Thursday, February 21, 2013

Southern Cross 2013 report

Mountain people say if you don't like the weather just wait 10 minutes and it will change.
They lie. The 51 mile Southern Cross extreme CX race was 28 degrees at the start and 34 at the finish - 3 1/2 cold miserable hours later. It was so cold at the finish the hot lasagna they served outdoors
was brittle before we sat down. During the race a power bar was a flat, cold rock. Completely inedible.
Mike's gummy Power Blok clicked when he dropped one. Water bottles spouted an ice dome with slush that had to be chewed.

Unaccustomed to these conditions Ed, Mike and I pawed through a ridiculous plethora of of bike clothes in every possible combination. What to wear?
A 12 mile 20% plus dirt  climb is best  done naked. However, an 8 mile descent begs a wool burka.
If you have to change a flat you'd best start a survival fire. We ended up horribly overdressing to cope with standing still 30 minutes at the start. Surely we could peel layers later?

The course itself was miserable. A 400 person mass start is crazy enough without ankle-deep slimy red Georgia clay.  Imagine riding a light dusting of hay over a blaze of fresh dog crap.  Deep slimy ruts formed as 800 tires slipped helter skelter careening around the initial technical CX 1.5 mile start.  The air buzzed with angry orange blobs launched off tires and and slapped onto bike frames, vests and sunglasses. My heart rate maxed out at 195 running up one of those shite hills less than 2 minutes from the start. But.......suddenly  you notice you aren't cold anymore. Now you are feverish.

No time to change as we left the dirt and began forming little  echelons  desperately chasing other little echelons heading toward the first 12 mile climb.

About 20 seconds ahead I could just make out Ed's familiar orange Cycle Logic kit safely esconched in the lead group-but no matter how hard I sat-on we just couldn't close.  (I didn't catch Ed until he crashed and flatted 30 miles later.) But soon the 12 mile rocky climb began.

Immediately I was baking like a butterball turkey with the stops stuck.  Sweat soaked through 4 layers of  lined lycra and dripped down my open chest as my ticker beat 175 at 6 mph.
Legs were somewhere between track standing and 30 RPM.

What was I thinking?  Everything moved in slow motion for an hour.  Riders I could catch in 10 strokes on the flats were actually 20 seconds ahead. You had to carefully thread through a minefield of quartz and granite rocks as big as melons.  Touch one this slow and you might not get going again. Cries of "that's it!" echoed up and down the valley as people started walking.

Eventually you top out at the feed station where  volunteers clang bells in your face, yell "good job!" and generally piss you off — not racing.

And then you descend, and descend, and descend some more.  Four zippers head North now.  Over-gloves are found. Your powerbar is now a lollypop-all you can do is lick it.  Luckily the Gu still squeezed out - on my cheek, on my gloves and on my jacket.  At 29 degrees and 37 mph
your eyes weep, your nose gushes and your hands ache on the brakes.  Throw in ruts and dodging boulders around every other blind curve understand how Ed eventually crashed.......and flatted at the same time.  He hit a big rock, flew over the bars and ended up on his knees facing away.  He didn't mention this to me when i came upon him calmly fixing replacing his tube.  At the end (he still caught me for all that) he had a mild concussion, a bloody bulb on his upper back and minor strawberries. Truly The Fighting Irish.  The Fighting Irish that do yoga.

A few more hard, hot climbs, a few more freezing,scary plummets and we ended back on the final 1.5 cyclocross section. Mike was so tired he chugged half a can of the traditional beer hand up at the hardest run up hill. He said it was a tempting to bail and cruise the 1/2 mile paved shortcut  back to the warm Mommobile.  But we both managed to click back in and stagger on with honor- ignoring even more irritating cheers of "good job!" or "come on buddy! ride through the creek! You can do it!"  Personally, I was in a black mood and mumbled "I don't give a #%*#!" and simply sloshed through the frigid  water not risking a fall on my #%*#in arse this close to the end.

Unfortunately we don't have  video due to "technical" issues -meaning it was too cold to remove gloves and push tiny camera buttons and that our Australian film crew had a broken collar bone.

Overall the event is well worth attending and rates a "10" in overall experience. They just need to do something about the climate up there. Brrrrr!



Tal said...

The sun was shining! That's a warm day in these parts.

The Greatest Show on Dirt said...

If you like gravel be sure to check out Boone-Roubaix and Three Peaks USA UltraCX