Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Race Report: Tacchino CX

I've been working my way up the ranks, week by week. At Hyattsville, I only did 3 laps, didn't realize I was on my last lap (even though the lead woman said "lead woman passing" as she passed me AND I heard the bell for the final lap from halfway around the course), and came through the finish line ready to make some passes in the final lap . . . which was already over; I ended up 15 out of 24. I wised up and did the cat 4 race at Schooley Mill, finishing 6 of 28. At DCCX, I eked out a podium place on Sunday by landing 5th in a cat 4 women's field of 40. And at Tacchino, I managed to make my way all the way to the second-highest step--I placed 2 out of 20!
That green bag by my feet has podium beer!
The Tacchino course was wide and grassy, still damp for the first race of the day, with some slightly technical single-track. The course was narrow through the woods, with some roots and leaves limiting line choice, but there was plenty of room to pass everywhere else on the course. There were no really slow, hairpin corners, and very little off-camber. It was a fast, powerful course, which suited me well.

I got a great start from the whistle and took the hole shot . . . and kept it for a long time--through most of the first lap! I kept waiting for someone to come around me, but no one did, although I could hear people behind me. I got over the barriers cleanly, but there was an obstacle just past the barrier (rail ties on an uphill--too big and too slow to ride over) where I got too excited and dropped my chain. It was the same thing I did at Luray--set my bike down too hard, and the chain bounced right off. I lost first place while I was trying to get it back on.

First place was still within reach, though, and I could see that the place to beat her was in the technical sections and on the corners; she was plenty strong. I kept the gap consistent, weaving my way around cat 5 men as necessary (the men were all courteous except for one, and I think being grumpy was just his schtick). The gap was holding steady on our second lap, and I thought I could pull her back in the last two. Then on my third lap, I tried to pass one of the cat 5 men on an inside corner just before the rail tie obstacle and slid out. I hammed up my spectacular fall (I knew I had a good gap on third and fourth place), got back on after the rail ties, and continued. The gap to first place had increased, of course, but I brought it back to where it was by the start of the fourth and final lap.

I felt secure in second, because I was gaining time on third place, but I had to fight the urge to settle in and let first place keep her win. I dug in for one more hard lap. I think I was pulling her back, although I probably still wouldn't have caught her, but then I clipped my back wheel on the second barrier and dropped my chain again. Goodbye, first place. Finished in second place feeling pretty good about my performance.

Then I started my period, so I almost skipped the 3/4 race and went home. But I'd already paid the entry fee, so I stuck around. Took the 3/4 race as a training ride. Figured I'd get lapped by the leaders of the 1/2/3 race and finish early, anyway. I got a reasonably good start, and stayed with a large group for the first lap. I cooled my effort way down and deliberately let the main group get away; my legs were hurting from the first race (and from the volume I did last week while vacationing in the Virginia foothills). I focused instead on taking good, smooth lines through the corners, staying off my brakes, and keeping my chain on the chainrings. I messed up one sharp corner trying to pass wide, and lost a couple of places, but at least I didn't knock the other two women over or slow them down! I dropped my chain one more time at the rail ties; I think I kicked my chain with my heel while I was unclipping, but I managed to ride the chain back on by shifting up after I re-mounted, rather than getting the chain back on before getting on the bike. That saved me some time. On my last lap, I figured I was so close to getting lapped that I would be the last one let through, and I backed way off my intensity. About a quarter of the way through the course, I realized there were two women gaining on me, and I had to get back on the gas to avoid losing two places (actually just one place, because one of the women was in the masters 45+ field)! I finished my last lap with a comfortable gap, though, 15 out of 24 (2 out 10 cat 4s).

Lessons learned--I need to finesse my mounts and dismounts a little better, to avoid dropping my chain. After the first drop at the rail ties, I was extra careful every time I put my bike back down. Losing 2-3 seconds to a more graceful movement is way less than the 10-15 seconds to get my chain back on, especially when I'm all adrenalined. Each time I dropped my chain, it was in a different way, so I learned three new things to avoid. I also readjusted my chain catcher, and I'm going to replace the chain in a week or two; it's starting to stretch quite a bit, and 'cross is harder on chains than regular cycling.

If my pattern of improvement holds, I should be on the top step next week at Ed Sanders . . .

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