Harbin Harpin’
Monday October 12th 2009, 11:58 am
Filed under: Anecdotes

With Sundays off to race cyclocross, yesterday was my day to ride. With a borrowed car we headed up to Fairfield, Ohio, to Harbin Park for the last day of the UCI3 cyclocross festival. Arriving at the park a mere thirty minutes prior to race start time (due to getting lost following the vague directions provided by the race organizers) I didn’t have a lot of time to pre-ride the course, get dressed completely, or eat anything. The pre-race jitters were full-on. The post-driving rage was equally full on. I like a good hour at least to decompress after driving for a long time—this is one of the reasons I don’t like to drive. Getting lost before a race truly brought that rage to the front of my psyche, I usually have a better grasp of my emotions—as seen in the next paragraph. I’m still debating whether or not that anger was good or bad for the race, I’m leaning towards bad though.

While I’m mentally complaining that I wasn’t able to wholly pre-ride the course at the Cat 4 start area I’m told that I don’t have my transponder chip for the race timing. Great, so it’s a mad dash back to the registration booth where they earlier told me they didn’t know when we got our transponders! I’m riding back to the booth, I duck under the course tape and my water bottle gets pulled out of my jersey only to hear some fat guy heckle me with, “way to drop your bottle, dude!” To which, in my aggravated panic, I reply, “way to organize a race, fucking douchebag!” An immature response to an immature comment. Tit for tat (I guess…) *

Back at that start line, I’m amazed I’m on the front row. Sweet, but with that placement I can’t relax, it feels like an obligation. An obligation to a performance I’m not sure I’m ready for. So, to get ready, as the officiant is blabbing on about whatever, I start breathing again, steadying myself mentally. Oh shit, I didn’t stretch whatsoever, that pre-ride was bogus, etc. etc. Breath. Breath. Then the whistle….

It was good start, albeit casual, but I made the turn in about 6th or 7th I’d guess. The first few technical turns were slow, and the first entry into the long sprint was terrible. I felt cooked already, but somehow, I didn’t back off too much. My first entry into the uphill sandpit was grueling, but I rode it with only a couple guys ahead of me. Then more technical turns and quite a bit of slipping—I wasn’t trusting my tires; I never really did for the remainder of the day for some reason. Except when I was in the downhill sandpit, every time I entered that I felt as though I was ripping through it fast as hell. Control was extremely loose, but still present. I only fishtailed into the barrier separating the two pits once—I think startling a rider on the other side—I rode it out pretty well though. Riding out the slipping and sliding is what it’s about I think, something I feel confident with, just not as much experience with yet.

The circuit went into some more technical turns then into a nice sequence of  uphill grass, cement descent, nice fast turn into grass/mud, then uphill cement. It felt great to accelerate up that climb. Then the fast grass/dirt down and up which claimed at least one collarbone. This whole sequence and it’s subsequent barriers (while tall) I felt decently strong throughout. But still the lingering emotions from the morning were still holding me back. The mental affecting the physical. Riding through the uphill sand the second time proved completely worthless, the pain and exhaustion from the exertion was stupid and lost me a position.

At one point during the second to last lap another racer (a +35’er) and I began encouraging each other, we stayed close the remainder of the race. It was helpful to have some grounding that way. First and second were pretty much out of sight, and my mark was still behind me, so I was in a good position. I feel that I need to overcome the tendency to stay behind these people, overcome the doubt that I can pass and keep the lead. At any rate, having a “partner” like that temporarily was awesome, if only for the immediate dissolution of that partnership the moment the sprint finish becomes evident. I thought we duked it out nicely even though he was a fraction of a second across before me taking the fourth place finish overall (different category).

* As far as my offense of cussing out the pre-race heckler who turned out to be a race official, I was dealt a $20 fine and the obligation to apologize. I understand the professional attitude everyone should present at an event like this so I made forth with the apology and agreed to the punitive fine, but that’s only because I want to continue to support this sport and it’s associated organizers—I’ll consider it a donation. However, I think I’m right to complain and state that considering my category (Cat 4) and it’s non-UCI status (as far as I know) and my lack of a UCI license, I don’t think it acceptable that I pay a UCI fine. Furthermore, I don’t think it right that a race officiant should be able to get away with heckling race participants, keep in mind we’ve paid an entry fee and are therefore “customers”. You don’t insult the person who bought a bike from your store, do you? We’ve paid an entry fee that should be covering the expenses of organizing the race, and in this situation, this race (and evidently the weekend’s entire festival) was quite poorly organized in my opinion. Honestly, why wasn’t I immediately given my transponder the moment I registered. Why didn’t the registration official know where or when I get my transponder? Why were more specific driving directions sent the morning of the race that I didn’t get until I got home that night? Directions that were more clearly written than the directions listed on the event’s website. And shouldn’t the transponder be able to count how many times a participant crosses the finish line? Meaning a lapped rider shouldn’t be counted as coming across first? But I digress.

The race course was, like everyone told me the week prior, an awesome circuit. Considering the poor organization, aggravation, and chaos prior to my start time, it was a great time and I’m quite satisfied with my results—I finished 4th in my category. I achieved my personal goal for this day’s race which was to come ahead of one rider in particular. People keep mentioning my ability to upgrade to the Cat 3’s and I don’t agree, I’m not quite ready for that yet, I still need more races under my belt and basically more experience (maybe a lighter bike and definitely more training for power and endurance).


Other notable scenes from the day:

– Seeing the elite dude taking a pounding to the chest on the sand pit separating barrier, getting up, and riding off pumping his arms in the air. This was much to the crowd’s amusement.

– Seeing two broken collar bones, one of which was witnessed in the “making” at the elite sprint finish for tenth place. Ouch!

– It was thrilling to watch the pros riding: Powers, Trebon, Compton, etc. and the awesome sprint finish of Laura van Gilder overcoming Sue Butler. Such power!

Some photos I took here.

4 Comments so far
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Great photos Michael. And don’t forget, your story was an inspiration to a certain young tired cyclist who decided to race after he talked to you!

Comment by Debbie 10.12.09 @ 12:11 pm

cyclocross is big on the fines i guess. my first race was star-crossed and near the end i got lapped. one of the officials told me i was done and i started to pull off but then i figured ‘i paid my 35 bucks i wanna finish this thing’ and continued riding. after the race the head official told me three people had told me to leave the course and that i was being fined fifty dollars. i laughed as i was only doing this one race to support my girlfriend who started cyclocross this year. fining newcomers to a sport you’re trying to grow seems counterproductive.

Comment by johnny gaijin 10.12.09 @ 12:35 pm

Sometimes the adrenaline from anger can be channelled into useful energy, but left unchained is most likely going to just make things worse.

You are doing great for first racing season! Keep it up.

Comment by Sherri 10.12.09 @ 8:27 pm

“maybe a lighter bike…” there you go…

Comment by Greg 10.12.09 @ 10:03 pm

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