Monday, November 19, 2007

3 helmets to the 'cross gods

No snow materialized for Hendersonville, but Saturday was bitterly cold. The ground had a thick layer of frost and was as hard as concrete.

When we got to the venue, it was 7:45 am. I had not gotten much sleep since I had been out at some friend's art gallery opening and didn't get in bed until about midnight. I had gotten up at 4:30 am to start getting all my crap together for the drive, so not much sleep had been had. I had that fine, subtle jittery feeling that comes with sleep deprivation, but I wasn't daunted.

Got everything together, went through the smoothest and fastest registration process in the history of bike racing (thanks, Tim!) and started getting ready to race some 'cross. I got to the line and wound up beside Howard Rhyne, as usual. It's good to be near somebody you trust at the beginning of a 'cross race. This season has been some of the roughest and most aggro racing I have seen in the NC series, so I welcome the chance to be near somebody I know won't do something stupid. Howard and I even managed to talk the UCI commissaire into letting us line up on the front of the grid, but I couldn't follow through with it. Instead I ended up on the second row. The commisaire was doing random call ups and I stuck with the European line up method: if they point in your general direction, assume they mean you and roll up to the line. We started on a paved track, so I knew the start would go ballistic from the gun and sure enough we took off and I began downshifting immediately. My problems started when we came out of the turn onto the paved straightaway and I shifted into my 12t cog. As soon as I completed the shift, the chain jumped off the cog and jammed between the cog and the dropout. I stayed upright and pulled off to get out of the way. I jumped off and started working the situation out. Then the women's field started. All the women went by me before I got the chain sorted out.

I took off and started picking my way through the women's field. Halfway through the first lap, I caught the back of the men's field and settled down to business. I stayed focus on catching, passing and dropping as many guys as I could. I drove it as hard as I could, for as long as I could. My final trip down the fast downhill, off camber grass turn ended in me smacking the ground with my head so hard that I broke my helmet and bent my derailleur hanger. I knew it was bad because I heard all of the cow bells stop ringing and a collective "Oooooooooooooooohhhhhh" rise up from the crowd. I remember my teammate Bob yelling for me to get up and go (thanks for all of the cheering Bob). I sorted myself out and took off. I caught a few more people and rolled across the line in 22nd place. I had caught and passed over 40 guys and gotten one of my best placings this season after spotting the field a 2 minute head start!

Jack Brown finished 4th, Chris Behrman finished 5th (and took over the series lead), Bobby got 15th, Charles Hicks finished 43rd, Jeff finished 4th in a strong Master's field and Howard Hesterberg secured 2nd overall in the Master's 55+ series (and also caught many 45+ and 35+ racers!).

In retrospect, I'm pretty sure I got a mild concussion from my crash, but that didn't deter me from racing on Sunday. However, the effort of Saturday took it's toll on me and I could not capitalize on a great start and ended up in 20th place. Oh well, it's not like I won't be back to do it again next year.

So, I broke my helmet in a crash; Jeff broke his helmet when it slid off of his head after his race and Jack broke his helmet when he decided to do a high speed turf sample on the final lap of Sunday's race. That must be some kind of record...

Jack Brown with turf buddy
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