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Mill Creek CX - Race Report

Race Report by Mark Sondeen

Mill Creek CX – Sept 20, 2015

Willingboro NJ

Cat 4, Masters 40+

A weekend trip to visit my Father in NJ was combined racing the Mill Creek CX event conveniently located in a park the next town over. This event offered an elusive Cat 4 only Masters race. Having grown up in South Jersey, and knowing a little about the cycling scene there, it was my theory that the CX talent pool would not be particularly deep. Feeling pretty fit after five early season races, I decided I would go for a podium finish at this event.

South Jersey is as flat as a pancake, so many towns have a man-made sledding hill in a park. Such a hill served as the focal point of the race course. The course was 100% grass, all out in the open, and there was a strong consistent wind out of the north. My strategy was to move up through the field quickly and get on the leaders wheel ASAP to be able to draft on the first long straight away into the wind. At this point I would evaluate the situation, and either try to hold his wheel for the remainder of the lap, or just ride off the front.

Staged in the back row, the pace of the start seemed slow, there was no hurry among the other racers. In the first section of turns, I made some aggressive maneuvers to move up through the group. Coming up on the first straight away I was on the leaders wheel and drafting comfortably. Rounding a couple sets of 180 turns, I noticed three things. One, the two of us opened a good gap on the rest of the field. Two, the leader was terrible with tight corners. Three, the odd sensation I was feeling from the front wheel was the front tire gently rubbing the brake pad. One of my aggressive cornering moves early on must have rolled my clincher off the rim, as the tire bead had slipped out of place. At this point I had already passed the pit, but I also just took the lead as the leader bumbled the last corner, so I decided to just keep going. For the next half mile I was leading, but my tire situation got progressively worse, rubbing the brake heavy, and I was forced to slow down in the corners for fear of losing the tires completely. I fell to second and the third position and decided to undo the front brake so I could keep making forward progress. This experiment proved to me that you really do get the majority of your braking power from the front brake and it made for some really interesting turns. Into the 2nd lap, I was now running the course until I was able to stop in the pit to get the front tire improved. (I did not have spare wheels) Letting some air out, I was able to reseat the tire bead, but now I was running about 10 PSI in the tire, and most of the field had also caught up to me. The strategy now changed to “just finish the race”. I rode the remainder of the 2nd lap with essentially a flat tire. Straight away speed was decent, but turning and braking was not happening. I ended up running many of the off camber turns. On the 3rd lap I made another pit stop and found a pump which let me put air into the tire front tire. Back in business it was time to salvage the day with a lap and a half to go. I moved up through the Cat 5 field that started a minute behind our master group, and passed 2 masters competitors by the finish line. Next race I am bringing spare wheels.

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