I've never been one for symmetry, but today put a nice cap on the cyclocross season. I started the season with the KissCross Kickoff ride, and today I ended with another KissCross event, the Versluis Snowcross.
Hosted on Nate and Sheri Versluis' Apple Orchards in Grand Rapids, MI, and promoted by Mr. and Mrs. KissCross Rick and Cathy Plite, the Versluis Snowcross has been bringing good folks together for good racin', good food, and good beer for the past 4 or 5 years.
Up at 6am and on the road by 7am, I made it to the race course in plenty of time to get dressed and get in a pre-lap. Nate plowed about 1.5 miles of an undulating, somewhat technical course that snaked around the slumbering apple trees. More important, however, were the parts he DIDN'T plow. He left the 10 feet before, and roughly 20 feet after each barrier unplowed. I tell ya, if I learned anything this season its that I DO NOT like running in snow!!! >:-( >:-( >:-( Otherwise the course was nicely frozen with a light layer of snow in spots. 3 barriers if I recall, plus a pretty nasty uphill that was rideable, but some chose to run it. There was a nice line right down the middle most of the way, get out of that line, however, and you could be in trouble, as I found out on lap one.
We started on the pavement out of Nate and Sheri's driveway, so I was able to start fast and jump on the leader's wheel for a little leadout for the first lap. Into the first downhill I got a little out of the line, and almost paid the price. I'm pretty sure I was squealing like a little girl as I fought to keep the rubber down. Disaster avoided (for now!). My leadout was becoming a little bit of an anchor, so I tried but failed to pass on the run after the Sadistic Snow Runnup (SSR). I tucked in behind for a fast downhill to a sharp, off-camber lefty. As we rounded the corner we were caught by two guys on mountain bikes. Plying their sizable advantage with the fat knobs, they got passed us rather easily on the off-camber, deep section on the back of the course. Shortly after I passed the crosser in front of me as he got bogged down. The final "straight" before the finish was a snow rutted mess. I picked what appeared to be the best line on the right. The snow belied the washboarded terrain below. Bump-bump-bumpity-bump.... the trail goes straight, my wheel goes dead right! :snake: 10 feet off the course into 2 foot deep pow-pow :bug: :red: :-S . Once I'd finished making snow angels, I snowshoed my way back to the course. I pushed to get my momentum back, but got passed back on the uphill. With that lap out of the way, I got my confidence and stuck to my lines. I passed the crosser in front of me again, but got passed by another rider or two, and lord knows where those mountain bikers went.
The race was set for 3 laps. I was tempted to jump in with the "A" race to do 6 laps, but after two laps of icy hell, I was pretty sure that I wouldn't have survived 6. On my third lap I ran into quite a bit of lapped "A" traffic, and some others. One more time up the SSR, I dug deep and passed 4 riders on the run. Back on the solid ground, I dropped the hammer (I've never been so happy to have gears!!) and tried to put some space on my chasers. Not normally sure footed in the snow, I kept my bum off the snow, and once again found myself headed down that final straight to the finish. With a couple guys in hot pursuit, I picked the high line this time and kept my feet turning. Made it through clean, and came across the line Third! :coolsmile: At first I was in shock. I was sure I miscounted and finished too soon. I was only getting warmed up!! DOH! :shut: Shoulda gone with the "A"'s
The best part of KissCross (well, OK, the beer is really the best part) is that you carry a tag with your name on it, count your own laps, and stick your tag on a spike at the end to mark your finish position. Keep It Simple Stupid! A Sixer of Founder's goes to the winner, and other prizes to random finishers determined before the start. Today, 10th place took home a jug of Heed from Hammer Nutrition, and last place got a bottle of Hammer Gel. I love it!
I look forward to the start of 'Cross season next year, but even more I look forward to kicking it off with KissCross!! :cheese: