Photo by Chris Milliman
Putney. All cross racers should race Putney. If not every year at least once in their lives. It is what ALL cross races should be. If I had to chose one to do. Putney would be the one. It is an Icon of New England cyclocross. And the photo above was taken by one of the icons of the NECX. My good friend Chris Milliman loves this race. He has always gotten me so psyched for it. I have gone most years since I have been home.
This whole season has been ALL about the grassroots cx races. No way I was missing it this year. The #GETINTHEVAN bat signal was activated. Jon and Leah two of my mtn biking partners in grime agreed to ride shotgun up to VT. Two things stood in our way if you will. Jon and I did about 4 hours of cutting and moving trees in Cutler the day before. And Leah was dancing and doing keg stands at the 2nd annual Pedal Power Skin Suit Party til all hours of the evening the night before. I went to the first SP. And it was off the hook. My body was a wreck from clearing trail. I didn't even think Leah was going to be able to get up to get in the van. But she is a PROfessional and didn't even flinch when we showed up a half an hour early.
The drive to Putney from Boston is not that bad. Two hours. Max. We rolled in and went right to the Putney Co-op. God I love VT. After checking out all manner of VT goodness we rolled over to West Hill and set up shop. VT smells sooo good. Wood fires, fresh air, cider donuts. Putney usually is a mudfest. Or at least greasy. But Sandy missed them all together. It was about 70 degrees out and bone dry. I went into reg to get my number. Handed my license to the nice reg lady and she gave me a funny look. Then in a stern voice said " You know there is a masters race right?" Ummm I sort of stammered. I didn't even know what to say. That was a good heckle. I was rendered speechless. It was even funnier as there was a 45 + guy reg'ing right at the same time. I made some joke (finally) about you are only as old as the people you race against but it was way too late. She schooled me good with that heckle. So I slunk away in shame.
Its been a theme all cx season. Every race a masters friend will come up to me. Why aren't you in our race? Chip where were you we just raced? I can't help it. The Killer Bs are insane. Crazy shit happens multiple times each and every race. Getting back in the No Fun Zone in the 3s is a shitshow. But I get to line up with my teammates. We have had 5 or 6 guys in some races. At Putney a Hup train of 5. And that is a beautiful thing. At the line we had Eli, Jon, Justin, MVL and me. I am old, fat and slow. Its not easy even remotely hanging with dudes half my age who are skinny and fast. But its fun. There must be something wrong with me.
We said hi to a ton of people then went down to "staging" And by staging I mean spreading across a dirt parking lot 15 wide. So 3 rows 15 wide and we get to go up a gravel hill that is oh maybe 4 guys wide! Woooohoot! Let's Get It On! Jon and I actually do fine going up the right side then I see a crazy move over to the left. Some triathlete signaled (you can't make this up) he was going left and went left on the wrong side of the traffic circle and took half the field with him straight into a moving ambulance. Hilarious. Unless you are Terry Shabot and the guy is chopping your wheel to go the wrong way down a rode into live traffic. No one died and we all bottlenecked back into the actual race course and the double barriers. I told myself before I was not going to do anything stupid. So as much as I wanted to do lots of stupid things to move up. Ie dive bomb the shit out of the 3s as we headed into my favorite part of the course I kept telling myself to just follow wheels and behave.
We get through most of the fun stuff without incident. A few dudes go down cause they just can't handle perfectly groomed smooth turns on dirt but what ever. We rocket down the descent and go to warp factor 11. I usually stand some chance of doing ok at Putney because its sort of takes roadies and tri-geeks into a dark, dark place. But the course was in such great shape you could have ridden it on a road bike. Well that is a lie. Sort of. Some local Jr's were racing on road bikes but they are tougher than you. Cause they are from VT. So I am in the drops flying through the cornfield with like 500 hundred 20 year olds yapping at me and buzzing my rear wheel. Usually the cornfield is where all my dreams go to die. But this year they added turns! I can turn! I may not be able to go fast in a straight line but I can rail the shit out of the corners. So as I am setting up the first turn I hear a voice emerge from the chaos behind me "ONYOURLEFT!" Oh hell no you didn't? You really just announced that you were going to chop me at the first turn? I mean if you are going to chop me at the first turn at least do it like a silent killer. Do you think Tai Domi would tell you before he cross checked you face first into the dasher? No I didn't think so. So I closed the door hard on him. And I'd like to thank TRP NEOX's for the greatest closing of the door in the history of the NECX.
Those brakes are insane. They are as close to disc brakes as I have ever felt on a cross bike. Insane modulation and extreme stopping power. Almost one finger at the lever but wow do they stop. So I took the dude into the tape. And then I heard the cackles from my two teammates behind me. The Hup train then put the pedal to the metal. I was able to hang on for a few laps but damn trail day legs were not helping. Nor was the #vancake. My god my legs and lungs were on fire. By the time I could actually see straight to look at a lap card it said 4 to go. I wasn't sure I had 4 more times around the cornfield and 4 more times up the run up in me. But everytime I got to the top and got to ride the sweet pump track and the crazy stairs and see the shop and the crowd I just would smile. Putney just throws so much at you. Its unreal. I fought a few guys off and a few got away but again seeing Meg and all my friends on the sidelines got me so stoked. First time I have ever raced in the drops in my life. I thank Pedal Power for that. I guess you go faster that way...who knew
Finished strong. Or strong for a fat mid-pack masters racer having a mid-life crisis racing with the kids. Cracked a 'Gansett Tall Boy with the crew, ate some homemade cookies and just soaked in all that VT cross had to offer. We stayed almost until dark. Then we hit the co-op one more time and pointed the van back to Boston. What a great day. In 2013 racing Putney will now be written into all Hup NE racers contracts! Hup Hup