Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Indy or Bust: The Highs and Lows of Privateer Cyclocross

Only an experience of the proportions of my travels to the UCI Major Taylor Cross Cup in Indianapolis could revive this blog. I have raced nearly double the amount of UCI races this season, mainly because for once, I believe I belong there. I have had good luck and bad, but broke into the payout and scored PROCX points for the first time ever. I even managed to lead lap the C1 at Charm, passing half the field on the way up from the back row. 

2 weeks ago Chab walked up to me at a race and asked "Do you want to go to Indy and get UCI Points?!?" I was instantly in. A rare 3 race UCI weekend in America meant diluted fields and a better chance for an elusive UCI point, or worst case, enough PROCX points to make it to elite nats.

Transfer Day:
Chab showed up at my house in the morning. I had just finished replacing a brake caliper that I hamfistedly broke while swapping to my race wheels. I scrambled to pack up and we hit the road. I worked from the car (I love my job) and Chab got acquainted with the R32. "Can we change the screen off something other than the gas milage?"
We made great time and decided to stop outside of Indy for the night. 

Photo: Dan Chabanov
Day 1: 
We awoke to grey skys but the sun showed up as we arrived. Racing a 4:10pm meant a full breakfast. Luckily every single exit we stayed at had a Cracker Barrel. Both of us were a little nervous to see what the track would be like. We passed on NBX to do this race, and knew NBX was an amazing one.
In short, it was rad. Great use of off cambers, hop-able barriers, steps, crazy descent into some jumps. Terrific. 

Traveling with Chab has its perks. We met some nice folks at Mid West Devo who offered to pit for us. It was incredibly kind and helpful. 

The Racing (1): It went well for both of us. I moved up from the back and found a group containing the mid teens to "you get nothing". Nieters left us with 1. to go and I couldn't get it all the way across without pulling the hater train with me. It came down to a 4 up sprint. I lead out and got bested by 1 rider. We nearly picked up Nieters at the line, but he was safe and he knew it, 17th.
Chab fucking crushed it and got 5th.
Photo: Joe Vond

Photo: Joe Vond
We hit dinner hard. We found some buffalo burger place and racked up a dinner bill slightly higher than we both anticipated. Our motel was not as opulent. I guess one would assume a Penn State vs Ohio game would not be in Indiana? Well you would be wrong, and you would also be paying out the ass for a relatively bleak Motel 6. 
Procuring soap (which I forgot in the brake replacement scramble) and toothpaste was impossible. Leaving the motel seemed illogical. We were both done wearing real pants for the day. I cleaned my skin suit in the shower with a bar of soap and hung it to dry. Glamorous. 

Day 2:
We awoke to more grey. Radar showed we were going to get wet, but we had known that. 
More Cracker Barrel.
It took us both a little longer to get motivated today. I finally got my attitude adjusted to race levels around noon. Then the rain came. At first it stayed dry. The rain fell lightly. 2 pm it had rained harder and the conditions were degrading. On my last practice lap I realized I would be running a lot. Toe spikes go in. Mud tires go on. Pressure set to "lower". The Mid West Devo guys invited us into their double tent with walls. 

And then it got real. I did my warmup outside in rain paints and a rain jacket. I stayed dry, but I got cold. This mistake proved to be fatal. The gun went off and I found a lane and moved up closer to the front. We rounded the first few turns. I made some crafty passes. We lined up for the first long straight. I applied some watts in an effort to move up.

Nothing happened. I was frozen. Literally and figuratively I was frozen. I felt the cold spray hit my back, chills went deep into my core. Positive self talk.
"Focus, you can do this."
"This is cyclocross, you are made for this" 

"Go. Burn it now." 
"You have to do this."
"You want to go to Natz, don't you? Hit it"

By lap 2 I was shaking. I ran as hard as I could up the run up losing contact with my group on the slick slope. I remounted and my eyes met with my garmin. HR was in the 140's, 40 beats lower than my normal working HR. Um.

Indy, we have a problem. 

I gassed it one more time. I felt ok. Then I descended a slick bumpy descent. I realized I couldn't feel my hands. Breaking was difficult. I awkwardly slid down the hill, barely making the turn at the bottom.

20 minutes in and I was cracked. The weather broke me. 

Like you would expect, I did the conservative thing. I abandoned. It stung. I handed my dirty bike to the Mid West Devo guys to clean. Rode my B bike to the car, grabbed my stuff and retreated to the locker room to change. I got back to the car. It sank in. I wasn't racing my bike. I probably wasn't going to elite natz. I had quit. 

Then I got out of the car, wearing a coat, puffy vest, pull over, and undershirt, and after 30 seconds, resumed violently shaking. I retreated to the car. I ate a donut.

Chab finished 10th and immediately rode to the locker room. I got out to help him. The noises I heard of suffering in the locker room were surreal. I kept pressing the buttons on the hand dryers to make the room warm. I gathered people's belongings for them. 

We finally got clean. We got in the car, with a few extra pounds of mud from the track on our bikes and clothes. We started driving. First to Mcdonalds, then to a shady self serve car wash to clean bikes, lastly to the highway. I managed to scare Chab a few times with my lane changes around left lane hogs.

Things always get worse before they get better:
We arrive at the Motel 6 (fool me once...) in Somewhere Outside of Dayton, Ohio. We unpack. There is a black trash bag with our start line clothes in it. Missing from the bag are all of my clothes. In the bag are a pair of jackets and a pair of rental car keys.

Enter Puke Feeling.

The guys helping us mixed up the coats and somebody in Indy is having a very bad night. I email the promoter. We do a load of laundry, drink some Coors beers and go to bed. 

Transfer Day:
"Does the sun ever shine here?" Chab pondered as he pulled back the worn curtains. "Is it time to go to waffle house yet?" I replied. Luckily it was.
Photo: Dan Chabanov

After a pleasant meal we hit the road. I had to fire up the laptop and do some work while Chab learned how to make the R32 make loud exhaust noises. On our trip out he was conservative trying to save fuel. Now he's redlining 2nd, slamming gears on highway on ramps. 

I sorted out the Clothes/ Keys dilemma from the car. A few boxes and trips to the post office later and all parties are on their way to being made whole. 

My mood improved as the day went on. I thought a lot about the weekend on the car ride back. I made peace with the failure. The problem with goals, good ones, is that sometimes you don't get all the way there. Shitty goals are the ones you can meet 100% of the time. My time in Corporate America has taught me how to make a good goal. 

We hit the PA line. The sun came out for the first time in 3 days. 

I have one Hail Mary left to make my way to a Sunday start line in Hartford. Let's see what happens?