Written by Mike Benson Thursday, 12 January 2017 00:00
Centered in the picturesque Goddard Park in Warwick, RI, this race represents so much to the sport of cyclocross in New England. As part of the Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series, many racers are coming here to compete for the final points in the series and to hopefully gain the series championship jersey. For those that are not competing for a series championship, many are just here for the opportunity to race in one of New England’s classic race courses. The two days of racing offers huge racing fields (100+ racers per category), cambers, beach sand, punchy hills, roots, wooded and paved sections, and great facilities.
Goddard Memorial State park is absolutely massive. It has everything from equestrian stables and horse trails to golf courses, picnic tables, and biking trails. If you haven’t been here before, it represents RI’s largest and most visited park. This race is centered along the corner of the park that abuts the salty marshes of Narragansett Bay. When you arrive at the park, look to park in a large field adjacent to heated bathroom facilities. All of the team tent areas start here and follow the road that leads back into the center of the race course. The Pit area required you to travel back into the center of the park with your spare bike or wheelset. The center of the course offered scrumptious food trucks and a heated registration building that was great for catching up with friends and warming my frozen toes and fingers. As the day wore on, there were also many roaring fire pits that kept spectators warm while cheering on friends and family. The venue is great for seeing many of the difficult turns on the course.
The start line and opening parade route, which was right near the parking and team tent areas, is only used for the start of race. This enables the racers to test out and warm up on starts at the course without hindering the other racers once the race has started. The race course then heads into a wooded section that zigged and zagged around large trees. This meant negotiating large roots that had you guessing what tire pressure would be good for the day. The ground was relatively firm except for a few areas towards the ocean that were sandy and required focus so as not to wash out on corners. The course had a number of relatively steep sections that had you out of the saddle and laying down the watts to get to the top of each hill. There were also many areas where you were riding on off-camber sections that if you went too fast, you were going to end up on your side but if you went too slow, you were losing places. The big obstacle of NBX is the sand. Both days offered different looks. Day 1 had you off your bike and running and running and running for quite a ways before getting to some stairs and remounting for a long sprint back towards the woods. Day 2 was a much shorter piece of sand that was actually rideable but it was quicker for me to dismount about half way and run to the top of the hill.
For both races, I would be racing with the Category 3 men’s group. On day 1, I nearly missed a crash at the first corner on the opening parade route. After the mayhem, I hit the hammer and battled with a number of great racers. Many of the drops on the course were areas where you could gain ground by not breaking and just riding smooth and on the edge of falling. As I settled in, I found myself racing with 2-3 familiar faces. One of the racers beat me at day 1 of KMC for a podium and I really wanted to beat him. As we neared the half way point of the race, I found myself right behind him and hit the gas to pass him at a point that I thought would be too tough for him to counter. I pushed super hard from there on out and didn’t look back. I tried my best and captured 44/85 beating my nemesis.
Day 2 started similarly to day 1 with temps in the high 20’s and low 30’s. The course went in the opposite direction which always offers different hazards from ruts developed from the previous day. When the whistle blew, I hit the gas and sped out from the start line and instantly hit a pile up. When trying to avoid the crash, I veered right and was hit from behind (my worst nightmare). I then tried to get up off the ground to get moving again and was again whacked in the back of the head (so hard that it dented my helmet). When I finally stood up and hopped back on my bike, I was in last place and shaking my head wondering whether I had a concussion. I peddled on and decided that it was now or never to catch to back end of the group. As I gained ground, I started to feel better and decided that the only thing I had to work on for the day was fighting through the field as much as possible to gain spots. After 4 laps, I had reached a point in the race where the people I were racing were very good and it became tougher to tougher to pass. I raced a guy at the end that I thought I could tail until the final sprint and then beat him at the finish. Boy was I wrong here. I should have passed him sooner because I couldn’t even gain his rear wheel at the downhill sprint to the finish. I finished 46/65 which made me happy given my starting circumstances.
NBX is an awesome event. If you haven’t registered and raced here, I would strongly recommend making the trek. My family stayed at a nearby Residence Inn for the weekend. There are many hotels nearby that offer options for everyone. See you here next year.
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