My "Gateway Drug" for cycle racing was cyclocross. And now that it's Fall, the season's on. I think that racing mountain and road bikes is sort of like wearing white - it's inappropriate to do it after Labor Day. And cyclocross racing is like wearing boots - the moment Fall begins, you get to pull them, and dark-colored clothes, out of the closet and start running up hills and epic stairways.
I've heard people say that, no matter what you do to get ready, you're never prepared to have children. I think that being prepared for the first race of the season is similar. I lent my 'cross bike to a friend shortly after the end of last season and got it back in May. I rode it once then and two more times leading up to Monday's race, and didn't really get it dialed in. At all. When I was pre-riding, I decided that the saddle was definitely too high and everyone was already lined up for the start when I got to the line after asking everyone in sight if they had a Metric Allen set on them. During the race, I decided that my handlebars were too low - in a somewhat silly reaction to how un-racy my friend's version of this bike's setup was, I removed a spacer, flipped the stem, and tilted the bars down when I got the bike back. I think I probably lowered the height of the clamp by about an inch doing all that, and lowered my hand position even more tilting the bars down to a racier spot. I'd also spent about ten or fifteen minutes practicing mounts and dismounts on dirt since November before today's race.
One of the things I love about racing is that no matter where in the pack I am, there's someone ready to race me. The gentleman in the Starbucks jersey passed me coming out of the singletrack, before the last turn. I decided that I wasn't going to let him beat me, shifted up, stood up in the pedals, and found out that actually I was totally going to let him by. I saw him after the race and shook his hand - he earned 27th place. I still made it by the guy running, making 27th-29th places a hotly contested finish. The preliminary results put me in 28th place out of 32 riders finishing in the leader's lap and 43 riders completing three or more laps (the leader rode four laps.) I haven't done speed work since early in May, so I'm not too surprised not to have any top end right now.
Thanks, Adella, for taking pictures and for coming to the race with me.