Posted by Maietta Factory Racer Christain Eager
I’ve always had a fondness for Downeast. It’s where I did my first ’cross race ever, back in 2006. It’s in a peaceful part of Maine, but not a long haul from Boston. The weather is usually gorgeous. Well, two of those held true. After Gloucester, I didn’t think we could see much worse conditions this season. It wasn’t as windy, but the rain and mud invited themselves to the weekend in a big way. It rained all day Saturday, with the briefest of respites during the elite women’s race. After one warm-up lap it looked like I’d been out in the mud for hours, and the long bike wash lines were a mix of those who had raced and those who were yet to race. Thanks to Gloucester, and a few pre-race laps, I was feeling confident that I’d do better than usual considering the conditions, and I hoped I’d get the chance to power past a few people in the boggier sections. The best lines in the fields were where the mud was more liquid-y, because the soggy grass grabbed at your tires like Velcro. The long wooded sections was almost entirely 4- to 6-inch soup. For most of the race I was in small groups, moving up through the field. I felt strong, and knew that because the field was smaller, I had a better shot at a higher place. I ended up 27th, my best result (but not percentile) of the season. I was a little disappointed, in spite of having ridden a mistake-free race, because I thought I had done better at the start than in previous weeks.
The sun came out on Sunday, along with perfect, autumnal temperatures, but the mud remained. It was worse in some ways, because a few sections started to congeal without drying, leaving fewer lines that didn’t sap your momentum as you slogged around the course. The one-time grassy field, which was fully ride-able on Saturday, now had several flat stretches which rewarded those who ran. I never got into a rhythm, partly because the often 4-inch-deep mud soup hid many rocks and roots, and partly because I was very cautious of my under-inflated rear tire. I had let some air out just before the start, and apparently I deflated too much. I fish-tailed on all but the sloppiest of surfaces, and it felt like my tire was about to come unseated in the off-camber sections. I passed a few people, but not as many as I usually did. I thought I did worse than the day before, which was disheartening. However, I must’ve just had a better start than usual, and not noticed it because I was so focused on staying upright. When I checked the results after the race, I was surprised to see I was 20th. Stated goal for the season: check.