Posted by Maietta Factory Racer Christain Eager
I think registration for this race opened back in July, catching me rather un-prepared for the Verge race-before-the-race, but I managed to snag the 21st registration spot. A late, 2:30 start time meant I could wake up well after sunrise and drive to Williston Saturday morning with some friends.
This was my first time racing in Vermont, and the course at Catamount Family Center was long, hilly, and—as ’cross should be—fun. Saturday was dry, and fast. The grass looked smooth, but the soil had baked with enough texture to make it bumpy, sapping your momentum, and rewarding those who were light on their pedals. Being more of a power rider, I passed people in the long straight sections, and even in the steady climb up to a loose-dirt-and-logs run-up, but I lost time in the off-camber and tight s-curves. There was a set of barriers after a blind curve, but there wasn’t much that made Saturday that interesting. Even so, I’m still a bit out of practice skills-wise, so I rode cautiously to a mid-pack 35th place. It was 10 places out of the points, but I don’t think I could have done much better.
The only thing that would have made soggy Sunday more unlike sunny Saturday would have been a 20-degree temperature drop. Luckily, northern Vermont held true Autumn off for another few days, and I got to race in bibs and a jersey. Overnight rain had soaked the course, but precipitation had slowed to a sprinkle by the time our 12:30 race began. The promoter warned us the day before that Sunday would be harder, and it was. There was a little less than 200-feet of climbing per lap on Saturday, and that was mainly from a single climb to the top of the park area.
On Sunday, they had us do it twice. The lap started it a long, steady slog to the top of the park, where there was a fast, rutted, sweeping curve. Rutted was the unfortunate word in that last sentence. Shortly into the first lap, in the middle of the swarm of 80 riders, I was riding in the rut, with nowhere to go. A slight change in pack flow, and my front wheel clipped the 4-inch wall of the rut, and I was down. I covered my head, fearing the worst was behind me. To their credit, no one behind me hit me.
I scrambled to my feet as soon as the last of the pack had passed, and hopped on my bike. Nothing doing. Adding insult to misfortune, I had dropped my chain, and it refused to shift on. I fixed it by hand, and set off to chase down the 90 people who were now in front of me. I got some encouragement as I caught a few riders within a couple minutes, and I worked my way through the mud to pick riders off one by one.
After the course wound its way close to the bottom the hill, it took a sharp left back up to the most interesting course feature of the day: a series of small ski jumps that formed steep steps back to the top of the hill. They were rideable for the skilled folks (a.k.a., not me), and made for some interesting remounts for we who ran. Their size and shape reminded me of the man-made ride-ups they have in big European races, with barely a bike-length at the top to tempt the folks into risky remounts. Fortunately, from there to the end of the lap was more peaceful, with fast, smooth sections, and a tame set of barriers.
The rest of my race was not all cupcakes and hot cocoa, sadly. I managed to overcook one turn so badly that I narrowly missed a tree and scraped up my arm on its branches. A few laps later, I hit the rut at the top of the hill again, and this time I must accept full responsibility. All told, those three mishaps cost me at least a minute-thirty, meaning my 47th would’ve been about 30th if I’d ridden a clean race. But would’ves aren’t worth much, so I’ll have to accept my result.
All told it was a good weekend, and left me wanting more. The legs felt good—surprisingly good, in fact—and with some actual mid-week skills practice, I’m hoping to crack the points at Gloucester or Providence.