Submitted by Paul Weiss:
Ok, well it was pretty epic conditions today. Temperatures dropped 40 degrees in one night and winds kicked up to a nice teen temperature. Half inch of fresh snow. Rutted course was freezing in place with some water still on the course. These are the conditions I like because no one south of New England ever gets them. These are the type of conditions I relish because they require a lot of riding skills and you cannot go at your max most of the time. Normally great for me since I am not the fittest in today’s race, but felt very confident in riding this nasty stuff.
Got a good 45 minute warm up in a tent on a trainer, after riding the fields “off” course for about 15 min. Took a single lap around the course at noon and realized it was going to be really difficult. Not only were the ruts and frozen sections really treacherous but there was enough mud to pick up on your bike and instantly freeze when hitting the frame or wheels or gears, or brakes etc.
This was going to be a day for a good pit bike and support crew. Luckily I had both (Ridley pit bike) with Derek Briggs pitting with the help of John Mcgrath. I started in way last rows (since I barely qualified with Wed. performance), seeded somewhere in the 70’s. The start was fun going off the gravel into a giant puddle that was half frozen and rutted. Riders were going down all over the place and I managed to gain at least 15 spots before getting to the pits. This was going well! Guys were falling all over and I knew how to ride this stuff. After a pretty good 1st lap my bike was really filling with about 10 lbs of ice/mud. No joke. I went into the pits and had a good exchange. Never stopping, dismount, run, remount. The new bike felt so light, it was awesome! Around the corner before the frozen barriers I heard something pop and all of a sudden I was in my hardest gear. Got off the bike and realized my derailer and cable had frozen and then the cable snapped. No gear worked except my hardest, and that was basically impossible at the slow speeds we were racing in.
Shouldering the bike for what seemed like an eternity got me to the run-up which was really hairy coming down. It was dangerous to carry the bike do hard to run with it next to me. Meanwhile it was filling with more ice and adding the 10lbs back. I ran the rest of the course and was in no place, to do well. Got to the pit and did another exchange in what seemed like a 10 mile run. Got back on the (Stevens) bike and Derek had cleaned as best he could. The bike worked, but was building up ice fast. It got to the point of not shifting and then not really working. At this time the leaders were to be upon me and as with many others, the UCI officials pulled all riders from the course. Not what was planned for this event for me, but it was a life experience that is for sure. What was really weird was; I was not last.
Not my best luck today but it was fun while it lasted. Today you really battled the conditions and had to have luck on your side and a major pit crew. Winning riders had 4 bikes and 3 people working in the pit cleaning. I saw all kinds of antifreeze, non stick sprays, even windshield washer fluid used there. All the pressure washers had froze solid and were not in service so we were forced in what it seemed back to the stone ages with scrapers, brushes and hands to break ice.
Sitting back after cleaning bikes at the hotel room and cleaning my body clothes and belongings for 3 hours, I am humbled again at this sport. Epic conditions are part of it and we all are tested by them. Lucia and Ziggy get top honors for trudging around a muddy frozen field and driving for hours to get to it and putting up with a tired bleary bike racer.
Tomorrow they will be doing 4 elite races in 1 day instead of 2 days because the venue is predicted to be flooded by the Ohio River on Sunday. It should be interesting to watch the races and the break down of the whole venue before the river washes it away.
Wow Feb 1, this really late in the year, end of the Cyclocross season for me…….now it is really ski time.
We even made NPR today: