After a day of sloppy, deep, mud, the temperature just plummeted. By the time I picked up Chris and Greg from the airport, the temps were in the low 20s, and they remained there overnight. Chris called it correctly when he predicted that the the deep ruts were going to freeze solid. The locals didn't think it would freeze, but Chris was right.
If you sat down and planned it, I don't think it would have been possible to come up with a worse scheme for the worst possible course conditions.
We got to the course early for Chris and Greg's 9:30 am seeding race. They were in the first heat, and wanted to pre-ride the course. It was virtually un-rideable, and un-runnable. Pictures and photos don't do it justice. Deep muddy ruts were completely frozen solid over the entire length of the course, except for the paved start/finish straight.
The first thing we saw when we parked, was a rider getting to the top of the "green monster", getting off his bike, and sliding down the other side like a kids slide. The next guy did the same thing, the ramp was covered in a solid sheet of ice.
Course workers managed to de-ice the ramp, but there wasn't time to deal with the rest of the course. Coming up to start time, their heat was staging, and Chris and Greg were nowhere to be found. I finally ran down the parking lot and saw them climbing out of the car just as their heat started. They still had to navigate several sections of course just to get to the start, by the time the got to the line, the rest of the field had a 3 minute head start.
Chris ran most of the course. But even trying to run would tear up your ankles, because the ground was so extremely uneven. People were wrecking all over the place, the ruts were so deep that they would violently wrench your wheels out from under you and mercilessly slam you to the ground before you could even react. It sort of worked to zig-zag across the ruts, but even that was dangerous.
Greg managed to catch a few people, and pass them.
Just look at those ruts. Look at them. They're 33mm tire eating devils.
After their thrashing, we went back to the hotel and I got ready for my race. Because the field was so small (only 32 people competing in the 30-34 race), there were no seeding heats and we were randomly placed on the starting grid for the final race. I drew lucky number 32.
The last person to stage.
I got nervous at the tire check, because my Clement PDX clinchers mounted on Mavic Aksium and Mavic Kysrium Elite wheels DID NOT pass the tire check. Both officials agreed that they were too large, one guy muttered something about "It's those darn Clements again..." I got Chris' attention, thinking I would need a fast wheel change, and he was a good runner, but they just waved me through and told me to go anyway. Phew.
I always go through this short period of "What am I putting myself through??" before a cross race, and that was only more extreme before a world class UCI event.
Fortunately, before my race, the officials had move some course stakes over a few inches which provided a precious section of course that was actually rideable. Plus, they removed some parts to bring down the lap times. I just focused on riding the fast sections fast, and tried to ride the bad sections cleanly. For the course that Greg and Chris rode that morning, the racers weren't even tired, because it wasn't even possible to go fast. Now there was enough riding, that we had more of a cross race.
I kept listening to the announcers, it sounded like quite the battle at the front of the race, and I occasionally saw the leaders on other parts of the course. The Belgian Sven was up there, but two other Americans were really giving him a fight.
Apparently it snowed during the race, but I don't think I even noticed. Here I'm trying to find the few inches of rideable course.
Despite the bad ruts, it was actually a fun course, and I'm sure it would be AWESOME in the late fall, or at anytime that it isn't frozen solid. I wiped out several times pretty hard, twice doing an endo head over heals. With 2 to go, I went down really hard on my right side, and it really knocked the wind out of me. I had to limp for a few seconds, before I could even remount the bike, and that really took the steam out of me. I sort of just rode the last lap in after that. The winner (Sven) had a 45 minute race, but I was 7.5 minutes down which really felt like a long 54 minutes especially on the last lap. I would have been happy with 4 laps instead of 5.
But in the end, I was very happy with the race, the course had everything, and I couldn't have done any more out there. It was very satisfying to have been able to compete at the Masters World Championships, on a great course (despite extreme conditions), with some high level competition.
Video of the start.
CX Magazine coverage (with results and photos)