I’ve been back a couple of days and now have time to wrap up Jingle Cross. I think this was my tenth edition of racing CX in Iowa City and the trip marks the end of the cyclocross season for many. As of today, I am still undecided about continuing on to nationals, and possibly worlds, but my back and legs are telling me maybe the season should be over. Regardless, the trip was a mix of good times, frustration, fatigue, and a little stress. I picked up Little Guy for the Friday night race and the adventure started a little early. Two hours later my Volvo died in Mason City. First, I noticed the power steering was down, then the wipers, then the radio died (this is when I got worried). Eventually, we lost power and were limping along the shoulder at 10 mph. I figured the alternator was toast but it turned out the serpentine belt was shot (a better problem to have, I guess). Matt and I pushed the car to a dealer and after some bullshit from Enterprise not taking debit cards we went back to the dealer to plead for help. The guy had a soft spot for cyclists and we were back on the road with a loaner minivan. At this point, we’d spent nearly two hours in Mason City and I figured I would surely miss my race. Matt had several hours before the elite race start so I was happy for that.
A few hours later we pulled into the venue 15 minutes before my start. Matt said he’d prep my bike while I ran to registration. Somehow, I was standing in the start grid two minutes before my start. I had no warm up, no idea of the course layout and, in a matter of seconds, we were off. We hit the first muddy section through the pits and there was total melee’. Luckily, I got around the crash but a few pedal strokes later, I hit the fence and forced myself, Hollywood, and a few others off their bikes (sorry, ya’ll). The first time up the big climb was ridiculous. The bike was already caked with mud and I was in an anaerobic panic. My body was in shock from the instant effort and I tried in vain to settle down and find a rhythm. I don’t know what unfolded in the closing laps and I finished in a whirlwind, almost laughing with pain. What a day.
We drove to Alex’s place in Marion exhausted and disenchanted and rested up for another go Saturday. Arriving with actual time to spare, I was determined to ride better and knew I was capable of a decent result. The temp was mid forties which made everything seem ok yet the mud seemed worse than the night before. I tried not to think about missing my pit bike and had a plan for the race and was ready to roll. After a decent start I eventually worked my way into 7th, even though I didn’t know it at the time. I was climbing well and holding it together on the greasy descents (picture above). Feeling better and better, I was hoping for a fast final lap. However, just after the flyover my rear derailleur ripped off and my race came to a halt. Normally, just the hangar break and it’s an easy repair. In my case, the whole derailleur ripped off the wrapped around the cassette, with the pulleys jammed between the largest cog and the spokes which, of course, broke a spoke. I shouldered my bike and started a long run to the pit. I ended up 16th.
Day 3. 7th! It doesn’t sound like much but for me, a top 10 finish at Jingle Cross has been a goal for a long time. Matt helped a ton by helping me with a bike exchange with two to go. When I got the clean bike it felt like a feather. I didn’t care that it was a single speed with cheap clinchers- it rolled and was working! A lap later I got back on my clean A bike and was flying. I easily passed two more riders and rolled across the line with a redemptive grin. Needless to say, having a pit bike makes a huge difference.
Sunday, Matt rode the elite race for 26th (just one place out of the $). He was 30th on day two, I think. He did this with no pit bike on a bike that likely doubled in weight with mud and grass. Next year we are going to bring a crew to help with mechanics and bike exchanges. Nearly every other rider in the elite race had support. This can get expensive but for races where it’s insanely muddy, you really can’t get by without.
So, if the weather stays warm in MN and skiing isn’t an option, I may decide to keep training for Nationals in NC Jan 5-10 and/or for Worlds in San jose, CA Jan 22-24. We’ll see.