Last Friday afternoon, stuffing and mashed potatoes warm in my belly, I sat in the Kendall Theater enjoying Fantastic Mr. Fox, but I worried about the rain outside. I had been hoping to escape the sketchy soupiness of the starting oval that I’d enjoyed my previous two times at Baystate. When I arrived Saturday morning, I was quite surprised to find the oval—and almost the entire course—was completely dry. Phew.
Saturday was the same course they’ve run in previous years at Chocksett Middle School. The race starts with a full lap of a cinder running track before turning onto the grass. After a brief off-camber section, you’re at the bottom of a steep run-up (a combination of frost and mud always makes the last few meters too slick to ride), remounting and riding the hill’s flat top for 50 meters, and then dropping down an equally-steep descent to a sweeping turn and a “horse jump” barrier. Not my favorite, but it keeps things interesting. Some riders in the elite race actually hop the 2 feet onto the barrier. Impressive.
Photo by lodri
That’s the most interesting minute of the course. The rest is S-curves, with connecting power sections, and a set of double barriers. Overall, it suits a road rider’s strengths. After a couple of laps I was somewhere around 20th, or so I thought. I was probably closer to 15th. It was mild, but extremely windy, and I was riding alone, trying to hold my position and catch the group in front of me. Unfortunately, a group of 5 caught me. We rode together for a couple of laps, and I knew in a perfect world (one without lots of Thanksgiving-y food in my system), I could hang with them. I’m not really sure when the split occurred, but I do know that I lost them and was soon caught by another group of 3 or 4 guys.
I had fun, but I can’t say it was an interesting race. I out-sprinted one of those riders for 24th, which netted me a couple of VERGE points. The group I know I could’ve stayed with on a good day finished 16th-20th, which is a tad disappointing, but I have no one (but the stuffing) to blame.
I was really looking forward to day 2. When the released the tech guide, and I saw the ways that they were changing the course, I was pretty excited. It was going to be a lot more interesting than day 1. One thing I didn’t think about was whether or not the changes—I’d liken the new course slaloms with brief sprints in between—would suit me. In hindsight the sprints did, but the slaloms? It’s too bad both my brakes were functioning, because I used them way too much, costing me as other riders, less fit, but more comfortable with these sorts of corners, slowly pulled away in the myriad turns. The downhill after the flat-top hill had also become treacherous because the course now forced you to ride it off-camber and then turn sharply to the right. I crashed on it during warm-up, and I never felt comfortable on it during the race. After the sharp turn, there was a brief, rooty section in the woods, and the beginning there was a brief hop that would penalized you for any bobbles. Sadly, I bobbled it on the last lap, and lost 3 places, leaving me 27th overall. In spite of it not being entirely suited to my strengths, I wholeheartedly recommend they do this course again.