Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ithaca Grand Prix of Cyclocross Race Report

I decided to try my hand at a little non-Kisscross cross racing on Sunday at the Ithaca Grand Prix of Cyclocross. I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive in the days leading up to the race. Due to our late start, however, I didn't have much time to fret about it once we got there. My first rude awakening came when I went to register. Since I forgot to pre-register, the cost was $30, plus another $10 for a one-day USAC license. Ouch!

By the time I finished registering, Chris had gotten my bike ready for me. I got out on the course to begin my warm up. My initial impression was that it wasn't that bad. It seemed quite a bit longer than a Kisscross course, but not significantly harder, other than a few uphill sections, one of which I ended up walking on my practice lap because I waited too long to start shifting.
Then came rude awakening #2. We lined up for the race. Since there wasn't a C class for women, I had to race with B women, who left in a second wave 30 seconds after the C men. The two under 14 competitors, including Billy the phenom, left 30 seconds behind us. After listening to the instructions, I asked how many laps we would be doing. I got a funny look for my effort, followed by an explanation.

It seems that this race would be based solely on time. In a Kisscross race, Rick estimates how many laps he thinks the average C racer can do in 30 minutes and sets that number of laps for the race. Apparently in other cross races, the actual time determines when the race ends. Not only that, everyone finishes the race on the same lap. Once the leaders started their last lap, whether I was on the same lap number as them or not, that would be my last lap, too. I think this was probably started so as not to have to wait for the really slow people to finish all the laps, like what happens at Kisscross.

What this little wrinkle meant was that I needed to try to hold out as long as I could without getting lapped. That would enable me to ride as many laps as possible. If I could only fit one lap in, it was going to end up being one really expensive lap.

The other thing that was new to me was something called a prime" (pronounced "preem"). When the race began, everyone sprinted up to a line. The first person crossing the line received a special bonus prize after the race. This race was serious. There was even a pit area where riders stored extra wheels, and sometimes even spare bikes, in case of a mishap.

The other women got ahead of me fairly quickly. Billy caught up with me and passed me. I just kept my head down and tried to ride hard. My goal was to hold off the leaders as long as I could without being lapped. (It happened about midway through the second lap.) I also wanted to keep from getting lapped by any of the other women, which I managed to accomplish.

Now you would think with Anne standing near the steps cheering me on, that I would manage to put some of my dismounting practice to good use so she wouldn't feel like she wasted her time on me. Unfortunately, once I got in the race I just couldn't seem to do it. I'm hoping to get out for more practice tomorrow night. I think I just need to get used to it so it becomes normal. Hopefully, I'll be able to do it this weekend at Kisscross.

I ended up racing three laps for the leaders' four laps. Then we watched Anne crush the competition in the Elite Women's race and Frank putting in a good performance in the Single Speed category.

We hung around for awards and raffled prizes. I ended up leaving with a Vetta computer and a Twin Six t-shirt, which more than made up for the $40 I spent. Plus I had a great time. If we are still around next fall, this race will definitely be on my schedule.

Thanks to Dennis Pace for taking the serious-looking picture of me at the top

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