Jingle Cross Odyssey PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Curry   
Tuesday, 15 December 2009 21:07
Driving over a thousand miles to race your bike on some stellar high Colorado singletrack, or perhaps on the scenic paved roads of Oregon is one thing.  But traveling that far to ride around in mud, grass, and horse corrals on the outskirts of a town in central Iowa in late November is certainly questionable behavior.  Add to that fact both Lisa and I were hampered with full fledged head colds and it becomes hard to ignore the small voice in your mind that says something like, "What are you doing?  How about staying home and watching some football, or maybe get out on skis and stop resisting the fact that winter has arrived in Bozeman."  It's a voice that constantly nags me to get real and or grow up.  It wants me to be focusing on things like interest rates, tax credits, investments, and fast cycle time product development.  But my mind and free time always take me to power meters, training plans, carbon wheels, and Dugast Rhinos.  So I did my best to ignore the voice and aided by a big tailwind we cruised east across the great plains.

Thankfully, we were also going to visit family in Omaha over Thanksgiving, so even if we didn't get to race, the trip would still be worthwhile.  We had a great Thanksgiving, and Lisa's health was improving, although mine was deteriorating as I used up a tree's worth of kleenex over a 2 day period.  By midday Friday as we made the drive to Iowa City, I had ruled out the prospect of racing.  We arrived at the venue and I began helping Lisa prepare for her race.  The setting was a typical county fairgrounds with buildings, grass, and mud.  Mt Krummpet dominated the immediate background.  While not much of a "mountain" by Montana standards, this steep and muddy hill provided a good 100 feet of elevation gain over the surroundings.  The promoters made good use of Krummpet each day, ensuring at least one brutal climb and treacherous descent per lap.  Friday night's descent was especially heineous.  The course switchbacked down the greasy face of the hill creating a serious of severe off camber traverses alternating with near vertical switchbacks.  Lisa would later comment that it was the sketchiest thing she's ever ridden in ANY race, not just 'cross.  Lisa got a good start and settled into the top 10.  The climb up Krummpet became a 90 second long run up due to unrideable mud.  This seemed to hurt Lisa the most, as she lost a few positions while running.  She held on to 9th place, though, and earned her first UCI points.

The next day was gorgeous, warm, and sunny.  I did a couple of laps on the course and decided to try to race.  While I still was feeling a bit crummy, and had a nasty cough, I was much improved from the previous day.  The sun did little to dry out the peanut butter mud, and people's bikes were quickly becoming non-functional.  I set up my trainer by the pit so I could help Lisa if needed and still warm up.  Lisa's race played out similar to the day before.  She wasn't quite 100%, hacking and coughing along the way, but she got another 9th place and 2 more points.  Registering late didn't help my start position, and I lined up at the back of 40 some guys.  I was in good company though, lining up right behind Ned Overend.  I wasn't going anywhere through the first couple of tight turns.  But then the course opened up to a long grass straight that had one established line.  I took the bumpy grass alternate line and passed about 15 guys in one swoop.  I hung on for the first lap and found myself around 15th place.  I noticed after a few minutes that my breathing was becoming more and more raspy and ragged, and not in the typical 'cross sense.  When I hit the run up on lap 2 it really hit me and I was gasping and wheezing trying to get in the air I needed.  Near the top I was getting dizzy and my progress slowed to a crawl.  People began passing me in droves.  I used the descent to recover but when I started going again my lungs were alarmingly tight.  Next time through the pits I pulled over and stumbled into the grass.  After a few minutes of wheezing and a few shots of my Asthma inhaler I was feeling a bit better.  Frustrated, disappointed, and ashamed, I watched the race continue on without me.  I sucks to quit, especially after driving so far, but I think it was the right thing to do.

Sunday was colder and windy.  While somewhat miserable, the weather did a nice job of drying out much of the course.  I like racing in the mud, but without another pit person it is a hassle to do bike swaps, and just keeping the bikes clean and functional is a headache.  I felt about the same as yesterday, but Lisa was having more coughing and lung problems.  With 4 UCI points already earned, she debated even starting up until about 30 minutes before the race, but ultimatley decided to give it a go.
Using the minivan as a windblock, I warmed up on the trainer with a good view of the course, including the gnarly switchbacking off-camber descent off of Mt. Krummpet.  Lisa got a great start, but soon faded back into the group.  She was limping along, but halfway through the race she had firm control of 10th place, and a single precious UCI point.  The highlight for me was watching her descend Mt. Krummpet, especially on the first lap where she passed 4 people there.  She was hands down the fastest elite woman down the descent.

I decided that I needed to ride conservatively and not start too hard.  The goal of a top ten was no longer in my head.  I just wanted to finish the race.  I lined up at the back again.  I picked up a few places right at the start and then sucked wheels.  Following the barriers was a 180 degree turn up onto a sidehill.  The turn was steep and difficult to ride.  Coming into it in traffic the conservative thing would be to run, which most people did.  But I gambled and took the outside line and rode it, passing a bunch of people in the process.  I worked my way through another group and found myself staring at a 50m gap to the next group.  I recognized that it was the main chase group including Jake Wells, Troy Wells, Marko Lalonde, Brian Matter, and others.  They were tantalizingly close, and I was sitting just outside the top ten.  But I was near my limit and didn't have the power to bridge, so they faded into the distance.  Going into the second and third laps I began battling with fast people coming up from behind who didn't get quite the start I did.  I was riding the   descent well, but one racer made a very assertive move and passed me on the inside of one of the switchbacks.  It was Ned Overend himself, and he showed me what was up!  Back on the flats I bridged up to the wheel of another guy who was on Ned's wheel.  Ned dropped the hammer on the long headwind straightaway and I could feel myself starting to crack.  We hit a little rise and I popped.  Ned looks tiny in person, but he still packs a whollop.  For the rest of the race the hecklers on Mt. Krummpet were careful to remind us we were getting beaten by a member of the AARP.  On the closing laps I had a handful of battles, some won and some lost.  I ended up 14th on the day.  While not the result I had hoped for in Iowa, I was glad just to be able to finish the race and ride strong.
Until next year Iowa...