Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle


Its funny how this year Jungle cross has now become Euro cross. I am not being sarcastic at all. I loved it when I read resultsboys post about VeloCX and he described the course as being Euro. What has happened I think is that there are two styles of Euro courses. The fast grass crit style World Cups and Superprestiges and then the Jungle style Euro courses like the GVA Trophy series where all bets are off: Logs, crazy ass descents, woods, dirt, all manner of nastiness to challenge the rider. New England is missing that style of race. We need races where you better buckle up that chin strap extra tight cause its gonna be a street fight to steal a term from the voice of the NECX Richard Fries. I don't know if he has actually said that it just sounds like something he would say. But VeloCX may be my new favorite cross course in all of New England. And NEBC and Katherine Snell did an amazing job with it. If you missed it I feel bad for you. You missed a chance at a real Euro cross course. As the name would imply the race revolved around a velodrome. Not the huge banked style like at Trexlertown but a nice concrete velodrome with a course laid out all around it and through it.
The race started on the velodrome did about a 3/4 of a lap dove into the infield where we had a bunch of nice turns on grass and two sets of double barriers. Back out on the velodrome then a drop off into the woods. Some great woods riding with some insane climbing and descending. Not really insane but compared to all the grass crits we are subjected to it was pretty rad. Then onto a legit BMX pump track with two high walled berms, and numerous crazy ass table tops. The course was in good shape but there were at least two pretty good mud pits and a couple of gravely corners. But to say I was stoked when I walked from the parking lot and saw a full Shimano presence and heard Chris Zigmont over the mic was an understatement. This could seriously be built into a real mainstay of the New England cx schedule. It was also stop number 6 on the Zanconato singlespeed cx series. Most of the singlespeeders were there with a few key absences who chose Cheshire over NH.

I lined up in the 45+ race. The start on the velodrome was mentally pretty challenging for me. I don't road race so being locked in with 40 guys at 25 mph going into the first turn was making my brain want to explode. But in the back of my mind I felt ok as the fast old guys do not do stupid shit. Like ever. We got through into the infield with no incidents. Some separation occurred through all the turns and barriers. I was in with a good group and rode clean the whole race. With two to go I started to unravel a bit and started to bleed some spots. Not in a huge way but enough that I was starting to get the inner voice going. You know the "Master says faster voice..." As I came onto the pump track I noticed Mark McCormack entering it. I thought a minute and was trying to remember a.) how to get lapped by a PRO like a pro b.) how do I avoid taking Mark The Shark out on the high berm and being banished from New England when Mark gave me the gift of one more beautiful lap. He could have passed me with ease. But he sat up and said "Chip get moving don't you want another lap?" Actually I really did. Some races you want them over. Not this one. I could have ridden that loop all day. Literally. It was that much fun. So I answered the call and put down WATTS to get my last lap. Well as fate would have it right as I went back onto the infield I flatted my rear tire. I literally laughed out loud. But you know what. I knew the glue job would hold. The Wicox's glue jobs are bombproof. So I rode the entire lap on a flat rear Rhyno. And it was awesome. Really didn't effect my ability to ride any part of the course. Sure you had to ride a bit lighter but the contact patch was great and the tire drove really well. I finished up last guy on the lead lap. Thanks Mark!
Abel Mr Mudstache himself at VeloCX. I love that man. I really do.

Lowell Shedd Park

Lowell has always been my own personal buzz saw. It rips me to shreds each and every year. But like a lot of races like this I keep going back thinking it will be different. I am not going to lie I want the hard. I want the challenge. If its easy and you are so good at it it doesn't even seem to make you sweat what is the point? That really is what cross is all about for me. My problems at Lowell have always been crashes. I had one of my most epic crashes of all time that first year when the Forest of Lowellenburg was born. I t-boned some dude in hub deep mud at warp speed and flew what must have been 20 feet. Still have the ding on the tt of my Rock Lobster. Then the next year when it was fast and dry I almost killed the tiny Russian. I don't even know what happened in that one. I think I hit gravel and then I just went out of control at about 20 mph heading right for Tasha. She basically went into the fetal position to save her camera. Luckily I laid it down before I hit her. Last year I had a sick start and then hit a stump up top and that as they say was that. Being at the back of the race after that did afford me free reign of 4loko and waffle handups!
But this year. Wow. We unveiled the Death Star of ez-ups! How perfect that the new Hup ez-up was unveiled in the shadow of the Forest of Lowellenburg where so much Hup NE tradition was born. We had 7 women in the women's race. That literally brings a tear to my eye. We had an unreal Waffle Cross. But the racing. All that bad crash karma must have been used up because its not like I didn't have a ton of chances to once again have a crash of epic proportion. As we were lining up on the grass with 80 dudes in the 45+ race...wait 80 dudes? Yes there were 80 45+ guys at Lowell. It has become a mini-Verge. So we are sitting there in the start grid listening to Diane tell us to not take any beer, cupcake or waffle handups or we will be dq'd when my two wingmen and I start getting nervous. You can just feel something bad is gonna happen. There are no set lanes. People are half wheeling each other. We are screwed. Diane blows the whistle and the 3 of us are one bad move away from locking bars and taking everyone out. But we keep it together. The three of us clip in and are moving. Then BOOM. Its like a bomb went off. I have no idea how I got around the bodies and bikes but a small gap opened like the Red Sea and I jammed through it. I think I ran over some dudes carbon deep section wheel. Oops. We get on the track and it is on.

This was the fastest race I have ever been in. It was like a road race. Granted I have never been in one but if I had I am sure it would feel like this! 20 guys flying! 3 across locked on each others wheels. We made it around the tree of death and then just flew up the hill toward the double barriers. After the barriers some separation happened. I ended up in a group of 6 really fast guys. Guys I am not usually with. But you know what my form might actually be coming around. Because as much as mentally I was like this is too fast I am screwed. I felt fine. Then bombs started going off again. Chains started snapping. Dudes hit trees. Crashed on the upper deck. It was bananas. But I didn't even come close. Maybe I infected them all with my bad crash juju...what ever I will take it. I kept my arch rival at bay by about 20 seconds. Best race of the season for me. And by far one of the best days hanging out with the NECX.

Huge Hup hugs to Wheelworks, Shimano, BRC, CB, NEBC, and Hup for two great days of racing. My proposal? Lock this weekend up! Make it a VeloCX/Lowell double for eternity. This double is sooo much better than half the cookie cutter doubles we do and think that they are some benchmark for what cross should be. What you would get with these two back to back would be two polar opposite races. Two races really close to both Boston and NH. Two great clubs well four. Two races that try their hardest to be creative and give their customer what they want. Singlespeed racing, juniors on their own, women's fields that make sense. What a great weekend of racing

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