Sucker Brook Cross (Auburn, NH) has a special place in my ‘cross loving heart – it was the site of my very first race (2009 41st place.) The race is a super fast grass crit with some challenging features. A perfect race for a first timer – or for someone, like me, who needs a fast/power course to hide their poor handling.
Shane and I got to the race cross-early (in other words, arriving at the event 4x our race length before the start), reg’d and got out on course. The organizers kept much of the ’09 edition course features and decided to make the “back-half” of the course more challenging. This included making the sand pit much less rideable (adding a 180 turn) and featuring a small log followed by some soft dirt. Conditions were dry and corners were ready to be railed!
We started milling around the start at 7:30 for our 9:00am start. Michael Brier (Michael Brier Does Your Taxes Inc.) was the first to toe the line (with some 34mm Dugast tubies on some hot deep carbon rims, natch.) This was followed by a stampede of riders trying to get a front row spot. Shane and I “won” the race to the race with Nick (Newbury Comics) on my right. An official came over to inform us that A) our race didn’t start for another six hours and B) we would be staging by number. A few riders gave up their choice spot to go warm-up (?) a little more. The rest of us stayed put and did a little analysis of our race numbers (hmmm, Buker – 66, Quigley – 137. Alphabetical?) See, Sucker Brook is a race where a good start is 90% of the race (turning is 20%, watts are 50% and ability to ride sand is 72%.) Last year, I spent most of the first lap off my bike waiting for bottlenecks to clear. If there is one thing I’m good at in cross (it really is only one thing, the rest not so much), it is starts. (At Quad I was a little too good; led the first lap and blew up.) OK, official returns and there will be no staging. In the shuffle, ThreshCam Dan was able to secure a front row spot on my left. Tucker settled in second row and was ready to do some damage in his first race. Instructions, thanking of sponsors, whistle, got my foot in the pedal on the first try and now we are racing!
Hitting turn one, a Planet Bike rider was going HARD for the hole shot prime. I sat nicely, second wheel and tried not to go (Quad) nuts. We hit the first bottleneck and I could feel riders slowing to a crawl and smiled. An S-turn series loops the course back on itself and for the first time I can see how both Dan and Shane got awesome starts! On the grass straightaway, I shift into an easier gear and start to spin. The Planet Bike rider pulls away, but I’m not really concerned. We approach the left hand off-camber turn which scared the CRAP out of me last year. Being all cross-experienced, I was able to fly through it and dismount for the stairs.
Up the stairs and a strong masters rider (Blue Steel?) goes by me huffing and puffing. I continue my conservative racing and let him go. After the barriers and the fire road, Billy “I turned into a rocketship this offseason” Campbell (Newbury Comics) attacks right before the sandy left hand turn. Instead of responding, I just think “man, that was a good idea – get to the log before everyone else.” Earlier, Shane and I talked about the log and whether to ride it or get off the bike. It all came down to the approach and if you were coming in three across. Now here are we are on lap one and I’m coming in three across to this log. Expecting something spectacular, I dismount and prepare to run. Sure enough, a rider goes down, decides he needs the entire trail for his yard sale, falls again when remounting on the soft dirt and then eats it on the off camber turn. In my most ‘cross supportive voice I give the guy a “relax, take your time,” only to see a group getting away up the trail.
As we approach the sand pit, Shane passes me on the left and is all “LETS DO THIS!” By “DO THIS” it seems he meant slamming a skinsuit full of crossresults.com points onto his top tube. I dismount and make a sad attempt at running in sand. Billy seriously gaps us coming out of the pit. Shane quickly recovered and flew by me while I was struggling to figure out exactly where I left my pedal.
The transition from dirt to tarmac included a nice sharp lip. I slammed it hard enough to wonder if my tire would still have air by the time I reached the next turn. Still inflated, I tried to get myself back in the game and went after the group of four up the road. (This lip claimed the tubes of at least five different riders. Mr. Campbell being one of them – who still managed a top-15 despite having to pit. ThreshCam Dan gave up his excellent start to grab a neutral wheel after suffering the same fate. Dude still finished 44th!!!)
I spent the rest of the race trying to pull back the group in front of me. On lap three I suffered a bad bobble when I attempted to attack a hill in my 36×25 (slack please, this is my third race with more than one gear!). At this point, a dude on a MTB (who ended up 3rd) and a Bikes Not Bombs rider (who ended up 2nd) took advantage and left me behind. My race moved into “limit the losses” mode and I was just trying to ride clean/fast. On the third lap I had a great view of Shane chasing the MTBer for second wheel. Shane was able to crush it for 4th on the day! Later he said, “hearing Dick Ring announce your cat 4 sprint for 4th like its the freaking tour is so totally awesome.” I came in, very satisfied, with 12th (best proportional finish to date!) Dan, 44th with a trip to pit. Tucker had a strong race to pop his ‘cross cherry and was clearly doing it right (winning a sprint finish, looking like he was going to die, totally covered in dust). It is so exciting to see Dan and Tucker so ready to get out there and tear the legs off some more cyclocross!
Dan provided this excellent ThreshCam video of laps 1 and 4 of the race. Check out how many dudes he passes on the final lap!