Monday, January 26, 2009

Peak Season #4: my report

The Peak Season series is over, and for many of us, so is the cross season.

We ended up with something of a bang at the last Peak Season race. Literally, unfortunately, for one of us.

The course was great. Each lap started with a sharp paved climb, followed by a brutal run up. Steep, muddy, and slippery, that thing was nasty. After a quick spin through the woods and another sharp paved uphill, it wended its way through the school grounds. An unfortunately fast, flat stretch with one set of steps and several sharp turns. The second half of the lap was pretty much all dirt, with some marginally ridable uphills and an extended off-camber section.

This "run"-up was brutal

I came into the race 5th in the series, theoretically within reach of 3rd. So I was motivated to do well. I was so motivated, in fact, that for only the second time this year I got the hole shot. In fact, I looked back as I entered the first dirt section, and not only was I ahead, but there was no one even on my wheel!

It will likely not surprise you to read that this did not last. A guy in a DFL jersey caught up to me by the end of the first chunk of flat pavement, and passed me shortly after, only to overcook a turn and go down.

Around the end of the first half of the lap Blake from Oakland passed me, and most of the rest of the race was an exercise in damage control. About one person per lap got by me, even though Murphy and the rest of the team were doing their best to hold off the flood.


Around lap 4 I caught and passed Evan Sarna, who was riding in the open Bs. I'm used to seeing Evan ride a single speed, but on this day he was riding a geared bike. He put it to good use by passing me back at the start of the paved half lap. He was nice enough, though, to let me hang on his wheel through the spinny parts, and then let me by when the going got dirty again.

Evan spent some time hauling me around at one point

At the end of the penultimate lap, I was pretty much exactly where I ended the race before: 5th, with the same four people ahead of me. At this point, barring major crashes or mechanicals, there was not really any way I could do anything to move up or down in the series. Which was good, because out of nowhere, Tom Taylor from Roaring Mouse was on my tail. Tom got by me at the end of the dirt (again!) and graciously waited for me to get on his wheel so he could pull me around the pavement. In less-than-gracious fashion, I was planning on paying him back by getting by in the dirt section that would close the lap, but I stupidly tried to ride a small embankment I'd been running every lap, and stalled out, giving Tom the couple seconds lead he needed to get clear of me. I rolled in sixth for the day, and fifth for the series.

The guy in the yellow kit eventually caught me

It's certainly partially due to the smaller fields in this series, but I was very pleased with how competitive I was able to be. I've been laboring smack in the middle of the 35+B field for the last couple seasons, and to be able to fight for the lead (even for a lap) and contend for the podium in the series was a real step forward. And while I don't regret racing the entire series on a single speed, I certainly feel that I ran up against the downsides of the choice a few times. Would my results have been better with gears? I think so. Certainly, at Harbor High racing without gears was a huge disadvantage. And there were periods in every race where I ended up losing ground on the flat stuff because I didn't have a high enough gear.

Wold it have been more fun, though, to race a geared bike? Judging by how indifferently my geared bike's been behaving this season (I've suffered a broken shifter, a jammed shifter and innumerable dropped chains) it's been a relief to just ride a bike that works. And my Sycip single speed is a very nice-riding bike. Still, for the long term, it seems smarter to become a better mechanic than to limit myself to a single speed bike. As gratifying as it is to beat the geared guys, I don't think I'm capable of competing with them long term on a single speed.

Anyway, it was a great way to end the season. Now it's time to get back on the mountain bike, and endure the long wait until next cross season starts mountain bike season starts at Boggs at the end of March.

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