Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lou Uh Vul Weekend

Janelle and I headed to Louisville this past weekend for round 2 of the USGP Cyclocross series. This race is at a new venue - Eva Bandman Park - a dedicated cyclocross park and future home of Master's World Championships in 2012 and Elite Worlds in 2013. Many racers had signed up in preparation for these upcoming events, and in my race there were over 140 riders signed up for each day.
Upon arrival at the park and getting to pre-ride the course on Friday afternoon, a couple of things were evident: it was going to be very dusty (apparently Louisville is going through a drought), and this was going to be a very hard course. The lap started on a very nice long paved section, sweeping off the pavement to the left. You then hit a gradual 180, rode over a steep 2 ft berm and went immediately into the barriers. Over the barriers, there was a short straight section into a steep loamy climb that had some grass over sand. This would sap all your speed if you screwed around. Down the backside, you hit another gradual (and a little loose & dusty) 180. Then into a long but rideable sand section, past the pits, under the "green monster" fly-over, and back into a dusty tree section. Out of the trees, you had a moment on pavement and then through a deep sand run, another 180, then the "green monster" fly-over and stairs, past the pits again, then into the woods. Up a little climb, down a steep pitch, 180, then run back up, then down again, around, then ride up again back to the start/finish pavement.

For me, this meant 4 running sections. Essentially, the course was a series of obstacles with short "recovery" straightaways in between. Very tough, but also fairly short, 1.38 miles, around 5:15-30 per lap at race pace.

Saturday came and before I knew it, I was waiting in the staging area. I have always been impressed by the organization of the USGP races in the past. (Portland and Madison get it done right) However, I was a little disappointed by Louisville. Though I had registered 14th, I was seeded 30th, because the top 16 spots were given out to the local cross series leaders. That meant I was starting from the 4th row both day.  It may be a bad sign when the riders on the front rows are sheepishly looking around and saying there is no way they deserve to be up there.

This may have been ok, but one of the favorites (Jordan Cullen) who was also supposed to be in the 4th row managed to talk his way up to the 2nd row by trading places with someone. Jordan had some bad luck in Madison, but managed a pair of 4th places. He also took the holeshot both days up there. Another rider I was marking was Mark Parmelee, who won on day 1 in Madison, and was third on day two.

Also, they were running behind, so the officials informed us they were going to cut our race short by one lap. 

I got through the start pretty cleanly, and by the time we were over the barriers I was in the top 10 behind Mark. Unfortunatly, Jordan had already gotten to the front of the race and was not looking back. After the sand, the group started looking around at each other instead of chasing. So Mark and I squeezed through on the inside and took up chasing Jordan.

By the end of the first lap, Mark had gotten a little gap on me, and Jordan was still up the road, but we had solidly gapped 4th place. I was having a really hard time recovering between the obstacles. (This is probably the way all cross courses should be?) They were both physically and mentally challenging. I was not able to bring either Jordan or Mark back, but we did open up a 1+ minute gap on the rest of the field.

Because of the short lap times and tough course, I began lapping riders on the 2nd lap. Fortunately (for us), the officials were doing a good job of pulling lapped traffic.

So in the end, Jordan won by about 15 seconds, with Mark 2nd, and me about 5 seconds further back. 4th finished a little over 1 minute behind me, and there were still almost 80 riders on the lead lap. The race was quite short though, only 32 minutes.

Sunday the course had been lengthened just slightly. After the pits and going under the green monster, there was an additional pair of out and backs before getting back into the trees. Then after the sand run, there was a big loop in the infield added. Finally, in the woods, they lengthened the 180 into the run up from Sat, so you were able to carry some speed into it and actually ride it instead of running. This made the laps a little longer and provided a little more recovery between obstacles, which was to my liking. Another minor change was the barriers were moved a little bit back from the berm, so you could carry more speed into this section and over.

Basically the same scenario played out at the start. Jordan traded up two rows and by the barriers he had taken the lead. I was sitting pretty good at about 8th when we hit the first dusty section. Then, a rider who had been to the far outside cut inside hard and took out my front wheel. Maybe he forgot there were 140 people behind him? I don't know. Anyway, I got run over by a few people, then got back up and started going again only to have someone crash in front of me again in the sand. I got up again, ran out of the sand. By this point I was somewhere way back. Now there was only one objective: pass as many people as possible.

I went by the pits, but I noticed my gears were skipping quite a bit. It was not enough to need immediate adjustment, but it made shifting very hard so I knew I needed a bike change. I found Janelle after going over the green monster and told her I needed my other bike. A the start/finish line I found a couple of guys to draft off of until I could get back to the pits. I finished out the lap, and came back around to find Brad Cole and Joe Schmalz had set up a bike change for me. It worked out super smoothly and I was able to switch and come out the other side still with the riders I had drafted off of. Thanks guys!
Not out of the woods yet - Credit: Alex Edwards

I think I was in about 10-12th at this point, so I guessed the win was out of the question barring some disaster for Jordan and Mark. But I knew that third was still possible. I was really starting to enjoy the course and I was having no trouble catching people, sitting on for a moment, then jumping in pursuit of the next group. I tried to just ride as smoothly as possible and not take too many risks, and by the time we hit 2 laps to go, I had moved into 3rd. Listening to the announcers, I could guess that Jordan and Mark (who were riding together I think) were over a minute ahead of me, but I kept the gas on.

At the finish, Jordan won, Mark was second, then I came in 1:45 back, 30 seconds ahead of 4th. Jordan had a great weekend and is a nice kid. I will not be surprised if he continues to have success in this sport.

I was also pretty fun to watch the other races throughout the Day. Teammate Cameron had some good rides in a very competitive 17-18 Jr catagory. Shadd had a great ride on Sat in the 35+ race. Mark Savery was riding like a man possessed on Sunday landing on the podium in the 35+ race after racing at the front all day with some stellar competition. Tom Price had a great ride despite a bum knee to get on the podium as well.

Louisville is a pretty neat area. The waterfront area between Eva Bandman Park and downtown seems to have recently been developed or redeveloped. They have a very nice looking baseball park downtown, and they also have some permanent Louisvillle Marathon signage. I thought it this section had a very nice vibe. We actually stayed just accross the river in Indiana, which was also nicely developed in parts with some cool restaurants.

The organizers had some issues getting results from the finish line area down to the registration tent on both days. On Sat, it wasn't until the end of the day that results made it down, and on Sunday they finally got them at almost 2. The people in the tent really didn't seem to interested in making sure the prizes went to the right people either. It was in stark contrast to the helpful, timely, and organized staff in Madison. Hopefully they (Louisville) can learn from this year to make next year a little better.

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