Sunday, October 2, 2011

Beautiful Fly-overs and Flying Ears of Corn

Flying corn.
Brought to you by: Genetic engineering 
Aah, lovely DeKalb, Illinois!.. Birthplace of barbed wire and Cindy Crawford... and the 2nd stop on the Chicago Cyclocross Cup series (also home to that "Harvard of the Midwest," Northern Illinois University. GO HUSKIES! Disclaimer: While it just so happens that I enjoy fruitful employment at NIU, I was not paid one penny for my enthusiastic shout-out). No doubt, Cindy and barbed wire are perfect bookends to the sublime beauty and pain that is cyclocross racing at Hopkins Park. Add to that, the one or two "mooooo" cattle sounds I made as the herd of fellow racers moved into the first series of corners on the course. Hey, I heard a couple of people laugh, and it was all in good fun to lighten the mood a bit on the first lap.  

Where "House of Style" meets "House of Pain"
Even though I was happy with my performance on the bike today (was not dead-last and did not crash), there's much room for improvement. Indeed, my team-mate Jeff actually was lined up behind me at the start, then managed to pass me, and after pausing to lose his breakfast (allowing me to bridge the gap up to him), he then managed to pull away from me again! It seemed that even the ears of corn *without* wings were moving faster than me today. Meh, no worries. I know what I need to do.

Site of ritual sacrifice for a good harvest
One of the highlights of the DeKalb-Hopkins Park Course is the fly-over. Basically, stairs up one side, a flat section for re-mounting at the top, and a steep ramp to roll down the other side. A bit sketchy in mixed company, but lots of fun nonetheless. This year, the edge of the roll-down ramp was much smoother at the point where it met the ground (unlike last year, where the 'thunk!' actually caused my handlebars to twist in the stem-clamp!). And who of course, can forget MY meeting mother Earth after an unplanned collision with a brave video camera lady? But, I digress...

From a technical standpoint, I was really impressed with how low a tire pressure can be run on my Vittoria tubulars. At a couple of spots, where grass turned to pavement, I could feel the rim bottom out on the rear tire, and still, no puncture! This would be simply unthinkable with a clincher setup. I also noted that my humble FSA headset became slightly loose again (after a recent tightening). Hmm, might be time to shell out for some Chris King bike bling! And finally, technology aside, I was much impressed with the speed and ferocity with which my much fitter fellow racers left me in their wake... especially the top guys in the 40+ category. They actually lapped me with about 2 laps to go and well, you know that expression about being passed as though one were "standing still"... Yeah.

Post-race grimace
The uphill barriers, followed by slick, off-camber downhill hairpins are also always fun. Adding to the enjoyment was the race marshal with the bullhorn who managed to offer up the perfect balance of heckling and encouragement to dull the pain just enough. At one point, she even had the gumption to give me grief for spitting on the course! Awesome. Thanks to North Central Cyclery, Half Acre Cycling, and Robots Powered by Love for putting on a great race!  

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