Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Rock Town Rally
Only days after the Tidewater Classic, the year's final local domestic MTB throw down, I rallied with a surprisingly motivated Rock Town Crew for Round #4 of the Blue Ridge Cyclocross Cup.
The last few days of sunshine and warmth have been nurturing for all sorts of outdoor play time. Today our sleepy little town, as well as the rest of the Shenandoah Valley was greeted with overcast skies and a chilly drizzle that made stoking the furnace and folding freshly cleaned race clothing from Sunday's mountain bike race seem more alluring than an hour drive in the rain to race with a damp, cold chamois in the heart of Foof Town. And when the hour hand struck three this afternoon I was already drifting towards the softness, encouraged by the fact my phone was still as silent as it so pleasantly had been all day after I dodged Jeremiah's interval-ride call in the morning. Then, a minute later, the proverbial "shit" hit the fan when Suzy Q Haywood from down the block rang the phone off my desk. The text read: 'Crossin' tonight? Carpool?". Any thoughts of abandoning were immediately erased as I frantically rang the go-to crowd to get the plan knitted before I got back to Sue. I called Chris Scott first who was just a few exits away from Rock Town on 81 coming back from a weekend in DC. Yo, the Suburban a go for the Blue Ride Cup tonight?, I said. "Nah, it's in the shop". With the rowdy group-mover out, we had to get creative with a few vehicles - some taking people and some taking bikes. Chris took care of Misty and Paul. Suzy and I jumped in the Element with Jeremiah while Andy and Celina swung around with their Toyota with the mad rack setup and grabbed the bikes. They were bombing out of town as the calls were being made so, thanks to the wonders of cellular technology (and Andy Smack actually answering his phone - for once) it all worked out.
So, one way or another, everyone who wanted to brave the journey over the parkway to Foof Town was able to. Save for a few missed souls in the form of Carpenter who was apparently hunting frantic animals and the SBC duo of Kyle and Colin who used their reasonable judgment. And of course our rec-center friend, Ryan Fawley, who had to work 'till nine.
The drive was dark and the rain pelted the hoods of the Rock Town Brigade. Jeremiah was bummed that he forgot his grippy front tubular tire and would be relegated to sketchiness on what was sure to be a slick course. It was good to have Sue along for the ride to balance out the intense history of racing, training, travel and competitiveness between Jeremiah and I. I'm happy to report we've both matured, somewhat, since those more eccentric bike racer days, so conversation was functional and pleasant.
We rolled into a mostly empty parking lot at Foof Town's Tonsler Park. There were a few cars with a handful of riders slowly spinning around the parking lot. I don't know about you, Suzy, but I'm staying in the car until the last second before the start, I said. Waiting until the last possible moment to prepare, I'm finding out, seems to be a motivational technique I've developed as my tolerance for the wet and cold has wained over the last few years. Meanwhile, Jeremiah was stumbling around trying to change his front tire to one that had a little more "bite". In the end, his attempt was futile as the other tire had a leak and he had to swap it, again, with the "bald" one. I think after all these years of constant self-motivation, Jeremiah, like me, has the need for a certain amount of chaos right before the start to get his engine going. He has a few years on me but still... By the time race-time came around, the scene had ballooned to 20 + racers and 10-15 spectators which was motivating for everyone.
The start was casual, unlike the mad-dash rampage at most sanctioned events. But, since the BRCC is underground and rad, the first lap is a "friendly lap" for people to warm-up a bit and check out the course before the madness begins on the second lap. The friendly lap also gives the pack a chance to sort itself out since there are no categories other than the Foof, Rock and Queen towns. Ultimately, It's one big happy effing family.
Andy Smack threw in some friendly fire on the friendly lap and really gave us a chance to experience the sketch that was the BRCC round 4 course. It took us around slick, off-camber, 180 degree turns, through a wood chipped jungle gym with moving barriers, up several sets of cement stairs and up a 3 foot wide paved-path with 5 super tight switch backs. There were two steep downhills one of which crossed another section of the course - we just yelled to avoid a full on t-bone collision with other racers. Disc Brakes were a choice commodity over the classic cantilever cross brakes. So I had the advantage with the mountain bike on a few spots along the slipping slide like course. This blog post is already too long so I'm not going to go on trying to defend my -race-winning- steed.
And so there we were, Andy Smack smacking down the field for a solid 20 minutes before relinquishing the lead to Jeremiah, Bruce, Chris Scottistan and myself. The racing was pretty tame for a while since the slick course could only be ridden so fast. Eventually, after everyone had a shaky lap or three, the racing got tighter and our passes by the lapped riders, respectively, became more frantic and less gentle. Jeremiah and I ended up in a final last lap battle during which he pointed out the fact that I was on a mountain bike several times then proceeded to put me into a prickly hedge when I tried to pass him for the "final" move. Ha! Only to be expected and welcomed in this sport, really. I used the last stair section to gap him off for good when I chose my usual line between two cement barriers and almost smashed into a disoriented spectator. I managed to still sprint across the line ahead of him by a few bike lengths. It was a knock-down drag-out last lap! Jeremiah told me afterwards that his gamble on the last section had to do with the fact that if I hit the lady he would have surely gotten a gap and won. Dirty, filthy sport this is. So good, though. And nice work, Jeremiah. See you in the A.M for coffee like a good neighbor.
Bruce of Fooftown hosted the after party with a warm house, two homemade pots of chili and a tray of cornbread. Rock Town brought the Camouflage High Life.
The roadside fog lights kept us all on the road back over the mountain. Now it's Night Time in The Little town. Still raining.
Interviews and Insights from Blue Ridge Cup #4. Charlottesville, VA