Monica’s Muddy Adventure

November 19, 2008 · Print This Article

By Monica Tory
Kalamazoo, Michigan

mud-kel Hallowe’en got started a little early (10/25 & 10/26) at the Ontario Cycling Association’s annual Hallowe’en Cross cyclocross stage race. With a serious addiction to cyclocross, and a prize for the best costume from every start in stage one, I didn’t need much convincing to make the cross-border (to Canada) drive to Kelso Conservation Area to try this event. Add in free, comfy accommodations at my in-laws home a short drive from the race site & there was no way I would say no to this one! So, I dug up a flair-iriffic costume, & my husband and I made the trip.

Stage 1: “Oink”

When I awoke in the night to the sound of strong winds, and a steady downpour, I started to get a little worried. I checked the temperature …. A mere 6oC out there. Yikes. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for classic cyclocross conditions. Now, in my view, 6oC is certainly rideable, probably actually enjoyable. But, add in the wind and a downpour, and that sounds downright awful. Bone chilling. Hmm. I fell back to sleep, grateful to be in a warm toasty bed, and awoke a few hours later, relieved to see that although the temperature and wind were unchanged, the rain had slowed to a drizzle. The weather continued to tease through the morning, but by race time the rain had stopped, the wind had died down, and the sun was making (very welcome) brief appearances.

Arriving at the race site, we found a well-organized race, friendly volunteers and competitors, and a pretty much perfect cyclocross course. Even without the overnight rain, the course had all of the ‘cross features you could ask for. A grass start into a sweeping right turn, sharp left over some tricky tree roots, through a serpentine section which featured a double barrier. Following the barrier, a nice little straightaway gave you some momentum to get through the upcoming … MUD. Did I say mud? Deep mud. Very deep. Pigs would have loved this back section of the course.

Earlier, while watching the previous race, I had assumed that riders were taking a very long time to get through that section because there was a long loop back there. Not so! The loop back there was a reasonable distance….it was just an absolute sty. After churning through the d-e-e-p, slippery mud, laughing at myself because I couldn’t figure out where “the line” was through those sections, and laughing because a spectator assured me there wasn’t a line, the course returned to somewhat firmer ground. Up a short steep hill (rideable for many people, but not for me), run down (for me…most people remounted at the top), around a bend & into a much longer, more gradual climb. This climb was a perfect ‘cross climb . It might have been rideable under dry conditions. But with the recent rain, everyone treated this as a WALK-UP. Walk-up? Yes. If you tried to run, your feet slid out from under you! At the top of the hill there was more flat stuff, some very nice (and very difficult) off camber hairpins, and then a ripping pavement descent.

Don’t you think that’s perfect? Well, that’s the course. Now, what about the actual race? I was happy to see there were lots more women than we have at typical races in Michigan. I got a reasonable start, ending up somewhere in the middle. The riders strung out quickly, and I lost track of how many were in front or behind me. Turns out that didn’t matter so much. By the final laps (5? 6? something like that), riders were taking extended breaks to clear the leaves and mud from their bikes, and many gave up altogether. In it’s second muddy race, my bike proved it’s worth ! No mechanical issues at all, despite the extreme mud. I finished tired & happy, placing 2nd in the women’s masters race. Happy turned to happier when I saw the prize: a little $, some schwag from Speed River Cycling, and a lovely 6pack from race sponsor Wellington County Brewery.

Stage 2: So many titles to choose from! “So that’s how you steer with your body” or “An expensive day out” or “4 laps down?”

Oh, my. Did I say I was happy about no mechanical issues? That didn’t last long. The course for day 2 was completely different, but just as awesome as day 1. No mud, but plenty of grass, hills, a TRUE run up, and …. a tough beach run/ride. I was determined to get a better start … and did. But the joy didn’t last long. Carefully steering around a huge stick on the course, about 1 minute after the start, the rider beside me did not avoid the stick. It jammed sidewise into my chainrings (and bent them!), and I ground to a quick halt! Some kind spectators helped me remove it, and get the chain back on, and I was chasing back, but…my chain fell off. Again. And again. Eventually, it got sucked in so bad that it was a figure 8 & neither I nor the kind spectators could make it right, so I ran through the rest of that lap & then abandoned :( BUT, my husband was still racing, so I stood by the side and cheered him on.

Watching from afar, I was amazed at how Jonathan took a descent/corner combo leading into the sandpit. At that moment I could REALLY see how you steer with your body. It was amazing! As Jonathan ran through the sand pit, I was still pondering the leaning phenomenon, trying to figure out how to start doing that myself to improve my cornering. Off in my daze there, Jonathan ran up to me and said, “hey, you aren’t racing! Can I have your bike?” And I said, “Sure, but what’s wrong with yours?” Well, that should have been obvious. That awesome lean and body steering was due to …. NO SADDLE. My bike was even more useless, so Jonathan continued on, riding the entire race sans saddle & earning the (well-deserved) respect of all of the spectators! So, day 2 wasn’t a huge success … no podeedums, no beer prizes, and an expensive day out. BUT, it was still awesome & I would recommend the Kelso ‘cross races to everyone !!!

Monica Tory
Stage 1 – 2nd, Masters Women
Stage 2 – 8th, Masters Women
GC – 3rd, Masters Women

See the full results!

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