Today was cold. Really cold. The kind of cold that you can feel in your teeth. I drove up to Bear Mountain with Zach for the second day of Supercross Cup and pulled into the lot around 10am. It was around 22 deg F with a steady 20 mph wind. I left Morristown wearing my race socks, smart wool socks, race top and bottom base layers, waffle thermal bottoms (my trusty “saggy butts”), jeans, a sweater, a coat, my long finger race gloves, duck boots and my red $5 “wool” hat. Underdressed. As soon as I opened the car door and felt the blustery wind I knew it would be a long day. The three minute job of putting my wheels on the bike turned my fingers purple and took away all sensation. Unscrewing my presta valves to set my tire pressure proved to be very difficult job since my Flav-O-Pop fingers were about as useful as chopsticks might be shoveling snow. Luckily our friend Wilis invited us to his girlfriends heated (and spacious) van. This may have been the most rad van I’ve had the opportunity to hang out in yet. Julia uses it as her base for community art and crafts in Brooklyn and it is decorated with small drawings and projects. Pretty awesome whip.
Zach lined up at 11:45 for the 2-3-4 race. I made it about 3 laps outside cheering then decided I should take the opportunity to use the warm van to change into may race kit. Cyclists are a funny group. We don our colorful skin tight wind cheating spandex and ride around our velocipedes padded shorts and all. Cyclocross racers lie somewhere on one of the tails of the bell curve. We show up to race in the most extreme conditions wearing about the same spandex (maybe plus a couple layers). Today I left the Art-Van in my top and bottom base layers (spandex) leg warmers (slightly thicker fleece lined spandex) my short leg long sleeve skin suit (spandex), long sleeve fleece lined spandex riding coat, fleece lined spandex gloves and Goretex hat. Typing it all out makes it sound like a lot but I assure you compared to my previous outfit (underdressed as it was) I felt as good as naked. Luckily everyone else racing was in the same boat (with exception to one gentleman who raced in a shark costume - “doing cross right”).
One of the difficulties with not being the first race is figuring out warm ups. Pre-riding takes place during the small window between races. As the leaders cross the finish line somewhere shortly down the way there are hoards of people jumping onto the course to get some time in. Much before your race it is important to pre-ride to learn the course just to learn the lines and familiarize yourself with all of the obstacles. In the hour leading up to the race it is then necessary to get a proper warm up in. Some people ride next to the course, some spin up and down the road and some jump on the stationary trainer. Today was generally difficult for any method I tried. The wind was just too brutal. The only thing that did it was actually riding the course. The slower pace required to navigate corners and climb hills did the trick well. So well in fact I began to overheat my torso. My digits however felt differently. The toe vents in my shoes which work so well during the summer months work even better in the winter. My gloves also more designed for that mid 40’s and no wind temperature range.
There was enough time after the Elite for one warm up lap. I went out and gave a reasonably paced effort and heated up decently well. The 3/4 group stood around for around 10 minutes before call ups. My second row call up turned into first thanks to some no shows (did I mention how cold it was?). One thing I’ve gotten noticeably decent at is starts. I manage to get quick jumps and clip in fast. I however cannot sustain said starts. I jumped out second behind the Team Yacht Club rider who won the hole shot. I then fell back to 6th or so when we hit the woods. O well, being out front sucks anyway right? I channeled my mountain bike skillz and muscled by two riders on the short uphill. 4th. I was sitting on Chris Pino’s Wheel from The 5th Floor. With a Kruis CX guy in 2nd and Alex from Brown in the lead. Donnie from King Kog and Team Yacht Club Dude were behind me. The second lap was the same for the front 4. Coming across the line the second time I looked up to see a 4. Four laps to go. Six total. I was hoping for a 3, but maybe I’m just lazy. Through lap 3 the front two started to pull away slowly but were still in reach. Chris in I started to pull a gap on the guys behind us. Coming down the quick downhill Chris cooked it a little hot and almost lost it in the trench at the bottom. I watched him snag some tape, rip around a course pole and in the end… SAVED IT. I got back on his wheel and let him know it was the radest save I’ve seen in a while.
Over my season I’ve learned a little about racing and not just redlining the whole time until you detonate. Chris is a rider I know decently well. We have lined up 11 times against one another and into today he had two wins over me for the year. I know he is pretty fast, but comparatively so am I. Chris and I fell behind the front two more but also pulled ahead of the guys behind us. I decided my race was the race for 3rd.
I had a few opportunities I would have taken earlier in the year to pass but it was also too early and I know I may have blown up trying to pull away, or made a dumb mistake rushing a corner. I spent a couple laps testing the waters. I knew where Chris pulled away and where I ate up bike lengths. I was waiting for a good opportunity. A slip up from Chris. 5th lap Chris slowed on the rooty off camber section before the barriers. At the barrier itself I was a half step behind him. He tagged the barrier with his toe, he was getting tired. I attacked. We were both cold and tired. We were neck and neck getting on the saddle but I clipped in quicker and had the inside advantage around the corner. I got by and opened up the throttle. The final lap I slowly pulled away from Chris. Don’t fuck up Matt. I managed to hold it together over the line. 3rd.
I bolted to the car ripped off my shoes and threw on some jeans, my boots and my jacket. I ran back over to the finish for the post race chat with everyone. One of my favorite parts about this sport is the community. Everyone I’ve met is just so happy to be racing bikes. There is nowhere easier to start a conversation with a complete stranger.
We did the podium and I hopped into the Grand Marquis and aimed the car at home. Zach snagged a ride to the city to meet family for dinner so I was driving alone. The sky on the ride home was fantastic. With Broken Social Scene 7/4 Shoreline blasting just below bass cutout volume I watched the sky open up to another spectacular November sunset. The sky a little above the horizon was a light celeste, and at the horizon a deep red. The purple clouds were back lit and glowing bright orange at the edges. Surreal.
I don’t write unless it’s an assignment or I’m inspired. Today I was inspired. I had a great, cold and painful weekend.
So I decided to pick up a Sony a77 for vacation and sports shooting and 2 days later corrupted my SD Card with 500 trip pictures for no reason. FILM FOR LIFE
Wheel Building - Laughing Dog Bicycles
Amherst , MA