Whoa, an entire weekend of bad decisions to contend with! Yet as always, it was a great time.
First mistake I made was picking up an entry for Iceman. A bunch of teammates had entries they weren't using, so I figured "what the heck....". Nothing like inserting my poorly prepared self in the midst of 4000 other idiots.
My other dumb idea was spawned by too much beer following last weekend's not seventh place finish in the local CX series. As I mentioned before, a bunch of us were going to try Eh this weekend.
So yes, that's 28 miles of fast paced, single speed MTB racing, followed by Eh class CX craziness and lots of driving along with maybe a little sleep in between. It's almost like I have some kind of deep seated issues with my impending 33rd birthday. I may not be over the hill, but I'm clearly running out of momentum and it's time to start cranking.
Iceman is sort of famed for having somewhat adverse conditions being in early November in the northern LP, but this rendition continued a multi-year trend of "Nicemen". Although temperatures were brisk in the morning, clear skies and sun warmed things up quick and it was shorts and short-sleeve weather in no time.
Given the 4000 racers at this event, the organizers start all the different classes in waves, separated by 5 minutes. There's no real qualification standard for what wave you sign up for, so you get all kinds of sandbagging- including those entering a harder class for a better start position. Plus you've got people who just choose poorly and the regular spread of talent across a class to contend with. This makes the start safe and sane, but puts a lot of slower riders out on the course in front of faster riders.
Thankfully, I choose to run singlespeed, so I didn't have to figure out if I was an "expert" or "sport" or whatever. Under 39? Check! One gear? Check! OK, pal- yer' in! Unfortunately, they stuck as right behind the Sport/Expert Clydes. Granted, a lot of those guys can really rip, but some of them- not so much. We'd be running up behind them soon.
The start went like all my single speed starts. Spinning for dear life and watching those willing to brave the bigger gears pull away from me. That's OK, I never start all that well- being forced to get into my rhythm by lower gearing helps me out in the long run. Once we got onto the dirt though, it was on. I've never, ever, ever had to do so much passing. First up was all the single speeders who burned it down too much at the start, next up was the clydesdales, and then it wasn't long before I was picking of expert riders from the earlier waves.
The wave start really spread things out a bunch, and I never really ran up against any serious log jams. I could just keep on the gas an keep on passing. The one thing that the wave start really hurts though, is the ability to pack up and work together. The midpack single speeders pretty much broke into shambles right from the get go, and most of the people I caught were going much slower than me. I'd pick up a wheelsucker every now and then, and do my own share of drafting, but as soon as I recovered, I'd be back to passing people again. This is great motivation to keep hammering and it really felt like I was just flying through the course.
I am, however, my father's son- and there was no way I was going to slow down at all and let all those people I passed pass me back. So, my camelback full of water went ignored a little longer than it should have, and something happened to me that's never, ever happened to me in a race before- I cramped up. Not bad, but enough to slow me down long enough to drink something and ride them out. I was maybe 5 miles from the finish at this point when the flyers from the waves behind me started catching me along with one or two of my single speed brethren from my wave.
I rode out the rest of the course without issue and didn't lose too many places for a 2:09 finish. Good enough to crack the top half of the single speed field and about where I expected I'd be. I was really hoping (against all odds) to break the two hour mark. Even without the cramps, I probably wouldn't have pulled it off, but it's not completely outside my grasp. It seems that a sub-2 hour Iceman correlates pretty well with a sub-3 hour Ore 2 Shore.
Next year, I might have to stick around for the parties. 4000 dorks with enough disposable income to go bike racing makes for some kind of marketing bonanza and quite the circus before and after the event. Next year, I might have to go slower to be ready for the beer tent at the end.
But hey, I had to get back up north- I had an "Eh" class cyclocross throwdown to get to.
This weekend's CX race was in "Old Town" Negaunee. Basically, a large portion of the town started sinking in the 1960s due to excessive mining in the area and they were forced to move it. What's left is a maze of streets, sidewalks, foundations, stairways to nowhere, and a lot of broken glass, curbs, and angle iron hidden in the weeds. It was really a toss up between a "Mad Max" or "Paint Your Wagon" reference for today's blog title.
Turn out was a little weak, but enough fast people showed that it wouldn't be a gimme. I had one goal only- stay on the lead lap. The organizers took mercy on us and only made us do two laps more than the Bees.
On first pass, the course seemed rather technical, but as I got into it, there was a lot of opportunity for speed. And for once, I was faster on the last part of the course, rather than the first. Didn't do much good. I took a seat in one of the slower packs and hung on, saving up in case I needed to really push hard to stay on the lead lap. With a couple laps to go, I started pushing harder and managed to beat a few people and meet my goal of not getting lapped.
I'm confident enough that I can hang on enough to at least stay (mostly) out of the way of the really fast folks in Eh. If a bunch of my fellow Bee competitors make the jump next year, we should still have some great racing and a nearly bottomless well of motivation to get faster if we want. The only downside is that I'll be the last group to race- no more sitting on the sidelines drinking beer and harassing the Eh riders- it'll be up to a new generation of Bees to carry on the torch (and the mid race beer hand up).