Written by Michael Benson Friday, 13 October 2017 00:00
Normally I would be super excited to finally get to this weekend but this year my schedule left me with limited options to race in CT. Originally our family plan was to have me bring our camper down on Thursday and get it set up for the weekend, but over the course of the last week, both of my children’s coaches (football and cheer) made a call that would change our weekend plans (i.e. Practices Friday night were to be mandatory). I contacted KMC and asked if I could cancel my camping reservation and change my registration fees for my Saturday race to a donation to the Race CF charity. They obliged which I really appreciated. Now we would be coming only for the day on Friday to race the Junior 13-15 race and the Category 3/4 race later in the day.
When we arrived, I noticed a stark difference in how they managed things from the previous year. For one, the camping area surrounded the course rather than being on the far end of the campus in the previous year. This really bummed me out because it would have been really fun being close to the action over the weekend. Parking for the event was closer as well. The only issue was the race crossing when we arrived. The main pedestrian crossing from the parking area to the main part of the vendor and registration area required that people cross a high speed two-way section of the course. This was treacherous and should have been planned better (i.e. a pedestrian bridge of sorts or a double fly over would do the trick).
My son Matt and I quickly registered and hit the course for some laps to recon how things were laid out this year. The start of the race was a bit confusing at first until we watched the first race and realized that the entire turn 3 and 4 of the race track were used as a parade route to begin the race. From there, racers were ushered through some quick chicanes and then towards the back of the course for the big run-up. This run-up was a dust cloud every time up it while racing. It also tested everyone’s fitness, but if you made it to the top first and remounted quickly you could also be the first to a series of loose, steep, and fast side hill cambers. This proved to be a part of the course that fearless and technical riders could extend leads. This part of the course is really the big feature on the course for KMC in that it provides the most elevation change on the track. From here, riders were funneled back towards the infield of the track towards a fly over and then back out around the back of turns 1 and 2 of the main car race track in the woods/grass areas. Riders were met with some more hills, cambers, and tight turns but for the most part, it was a power course.
My son Matt was first up in his race. He did well during practice on the big hill but, I wasn’t sure how his experience level as a 12-year-old would translate to the technical sections. When the whistle blew everyone sprinted around the car race track towards the infield grass section. Matt found himself at the back of a very experienced group headed towards the hill. I was racing around on my cross bike trying to motivate him to pedal, pedal, pedal. I waited for him on the first big camber. With my video camera on, I watched him race past and then hit the first steep drop to the pavement and boom he went down, bike over his head. To my surprise he quickly got up and addressed his chain that was dropped and shouldered his bike for the next ride-up that riders needed quite a bit of speed to ascend by pedal power. Only later did I realize that he bent his derailleur hanger on that fall and wasn’t able to shift the rest of the race. That didn’t stop Matt from pedaling on and passing kids along the way to a respectable finish. After the race I reminded him that he could have used his big front chainring to add gears and speed. Lessons learned.
For my race, I looked around to see mostly 20 and 30 year old Cat 3 racers at the start. As we cornered along the last corner of the opening parade route, it was like a crit but rather than using my speed to pass 10 guys I sat in and followed the group I was with. This put me back at the very beginning. Looking back, I feel like this was one of my worst starts in 10 races. Not only was I not aggressive, I was tentative. Moving forward, I pushed hard towards the run-up which was now a cloud of dust. I coughed for 2 days after this race. You know a race is dusty when your teeth are black after the race. The first camber was a mess. As I hit the first steep descent, the guy in front of me crashed. With no other option I rode over his wheel and somehow held it together when I hit the pavement lot. Later in the race, I got better and better at this section until I felt like I was floating on the ruts and dust and not losing speed. I was having fun and was getting faster and faster. I started passing people and went from the bottom 1/3 of the race to finish 15/34. Every race teaches you more and more. This race taught me to take more chances at the beginning of the race if I want to compete at the head of the race. My Kona Major Jake was set up perfectly. I rode on a tubeless Carver carbon 38 wheelset with Vittoria Terrenno Dry tires. When the race was over, I grabbed a bag full of cliff bars, chain lube, and other goodies before we needed to hustle home for the mandatory Friday night practice.
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