Writing about Gloucester is hard. Something about trying to capture that particular race in that venue seems impossible. Just the sheer noise of the beer garden as you run up the stairs completely enveloped in a cloud of dust is overwhelming. I’ve never been in a race so loud. Nationals comes close — sometimes. I remember the nationals in Bend was really loud. Or maybe that was just the one jerk with the Airhorn at the top of the stairs?
After being sick the week before I was happy to be feeling good and training on a regular schedule. Which is important going into a big weekend like Gloucester. I decided to drive up early Friday morning and do my Friday ride on the course. I got there in the early afternoon right around the same time as all the big teams were setting up camp. I parked in an unoccupied spot just across from the start finish line and went to do some riding. After about 30 minutes someone standing on the side of the course flagged me down. Turns out one of the teams needed me to move my car because the spot where they had set up their trailer just an hour earlier was apparently no good and now I had to move my car. This is how ridiculous race parking is. I can’t imagine any other context in which it would be ok to ask someone to move their car from a parking spot and expect it to happen. But whatever the case I wasn’t about to argue with a grumpy mechanic.
Cyclocross probably has the blurriest line between “PRO” and amateur in the cycling disciplines. On the road you either have a professional license and ride for a UCI registered team or you do not. That doesn’t exist in cross. There are teams in cross that are obviously “PRO” and a handful of guys actually making a living racing. Then there’s everyone else that exist in that 100 person Elite field. Some guys have trailers and team tents and RV’s but at that point the sponsors are just covering expenses. For most of us not having to spend our own money to race is as good as it gets. That is is just to show that there are plenty of guys in the “pro race” doing it on their own dime.
I would say that the Richard Sachs Cyclocross Team leans more towards the professional end of the spectrum I just described. We bleed for our sponsors and don’t take a single ounce of the support we receive for granted. Thanks to them we have everything we need to race our bikes and then some. However, if you don’t have the status symbol of an RV with your face on the side (see above), be prepared to move your car.
Nevertheless it still feels good to be back in Gloucester. It was only 6pm and I had already finished traveling, riding, and was on my way to dining with Richie and Deb. Normally, I would still anxiously speeding towards the race at 11am on Saturday. It felt great to relax.
Despite being right on the water the course felt like it hasn’t seen a drop in years. I would describe 95% of the course as loose dirt on top of slippery marbles. That is to say it was fast and dusty with a side of very little cornering traction. So doing well in the bike race was going to be mostly about not crashing or flatting.
In the first five minutes of the race someone went down right in front of Jamie Driscoll who somersaulted over that person and landed right in front of me. I figured it would be bad to run Jamie over so I came to a complete stop. This decision cost me a few spots. I spent the next lap getting back to where I had been. After making a few passes I was amazed to be on Walton’s wheel. He had started on the last row of a 100 people and a lap and a half was in the top 30 of one of the most stacked UCI races in the country. I was impressed. Unfortunately that didn’t last long as Walton hit a big rock which launched him sideways at top speed. He almost saved it…
About four minutes of racing later I had a mechanical but was able to quickly fix it on course and keep racing. The only issue was that all those passes I had just made I had to try and do over again. On the bright side I was having a good day on the bike. One of those days where I just didn’t seem to be feeling the effort I knew I was making. At some point the thought occurred to me that maybe I should just save it. Enough things had gone wrong in my race at this point that even if I did the ride of my life the result would hardly show it. Maybe I should just ride it in and try again tomorrow?
Admitting to having this thought is about as close as I got to doing anything about it. I kept riding hard and eventually linked up with Robert Marion again. We ended up sprinting it out for 20th. All that shit luck left me wondering where I could have placed but I was still pretty happy with my ride. I’ve never, in all the years of racing that I’ve done, regretted not giving up.
Sunday was a bit of a wash for me though. I was actually the last guy on the lead lap. The rough and rocky course as well as my effort the day before took it’s toll on my back and pedaling hard after the first four laps of the race was out of the question.
In the past a race like that would leave me pretty disheartened. Mostly because in my mind I had failed “the test” I had signed up to take. I’ve realized that this is the wrong approach. You can’t look at races as “tests”. It is limiting in that you either pass or you fail. I’ve found it more helpful to see each start I take as an opportunity. I don’t necessarily know for what but that’s ok. I’m excited because I still have three more weekends of back to back “opportunity” to make something happen out there.