Conventions, ‘Cross and One More Road Race
After a vacation-filled August, The end of the month and beginning of September took me off the bike even more. I was off to Tampa to cover the Republican National Convention and then on to Charlotte to cover the Democratic National Convention. My original plan was to bring my bike to Tampa, at least, but between the looming hurricane and my work schedule there was no time to ride. I was busy lugging myself and 30 pounds of photo gear all over the place. It was a great gig, I really did enjoy shooting the conventions. It was a lot of hard work, but it paid off. I made some pics I’m really proud of and at the end of it I lifted a glass with my co-workers knowing that I love my job.
My flight coming back from Charlotte was delayed because of runway work in Baltimore. I ended up getting home pretty late and managed to get about 3 hours of sleep before heading to Virginia Beach to watch Lauren’s 1st soccer game of the year. I got back later than I wanted and ended up getting another terrible night’s sleep, only to wake up early and head to Upper Marlboro, Md., for the Tacchino Cyclocross race that my team puts on.
The Tacchino is awesome. It’s without a doubt the best cyclocross race of the year in the Mid-Atlantic. It’s an amazing spectacle of racing, fun and friendship. And beer. And maybe a sausage or two. This is the 3rd Tacchino that I’ve photographed, but now it’s the first one that I’d be racing in.
After shooting the set up in the morning and the early races, I hopped on the trainer for my race at 11 am. I made the commitment to do the single speed category this year. It’s tough, very tough, but the way I looked at it was there are less people to worry about on the course at one time, and I don’t have to worry about shifting.
I lined up in the 2nd row, and before I knew it the whistle blew and we were off. 26 of us, charging through the prologue and around the first turn. We bend left 90 degrees and head up hill, and already I’m burning a match to stay in the group. This course was hard! We twist around a power line tower and up into some trees and I see National Champ Jeremy Powers watching the race. A little chicane in the woods comes up and down I go. Right at the feet of Jeremy Powers. Not how I envisioned it, at all. The main pack was away and I hopped back on the bike as quick as I could. I will say this: my dismounts and remounts are fairly solid. I’ve been practicing them, and while I’m not a pro, I’m decent enough. Where I struggled in this race was power. I don’t generate enough. I think as it is, when I was in great shape in July, I still didn’t generate enough power for single speed ‘cross. Being off the bike for a couple weeks made the situation much worse. My bike handling is ok; I went down just that one time. I was a little hesitant when the course got slippery, though. I need to be more sure of myself and charge a little harder into and out of corners. By the time I had the confidence in the corners I was on the last lap.
Here’s a pic of me negotiating an off-camber chicane before the finishing stretch:
This race was hard. I got lapped by the winner. Definitely the hardest race I’d done to date. But it was fun, in a sadistic, suffering kind of way. Cornering and controlling the bike, once I got used to it and figured out where to put my weight, was alright. I was shaky at first, and that cost me time. I finished 20th out of 26 racers. I have something to build on, and hopefully I’ll get more saddle time before my next race on Sept. 30th.
This past Saturday I ventured up to Pennsylvania for my last road race of the season, the Kirkwood Road Race. I spent a couple days on the bike during the week leading up to this, and while I definitely wasn’t in the best race shape, I felt I could fair better here than at the Tacchino. 24 folks lined up in the Cat 5 40+ race, which rolled around the 7 mile, hilly loop 3 times.
It was beautiful countryside, and a spectacular area for a bike race. Right in the middle of several Amish farms. Amish kids with wide-brimmed hats and overalls waved as we raced by. Rows of corn did little to block the wind, though, as it was really gusty. On the backside of the course, on a decent that had us reaching speeds of 40+ mph, a guy in front of me started to lose it. I swerved and braked, and boom there was a gap. Then the course turned uphill. I hurried to latch back on to the lead group, and passed a few riders. A woman from the combined field was trying to get back on as well so I told her to get on my wheel. I pulled us back to the group and I was gassed. We turned a corner and the course pointed up (again) and sure enough somebody attacked. I had nothing at that moment. I was cooked. My plan to conserve energy until the end was shot when I TT’ed back to the pack and I certainly had nothing for that attack. As we finished the first lap, the pack had 200 meters on me and was widening that gap quickly. The last 3 miles had nasty hills and a terrible headwind. I was in the little ring pushing 130% FTP and was going 12.5 mph. Not my best day at the races. I finished 13th. This wasn’t my kind of course, it had 600+ feet of climbing in every 7 mile lap. 1800 feet of climbing in 21 miles is a lot and doesn’t really play to my strength. I think the Union Grove course up there is better suited for me and I’ll probably put that on my calendar for next year.
With that, my road season is done. Cross is getting started, and I am hoping to improve in my next race. I’m off to Vegas for 4 days, I’ll be photographing CrossVegas and attending Interbike (when I’m not playing poker). I’ll update after CrossVegas, I’m sure.