Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Crossing Over"

(Series Winner)
Modified by me... Congrats Shawn for doing the Davis Bike Club Race Team proud!
(Shawn's report below)
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For those among our masters squad who don't perhaps tee it up until the leaves start coming off and the air holds an early morning chill I wanted to honor and thank them for the strong showing during the cross season just passed. I was regularly joined by my brothers in the orange and blue toeing the start lines in the heat, the rain, the mud, the sand and the biting cold. There was not a race I did in NorCal where there wasn't a DBC kit present, usually several. Clementi was a fixture, Nowicki, Grefath, Roberts and Parks regulars and even those young'uns under 35 like the Staz and Bruno were everywhere I went.

This is my 5th year racing cross. For those that haven't given it a go I highly recommend it. For those that are time challenged to get in those longer training rides that allow you to compete in the summer road races, cross is a time to really use that fitness gained incrementally over the summer. I found quickly this year that the beating I took on the race rides would allow me to become the hammer and not the nail this year during cross, but it wasn't easy. I approached it like I have every year, use the fitness, tune it up with intervals and technique work and let it rip. This year however was different.

The first race in the Sacto Series (shout out to Rich Maile for a great series) was at Del Paso Park. It was warm and sunny and the course a beast with lots of grass, much of it on tall switchback turns that sucked away momentum, mixed with high-speed single/double track. A strong mans course, a big mans course. Funny thing was I won. I was able to hang with the lead break and felt tremendous. I pushed ridiculously big gears through the grass for a guy 142 lbs (dripping wet) and in the end had a margin of safety. Interesting...

Race two was in Vacaville, hot, windy, hilly, dry. I liked the hilly thing, not so much the wind. To make it more interesting I had just jumped off a plane from SoCal where the family watched the Trojans pummel the Ducks. Hit Sac Metro at 10:58, racing at 1:00pm. Race blew apart from the gun as tempo was high and so was the heat. Bless Trudy for being on hand with Tim Roberts and willing to hand up bottles, it made a huge difference the last 20 minutes. The legs revolted from the plane flight and I found myself dropping off on lap two. Then somewhere inside the little voice that too often says "it's too hard back off" instead said " look idiot, you won the first race and you can't just fold, suck it up and go!" and I did, I worked harder than I have in a very long time and pulled myself from 7th to 5th in half a lap and sprinted into fourth with two turns to go. That's how it finished. Still leading...

Race Three was part of the NCNCA cup so fields were large and again the course was tough. Venue was Discovery Park and the course was a combination of grass and hard-pack with a fun little section of gooey mud over concrete (can you say slick) under the bridge just for grins that was tied to some off-camber sections, tough in, tough out. Again this event tied to a weekend away and again it was fly home that morning, only earlier (up at 5:00) so Karch could race the early race, as he too was leading the overall. This event re-made me as a bike-racer. I re-learned the art of suffering and recovery when all systems say "no" instead of "go". The fitness was there as the training had been good, but the body was crumped. I ended up in a chase group and slowly, painfully slowly, fought back to the second chase and on the last lap leap-frogged from 4th to 2nd. I went from immense discomfort to "no chain" on that last lap as that little voice was back telling me "they're hurting, hunt 'em down". I did. Hey, this was fun indeed. Still leading, imagine that...

Race Four was what "cross" is all about, wet, windy, muddy, nasty. Date was December 21, the weekend of all the snow and we rolled off in horizontal rain into the wind and a balmy 42 degrees, ah lovely. The drivetrain immediately howled as Folsom Lake sand was in everything and I prayed for no mechanicals, well at least it wasn't hot! Legs felt wooden at first but opened up nicely and the harder one worked the warmer one was, so let's work. Had a great back and forth battle with two good friends who ironically had turned into my two closest rivals. one rode away, I dropped the other and ended up 3rd. Still leading, one race to go...

The series format allowed one to toss their worst result and also provided double points for the finale. What this meant was that there were three riders I needed to watch and I could give no quarter to any of them. Former DBC mate Todd Marshall (now with Armstrong) worried me most as he was very strong in races three and four and only needed to beat me by two placings. Last event was on January 3rd at Sutters Landing in mid-town along the river. Sun was back but so was the cold, biting cold. Course was a mixture of sandy single-track, gravel packed levy roads, sand beach and a couple good run-ups. Saw Todd pre-race wand wished him luck. He was clearly happy he sun was back as was I and I knew he would try to blow the field up, he didn't diappoint. Start was 100m of double-track, along the river with a 170 degree turn and climb up the levy then a good 500m into the head-wind big-ring hammer-fest along the levy before dropping back down to the river and starting the windy technical back and forth along the river. Field was about 50 total and as predicted Todd lit it up immediately attacking and jumping clear into the 170 turn and up the climb. I was 4th wheel and at the top Todd began to pull away with one other rider while the field imploded into the wind. Soon the chase was down to 4 and the gap at about 10 seconds. Among the top 6 in these two groups were three 45+ and three 35+, not so good for me with Todd up the road. To make matters worse I crashed on the first trip onto the sandy beach. No damage but I was gapped off the chase, crap. At that moment a switch inside just flipped, I was not going to screw this up. There were way too many hours spent at 5:00am and 10:00pm on the computrainer sweating my arse off, too many missed dinners with Bev and the kids training, too many hours away from other things I love to do. I picked up the bike clipped in and was a different rider. I caught the chase on lap three and rode right through them. On lap four Todd was only about five seconds up. I caught him coming out of the single track and rode away before the big run up. By lap six I had 20 seconds, by the finish I was 35 seconds clear of Todd and about 10 seconds back of the 35+ series winner who was the rider that had gone away with Todd on lap one. I won by a large margin and there was absolutely nothing left, it was awesome.

That night with about 150 others I celebrated the series at The Old Soul Bakery in Mid Town Sac and pulled on the overall winners jersey. What made it even more special, I got to watch my son pull one on about 10 minutes before me. I've been doing this for 20 years now and I have to say that is a moment that I will long remember. The win was not just mine, but this teams. All the training rides, race rides and simply the genuine camaraderie in this group makes one a better rider. So for hammering me inside out all summer I thank you one and all. I can't wait until next year...

8 comments:

Paul Robins said...

very nice, Shawn. congratulations to you and Karch!
Paul

Colnago Blue said...

Great report of the series!
Sorry I missed watching you. I won't next year.
CONGRATS!!!

Rod

Lee said...

Congrats Shawn, Karch and all you crossers!

Way to flip that switch Shawn! Awesome report.

Lee

Jason Eiserich said...

Shawn and Karch! You guys are hammerheads! Way to go flying the DBC colors! Congrats to both of you....looking forward to seeing those champs jerseys on you guys soon!

jas

Jason said...

Below is link to Shawn's victory jersey presentation. GREAT SUMMARY OF THE SERIES and BIG KUDOS to Shawn for winning the Masters B 45+ . . . Have fun in the A's next year :)


http://picasaweb.google.com/916cross/2008SeriesWinners#5287539961554907522

FWS said...

Hey Shawn... Congrats on a awesome
season! Cross is tough, and you are just a lot tougher. Looking forward to some good road races this season... Ciao
.
Tell Karch that the DBC Masters are very proud of his season too!

Tom C. said...

Shawn,
Congrats to you and Karch and on your wins. That was a great recap of the season too. I had a blast in my first year of cross and will be back in 2009. It tends to be more of an individual sport than road racing, so it was good to know what you were thinking during the races. I hope more DBCers do this series in 2009, they will love it. One good thing, you and Todd will be in the A's next year!

Connor said...

Shawn--awesome! Congratulations!
Vance