Back home from Kutztown, there was just enough time to fix up the bike, get beer and nachos in the belly, and get the kit washed for another race.
Another 4:30am alarm, another Brooklyn to Jersey City drive to fetch the team mates, and it’s off to Chester, NJ for round two.
Marty is a hilly, off-camber shitshow. Three highest gear climbs, a few off-camber downhills, with twists and turns through non-stop wonky madness.
The other Kruis lads were racing at 8:30am and we got there in plenty of time to ride around. Two practice runs in and I was considering just phoning it in and taking a nap in the car, but I stuck around to offer pit bike, cheer, try to think up relevant banter. One of the gang mechanicaled out, but another suck in there with a decent position, making a comeback after a few shit races.
Eventually it was my turn, and I realised I was already hot as hell sat in my camping chair, with no time to change. Tits.
Looking at the weather forecast for the morning, we had all decided skinsuit. The other two lads were racing at 8:30 where it was a fresher 8🇬🇧, and it was only expected to warm to 14🇬🇧 by my race at 9:30. It somehow got to 21🇬🇧, which is basically heat-stroke territory for my people.
The cat 5 race got off to a smooth start (especially compared to the Kutztown 4/5 mashup) and it all was good. Half a lap in I was parched, missing my water bottle for no good reason. With no features needing me to shoulder the bike, I should have slapped my cage on, and that was a costly mistake.
The masters were just in front of us so it was hard to work out where the front of the race was. I knew Tun and a few of the other lads, so paced with them a little. By the end of the second climb (The Big One) I was past the folks I knew, and into the masters field. A bit confused, I just kept passing people, dry mouthed, breathing like a clogged vacuum cleaner.
A lovely fella named Dan was sneaking around on my back wheel, and we soon figured out we were 2nd and 3rd in the field. He sounded just fine and I was clearly dying, but I kept him behind me. I used a combination of sneaky tactics, and slightly smoother off-camber cornering (get that leg out!) to hold him off for two laps.
Occasional gapping on the corners didn’t help enough and he constantly reeled me back in, until I made a daft mistake on the 4th lap on the giant downhill straight. I got around a fellow in another field who politely gave me space, but I screwed up the turn and nearly went in a bush right before the hill. I cracked, swore, grumbled, and wobbled up the hill. That’s where Dan got most of his finishing 25s lead on me, and from there I just tried to mash through to the end of lap 5 so I could find water and nap.
The ideal strategy was pointed out: I should have let him pass and let him pace. We had a minute before and after us, so my consistent effort was not helping anything, only hurting me. It was a battle for 2 or 3 and nothing we did would have got us to first, so I should have let him knacker out, then try to jump him closer to the end.
A good idea for next time, but hopefully I’ll never be in that full-heat-no-water scenario again!
One of the masters summed it up perfectly on the lap 5 descent:
Hey buddy, can you spit in my mouth?!
I nearly said:
Only if you send it back after!
But I was too thirsty to talk…
Finishing third was very fucking cool. My first time on the podium was fantastic, even if it was a wobbly wooden box against a van in a parking lot, for a beginner-level amateur race in a small-town park.
I realised in the car heading home that I had a cold, and my nose would not quit. That combined with a triple broken nose (misspent youth) certainly explains this breathing issue. Sprays and a nasal dilator don’t do enough, I need to get the surgery.
I was lucky to get on the podium, and it was definitely thanks to the KruisCX guys. Without their encouraging cheers and advice I’d have crawled off the course on lap 3 or 4!