Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dark Night Cross: A Rookie Perspective

Saturday evening marked Calgary's first ever evening cyclocross event. Hosted by the fine folks of the Bow Cycle team and held on the UofC grounds this race may have eclipsed the noteworthy hype of it's namesake. The Dark Night cyclocross goes down as the most fun I have had at a race in ages. More on this later.

Many of us can remember the mountain biking heyday with personalites like Shaun Palmer, Missy Giove, Ned Overand. Gravity cycling has quieted down in years past and endurance MTB has taken a new flavour with events like Transrockies. But Cyclocross is a sport for rockstars. I cannot put it any other way. Venues that are spectator friendly and accessible and then throw in a DJ with some thumping tunes, hot chocolate, and a bunch of awesome/rowdy spectators and I dare you to show me a better time. I arrived early enough to catch up with Sandra and take a few laps around the course. Sandra is a seasoned CX expert in my books, she covered the basics and had some excellent tips. She also witnessed my bailout over the barricades and didn't laugh too hard. Those of us that have been racing on the road exlcusively were in for a treat as CX courses seem to love off camber turns, 90 degree bends, loop-de-loopy things and sand pits. Clearly not normal features of our typical race diet in the summer. Did I mention the hills? Short-sharp gut busting climbs. I might still be picking some of the course tape out of my teeth.

But wait, I need to digress on the technical side of CX here. Parts of the course demand that you get off your bike. Unless you're Hans Rey. Chances are you're not so you have to head into the obstacles at breakneck speed, clip out at a full sprint, run and then get back on your bike. See, that's the tricky part, getting back on. The CX experts can do this in the blink of an eye and it involves jumping like superman and catching the saddle on your thigh, clipping in and sprinting for glory. Well, some spectators were in for a treat on the third lap coming out of the sand pits because I missed my remount something fierce and squarely crushed my manhood. Another important skill is the bike carry. Shelly was out to yell and scream for Sandra and the speed theory crew. Needless to say, Shelly was a drill Sargeant in a previous life and from the sidelines she convinced me to carry my bike like a man instead of a girly man. Many thanks for that. Mike Chui and Mike Healy were out hooting and hollering as well. Chui kept me going in the sand pit.

The race itself was a riot. I haven't worried about a hole shot in 5 years and definitely missed it. Not that it mattered, CX races are all about knowing when to hold'em, fold'em and lay 'em down. If you're not in the first group you're not seeing those guys unless they pop. I was happy to chase people down and I think I exacted a wee bit of revenge on Darcy of BiciSport for his beatdown at the HC provincial (Darcy, we are going to tear up velocity in the spring). As well, I managed to pass Kevin of Calgary Cycle (he's a notable XC guy but nearly dislocated his shoulder in a lap one pile up) but he caught me in the last lap. I will say this, it's a workout like nothing else. I haven't hurt that hard for 40 minutes ever. There's no rythym, no steady pain that I am used to in road racing. By the second half of the race I was barely able to get into the big ring at all, I am ashamed. ;-)

Post race, I bumped into Slayer Dan, T-rev, Jenn and the lovely little Jaya. I want to get Dan on a CX bike because I think he would destroy people. After watching T-rev and his blinky lights of doom chase people down I wobbled home and iced down my bruises. What a night.

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