Yesterday was the second race in the Bay Area Prestige series, the renowned Sierra Point Night Cross, a full day of races beginning at noon and going into the night under the light of 16 portable construction floods.
I went into my 3p.m. race feeling ill-prepared and a little nervous about living up to my unexpected 5th place finish (single speed B) at the Candlestick Cross races three weeks ago. Going into a race hoping or expecting to do well is much different than just being in it for kicks, and I was definitely feeling the pressure as we lined up for the race. Thanks to a ranked call up, I was slotted in the first row so working my way through the pack wasn't going to be an issue, which was crucial since the race had filled to it's 50 person limit.
I had a solid start and made it through the first turn with only three riders ahead of me. A long, flat, concrete section allowed me to pass a couple riders early on and I hit the main body of the course in second place with first just ahead.
Unfortunately, such glory would be short lived.
About halfway through the first lap I washed out on a bumpy section at the bottom of a short drop, losing 4 or five positions and some skin off my arm in the process.
Sierra Point:1. Me:0.
I recovered as quickly as I could and managed to gain back some positions due to other crashes on the course, and finished the first lap solid in the top five.
The recent rain had made the course tacky enough to be able to take some speed in to the corners without being muddy or sluggish and the race was fast paced. I fought hard over the next few laps in an attempt to hold my ground but was passed by several riders who were, quite simply, faster than me, and ended up settling into my race somewhere high in the top ten.
Since the B class filled up early, many riders who would usually ride Bs had to step up into the As just to get a chance to race, and with both classes course at the same time, it was hard at times to judge what was going on out there, whether you were passing or being passed by someone in your own group or the A group. As with most races, I just put my head down, made the pedals go around in circles and tried to keep moving.
Around lap 5, in the exact place I crashed on lap 1, I hit a bump and heard a loud cracking sound and felt the front end go a little wonky...not by much, but given what I'd seen at the last race, and the fact that I'm riding on a hastily repaired frame, I was a little alarmed. Though I wouldn't be able to check till the end of the race, it turns out that I cracked my fork at the silver joint where the right fork blade meets the crown.
Sierra Point:2. Me:0.
Laps six and seven were pretty much run of the mill for me in a cross race, you know, trying not to get passed, trying not to puke, trying to resist, despite every muscle in my body pleading the contrary, not to throw up my hands, say "fuck it" and never ride a bicycle again.
It always blows my mind, though, how once that bell signals the last lap, a sudden surge of energy cancels out all that pain and doubt. With the end of the race at hand I always find myself with more energy left in me than I thought I'd had.
This is usually a good thing, but not yesterday. Taking WAY too much speed into turn three of my final lap I washed out on a transition from the dirt onto the concrete section of the course. Second crash of the day.
Sierra Point:3. Me:0.
Jumping back on the bike, I noticed my rear wheel wobbling back and forth between my brakes. I tried to reach behind me to release the brake, but to no avail, and with another racer right on my rear wheel I didn't dare stop and risk losing another position in the race. All I could do was keep my fingers crossed that the tire would hold through the last lap. That the constant rubbing on the brakes wouldn't rub through the tire and cause a blowout.
It didn't hold.
Sierra Point:4. Me:0.
Whatever I said about a last lap energy burst, forget it. Riding a flatted rear tire for three quarters of my last lap was the most draining, demoralizing, agonizing experience I've had in a race to date. Never mind that if felt like I was riding through sand, never mind that every bump and rut I rode over was another nail in the coffin for my poor rear wheel, never mind that I could watch my standing slipping from the top ten then into the high teens, rider by rider, counting them off as they blew past me. I was sure that my legs would simply give out. What little energy I had left quickly left my body as I struggled to slog through the remainder of the course on the bike, knowing that at very least, it'd be faster than trying to run the rest of the race.
Still somehow, in the second to last turn with one rider (whether he was an A or B, I'll never know, but then again, at this point, does it matter?) coming up behind I managed one LAST burst of energy, vowing not to let another person pass me. Sliding on my bare rim around the last corner and into a final sprint, now tracking where my tire would grab, now sliding out the rear end when the rim would strike the asphalt, I managed to out sprint the other rider in an epic battle for 24th place.
Sierra Point:5. Me:0.