Monday, October 17, 2011
The race at Granogue is special to me. Last year it was my first of the year testing race, and got me sucked in to the whole cross deal. The course is a little more than a flat field with mud and some running. It has some hills, trails, textures and some pretty impressive scenery. Taking place on the Dupont estate, this race is quite unique and perhaps the witnessing of the tail end of a bittersweet era. For now, I am loving it for what it is, and giving thanks to all those of this era that have been generous enough to let a bunch of bikers come out and ride on their lawn.
This years race was no less symbolic, as I had my first crash. I have witnessed many falls while on course and always wondered why everyone fell down. I knew my time would come and Saturday was it. There was a good field for 45+ with several elite women racing down for whatever reason. I may have been a tad intimidated but also really excited to have the honor of racing these ladies. I was up for the challenge!
Day #1: I had an ok start, but always struggle sorting out before I can settle in. There were plenty of back and forths, mis-shifts and some spills in front of me, but finally I found myself chasing 4th place down, with 3 out of sight off the front. Near the end of my 3rd of four laps, I let it hang out a bit on the descent in hopes to bridge up, and in a fraction of a second, my front tire slipped out on a greasy off camber. As soon as the hood hit the ground, I was ejected off the front giving me a very clean landing in the grass just in front of my bike. I'll admit, I was a tad surprised that I had gone down, but nothing hurt, so I was back on the bike quickly and flying down the hill in hopes that my rear brake lever was still in working order, which it was.
I chased down for a half lap, but could not see the rider in front. I finally went to stand up a hill in a final effort, and my drive train halted. "What a time to brake a chain" I thought, but after looking down, I found the chain jumbled and off the chain rings. I got off the bike and moved to the side of the track. My chain came free and I quickly placed it back on but my rear wheel would not turn. I tried to stay calm and think. I decided to check my rear skewer, and sure enough, the wheel had pulled out of the drop out. In the mean time 3-4 ladies had gone by and I was hoping not too many of them where in my class. As it turned out, only one of them was, and I held onto 6th place, but it felt like a disorganized race for me.
Day #2: Art and I thought that my fall on Saturday had loosened my skewer or maybe I did not get it tight enough after my wheel swap from the warm up on the trainer, but once I was racing on course the small half of my cog set was all jumpy making it hard to concentrate or pedal smoothly. I should have checked all this out after my race on Saturday. Now I had to deal with it in the race. It took me a lap or two, but I finally figured I would shift chain rings more and use less of the cog set.
The run up was really exciting this day, because of the off camber mounting area where you had to turn and shoot down into a steep bumpy descent with a turn at the bottom. This made for some uncertainty and choices in risk, and was lined with spectators. I remember last year, having no idea how to handle this and just giving in to running up and down, which worked fine last year. I practiced mounting in this situation for this year and got it every lap on Sunday, no problem. Practice and confidence does really help! I was certain I finished 6th but I must have gone by someone without realizing it, and I took fifth. Art checked my bike on Monday, and I had pulled the barrel adjuster out of the DR body stripping the last few threads. I was thankful I was able to finish the race fairly well.
The weather was fabulous this past weekend. Warm days are winding down and although I enjoy cross, I am not looking forward to winter. It was wonderful to have spent both days out side soaking up the sun. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Some photos below of a hike Art and I took at Brandywine River Park on Friday afternoon, after driving down through many rain storms. A hawk was waiting for us in the tree in the first photo.