Monday, November 4, 2013

Swashbuckler Cross - fun times at the PA Renfaire...

Another weekend of cross racing in the PACX series rolled around last weekend.  With a full weekend of "stuff" around the house, church, soccer games, etc, my hopes of making two races faded before Monday came to a close.  The question was, which of the two days?  Well, family time dictated a visit to the PA Renaissance Faire west of Reading, PA. It was a first time race held on (and through) the grounds of the Faire.  With first time races, you never know what to expect....and when you have no / low expectations good things can happen!

After a BEAUTIFUL drive through the beauty of the Fall colors, I arrived onsite in time to pre-ride the course before my race.  Got there, grabbed my number, got my race bike dialed in and headed out to scope out the course.  As I rolled around I was cataloging some "unique" aspects of the course.  A set of man made wooden stairs, a set of barriers, some dirt whoops with mud ruts in the bottom (a la motocross days), a REAL LONG sand pit through the jousting arena, plenty of asphalt, slick off cambers, power sections, mud, etc.  To be honest, I got a little nervous!!!
Dennis Smith caught me scouting the course out amid a beautiful backdrop.
I met up with a couple of old motocross friends and we pre-rode the course.  We came to the LONG sand section which I was sure would be a run section, and Nick and Travis rode it MUCH faster than I ran it.  Well, time to pony up and ride it!  I made it through cleanly each time after that.
This is the view entering the sand pit!
Our 1/2/3/4 Masters 35+ class was a relatively small field of 17 riders.  I picked my spot on the front row and after a few twitches the whistle blew.  It was a long, asphalt uphill start into a sweeping right hand turn then downhill into a tight, slick off camber.  I had a great drop and a great sprint with just one wheel even with me to my right as we entered the first turn.  Except, that wheel wasn't starting to turn....so I nervously yelled "RIGHT TURN" and the rider seemed to realize he had to turn right.  I had already set up in my mind how I wanted to hit the slick right turn ahead so I dropped in behind him and set up wide in 2nd.  He hit the slick mud and was DOWN.  I snuck to the inside and was suddenly leading the bike race.

I knew Nick was right behind me so I had no worries about him chopping me or taking me down.  I put in a solid, hard first lap nailing my lines.  We both nailed the sand section and as we closed in on the end of the first lap (long lap times, +/- 8:00) we hit a section that I knew Nick had more skills than I did.  I told him which line I was taking so he could sneak by.  We had nailed a real fast first lap and put a gap of 15 - 20 seconds back to 3rd already.  We rode together for the next lap and a half or so until I couldn't hang any more.
Nailing the sand section, I love the look on the spectator's faces! (Joe Mallis photo)
When we came through the finish line for the 3rd time we got some great news....the "2 lap" board!  I was holding the gap on 3rd place, but he wasn't taking it easy on me.  I knew I could suffer for 15 more minutes though.  Ended up 2nd about 20 seconds behind Nick and 30 seconds ahead of Dan.
A Pirate Ship for a podium, awesome!
Definitely one of my better rides and I feel that I'm getting stronger each time I race.  Learning things, building confidence and gaining some power in the legs.  It was a fun race and I was glad I went and supported it.  As I've said before, sometimes is the races where you expect the least that you get the most.

Looks like I'm sitting in 4th in the PACX series, so a few more races left including Kutztown and PA State Championships.  Can't believe how quickly the season flies by.

And Sunday confirmed my choice of days to race.  The kids love when I make them pancakes, we hit church then ventured out into the cold to watch both of them play some great soccer games.  Fall may be hectic...and may usher in the "blah" winter, but it is a great season!

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