Oh man, what a week! I broke my bike, fixed my bike, and raced three time on two days! I'm either getting stronger or going numb. Maybe some combination thereof. But either way, I've got some stuff to share.
See all that? That was inside my front hub bearings. Taking apart my hubs to remove the tape, I found that there are no real dust caps in the bearings, only the flimsy rubber shells that usually go over the dust caps, and those were shredded. So I re-machined the inner races (seriously, they might have been the worst bearing races I've ever seen), re-packed the hubs, and put it all back together. I called Specialized about getting some new dust caps and they told me to get bent (thanks, guys) so I guess I'm just going to re-pack my bearings after every race. I've ordered a 24-oz tub of grease in preparation for this.
Due to fixing my bike I missed cross practice (again), but I was able to make up for it because a local shop was putting on a Blues Brothers-themed race. Say what? Aw yeah, it's time for the 4th annual Rhythm & Blues Revue Cyclocross Extravaganza!
It was a small race. In keeping with my tradition of being problematically on time, I arrived before the event organizers did and spent some quality time sitting around on a nice golf course in Evanston. The course had an interesting layout - a quarter-mile start section with some funky off-camber slaloms that ran once followed by the actual course, a mile-long loop of long straights with sweeping bends followed by inexplicable hairpins, logs, adorable barriers, and a comical amount of running up and down muddy embankments in the woods. Oh, and about half of the course was underwater. It was going to be a good day. I let almost all the air out of my tires in preparation.
The men's cat4/5 field was, for once, not the last race of the day. It was also not the largest. There were 22 of us, which meant that with my mediocre ranking I got staged... on the front row? OK then. I guess I'm on the front. The whistle blew, I clipped in early, and took off. Somehow, everyone else wasn't clipped in all the way and beyond the first half a crank had run out of steam.
Am I off the front?
I'm off the front.
What do I do about this?
I was off the front by a margin, and held it into the world's most awkward slalom where I extended my lead. By the time We all got over the bridge and onto the actual course, I had a couple hundred feet of lead. And it was surprisingly peaceful, with no traffic to worry about and only the faint buzzing of a coasting freewheel behind me to remind me that I wasn't pre-riding. I kept the power on, nailed a remount over a barrier, and listened to my lead accordion. The spider monkey (a local cycling team) behind me would reel me in on the straights, and I'd space us out in the corners. We plowed through mud, our bikes squirming below us. I made it over the line in first, ripped past the spectators, and dove into the woods. The course had somehow gotten slipperier, and I could barely keep my footing running. I got back on my bike, but couldn't clip in. There was too much mud in my pedals. It was a moot point, as not 100ft later I was off the bike again running some logs. Back on the bike for a long straightaway, and I couldn't clip in. I was staring at my pedals, trying to figure out what to do when I glanced up and realized I was about to run into a corner. I slammed on the brakes and only just barely stopped in time to not run off course, looked to my left, and watched a pack of six rider buzz smoothly past. Well shit, so much for not doing anything stupid. I kicked my pedals as hard as I could, somehow clipped in, got back on course, jumped the barriers, and finished the lap in 7th. And then stayed there another lap. And another. And another. My derailleur was clogged with mud, I couldn't clip in anymore, and I couldn't gain places. I was stuck. I finished 7th and very muddy. But damn, was it a good time.
Back home after the race drinking my recovery whiskey and eating my recovery couscous, I reflected. It was a good race. I'd started strong, raced strong, and might have been on the podium had I been paying attention and not ridden off the course. Lessons to learn? Mud sucks for clipping in. Pay attention. It was a short race, I did OK, and I had a great time. Huge thanks to Higher Gear Chicago for putting it on, I'll definitely be back.