Monday, September 13, 2010

MAC Nittany CX

Cyclocross season has begun. Similar to last season the buzz around the start of the cycling's awesome side show was huge. Big crowds at all of the practice races (Grass Track and Belmont) were a good foreshadowing of big turnouts for when the actual racing kicked off. I personally think all of the hype around the season is likely due to the fact that my wife, Lauren Festa, has decided to throw her hat (most likely the pink Rapha one) into the cyclocross ring.
Toeing the line in the Women's 3/4 race, Lauren charged hard through the field to move up quite a bit from her near back of the field start position. Keeping with the theme of firsts for the weekend, Lauren took her first in race crash after she made it through a tricky root section, she took a mulch and sand filled turn a bit too hot and washed out. She said she thought she could save it without putting a foot down, but ended up taking a brief dirt nap. By the time she untangled from the bike a large train of riders had gone by. Lauren worked hard to rejoin the group and pick off some of the tail end before finishing strong with girls on either side of her. Results are not up yet but she was in the top 20 for her first ever CX finish. It was great to see her smiling as she passed the team's tent setup. She looked pretty relieved to be finished though.
I was pretty amped up to race. I had some questions about my legs, I had felt a bit off all week and hadn't raced in almost a month. In summary the race consisted of 4 lucky breaks matched with legs that seemed nearly perfect.
Photo Credit Dennis Bike
Lucky Break 1:
I took my second ever first row call up for finishing the MAC B series last year in 8th. This was huge because there were over 100 riders in the race.
Photo Credit Dennis Bike
Being a UCI race they had  a crazy red/green light contraption to start off the race. The final minute in the grid seemed like forever and suddenly we were off. I had an ok start and settled in somewhere in the top 8 with Craig right in front of me. The prologue loop went pretty well until the first hard left hander right after the start finish area. The rider in front of me washed out and I had nowhere to go to get around him. I hit the brakes hard, realized impact was going to occur and let go, pulled up, and rolled over his now flat on the ground wheelset. I made the turn and didn't lose a single spot. I felt my drive train scrape across a still moving bike but everything stayed together.

Lucky Break 2: I had been leading the race a lot. I was confident with my corning skills and was able to at times put gaps on my group on the exits. It was also nice because it eliminated the need to brake then surge out of every bend. Near mid race an ABRT rider surged past me after the mulch jump and dove into the downhill gravel sweeper. He went surging around the lead rider, for our purposes "Polka Dot Guy" While making the pass Polka dude went outside while ABRT dude was trying to pass on the outside. Polka Dude dumps it and ABRT guys rides under the course tape, around the tape on the outside and rejoins the race in stride. I was lucky here because all I had to do was sit up and wish I had some popcorn to enjoy the show.
Lucky Break 3: Not so much a huge break but I didn't have a single issue with the bike. I have never seen so many derailleurs broken off at a dry race. SRAM please continue to keep making the plastic/carbon drive train parts. A couple a really strong guys in my race were taken out by mechanical issues. Such is bike racing.

Lucky Break 4: Entering the last lap I was leading and doing a lot of the pace making. I knew I was working harder than others at times as peaks back would yield visions of riders coasting or soft pedaling. I felt ok and was planning an attack to try and get some separation. While working through the first set of corners on the bell lap, ABRT guy and Battley Harley guy go down hard right behind me. Now the way the story was told to me Lauren yelled "Love you Mike" near moments before the crash, right in front of my teams tent setup and cheering section. As soon as I heard the crashing I launched as hard as I could. My attack was followed by a wall of sound from my teammates and friends under the tent. I don't know what really happened but I heard ABRT guy lost his back wheel and went down. The remaining 2 guys in the group made it around but I now had a nice gap.
I focused on corning smooth and then letting my legs do the work on the two remaining straight and fast sections. I knew if I made it to the barriers alone I had won. It hurt. Bad. I went really deep to widen my gap and enough ample celebration time. I couldn't help but clench a fist before I had even entered the last switchback. Rolling through the finish area was amazing. I first pumped Jersey style for a bit and then couldn't help but throw my arms and roll across the line. 
Photo Credit Dennis Bike
I could hear my team and friends screaming, it was amazing. Somebody handed me a PBR still rolling across the line (Dan maybe?) I rolled up to the teams area and gave a rolling set of high fives to everyone while removing the Elmer's glue like paste from my mouth with the beer. Team supporters Jose of Cadence and Andy & JK of Revolution Wheelworks were there to cheer on Ciclismo as well.
Since I am a geek I have data. Yes. Data from a cx race. Its only HR data but its pretty cool still. Avg hr of 190 for the duration. Amazing it was fun? race data. What really was great was the turnout and post racing celebrating and hanging out with friends. Captain Lawrence out generous beer sponsor gave us an entire keg of their Kolsh. If you had some we hope you liked it.
Props to all of my teammates. We had a good showing overall with Craig, Matt, Jason, Wes, Jamie, Greg, Darrin, and Jason all having good rides. All in all it was a terrific way to start the season as we head to the double in Charm City next weekend.


Sean said...


Patrick Blair said...

Mike Festa! I am "Polka Dot Guy" Patrick. You race really really well at Nittany. Congrats on the W!!

Mike said...

Thanks for the comment. Nice racing with you, Sorry you got taken out like that. See you out there.