To quote Adam Myerson, “The Verge Series is over, let us go in peace.”
NBX is not the last race of the cyclocross season but it does mark the end of one part of the year and the beginning of another. It splits the crowd, so to speak. For all but a few people around NYC, it is the end of the season. There is an end of the season cross party next week to nail that point home. For the rest of us, it marks the start of a lonely and somewhat weird part of the year where getting ready for Nationals means spending a lot of time training alone either because people are already doing base miles for the road, people don’t want to ride their bikes anymore or because it’s just cold.
This year we were greeted with amazing weather at NBX. Complete with a bunch of collegiate boys deciding they wanted to work on their tans on the roofs of their team vans. Because of course they would do that. Seriously, all anyone could talk about was how warm it was. Especially compared to last years 30 degrees and raining where all we could do was huddle in the gloriously heated bathrooms.
Even with the historically cold December weather and it being the last big race of the NECX season for me I look forward to NBX every year. It’s truly one of the best cyclocross courses to be found anywhere. The course sits mostly in a woodsy section of park that’s right on the water. The course is sandy with an extra layer of roots underneath the sand. The ground is actually super fast but with the sand and the roots all the corners are deceptively tricky. There are a lot of high speed straights followed by hopping over roots and diving into corners hoping for traction or in other words — fun. The natural paths in the woods that make up the course are a far cry from the seas of tape that many cross course rely on and that is what makes it awesome. This season I had the added pleasure of Krista making her way to the race with me to see her first NECX race in person. So, combined with the great weather that meant happiness watts were going to be in effect over the course of the weekend.
Saturday’s race went as well as I could have hoped. I made the front group and sort of sat at the tail end of it and watched the gap to the chasers get bigger and bigger. After about 2 laps the group split into two and I rode a few laps in the chase group before getting stuck in no-mans land for the last four laps of the race. I couldn’t see anyone behind me so I just focused on riding smooth. The biggest single feature of the NBX course is the beach. In years past the entry was a gentle and fast right hand bend into the sand that set you up perfectly to ride along the sea wall until a set of stairs forced you out into the deeper sand that you had to run. This year however the entry was extremely steep and the corner was very sharp. It robbed you of all your momentum and forced you into a run before you even hit the sand. I was suddenly happy that my coach forced me to work on my running this year. Riding by myself I had plenty of time to analyze all this but eventually my mind wandered and I composed a 3-5-3 Haiku mid race that I will share with you now:
Two wheels start drifting.
Finished up 9th on Saturday and felt great about my fitness as well as my ability to ride the super rooty, sandy, turny, course that kicks my ass about half the time I come to this race. It was also mentally great to bounce back from all the sickness and fitness related setbacks in the November.
Saturday night the team got together for a big meal of take out Chinese food in the hotel. Richie and Deb put on the UConn women’s basketball game in the background and the team tried to soak it all in for a final time in 2015. This was going to be the last time all of us are in the same hotel room until Nationals in five weeks and like every year no one really wants to let it go just yet. Everyone stayed and talked long past the game and dinner ended.
Sunday’s pre-riding was going pretty well. The sand section was being run backwards today so instead of a very tight sharp corner into the sand we had a smooth fast ramp. I spent a chunk of my pre-ride time trying to get a nice rut going so riding further into the beach would be possible. Unfortunately all I got was a bunch of sand in my shifter which rendered it useless. The lesson here is commit to the run. Fortunately it wasn’t muddy. I just had to hope I wouldn’t need my spare bike. Yet, somehow, in the back of my mind I knew the cross god’s weren’t going to let me get away with it.
My race started similarly to yesterday. I was right up there in front group until a bit of user error in the form me plowing into something sharp took out my front tire. As I piloted my bike through the twists and turns while generally trying to avoid being run over by the rest of the field I considered my options. Get on the pit bike with more or less a dead shifter or take my sweet ass time in the pit and change the front wheel. I decided to go with the latter as I figured I was already in dead last, so what’s another 10-15 seconds?
NBX is a hard course to pass on simply because it’s so sandy that a lot of the times there is only one fast line and then a ton of soft dirt/sand that are less than ideal. I spent a bit of time sitting behind people. A few guys were happy to let me by and a few were happy to put me in the tape. It was an interesting hour of racing but at the end of it I managed to ride my way to 12th. Again stoked to have the legs and happy with my fitness.
As I crossed the line I forgot all about my own race as I found out that Sam had a crash while riding in 4th and managed to put a puncture wound into his shoulder. When I saw him he was sitting in his car about to be driven to the hospital. That’s not how anyone wanted this weekend to end but the good news is that despite the big hole in his shoulder he’ll be fine and should be on track to defend his collegiate national title next month. If nothing else it put getting a flat in perspective in the spectrum of unfortunate-possibilities-that-can-happen-while-racing-bikes. The reality of racing is that injury is always a possibility. Somehow most of us manage to compartmentalize that into a part of our mind and not let it bother us probably out of necessity.
Next weekend I’ll be at the final races in the PACX and MAC series and after that it will be a lot of bike practice until Nationals January 10th. Can’t wait.
Until next season, New England.