Sunday, February 27, 2011

Southern Cross Race Report

Yeah, I said I would write this Monday but the dishes are washed and pizza devoured so down the rabbit hole we go.

Sometimes a race weekend just goes dandy and this was one of those. Friday afternoon saw my last two patients reschedule appointments so I headed on home for a goodbye to Melissa and to throw all my stuff in the car. Picked up Alan B at Homewood Cycles and headed out to the 20 person cabin Brandon had hooked up in Dahlonega. I think we had 19 people from Birmingham, all of which finished strong. 5 of us from the Bici Coop team were along to represent.

The cabin was huge, and awesome, aaaaand built for 18 people to sleep instead of 20. No prob, I've slept worse places than a leather couch. The cabin was home to a pool table, multiple flat screens, and the most annoying damn alarm I have ever heard. BEEP BEEP BEEP every two and a half minutes. Both nights. It never stopped. I could never locate where it was coming from.

Way cooler than the alarm were the coyotes that came to visit our backyard around 5 every morning.

Saturday morning brought an early wake up call and a healthy dose of dark coffee and some oatmeal. We got out to the chilly race start at Monteluce Winery nice and early to pin on some freshly crinkled numbers. The prereg list for the Singlespeed cat looked strong including Kelly Klett and old fast men like Lee Neal and Rich Dillen. There were some other fellas who I had never heard of.

I set very low goals for this race. They all seemed easily attainable so I was stoked.

1. Have fun
2. Finish in 5 hours
3. Don't crash in a 40mph gravel turn

Goal number 4 should have been get to the freakin' start line on time. Lee and I came spinning over about 5 minutes past 10AM during the sponsor call outs. I was now about 175 deep with a sketchy cross course in front of me. Nothing to do but smile and go on about my race.

The 54 mile course had around 6500 feet of climbing but we first had to make it through a nasty run up and some off camber turns through the winery. I was not having a good time making my way through the field and we soon got to about 6 miles of pavement where I did my best to latch on to Alan and Zach. I chose a 32/17 for the race which was decent on the climbs and hell on the roads. Spinning like a crack addled hamster quickly became a theme of the race as I tucked in behind a fast moving paceline before getting blown of the back as the pace ramped up.

The first big nine mile climb was a beautiful sight as we hit gravel and I began to make some time up finally. I began passing some folks and my legs were feeling solid. I noticed Kelly off to my side and we chatted for a minute before he fell back. I knew this was not the last I would see of him. The climb gradually turned skyward and I passed the eventual women's race winner who mentioned Dicky was about 30 seconds ahead of me. I had no idea through most of the race what place I was actually in. Fine by me. I caught up to Dicky on the steepest pitch of the climb where we were both off the bike and hiking. 12 miles in and it was time for the first AID station where Dicky stopped and I caught a breather on a slight downhill while he stopped to refill water. He caught me in a couple minutes on the super fast backside of Winding Stair. We ripped the descent together and settled into what can only be called a lackadaisical pace for the next 5 or 10 miles.

I was a bit confused about what to do at this point...I have never road raced and know nothing about tactics or strategy in mountain bike races. It was nice to have someone with a similar pace to ride with but I really didn't want to deal with a sprint finish through that nasty cross course back at the winery. At the bottom of the second big climb I went ahead and put in a hard effort to get a gap and it seemed to work pretty well. I was in first place at the second AID around mile 33 (I did not realize this then) where I dropped an Advil in the dirt and wasted a couple minutes looking for it while Dicky was pulling in and Kelly also caught me. Reddish brown NSAIDs look quite similar to reddish brown Georgia dirt. Ooops. Looks like we have a race.

Kelly and I worked together for a couple miles until he managed to catch the wheel of someone on a geared cross bike. I chose a bad spot to draft instead of spin and lost about 5 feet of Kelly's wheel. I told him I would see him later and watched them slowly get a gap on me. There were a couple super steep climbs over the next couple miles (I suppose these would qualify as "rollers" in a course description) and I was beginning to feel the earlier efforts in my legs. I did my best to ignore the fact that I was really hurting at this point and buried myself for the next 15 miles to hold on to whatever spot I had. I got back into the winery after a miserably slightly downhill road section and looked over my shoulder. Clear!

The free beer cooler at the bottom of the last run up looked great but I was tired and delusional enough I thought they might be tricking me so I hoofed it up the hill. I managed to head off into what looked like a maze of wooden fencing with one of the volunteers yelling at me, "that's not the course!" Good, no mazes to run through. This was a huge relief to me as I was envisioning some sort of Six Flags/CX course nightmare. Instead I was met with a nice CX course lead in to the finish just as the lasagna was being brought out. I ate. Then ate some more. Then checked the results.

2nd place Singlespeed in 3:39. Three minutes behind Kelly and two in front of Dicky. Maybe 20th overall? I am totally satisfied with this...I could not have done anything more to make up the three minutes. His better was better than my better. Congrats, Kelly. I cannot remember a race in recent memory where I had to push this hard. Oh, and I met all my goals. The Odeas and 55Nine put on an awesome race with strong competition and the awards ceremony was swell also. All of our BHam crew finished strong, even with some flats and mechanicals out there. Props to Brian Toone for a 5th place overall in 3:12... On a 15 year old mountain bike. Hope to be at this one again next year.

Pictures will come when facebook gets easier to figure out or I get smarter.


  1. No mention of the Varsity?? I had an absolute blast too. Grats on the 2nd and good luck the on rest of your season.

  2. Good job this weekend Brandon and thanks for the cabin. Man, the DUI dude at the Mexican place was top news as well and he got left out...til next time. You should do Cheaha Challenge with us.

  3. Great write-up John. And congrats on the second place. I think I used just about every single gear combination on my mountain bike during the race, so I am amazed at how fast you rode the course with just a single gear!

  4. Nice dude. That Dickey had it coming.