So after watching a bunch of cyclocross races last year, going to a handful of practices in the past couple of months, and racing road and track for a whole season, I finally did a cyclocross race. It was QuadCross, held about a half an hour away at the Maynard Rod and Gun Club (amazing). I had met a bunch of nice women at the RAWR Bikes meetup last Thursday, and several of them said this had been their first race in the past. So, I figured now was as good a time as any, and signed up. Several of my friends from Hub/MonsterTruck were planning on showing up to watch, though I didn't realize that I would be the only one racing. I got my bike ready the night before; I had been transitioning it over the past couple of weeks from a commuter to a cx race bike. Fenders and rack off, locking skewers changed back to quick release, water bottle cage off, spoke card off...
I arrived at about 7:45, for a 9 AM race start. I did all the usual stuff, picked up my number, got my bike and kit ready, then headed out to pre-ride the course. I've never ridden a real cx course in my life. I've ridden on grass, at practices, but I was taken aback when I realized that half of this course was located IN THE WOODS. There was a long straight road that was covered in grass and gravel, with 2 big ruts where cars had driven, then sharp turns off the road and round trees, down hills with a quick about-face to ride back up them. At this point, I definitely thought to myself, "I don't know if I'm going to be able to ride this stuff!" Having no mountain biking experience, this was all unfamiliar ground, literally.
There were tree roots, gravel patches, twisty descents, soft spots in the dirt. There were several steep hills, most of which I was able to climb on the bike, and 1 of which became progressively too soft for me to get any good speed going up, requiring me to dismount and run. There was also a sand pit, which I didn't even attempt, just hopped off and ran. All of that dismounting/remounting practice was helpful for the obstacles I wasn't willing to attempt for the first time during the race! The downhills were much scarier than the uphills, and I rode the brakes all the way down. Once I got out of the woods, the big grassy straightaways felt a lot better. The barriers, which I had practiced, were only a very short part of the course. There were 2 large barriers (certainly larger than our practice barriers) spaced very closely together, followed immediately by an uphill, making the timing of the remount tricky. The section that followed that was a twisty, off-camber section with a sharp downhill that took out a LOT of people.
So I lined up at the start, feeling totally nauseated, and off we went. I was certainly the last one in the field, right off the bat, and I had pretty much resigned that I was going to finish last. The masters' 40+ women were 1 minute behind us, followed by the Juniors. I was among those fields for most of the race, though I did get up close to some of the women from my field towards the end, even passing one person during that obnoxious 180 down/up section in the woods (by about the 5th time doing it, I knew it was tricky and what to do). On the first lap I saw my friends up near the sand pit, and Tim even ran alongside the course cheering me on during one section. Then they set themselves up by the grassy section of the course and the barriers, and cheered loudly each time I came through. 3 laps took about 40 minutes. I definitely got lapped by the leaders, right towards the end. I finished very close to one of the masters' racers who was hilariously yelling "I'm too old for this!" as we tore through the last grassy section. She was yelling at me to power on, but I was just determined to stay right-side-up for the last section of the course. I hopped the barriers no problem, and then took the last twisty, off-camber section at a very sensible pace. This served me well, since I stayed upright and she didn't. A few more turns and I was done. I had a bet with Tim that I finished last. I was fairly positive I had, and that was part of why I didn't kill myself to power through the end. However, he won the dollar, because I had passed 1 rider. I think she had a mechanical, but still.
So, first cx race done. See you at Gloucester (eek).