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photos by: Pat Black words by: Addison Zawada
December 10th, 2015
I got a crazy idea to sign up for the single speed category at Cyclo-Cross Nationals just for kicks and grins. So I did just that. I claimed one of the last remaining spots to take on 149 other single speed crazed cyclo-cross gurus.
January 4th, 2016
I pack my car full of everything from my race equipment to food, my buddy Pat, three bikes, and a full tank of gas. I pushed off across three states with my adventure pup, Charlotte as my co-captain. This was her first road trip and quite frankly her first trip in the car at all. All things considered, she was excellent and very calm for her first time in a car.
During the days prior to my race, I got out on the course as much as possible. Practicing in the mornings before the events and at lunch when they had open course practice. The mornings were frigid, typically in the high teens to low 20's (-8 to -2 for my Celsius friends).
The cold was rough and some mornings, I was losing most of the feeling in my hands but I pushed through and got in ample amount of practice. The one question I could not answer to myself was what gear to put on for the final race. I practiced with many different gear combinations but could not decide which was the perfect one for the task at hand. The question drove me mad all week leading to the race until I finally decided on a 38-19. I chose this gear to help me get up the gnarly climbs the course had to offer.
I would be out-gunned on the flat sections but was afraid of a bigger gear being too much for the steeper sections. Even after deciding which gear I wanted to use, I still questioned my choice all the way until I was on the start line. By that time, though, it was too late and I was stuck in said gear whether I liked it or not. With the amount of practice time I had put in, I knew the course forward and backwards. Every line: fast and slow. I knew them all like the back of my hand. I would need this knowledge in the race considering I was starting dead last in 150th. I had some passing to do; meaning I would be using some not so practical line choices to get around the masses of people.
January 8th, 2016
So the race begins. What seemed like an eternity later was actually about 5 seconds or so, I finally got moving. A gap opens and I go for it. I keep going for it until I realize I'm nearly half way through the field. By the end of the first lap I have passed over 100 people to land me in the top 50. I hear people screaming at riders around me; top 50, top 40, top 30.
Riding continues as the up-hills become harder and slower. The technical sections become passing lanes and the flats are for recovery. The gear I chose to race on allowed me to survive on the up hills, maintain through the technical and lose some ground on the flats. I chose that gear because my legs are not particularly strong. In fact, they are still a bit on the fatigued side from the 45 day bicycle tour I decided to do back in Oct, Nov, Dec of last year (but more on that later). Finally, I hear a girl yell out top 25 and I realize how far I had come.
At the beginning of the day my goal was to stay on the lead lap and make it in to the top 50. I had succeeded that goal and my job now was to hang on and fight through the pain. At one point, I had made it in to the top 20 but my legs could not hold the cadence I needed to maintain it. They were fried. By the end of the race it was a battle between myself and another chap for 22nd place. He would pass me on the flats and I would pass him back in the tech sections. To my worry and knowledge, my low gear combination would help me substantially, that was until the finish. The finish, as well as the half mile or so leading to it, were flat and smooth.
The mud section leading to the finish had dried up and turned to more of a rubbery consistency; much faster than the mud I was hoping for. I was out-gunned and my top speed was not there. I was passed one final time coming out of the final technical section. I would go on to lose the battle for 22nd place but managed to hold on to a 23rd finishing position. Not too shabby coming from 150th position.
I passed 127 people in a matter of 40 minutes and was able to stay on the lead lap. For not racing a single cyclocross race all season, I am beyond thrilled with how Cyclo-Cross Nationals turned out. It was an amazing course and even better fans. I look forward to cyclocross in 2016, maybe I will do more than just one race this year.
The rest of the weekend was spent hanging with old friends, meeting new friends, riding BMX and mountain bikes around the Asheville area and winning the overall fastest time on the Sierra Nevada gold sprints race. 6.9secs for 150 meters.
To my track friends, I know that is slow for gold sprints but to be fair, I was on plastic flat pedals with no foot retention and a bike that was two sizes too small. Cyclo-Cross Nationals was a complete success. More fun than any one man should have in a week's time.
Stay updated on the blog for my next post about my favorite question of the weekend:
"So, be honest. How is that State Bikes CX bike?"
I'll give you a hint: It's a pretty good answer.