Hopkins Park Cyclocross, 2012

Sunday was the Hopkins Park CX race, in DeKalb, Illinois, brought to you by North Central Cyclery and Axletree, among others.  It was a fun, fun event.  Fun to watch, fun to ride.  Although I’m competitive by nature, I’m nowhere near competitive in a CX race…but I had great friends to ride with, and friends and family to remind me to enjoy the ride.

The pics:

Pre-race with BPaul.

Hand of Midas, conjuring up his top-5 finish.

My Ben Berden face.

Berden face, part deux.

BPaul, rocking the Necromancer Pugs.

Coming down the flyover.

The technical takeaways:

  • It was a dry, dusty course; some corners were just puffy dirt that were hard to navigate.  The Michelin Mud 2s performed admirably, but a wider, less aggressive tire would have done better.
  • As hard and dry as it was, you got pounded around by roots, bumps and holes.  A lot.  In retrospect, between the pounding and the loose corners, I think I could have been faster on the Superfish.  It’s a couple pounds heavier, but I think the wider tires and suspension would have made for more control and a more pleasant ride.  I know, I know…HTFU.  BPaul rolled the race on a Pugsley (Necromancer), as shown above.  Through a combination of brute Bike Warrior strength and fat-tire cornering, he killed it, and did an awesome job in the race.
  • The call-ups were alphabetical.  That placed me about exactly mid-pack at the start.  That’s all fine and good, except that 300 yards into the race, someone was kind enough to careen into my bars, lock their bars into mine, and take us both down.  I ended up with a saddle that was pointing at the sky for the rest of the race, which ended up being quite unpleasant for my nether regions.  I ended up with an impressively swollen elbow, and junk that felt like…well, like it had been battered about on a seatpost pointed towards the sky for a 30 minute cyclocross race.  The other unfortunate consequence is that, as I was getting up from my dirt bath, a good chunk of the field passed me.  So in some ways, my odds of a good finish were shot down pretty early.  I’d be tempted to write about how the call-ups should be random, or perhaps based on how many blog posts you have…but ya know what?  It’s Cat 4B.  If you’re concerned about how you finish, you need to harden up and go up a few classes.  Riding where I did gave me some great experience in passing, in cornering in the pack, and other bike handling.
  • On that note…I was concerned that my shortfall would be power.  It wasn’t.  As it turned out, I was good on the straightaways, and used them to my advantage to pass others, and to duck inside corners by braking late.  My shortfall was cornering.  With the dusty, rooted corners, I was concerned about cornering and came up conservative…which means slow.  For my next CX race, I need to keep working on cornering faster.  Less brake = go faster.  Seriously, that’s the best bike advice ever.
  • Tobie gave me a heads-up that I should warmup before the race.  For all the bike reading that I do, you’d think that I would intuitively know this…but for some reason, I never thought that the warmup stuff applied to me.  I did a 30 minute warmup, with a handful of full effort sprints and some easy spinning, and that was about perfect.  Thank you T for the advice.
  • Last year, I was a bit scared of the flyover.  This year, it was one of my favorite parts. The first time up, I was a bit tentative and ran up every step.  On the second (and subsequent) runs, all I could hear was Tobie yelling at me to go faster…and I did.  I felt pretty darn good blasting up the steps as hard as I could.  I think that looked like this:

Yes, that’s how it looked.  If you turn your speakers up really loud, you can almost hear him screaming.  That was the best, most enjoyable part.  I have no reservations about how I rode…I pushed as hard as I could push, and held nothing back.  I wasn’t the fastest (by a long shot), but for me, I rode well.  And I had the encouragement of my friends and family to push me along.  It was a good ride.  A hard 30 minutes (I know.  HTFU).  But a good 30 minutes–it went fast, and I was able to ride at full effort throughout the whole race.

I’m coming up on a year writing the blog.  We’re well into 6 figures in terms of unique views, which is nothing short of amazing to me.  For all the reviews, all the health stuff, all the ride reports, all of the speculation, the bike component fantasizing and everything else, just about everything I’ve learned this past year can fit into a few, short points.

  • Brake less.
  • There will always be a better/faster/nicer component or bike.  It will not necessarily make you a better/faster/nicer rider.  (It’s ok to still want it, though).
  • Every ride can suck, or can be great.  It’s up to you to decide which it will be.  You can end every ride mad at yourself–or the world–because you didn’t ride faster…or you can end every ride smiling about the fact that you just got to ride.  That latter option will make you happier, healthier, and ultimately, faster.
  • Listening to your friends and family makes the difference between ending rides mad or ending rides happy.  Mad = destructive.  Happy = constructive.  It’s just that simple.
  • Support your local bike shop.  Or support mine.  And support your local bike advocacy group.  Without them, you won’t have cool rides to spend time enjoying with friends.
  • Oh, and don’t forget to brake less.  You’ll go faster.  Trust me.
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