Submitted by Paul Weiss.
This is a race report for Blunt Park cyclocross which was held last weekend in Springfield Massachusetts. I usually don’t race this early in the season but I have been training on the cyclocross bike 1 to 2 days a week this entire summer so I was anxious to get out and test the legs out. Since it was such a long drive to Massachusetts I decided to race in 2 races. I signed up for the Masters 45+ race and also the Pro 1/2/3 race immediately after the Masters race. Call it insanity, but I wanted to get a workout. I figured it would be easier to really do a hard effort in the Masters race and then just use the 1/2/3 race for training.
My race was at 10 o’clock and I got to Blunt Park about 9 so I had to rush a little to get on the course. There was already a race in progress so I would only had 20 min. to pre-ride the course, which is the bare minimum. In general, you want to get 3 to 4 laps in before your race, and I got the bare minimum 3. I took note of some interesting course obstacles such as 4 separate log hurdles and a really long set of (6) barriers. Generally a flat course with a small pavement section and some pretty long single-track in the woods and some extensive tape mazes. It looked to be a pretty hard course.
You never know how you start out early in the season, so this was a test of how I felt. My focused race was the 45 race. I got on the line and was prepared with an extra bike in the pit and water and food next to my bike for the short 10 min. I would have to recover between races. I got on the front line start position, but my start was not perfect I ended up about 3 riders back from the front, going into a very tight hole-shot. This course was a true “hole-shot.” We came off the pavement and went into 180° turn onto the dirt and there was very little room for the entire pack of about 35 riders to make it through that tight corner. I think I was back about 15 spots, this made the beginning difficult because we then funneled onto, and over a log that had a single narrow gap on it that you could ride. Everyone was single filing it over that log. Then a long section of single-track in the woods with very few places to pass. It’s always very difficult being behind the rider going really fast on single-track, you get very little reaction time when riding up to and over objects, and there were many objects from roots to rocks to ruts, you name it. I was very patient and emerged out of the woods having passed one or 2 riders. We came out to the “tape maze” which I was not in my best form on. You can lose a lot of time in a tape maze, they are great places to recover your breathing but if you’re not technically savvy you can lose a lot of spots. I held my own in the 1st lap but did not gain anything in that tape maze. I then settled in for a long, long hot ride. After lap I seem to pick off one or 2 riders and moved up to the top 10 spots. In cyclocross you look for targets and attack them, chase and chase until you pass, I did this for several laps. I remember chasing down Eric Marrow and then chasing for several laps Mark Suprenant and then Doug Aspinwall. These are folks that I race with every weekend and it is fun to compete with them. Doug and I were together for 2 laps and were very closely matched. It was only the 2nd to last lap that I opened the gap on Doug after a log in the woods. I that gap to the finish but could not seem to reach the group of John Moser and Paul Nyberg. I felt strong in the finish but could not see how far I was from the leaders. As it turned out I was only 15 seconds from the leader and winner of the race Matthew Domnarski, who I raced with a lot, last year.
I felt very good about this finish, since 15 seconds is a very little time from the leaders and feel I’m going into the season in good form. I am looking forward to the early-season races including the upcoming Verge Series Race in Williston Vermont.
Just for giggles and to get some good training in I started the Pro 1/2/3 race. In between I barely had time to suck down a quart of water and a Gu. This was critically important because you are really sweating. I started off the back of this field and just took my time keeping pace with the last few riders I wasn’t taking any risks or doing any strong efforts. The advantage of riding a 2nd race is that I knew the course down pat. I knew every corner in every log hop and where line your bike up, and this is really important in racing. I could relax in my racing because I could make up a few seconds in each corner because I knew the course so well. The Elite Races are 60 minutes, so I had to hold on and pace myself. I was also really tired and it was really hot. Cyclocross is a cool weather event, and you really throw out the heat, so this was killer. After a few laps I had picked off a couple riders but had to ease off since I really began feeling the effort of the last race. I reset my goal, to finishing this race, …….not in last place. With 4 to go, I felt my body really hurting and the last 3 laps were like torture. Due to my genetic advantage of lack of cranial nerves I made it to the final lap and was happy to finish. I think I drank a half gallon of water after that race and was so tired I only took a few pictures of one race. I normally start up my photography business after my race and go through to the end of the day. This day, I called it early and relaxed for the 3.5 hour drive home. Happy and excited to be ready for a new cyclocross season!