Curious Cycling, Curious Math at Plymouth CX
Photos Saturday - Sunday Strava Sat Cat 4/5 - Sat Cat 2/3/4 - Sun Cat 4/5 - Sun Masters 45+
Results Sat Cat 4/5 - Sat Cat 2/3/4 - Sun Cat 4/5 - Sun Masters 45+
My CX History
2015 marked my second 100MoN. The announced November dates fell squarely in the middle of cyclocross (CX) season. One hundred miles asks a lot during CX season--perhaps I could find a Sat-Sun event, enter multiple races each day, and wrap a number of preride laps around the races to piece together some sizable mileage.
I checked the Massachusetts schedule--the Plymouth Festival of Cyclocross spanned Sat Oct 31 and Sun Nov 1. Based on my age (getting up there) and ability (not really up there at all), I qualified each day for one race in the morning and two races in the afternoon.
Failing to sense much of a CX presence in Fattyworld, I'll digress a bit to provide some context (apologies to the already initiated--feel free to skip the indented text). Amateur CX races typically last around 40 minutes and consist of 4-6 laps of one and a half or so miles on a mixture of dirt, grass, sand, and a bit of pavement.As a 50 year old Cat 4 racer, I qualified for the 9am Cat 4/5 race, the 1pm Masters 45+ race, and the 2pm Cat 2/3/4 race. Even two races a day is a lot--there was no way I was doing three.
Still, I owed Camp Kasem the miles, so I opted for Cat 4/5 and Cat 2/3/4 on Saturday and Cat 4/5 and Masters 45+ on Sunday.
SAT CAT 4/5: Resplendent in my 100MoN jersey (thanks, DNA Cycling, for the expedited shipment!) and 2015 Team Fatty bibs, I lined up in the starting grid with 86 like-minded knuckleheads and waited for the starting whistle.
Unlike road racing, which finishes with a bunch sprint, cyclocross STARTS that way. The objective: be first to the first turn (the "hole shot") and avoid the inevitable bottleneck that quickly builds up behind.
At Plymouth, that hole shot consists of a sharp left turn up a curb off the pavement and into a narrow, curvy descent on dirt. We jostle our way to the bottom at a walking pace, dismount, shoulder our bikes, and navigate the Plymouth course's defining element--a steep run-up.
At the top, it's back on the bike, knock the mud out of my cleats, clip back in, make a few turns, and dismount for a pair of barriers.
A cyclocross barrier is a 12 to 15 inch high plank set perpendicular to the course. Barriers come in pairs separated by 12 to 15 feet.Safely over the barriers, I remount, then just as quickly dismount to run the short sand pit leading into the woods. On later laps, I'll ride the sand, but congestion makes that impossible on lap one.
Back on the bike, I navigate some fast technical turns through the trees before reaching a fire road for the course's first real power section. The slight uphill grade coupled with the dirt and rock surface takes its toll and I slide back a few positions.
I pop out of the woods onto playing fields, navigating hairpin turns through trees before the next power section, this time on grass. A short set of steps interrupts the power section, forcing a dismount/run/remount.
The lap finishes with a straight paved path through more woods, a few turns around a tennis court, and finally a few more turns before the paved finish straightaway. Now I just have to suffer this ordeal four more times.
Cyclocross is raced pretty much at heart rate threshold for the full 40 minutes. Yes, a few sections afford recovery, but for the most part, it's all out. With one lap down, four to go, and my heart rate pinned, I once again question why I love CX so much.The next four laps see essentially a repeat of lap one, so I'll spare the description save for the finish. As I come out out of the woods after the fire road midway through the final lap, I spot a rider a hundred yards or so ahead. Too far for a catch, I think, but I give it a try. The gap slowly closes, and as we round the final turn onto the finish pavement, I'm right on his wheel.
I'm built more like a sprinter than a climber, but my 1x11 gearing gives up a lot at the high end. No time for gear regrets, I go full throttle and upshift to my top-end 38-11. I've got more left in the tank than he does and cross the line ahead by several bike lengths.
The results would later show that I took 61st out of 87, a pretty typical outcome for me, earning 659 CXP in the process. Better than that, though, was holding off my teammates. Without my starting position advantage, I likely would have lost to Troy and been in much more of a dogfight with David, Jason, Dan, and Max.
Cumulative miles: 3.4 for preride, 7.4 for race, 10.8 total
SAT CAT 2/3/4: Fear not, I won't spend nearly as much time describing races two through four. I've got no business being in a 2/3/4 race, and this particular edition proves the point. I'm quickly off the back and riding solo, demonstrating the occasional fallacy in my point above a rider behind who's chasing.
I finish 42 of 45. On paper, much worse than the morning effort. But the strength of field comes into play in determining my CXP--I end up with 492, my best ever by 30.
Cumulative miles: 4.6 for four more prerides, 7.4 more for race 2, 22.8 total
SUN CAT 4/5: Overcast and hints of rain replace Saturday's sun. Saturday's 40 degree temps at 9am give way to Sunday's 50. I'll take the trade. But just barely.
A few changes to the course, as is typical in a two-day event at a given venue. Only one friend with whom I'm competitive today: TomP, whom I've never beaten, but against whom I'm close. Maybe today's the day.
Tom and I spend the first few laps trading positions--I'm better at the technical stuff, he takes me on the power sections. On the final lap, he pulls away. For me, 65 of 88, good for 650 CXP.
High point of the race? Just as the starting whistle blew, the organizers tried to pull me. They'd tell me after the race that the black "100" on white field of my 100MoN jersey, adjacent front and back to the race number pinned to my right side, was wreaking havoc on the human scorers and finish line camera.
Cumulative miles: 2.6 for preride, 8.6 for race, 34 total
SUN MASTERS 45+: Black duct tape covering the 100MoN "100," I'm ready to go, and ready to be more competitive than Saturday's Cat 2/3/4 effort.
Typically, compared to a 2/3/4 or 3/4 field, a Masters race will have equally good talent at the front of the race. But the falls off faster across the typical Masters field. I should finish better than yesterday's 42 of 45.
I don't. Twenty-two of 23. And only 668 CXP, not even as good as the 4/5 race.
Cumulative miles: 7.5 for race, 41.5 total
Not even 42 miles? I'd fallen well short of the target 100. Or had I?
Applying the universally-accepted dirt-to-pavement multiplier of 2.5, my 41.5 became an eerily Leadville-like 103.8.
And, despite never placing in even the top two-thirds of a field across my four races, I nonetheless eked out a position on the top step of the podium in the 100MoN-Clad, Half-Century-Old, Sub-300-Watt category.
Victory declared, I headed for home.
DIEFFENBACH CROSS RESULTS
*Metrics not included in running total; lesser of two races in a day excluded