Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I started racing four-cross (4X) again this year. It's kinda like snowboard cross (link goes to X-Games snowboardcross finals 2008), but not nearly as insane. Maybe.
After racing 4X at the Fontana Winter Series on a borrowed cross-country bike (somewhat like trying to shoot the rapids in a dinghy), I decided to get a dedicated 4X bike. I found a Yeti DJ for sale on a bike forum, which arrived at the house last Thursday, three days before the Golden State Series race at Fontana. Thanks to my mechanic Steve who dropped everything he was doing to cater to my racer-girl whims by checking out the bike and making a few modifications, the Yeti was ready to roll in 24 hours.
Saturday morning, Mom and Jane and I head north to Fontana. Looking at the field of my competitors, I know this will be a good race. All these girls are strong riders.
From left to right, there's Robin who races BMX and is a good gate starter, next in the pink helmet is Mary who rides like a boy and scares me, then there's me in the white, then Nancy who rides and trains all the time and often comes out ahead at these races. Wow. So... I just don't want to embarrass myself. I plan my race strategy, which is essentially: Beat them all out of the gate, then beat them all to the first berm, then beat them all to the first straight-away, etc. You get the idea. There are ideal positions on the course that you shoot for, and the rider out front has the advantage of taking that line.
I take a few runs down the course. Although I haven't ridden this bike before today, I feel really good on it, comfortable on the course and comfortable in the gate. Since there are 4 of us, there will be two motos (heats), both worth points, with the 2nd moto breaking any ties.
We line up in the gate, Robin and I are pretty even out of the gate, I'm the first one to the first turn by a nose, and then the first one down the straight-away, having the advantage of the line I want through the berm. Adrenaline is pumping and I am giving it all I have. I have no idea where the other girls are, but they are not in my peripheral vision. I charge ahead.
As we come through the last straight-away at the bottom of the hill, Mary is on my inside as we enter the turn. Then two things happen: I hit my brake, knowing my skill won't let me corner at that speed, just as Mary on my inside expects to occupy the space I should have just vacated had I not hit my brake. Mary clips my rear tire and the two of us go down in a heap of bikes and dust. Number three girl is right on us and gets caught in the tangle as number four rides right past to take first in that heat. None of us are hurt; we scramble back up as fast as we can, crossing the finish line. I take third in the first moto. Disappointing, but that's racing. It's never over till it's over.
We all push our bikes to the top of the hill for the final run, only this time things have changed for me. I had started the first run as a focused hard-charger with an edge. Now I am just a fraction unsure, scrutinizing my semi-slick fast-rolling tires for the first time and knowing I don't trust them leaning in fast corners. Thoughts of wiping out cross my mind. That's all it takes to sink a rider. Not that I hold back, but I am no longer fearless; I've lost my edge. Thinking about this after the race, I realize that rather than making the other girls fight to take away the line I've chosen, I mentally yielded. This, of course, cost me the race. Trailing the other girls by the time we enter the last straight-away, I come in fourth.
In my post-race evaluation, I am pleased with my efforts in the first moto, and re-learned some important lessons in the second. I'll swap out my tires, work on my sprints and cornering, learn to trust the bike and myself, and get those girls next time. Grrrrr.
Epilogue: We left Fontana as soon as the women's awards were called, so that I could get back in time to lead the church choir, the director being away. In a frantic attempt to pitch tone 4, I hit my thumb with the tuning fork in such a way that I was not sure if I'd cracked the bone. By the end of the service, it was starting to turn red, and within a day it was swollen and purple. Thankfully not broken, just badly bruised.
I am the only person I know who can put on body armor and a full-face helmet, crash in a race, emerge without a scratch, then get injured in church choir.
Special thanks to: Steve K my mechanic, Mom and Jane for cheering, Donnie Jackson and family for a great race series, and my husband Steve for the new bike, and photographers Mike Lord at six3events.com and Andy at bluefirepictures.com.