Monday, December 18, 2006

Cyclocross Nationals

In July of this year Brent Evans and John Ehrlinger first asked me if I would be interested in going to Providence, Rhode Island in December for Cyclocross Nationals. My response was something along the lines of: “Pysco Cross in Rhode Island in the middle of winter. Sure I’m in!

It turned out to be just that – Pysco Cross - with a blazing fast 2.5 mile course, great racing, large fields of 150; +, mid pack start positions, great weather, free flowing Guinness, hot tubs, 2.5 pound lobsters, live music and more cowbell than you could shake a stick at.

I have been to RI about 8 times and really love the state. My college roommate lives there with his wife and 2 kids so I figured I’d race some cyclocross plus hang with my buddy for a day or two.

As it turns out Ehrlinger could not go due to family commitments so Brent and I decided to drive 10 hours, because flying is the easy way out. Brent can drive, and drive and drive. I am good for about an hour or two of conversation before I get sleepy and have to take a nap. We departed Cleveland Wednesday night and made our way to Oneita, NY, which happens to be home of Boxing Hall of Fame and really hard beds at the Days Inn Oneita.

We were back on the road by 8am the next morning with Brent at the wheel with me riding shotgun as I would both legs of the trip. Did I mention that Brent is a driving machine!! Brent 20 hours driving / 0 hours sleep and Brett 0 hours driving / just less than 20 hours sleep. As it turns out it was good I was getting some sleep because once we got to RI there was no sleep for me.

We arrived in lovely Providence, RI at around 12noon with enough time to check in at the Marriott, get kitted up and head to the venue for some laps around the course. The venue was Roger Williams Park which is about 600 acres of preserved land that includes a zoo and some beautiful undulating terrain. The terrain made for a GREAT course. Very challenging, fast and with dry weather the previous week and in the forecast, it was dry and did I mention FAST.

Out pre-ride was nearly 2 hours and after we headed back to Providence to clean up and grab some dinner. We also met up with Rick Adams and Don Frey. Rick and Don flew in and Don would be our pit man for the weekend. If Don does not race next year, Rick and I are getting him one of those cool one piece pit guy jump suits, color of his choice. Anyway, we grabbed some dinner at a local downtown restaurant and then went to The Wyndham race headquarters to pick up our registration packages. While we were there we saw and chatted (Brent did anyway) with famous really fast pros such as Steve Tilford, Ryan Treborn, among others. Over the course of the weekend, we also saw Chris Horner, Ned Overend, Jon Page, Ernie Marenchin, among others. We also ran into some other Ohio people including Shaun and Jimmie from Alan Factory Team. This was where we learned our starting positions, which for me were not favorable. I was number 91 of 175 in Mens 35-39 AG and 81 of 200 plus in the B group. After chatting for a while, we headed to bed with visions of holeshots and passing 70 riders to get a top 20 in our heads.

My race on Friday was not until 2pm, but we arrived at course by 10am to set up our pit area, to get some warm up time and soak in the vibe. As the start time neared I had my plan in my head….start on left side of my row (row 9) and take the outside on the asphalt start section and around the grass infield. When the starter blew the whistle it was total pandemonium (at least in my head anyway). I rode as fast as I could, took many questionable lines, and passed at least 35 people by my count (I lost track of them when they all rolled by me after about 6 minutes into the race). In the end I fell a few times, struggled at times and managed 96 place of 150 finishers. Not what I expected, but I rode absolute balls out the first 6 minutes and blew up, rode fast, blew up, etc.

After the race my buddy JC came by the park just in time for us to hang for a little bit at the beer garden with Rick, Brent, Don and Rick’s friend Jack Daniels. After a while we headed back to the hotel, where I showered and changed and loaded my bike plus things I would need to commute from JC’s house in Bristol, RI to Roger Williams Park the next day. We headed back to JCs and we got to hang out for a little bit with his kids. After they put the kids to bed JC cooked up some clams, mussels and a couple 2.5 lb LOBSTAS. After the feast, their babysitter arrived and we headed out to a house party a short distance away. We proceed to play darts, drink beer and generally have a good time until we decided to leave around 1am. JC’s wife was driving, which was good, because JC and I had been drinking since 4pm. We got back to their place, fired up the hot tub and enjoyed a classic, star filled RI sky….until 4am, when I retired for the night. Up by 7 for some breakfast, coffee and out the door by 9am for my 20 mile commute back to Providence. It was lovely, all hike n bike trail along the bay. It was gorgeous with clear skies and sun, all except for the 20 mph headwind the entire way.

Got back to the park and was having such a nice ride I did 2-3 laps on the course. I missed Tony Marut’s race due to the headwind but Jimmie had a nice race in the 17-18 Juniors. Hung out at the venue the entire day and the highlight was the Elite race featuring local hotshots, Ernie and Shawn. Man those guys are fast. The top 10 of the Elite seem like they have motors on their bikes.

After the Elite race we headed back to the hotel. Brent had dinners with an old friend and Don, Rick and I were looking for something to do. We ended up at Union Square Brewery and after we sampled most, if not all of their flavors we went over a cool Irish Bar. We arrived and a band was setting up, excellent, I love it when a plan comes together. The band totally rocked out and Rick and I ended up on the business end of a few (or 10) Guinesses each. Headed back to the room by 1am for some sleep before the 10am B Race the next day.

Up at 7:30 and headed to venue. The night before Rick and I had decided on special kit for the race…Rick was to wear his Kilt and I my jeans. B race had over 200 take the start and I was like 80th or so, so I had plenty of people to pass, or be passed by. The start was REALLY SKETCHY and within 100 meters, someone had slammed into my derailleur, rendering it useless, except for the 12 tooth cog. No time to fix it, can’t DNF, gotta keep going…all I could think was “42 x 12, thats how I roll.”

The gear hurt, but all the teasing/cheers/heckling about the jeans kept me going and smiling….well maybe not smiling…that 42 x 12 really hurt. In the end I came in about 80th or so, about 3 minutes behind Brent, 2 behind Rudy and 1 behind Jeff Craft.

After our race we stuck around for the Elite Men’s race before starting our long drive home. Once again, Brent drove and I slept with some drooling to keep things interesting. Thanks Brent and to everyone that cheered for us. See you in Kansas City next year for some pysco cross??

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