There's an interesting feature of the Verge New England CX series - since the "A" races are UCI elite races, only cat 1 riders and up, who hold UCI international licenses can enter them. This means, if you're cat 2, you're in the "B" race.
This makes the 45 minute "B" race substantially faster then they are around here, because instead of being cat 3 in a group of 3s and 4s, you're now cat 3 in a group of 2s and 3s. This isn't rocket science, but those guys go like rockets.
So, on to race details from day one. The start is a paved up hill section - you start at the bottom of the hill and the finish banner is at the top of the hill.
After all the call ups, I end up on about the 4th row, among mostly people who will likely be way faster than I am.
The starter gives us 30 seconds to go, then counts down 15...14...13.........3...2...1...BANG. We're off. Everyone's drilling it up this paved section, full blown sprint, new definition of hole shot. Some people had trouble getting clipped in and went out the back door faster then a goat in a submarine.
Charging up the hill, we enter the first sweeping right hander - turning on to the grass we're 6 wide, I've got people pushing on me, I'm leaning on guys, and everyone is diving and chopping the corners. Every man for himself. You have no friends in Cross. Ben Hur. Put another cliche here, they're all true.
Barriers...first lap, still in huge traffic. Its a twisty "W" setup where you make a sharp 180 degree turn right before you hit the planks. We're still about 4 wide at this point and no one's giving ground. I stay on the bike as long as possible and roll through the corner and dismount. hit the ground in full on sprint, rock the high school high hurdler skill over the barriers and pass a couple guys. No avail, the remount and acceleration after the barriers is ridiculous. I loose 6 or 8 places.
We bomb down a mild decent, and rock into a big set of sweeping turns, right, left, right... past the pit and onto the power alley - its the back stretch of the course , there's a head wind and you're right by the water. Its the longest straightest part of the course, and all the motors are full throttle. Finally, we hit the next set of twisties, and there's more diving and chopping. I'm loosing places faster then the Dow. We get to the sand pit and its a full blown sprint again. Holy hell - its still the first lap!
We finish up the lap, and I get into a group where I can do damage control, sort of. I ride with 6 or 8 guys. From the looks of it I'm somewhere between 30th and 60th on the course. We sort of settle in, but every few turns we either are caught by a faster rider or run into a slower rider. This produces accelerations, which in turn produce attacks. I am not attacking though. The only thing I am doing fast is going backwards.
Damage control goes on for a while, Cory Johansen, a high school classmate and now rival racer from the fine folks at ECV goes by me holy grail style. Then Buffalo comes up. No words, just a few moments riding together. There's an acceleration again, I'm on the ropes, Buffalo makes it.
Now we're 6 laps into our seven lap race. I've been clawing my way into mediocrity, passing, getting passed, railing a turn then and riding like a full blown newbie all in the same sequence.
On the rocky section of course leading away from the water, there's a sudden squish. I hear hissing. Its not a snake. Its my tire. The pit is almost half way around the course, and there's only 2 two go, but this is GP Gloucester. No one takes a DNF. I start running with the bike, lots of people go by me. I don't keep track. Basically its everyone who hadn't already passed me. I get to the pit and get a wheel from the Mavic guys. I'm back on my way, but the wheel I got had about 20 psi in it. Squish squash, I roll along, carefully passing some people and finishing up the last lap. 90 something place. Not real impressive, but the number doesn't tell half the story.
Check back later for an update on my second experience in the 2/3s. It went better, sort of....