Sunday, October 4, 2009

Starbucks Grand Prix of Cyclocross

Race number three of the MFG Cyclocross series went down today. This one officially titled Starbucks Grand Prix of Cyclocross. Guess who the sponsor was? Uh....that's right - Starbucks - and a few other sponsors as well. Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah was the location for this little 'cross throw down. As I mentioned in a previous post, I planned to enter this race on my old Ibis Hakkalugi. Well, I could list off a bunch of excuses as to why I didn't race today - but won't need to to - 'caused I raced. Oh yes, race I did.

After a late night session of converting the old Ibis from commuter mobile to certified 'cross weapon - removed fenders, bottle cages, and changed tires - I was ready to roll. Alarm went off dark and early to make the 9:30 AM start time. Woke up son Ian and he popped right outta bed to roll also. How come that doesn't happen on school days?

Arrived with just enough time to sign up and pre-ride the course. I signed on for the Cat 4 Masters Men 45+ race and Ian for Junior Boys 10 - 12. My race scheduled to run 30 minutes and Ian for 20 minutes. The course pre-ride revealed lots of grass sections, some a little bumpy, a few tight turns, one set of barriers, a dash of pavement - all flat as a pancake. Piece of cake - right? Wrong Bunky. Included at no extra charge - long, deep sand section on the lake beachfront. Sand too deep to ride in, so it would be running all the way. If you took a bit of longer route, along the sea wall (lake wall?), you could ride about half the distance - then run though the sand. I planned on that option.

I line up for the 9:30 race, it's a big field - Cat 4 Masters Men 45+, Cat 4 Masters Men 35+, Cat 4 Women, Junior Boys and Girls 13 - 14. I'm guessing 100 racers total. We take off in waves, but are out on the course at the same time. I push it and ride hard, think I did okay on the grass sections, actually pulled off a few running dismounts and remounts without tripping over the barriers - but died on the sand section every lap. Runner, I am not. On one lap, I did pull off my sea wall plan, otherwise ran pitifully slow pushing bike through sand. We wound up doing 3 laps total.

On the last lap, I was fading some and also had a front derailleur problem. The derailleur spun around on the seat tube a bit, screwing up my shifting. I was afraid to shift into the big ring, fearing a jammed or thrown chain, so finished the lap in the small ring. Pretty bizarre, been riding this bike since '97 and that's never happened. Maybe I wacked it with my foot during a remount.

Overall, a fun race and I had a blast. Racing 'cross totally rocks (dude). I felt and did better then expected. I have no idea what place I came in. It gets confusing with all the people circulating the course. I passed people, people passed me. When I left a few hours later, the results were yet to be posted for my race - a little lame. Folks mentioned things were being sorted out and check the web later. Ian who watched the race, said I did okay. 10th place, 50th? Who knows? I'll find out soon enough. Whatever the case, I gave it a real effort and had fun - that's what counts.

My beloved Hakkalugi rests against rest room wall, dappled in early morning sunlight. Dreamy, huh? The old Ibis felt great, even with cheap, crappy commuter tires. Being the old school steel Ibis, received a little attention as well - one dude took pictures of it. A few comments of "sweet bike". Other people on the course cheered me on - "Go Hakkalugi !!". I may be slow, but I'm old school stylin' for sure. When I got home, swapped tires and reinstalled fenders - ready for the commute week. How cool is that?

Ibis points me towards Rider Registration. Unidentified racer ignores the important secret message. Bikes talk in their own language you know.....

Faster group of racers hit the course. I left the camera in the car most of the day - so not many shots.

A touch of Belgium in Issaquah. Lake Sammamish in background. There was some sort of boat racing taking place at the same time. Insanely loud boats. Almost drowned out the cowbells.

Unintentional 'cross lesson pictured. Ride towards barrier at speed, swing leg over, hop off, run and jump over barriers, hop back on - then pedal like mad. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Girl racers rock. Really, they do. We need more of 'em.

Another example of the course. Fast, nice, fun.

Ian lines up for the Junior Boys 10 - 12 race. Mixed in the field was kids under 10 as well. Quite a few kids showed up - always great to see. Race was scheduled for 20 minutes, but at the start line everyone was informed race would be 2 laps on a shortened course - no sand section. Ian thought the race was too short and wanted to hit the sand. It's tough to judge races for kids this age. Some kids are super inexperienced, others are fast with many races under their belts. Always best to lean towards the easier aspect, so its all fun at this stage - I guess.

Kids hit one of the tighter turns on the course. Ian demonstrates.

The barriers are always a challenge to these young racers. For an adult, imagine lifting a 50 pound cruiser over your kitchen table. You get the picture.

Ian post barriers, ready to hop back on. After finishing the required two laps, he continued for a third lap, not realizing he was done. He lost his chain half way around the third lap, then ran with bike full tilt through to the finish (again). Not needed, but pretty impressive anyway. Race results were yet to be posted when we left - so no idea what place he scored. We'll check the race website later.

Awesome fall day, great course, cool people, fun racing, father/son time bonus - all good. Bikes, bike racing, and associated sub-culture - cool little world to be a member of. Sign up now, operators are standing by.

Cyclocross racing is huge fun, glad I took the plunge and will do so again - no doubt. I suggest you do the same.

Update: Results finally posted on race website. I officially got shelled. Out of 43 people in my class, scored 40th place - and that's counting the 1 person who DNF'd. So, at least 3 people rolled across the line behind me. Yup, I may give two weeks notice at work to start my pro cyclocross career soon. In any case, I still had a great time and can only improve from here - I hope.

Ian faired slightly better then dad. Out of 20 kids in his class (with 2 DNFs) - came in 14th place. At 10 years old, still a great learning experience.

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