Having spent only a couple hours on the Trek Crockett I had built up, I was 'ready' to try racing. Now, cyclocross racing is setup similar to road and mountain bike racing. You a grouped into categories by skill level. Cat 5-1. Cat 5 being beginners and Cat 1 being pros. I hesitated to do Cat 5 with my other racing background. I wanted to be with people who I knew could handle a bike and contemplated moving up to Cat 4. I'm not worried about getting on a podium at this point. Especially in a Cat 5 race. For me, this is all about experience.
So I lined up after a few warm-up laps where I adjusted my tire pressure and made a minor saddle change. The unfortunate thing about signing up for a race late is you get shoved to the back of the pack. Putting you at a disadvantage at the start. I was right in the middle as they only did two rows of call-ups and we had 4-5 rows once everyone was settled in. Right around 35 people in the group.
I was ready to go, ready to push the pedals, and finally the horn sounded for the start. My heart jumped and I was able to clip in pretty quick and turn the legs over. The start was up a slight climb into a hard right to left turn. I tried to fight towards the front right away to keep clear of those riders not able to handle their bike. I had one rider come in hard from the left, trying to push me off, so I just leaned right back in and sent him into the tape. That gave me a boost of confidence that I could handle anyone coming up on me if we started getting into it.
The first lap was a blur. I worked hard to try to keep the guys up at the head in sight. But once we got through 3/4 of the first lap, they were gone. I had to settle in and work, trying to pick off one rider at a time in front of me. I got stuck in a group of 2-3 guys who were clearly better at cornering than me, but couldn't handle my endurance when the course opened up. So it was a steady back and forth.
In the second lap, I was coming down a steep off-camber turn and got my rear wheel touched, sending me down. I was up quick and ran my bike up the short steep climb and back around the next before I got back on. Immediately I noticed that my shifter hood at been bent inwards, so I tried to push it back out as I rode. I made some headway, but clearly I needed to stop if I wanted it perfect. I decided not to and just kept riding, holding my position.
I came up to the first hill after my crash and shifted into my smaller gearing, and I heard the dreaded 'PING!' from behind me. It was my derailleur sliding into my spokes! SHIT! This meant in my crash, my derailleur hangar had bent and I now lost my climbing gear. This wouldn't be a big deal if I were running an 11-28, but I had my 11-25 rear cassette on, giving me an 11-23 setup for some short steep climbs. Two more laps, only having an 11-23, I just decided to hang on.
I stayed with the guys I was with and we pulled around a few people who blew their load early and moved forward. It was a good feeling.
When the announcer stated we were on our last lap, I tried to push. I gave everything I had at each hill, controlling myself but pushing my limits to move forward more and drop people behind me.
The downfall for me is I am built a little more to out-endure people rather than out muscle them in a short race. So only 30 minutes of racing doesn't quite lead to optimal results for my style of riding.
I finished the race in the middle of the pack and was really happy. I had lots of fun and knew I had a lot to improve upon before I raced again. One thing being my position on the bike. My setup was much to aggressive for my lack of bike handling capabilities.