Mike Murphy: Two More Down…..

Keeping with the bike racing theme, I had another pair of really fun events over the last two weekends. First off was the CastleCross race, out in Port Coquitlam at Castle Park on Oct. 4th. This was a new venue for cyclocross racing, and it didn’t disappoint. The course had bit of everything on it; some long grass straightaways, off-camber corners, punchy steep climbs, and even a few run-ups requiring you to shoulder your bike. The other event, last weekend (Oct. 13), was over in Nanaimo at Bowen Park. It is a staple of the CX scene, and this year was the BC Championships. The Bowen course definitely favours someone with a mountain bike background…especially if it’s wet.

As I may have mentioned before, your ‘call-up’ in CX is pretty important. The closer to the front you are positioned for the start, the better your chances of avoiding traffic and having room to manoeuvre. I had a great call up at CastleCross, and was in the front row. I also happened to chose the correct side (left) on the opening straight…the dryer side. They sent us off, and without having to dig too deep, I was comfortably in second place by the end of the first lap.

WOW…do i feel strong!

Don’t over-do it….you’re slowly closing towards first. We were half way through lap 2. I came fast into a technical/downhill corner…and before I knew it my bike slid out from under me. As I grabbed my bike and started to roll it along, I saw I had rolled my front tubular tire off the rim! (hence the crash)

CRAP!!

I panicked for a few seconds, and was really disappointed that my day was done. Or was it…

I looked down at the wheel and saw that only a short section of the tire had come off the rim. I managed to re-place the tire on the rim, and decided that I may as well keep racing (the worst that could happen would be that it comes off again). Three guys had passed me while I was working on the wheel, but I still felt strong and started to chase. Full of adrenaline, I pretty much sprinted until I got back up to third place, and right on Brad’s rear wheel. Brad is a strong guy, and can put down some good power. I was just barely hanging on, trying to recover from my catch-up sprint, but we were closing in on first place.

As we cornered hard through some mud, it happened again…I rolled my front tire off the rim for the second time (once you roll a tire once, the bond with the rim is gone, so this time I wasn’t surprised at all). I was quick to put it back on the rim, but I had lost Brad’s wheel.

I was still in third with half the race to go, but my game plan had to change. More of my tire had come unglued that time, and it was even more likely to happen again…and keep getting worse. I really wanted to finish the race, so i had to dial it back in the corners and baby my front wheel around the last few laps.

I put in really hard efforts on the straights, and soft-pedalled all the corners. My tire did come off a third time, but I had enough space to hold my position to the finish line. I am really happy with how I kept my head in the game…and I got lucky that my tire didn’t fully separate from the rim. Mechanical problems are part of CX racing. So much so, that a lot of racers have a spare bike that they keep in the designated ‘pitt’ area. I don’t have a spare bike, or a second set of wheels, so I did what I had to to avoid the DNF.

One of the worst jobs in CX bike maintenance is gluing tubular tires on, which is exactly why I had avoided it for 2+ years. Sadly,  with another race only a few days away, I had to get dirty and re-glue both wheels. It’s a dirty/sticky/slow process, but fingers crossed that I’m good for another couple seasons now.

I love the Bowen Park course, and I was really excited to head to the island for the weekend. Not only was I racing on the Monday, but my sister was racing the Victoria Marathon on Sunday. I drove over (via ferry) to Victoria Saturday morning, and had time to prep a few things for my sister before I had to grab her at the airport that afternoon. She would be tight for time, so I got her race package and picked up some items she needed for that evening and the next morning.

I’ll jump right to the point here…my sister kicked ass on Sunday! 7th over-all woman, a PB, and a negative split (on a tough course): pretty much the perfect race. I had a great time being her support crew, and I managed to get out to 3 key points on course before meeting her at the finish line to help her hobble back to the hotel. No time to rest for her though; straight to the airport in a semi-bonked, half crippled haze, for her flight back home.

The next morning I headed out to Bowen Park early to help Norm set up the course for the CX race. Thankfully, the forecast rain hadn’t hit yet, and the course set up went quick and smooth with a lot of helping hands. It was possibly the first time ever, but I saw Norm standing around mid-morning with some free time (usually, he is just full tilt on race day from sunrise to tear-down). He actually got to do a couple laps of the course before the racing got under way.

I had plenty of time to relax a bit, eat, then do a long warm up before my 1:00pm start. I felt strong, and with the rain just starting to fall, I knew the course was going to be awesome. I got called up into the second row, which would normally be great…but in this race the first 800m is a wide open road, slightly uphill, which then funnels into tight single track. When the gun went, I gave it all I had to try and hold my position. It lasted for about 500m, then it felt like the whole field came past me…I hit the single track in maybe 20th place. This was pretty much as I had expected though. I know how this course plays out, and I knew I would have to just float through the first lap, then start picking my way through the field. I probably gave up over a minute on the first lap, while stuck in traffic, but that’s my own fault for having such a pitiful starting sprint.

I don’t know how better to describe it, but I probably raced as tough as I ever have on a CX bike. Not only were my legs strong, but I had one of those days where suffering was truly fun. The course was like a puzzle, and getting past other riders was part of the game. I took a few good wipe outs in corners, but they were soft slide-outs and hardly disrupted my race. I had a few good back-and-forth moments out there, but I always moved forward. Time just sailed by, and before I knew it the race was over. I had managed to work my way up to 8th place. Most importantly though, my effort out there was a 10/10. I executed as good a race as I could have, given the field and the course. There just happened to be 7 guys (in my race) who were faster.

There are some great photos of the Bowen race from Patrick Burnham here

The rain was hammering down by the time we were done (not that I even noticed during). Plus I didn’t have a ferry reservation, so I was in a mad rush to get packed up and over to the ferry terminal. I feel a bit bad for not hanging around to support my friends and Steed team-mates, or for helping with tear-down, but a 3.5 hour wait for the boat was about as much as I could handle. By the time I got home at 8:30, I was totally wiped…but also totally satisfied. The weekend really couldn’t have gone any better.

This coming weekend should be another good one. Myself and my girls are racing an XC running race out at Cates Park (North Van) on Saturday (the Frank Reynolds Memorial) , then I’m hoping to get really muddy on Sunday at the Mahon Park CX race. Mahon is another course that I love, and it will probably be my last CX race this fall. The BC XC (running) Championship race is the following weekend out in Abbotsford, and the National XC Champs is at the end of November down at Jericho Beach. There is a nice window there to get in a few days rest, then some solid prep for November for sure.