bibs. The only exception was the short fingered gloves and I have nice blister on my index finger. I should have worn LFs and I knew this based on DK200, next time.
- Practice, Practice, Practice. I need to work on skills and drills more. Time is always a challenge but hopefully I can find some!
- Listen for a bell or for the winner being called, this is a sign your race is nearly over or is over! Easier said than done when your heart is trying to explode!
So all in all it was a great day. Hard work but lots of fun. I highly suggest if you have a bike that you can ride on grass or dirt you have a go! If you’re in SoCal the Prestige Series is well organized and participated in. Even if you don’t want to race, just spend an hour at an event and soak up the vibe!
So the next CX race is at the end of the month. In between Becca and I are off the Death Valley for the Planet Ultra Century!
Once again I couldn’t do this crazy shit without my #1 Cheerleader Becca. Always smiling and willing she is just plain awesome!
Sorry world she is mine and you all lose!