Due to Nathan Abel's presence, Christian McKenna does not find the line he wanted out of the short sand pit

Sandy Point 5 and 6 – December 12 and 13

There had been plenty of rain leading into the final event weekend of the 2015 Boise region CX season, so the grass course was mushy, slow and slippery, but not muddy. Saturday’s races were the ID State CX Championships, and the fields were as strong as any this season.

The course layout was fun for the spectators and hecklers, as the three technical features (i.e., two sand volleyball pits and the stairway “flyover”) were centrally located adjacent to the concession stand and finish line. The announcer PA system, hot soup, snacks and cold beer were set-up under the concession stand roof to provide protection from the rain. This helped to retain spectators for the duration of the festivities, and the close proximity of announcers, hecklers and beer created a type of positive feedback that increased heckler / hand-up intensity over the course of each day.

The rain held off for the first two races on Saturday (i.e., Men Cat4-5 race and Women and Master Men race), but it returned for the Men Cat1-2-3 race. The low to mid 40F temperature was perfect for the racers, and it served to remind the spectators and hecklers of the norm for the sport and hardiness of the participants. There was an air of seriousness, as most of the racers were out to defend or exceed the finish position order they had established during the season, and Remi McManus un-bound his flowing locks for the first time this season.

The Women ID State CX Championship race starts with all the favorites in the front and the spectators wearing winter coats and hats
The Women ID State CX Championship race starts with all the favorites in the front and the spectators wearing winter coats and hats
Remi McManus lets down his resplendent flowing locks
Remi McManus lets down his resplendent flowing locks

The state championships provide the incentive / motivation to bring out the best in some, and they also provide anxiety / intimidation that brings out the worst in some others. While the state champions bask in their success, it is often those that suffered from the anxiety / intimidation who grow the most from the experience.

Alec Miller hung with the Cat1-2 racers on both days, won both the Cat3 races, and showed he is ready to join the Cat1-2 peloton
Alec Miller hung with the Cat1-2 racers on both days, won both the Cat3 races, and showed he is ready to join the Cat1-2 peloton

The course layout sprawled in multiple directions from the centrally located concession stand, and the main features were the multitude of slippery technical turns and the slow mushy course conditions. Any moment of inattention or failure to set-up properly resulted in laying the bike down in the turns, and the slow mushy course conditions constantly encouraged slacking-off in the climbs.

The featured technical obstacles were most significant when they dismounted some, but not all of the racers. On Saturday, both of the deep, wet, heavy sand volleyball pits were ride-able by most of the racers, unless there was interference from other racer(s). On Sunday, with the reversed course direction, the long volleyball sand pit crossing was immediately preceded by a slippery sharp U-turn that made it difficult to carry speed and line-up on the rut in the sand.

Due to Nathan Abel's presence, Christian McKenna does not find the line he wanted out of the short sand pit
Due to Nathan Abel’s presence, Christian McKenna does not find the line he wanted out of the short sand pit
The first six women made it through the start sequence sand pit unhindered, but the remaining 26 racers are all un-mounted by the sand pit exit bottleneck
The first six women made it through the start sequence sand pit unhindered, but the remaining 26 racers are all un-mounted by the sand pit exit bottleneck
Brian Baker fails to ride out of the short sand pit, and un-mounts the M55+ race leaders
Brian Baker fails to ride out of the short sand pit, and un-mounts the M55+ race leaders

The stairway “flyover” dismounted all racers and it was not a significant factor on Saturday (unless you slipped / stumbled and fell). However, on Sunday the significance of the flyover reached its full potential, as the steep downhill ramp fed into a slippery sharp U-turn. This placed a huge premium on clipping-in expertise, as this U-turn was the first of the series of close spaced U-turns that led into the long sand pit crossing.

Abby Youngwerth sets up for the full legal height barrier first step of the steep stairway "flyover"
Abby Youngwerth sets up for the full legal height barrier first step of the steep stairway “flyover”
The stairway "flyover" off-ramp accelerated the racers into a slippery sharp U-turn in Sunday's races
The stairway “flyover” off-ramp accelerated the racers into a slippery sharp U-turn in Sunday’s races

It rained all Saturday night until it finally let-off during Sunday’s Men Cat4-5 race, but it still had been raining steadily across the valley at 8:00AM. The turn-out is typically less the day after the State Championships, and the 8:00AM steady rain may have dissuaded the less hardy. The course was mushier / slower and slipperier, and at low 40F temperature, Sunday’s participants found “crossier” conditions that rounded out a weekend of CX experience. A wood fire burned in a cut-down 55 gallon barrel between the concession stand and the stairway “flyover” to help comfort Sunday’s spectators and hecklers. This added to the CX vibe which hit its 2015 Boise region season peak at the season finale.

The rain stopped early in the Men Cat4-5 race, but then a 15-20mph E wind came up when it was time to stage for the Women and Master Men race. The Master Men huddled on the leeward side of the concession stand until 3:00+ minutes of a 4:00 minute delay elapsed after the start of the Women race. We could all see our breath, and I did not remember to remove my jacket until the last moment. I was amused when George Knight, the USAC official, rushed us to the start gate, and then started the race the instant everybody was in the start gate, catching some by surprise.

Hal Miller also hit his season announcing peak during Sunday’s event as he commented on numerous off-color subjects including adding a stripper pole to his stairway “flyover” masterpiece. I suspect Hal was taking barley hand-ups, even though he was not racing, or maybe they were vodka hand-ups with barley chasers.

The E wind was strongest during the first half of the Women and Master Men race. The course included ~500m of asphalt path along the beach to connect the opposite ends of the course. This paved path was anything but a chance to catch your breath on Sunday due to the strong headwind. The first ~100m of the paved path began with a slight downhill grade that was somewhat protected, but as soon as you rounded the restroom facility, you hit the demoralizing teeth of the wind and wished there was somebody in front of you to provide a draft.

The best weather of the day occurred during the Men Cat1-2-3 race. At one point, it almost looked like the sun might come out. The Men Cat1-2-3 race was entertaining, as it initially appeared that Javier Colton would ride away from the field again, but by the end of the second lap he was joined by Eric Zuber and Allan Schroeder. Eric pleased the hecklers by taking multiple barley hand-ups. Gabe Keck rode alone in 4th place for much of the race. Following Gabe was a chase group of four riders that remained together for most of the duration of the race. This chase group included Ian Megale and the emerging Cat3 Alec Miller who kept pace with Ian until the final lap (a.k.a. Miller-lite, Miller extra-lite, pea brain). Who knows what the future will bring when Javeir and Alec get old enough to be allowed barley hand-ups?

Author: Fritz Stafford

Published: December 28, 2015

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