Tuesday, December 19, 2006

HRS RockLobster Does Nationals




The National Championships of Cyclocross are always memorable for me. I have only made it to a handful, but the racing, comraderie and partying always leave a strong and lasting impression. As far as US racing is concerned, this is the real deal, the big day and everyone knows it. It is a weekend where there is no point in holding back. For all but a few who will go on to races in Europe, this is when you lay it all on the line.

Roger Williams Park in Providence RI is the best course I have ever seen. The conditions for the 2006 edition were superb, maybe a little sloppy early on in the weekend, but perfect during the elite race and just a touch rough on the final day. As far as courses go, this is a super fast one, with only a couple short running sections and one set of double boards. Actually, the track reminded me a lot of some of our own trails, after just the right amount of rain, where you can rail the sticky clay turns and need only dodge an occasional root or rock. But what a contrast to last year which ran the same course and was a technical and slippery challenge as snow melted to mud and conditions changed for the sloppier as the weekend wore on.

I came in to my race knowing it was likely the last of the season before I really try and heal up from my crash in Boulder. I was feeling the best I had in weeks after some chiropractic and figured it was really a matter of whether or not I had enough top speed to do my front row start justice. At the start line I looked at my competition and knew that only a couple of guys would come up from the depths of the field to contest the race and so I would just have to stick close to those around me.
Holding nothing back I launched in to the race and was in third position as we hit the first corner. I kept it pinned and tried to follow every wheel and jump out of every turn. I raced 110%, but I kept slipping back just a bit as the laps wore on. In the end I would battle for 10th place, finishing just over a minute behind the eventual winner. I suppose I should be satisfied with my result, but I must admit that I brought my podium bag with me to the start, hoping at least to match my last years result. So I finished up with a top ten at Nats. and that night I ordered a steak for dinner and had plenty of drinks to wash it down.

But there was plenty of other racing action to witness and I will comment on a few that stand out to me. Certainly Trebon and Compton had stellar and commanding wins. But in the elite race on Saturday and the Strawberry Cup on Sunday, Ben JM was holding nothing back and raced super hard to 7th and 4th respectively. In the masters races, Mark Noble was super solid amongst some heavy competition and won a 3 man sprint for the Title. But certainly best of all was our very own Shelley put down the performance of the weekend in my book. On a course that fit her own strengths wonderfully, she raced from the back rows to finish in the top ten of her first ever major cross race. Now, this result is all the more amazing as she hasn't ever done a UCI race, or a Grand Prix. Shelley overhauled and passed so many racers it was ridiculous. I was watching every bit of it and her expression never changed, if she says she was suffering then so be it, but her ability to control the pain face must be fantastic. I watched her just flying by girls on the run ups and they were all contorted and sweaty and Shelley just left them in her wake. I think a lot of these top girls were not even sure what hit them, and the announcers were just as amazed. You could tell they were reading the start list to find her name as they announced her amazing rise through the field.


Aside from racing performances, the abilities of Ryan Bontrager should be noted as well. Ryan spent his first night in RI putting back a bunch of beer before waking up hungover and tired before his first big day in the National Championship Pits. The weather conditions were very easy on the pit crew but I have no doubt that Ryan would have been up to any task. As it was, he was on hand to make sure all problems were kept at bay and of course it is super pimp to have a pro mechanic standing in the Nationals pit. Ryan also strikes an uncanny resemblance to Braveheart which is key.

Finally, it is super important to thank all our sponsors who have outfitted us with the parts and financial support which could make all this possible. Our little squad has posted some mighty fine results at the local and National level. Your support has helped us to bring Shelley into the scene and I imagine she has the potential to visit the big time of European cyclocross if she choses. Good job one and all, Simon.

3 comments:

swiggman said...

Yo, who said you could kill the Hennesey?

swiggman said...

BRrrrrppp, yeah bossh. I knoww....

Brent Chapman said...

it took me a while to notice the lobster in the picture with Dan...