Cyclocross, West Coast Style

Cyclocross is my favourite type of bike racing. Due to my general lack of fitness and catastrophically (for a bike racer) low hematocrit, it's also a type of racing that I'm pretty unsuited for. But amateur racing is for fun and not glory, so we're not going to focus on that.

Ottawa has a great series of races each fall and while I knew it was something special, I had hopes that Vancouver would offer a similar number of races. As it turns out, there are a bunch of races, unfortunately, 4 of the 6 in the Lower Mainland are on two weekends as opposed to spread out over the season. Alas.

On the plus side, it's easier to pretend you are a Serious Bike Racer when you have back to back races, which was kind of cool for me.

Race 1: New Brighton Park

Tough, tough race - Google Earth

Start was paved and slightly downhill into a paved hairpin. Bunny hop up a curb and into a narrow, muddy climb. No need to run up this one. Some up and down twisties then a double barrier for running. Up over some more grass and into some very tight, massively off camber corners where speeds dropped to below walking. Couple more corners, then some deep sand, more grass, two very short steep climbs, if it had been wet, both would have been run-ups, but as it was, riding was possible. Down to more sand and a giant step, then a final climb onto the pavement again.

Tough for me mainly as there was effectively no place to recover. I'm a decent technical rider, but I need to have short sections to ease up for a bit and bring the heart rate under control for a bit. Otherwise, it's a more pure form of suffering which does not bode well for me. This was the case here. The course was, despite some short punchy climbs, was relatively flat, so there were no extended downhills to ease up a bit. To use some retarded sport dude statement, I was deep in the hurt locker the entire race.

Placed near the back of the pack. On the lead lap though.

Race 2: Vanier Park

More my style and possibly one of the most fun courses I've ever raced on - Google Earth

The start on this one was across a flat, hard packed and very bumpy grass field. Quick dismount to get up 6ish stairs and back on to climb up alongside the Planetarium. Winding climb up through the trees, not too steep, but in some thickish grass so it was somewhat of a power climb. Off camber hairpin at the top to drop down to the main part of the course again. Over a bridge and then continue the descent through some fast sweeping corners. Deep gravel hairpin, then some more twisty grass stuff and a couple of barriers on a steep uphill. From there, into what was called the maze. 4 back to back tight hairpins, 2 very off camber. The last part of the course was a hard packed mud out and back and a fun steep downhill into a right/left/right before the finish line.

The nice thing about this course, aside from the lack of places where running was required, was that there were places to recover. The relatively long downhill beside the Planetarium allowed for a few seconds of respite, which I need badly in a 'cross race. It showed. I finished just behind someone who was nearly 3 minutes ahead of me at New Brighton. I was 2:30 behind the winner at Vanier and more like 6:00 behind the winner at New Brighton. Ended up 14th out of about 40, so not terrible I suppose.

What did I learn here? Not much. I don't do well in road races that have lots of climbs as I am not terribly good at them. That said, climbing in a 'cross race seems to be good for me. It means there will be recovery time later. Still, was well above the halfway through the field point at Vanier, so I'm taking that as a good sign.