Melanie and I looked at the weather forecast and the promise of rain was all it took to convince us to get up early and drive to Santa Rosa for their 1st race of 5 in their series. That combined with the fact that the promoters are great people doing a lot in their community for bicycle advocacy, and always provide a good time. This race was no exception, with the Sonoma County Trails Commision on hand selling beer, and a live band present for our entertainment.
We arrived just after 8 o’clock and took a little walk around the course with Allison Baumhefner. There were a large number of tweakers hanging out in the park, who were somewhat confused by it all. One guy was eventually arrested, after trying to pick a fight, letting his dog run around the course, and making fun of the fit cyclists, “look at me, I’m a cyclist, I’m so fit” I made a mental note to watch out for dog poo. The promoters really made the most of this tiny park. There was an open grassy area covered in yellow tape marking all the zigzags, switch backs and corners to add some distance to the lap. They used some old paved pathways, and some trails that went along the creek to include a little variety. There was a small rooty run up, a large sandpit behind the swing sets, and a pile of woodchips that reminded me of a DFL course, along with a couple sets of super high barriers to make it hard. The rain added a little extra challenge making some corners nice and slippery, but it wasn’t enough to create the desired mud bath. We finished making our mental notes, and went back to the car to get changed and ride a lap.
I did a little warm up and chose my lines, the sections through the grass were really slow with all the twists and turns, the paved sections were fast, and there was little downhill into a right hand turn followed by a short steep slippery uphill that people were having trouble with. I decided to give it a try, and realized that if you went into it with enough speed you could clear it, but if someone in front of you stalled out, you would lose traction and have to get off and run. It could be one of those places to lose or make up time. I also noticed that the rest of the tweakers had positioned themselves on the backside of the course, and had quickly turned into typical cyclocross fans…Hecklers! They weren't bummed about their friend being arrested they "never liked that guy anyway".
We lined up for the start and there were about 7 Women in the A’s race, a small field but not bad for a low-key race like this. I managed to get the hole shot, and was wondering how this was possible, I shouldn’t be in the front. I stayed there for a lap and then slowed down a little bit, out of fear of blowing up and Barb Howe came around and passed me on the barriers. I figured I should stay with Barb as long as I could. I could hear Allison right behind me. We passed through the Tweaked Heckler section to find a guy standing still in the middle of the road, and a dog riding a skateboard, we yelled at them, just hoping they would stay where they were, kept our speed and went around them both, wishing for the best for those behind us, it was interesting to say the least. We stayed in this order for another lap until I tripped and fell on my face on the short rooty run up! Allison came around me and stepped on the gas, and she and Barb made pretty decent gap on me. At that point I decided not to let anyone else pass me, I got up, remounted, and just tried to keep it nice and steady from there. I could hear that Sarah Bamberger (on her Mountain bike nonetheless) and Sarah Piccolo were close behind. I held them off just enough through the next couple laps. It became a bit of a challenge to pass some of the lapped riders at this point, especially through the twisty turny grassy bits. It was the short steep up hill that proved to be a turning point. Sarah B and myself managed to ride it and Sarah P had to run, and we managed to put a little gap on her there. I was feeling pretty good again, after my little spill, and bruised ego and decided I could go a little faster on my last lap. I distanced myself from Sarah B, and made up some time on Allison and Barb. I came in 3rd place, which is a great result for me. I reminded myself that along with fitness the key to Cyclocross is staying on your bike!!