Race Report – Frenemies or not, I am here to Race – Chris Spurrier

 In Race Reports

Cincinnati UCI Cyclocross Weekend
Mason, OH, Sat Oct 27 – Sun Oct 28, 2018

As amateur cyclists, we get comfortable racing our frenemies on most weekends. We have our local teams and friends that we hang out with each weekend, race with the same promoters, and know our competition. I am not saying this a bad thing; this is after all why we race. However, there is something to be said about traveling to race.

This season I have had one goal, to upgrade in time for cross nationals being held in Louisville, KY. This has added a little stress to my season, but in the end, if we don’t have a goal, we may not push ourselves. In the MABRA region competition is tough, this is a known factor, and while finishing in the top 25%, I have yet to gain any points. This past weekend I decided to race outside of the norm and visit my hometown in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati CX or Kings CX as it was also know was a UCI C1 event being held in Mason Ohio, just miles from where I grew up. The venue was spectacular, and the course was well designed. In typical fashion for the year, I arrived at a wet and muddy course. Luckily I was prepared with several tire choices as well as extra clothing and shoes. We arrived early enough Friday that I was able to pre-ride the course a few laps and get a lay of the land.

I showed up Saturday morning with a plan and executed it well. I knew what tires I wanted to use and where we wanted to stage to warm up and prepare for the race. I got to the venue early enough for a quick lap on the pit bike and to drop it off. I got in my warm up and made it to the line. I was racing the 40+ field which was a nice change from racing with the younger kids back in MABRA. Of course, one thing here was that in OVCX they line up all the waves as one group based on Cross Results, so I had no idea who I was racing. Regardless I had a third-row start and lined up for the uphill start, ready to go. The whistle blew, and about 100 of us shot up the pavement into the first right-hand turn. Immediately I realized my pressure was too high, but I settled into the first of many off cambers in about 20th. The course was made up in the first 3rd with several off-camber fast turns, and several riders were sliding out. I fought to stay up but couldn’t go as fast as I wanted. We raced through the infamous camel (think an oversized off camber W) and through the single track, up the “wall” and then into the mud. As I came off the first lap and made my way through the chute, I realized I couldn’t make up ground as the bike was. I came into pit 1 and grabbed the SS from Christina and asked her to drop some pressure in the rear. I made it through the course still in the top 20 and came to pit 2 to get the A bike back. Again Christina was a champ and had a perfect handoff, and off I went, of course here I found I had too much traction now and the bike wouldn’t corner. As I approached the second half of the camel, we were carrying the bikes, so I was able to adjust the front pressure on the fly, and for the last lap, I was able to close up on the top 5 of my field. We were pushing through the last lap, and I was making up time in the mud then into the 2nd part of the camel and as I was closing in we were all equal running the hills (although I needed toe spikes). At this point, the bike was covered with mud and grass, and we were nearing the barriers after the downhill, I knew I had to be in a different gear so as I went to mount and I shifted. Immediately my chain dropped, and I was coasting into the barriers. I watched as the top 5 rode out of the barriers and into the finishing straight. I tried to get my chain back on and couldn’t get it with the mud-caked rear derailleur, so I started off in a run to the line, coming in 6th.

Day 2, let’s see what I learned. I arrived at the same time and checked in early for my number. We were able to park somewhere else which happened to be near a hose. So instead of warming up on the trainer, I spent four laps on course to see the differences from Sat and to nail tire pressure. I came back to the car with plenty of time to change and wash the bike. I had some food and this time put toe spikes in (remember the running from Sat). My parents arrived about 20 mins to start, and I headed to line up. Today I was projected 2nd, and the first place person had a good 20 points on me, so I knew I had to stay on him. It was easier today since I knew the kits and riders and we lined up, and again it started with a sprint up the chute and into a wet right-hand turn. This time we had less off cambers and more of a rolling straight that I was able to put the power down and get near the front early. We made it to camel 1, and I rode the whole thing while others struggled (thanks to the pre-ride). Then we headed off to the single track and mud. I coasted through the mud, mostly sideways, and headed into camel 2 in second place. As we came out of the first lap I had a gap on 2nd and was putting down power anywhere I could. We get to Camel 1 and through into the Mud and 2nd keeps closing a gap, so I focused on the juniors and just tried to draft and pick riders off. A few riders went down opening gaps, but for the next two laps, we fought back and forth. I noticed the bike was collecting mud again so I chose to come in at pit two knowing I would have to run the camel anyway. I came in and asked Christina to clear the mud, grabbed the SS and went out with a lead still on 2nd. Unfortunately, a junior tried to beat me to a turn and went down in front of me taking me down and closing the gap right back up. We pushed back and forth, and I had enough gap to come back in for a clean bike, so I didn’t have the issue I did the day prior. Christina was on point with the exchange, and I was on my way. This time I took the turn wide to avoid traffic and powered into the camel again. I knew this last time was going to hurt, but I had to dig deep, and I focused on my form, thinking through my dismounts and getting to the barriers. I also knew that 2nd was hurting, he had bobbled the previous barrier section, so I just had to dig. I rode up and into the camel, dismounting and dug deep with the spikes, remembering high knees and keeping the bike downhill. I start to head down and see him about 50m back, I clear the barriers and take the last turn slow since it was pure slop. As I cross the line, he was just getting to the chute, success.

Well if you made it this far, thank you. This race meant a lot to me because of having family there to watch. It was also my first win in cross, and I put a lot of work leading up and during the race tactically. Back to racing out of your comfort zone, a lot of things were done differently in the way the race was ran and the feeling of the venue. The course though was phenomenal, and I was able to focus more on this since it was new. I had a lot go wrong, but I was able to focus on these and work through them. Of course, I missed my team and my friends; they do make the weekend worth it. It was a completely different vibe I did have family, and I cannot say enough about how much of a help Christina was.

Most importantly I learned not to take anything for granted. I was projected 3rd and 2nd, that is assuming you show up and perform as you have been, and that the other riders don’t have a sudden increase in their race. I had to work harder than I had before, but at least I learned it wasn’t about the power, it was about using my head in the race and taking it easy.

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