(Belated) Race Report - Mill City CX or How I Unintentionally Raced Single Speed and Learned to Love It

7:46 AM

Oh, I hate getting behind.  And I am really behind.  But since I’m only keeping this blog for my own self, I guess I can give myself a pass every now and then.  
So while the last few weeks have left me mentally and physically exhausted, and too damn cranky to write up my race reports, I have also experienced a revival of ridiculous fun in my cross races.  Though I could definitely do with a few more hours of sleep every night, I’m glad my racing life has taken this unexpected turn.
It started with Mill City CX, which takes place on a course that veers from the “crossy” (steep but short climbs, some good twisty turns, a nice sandpit with a swing set) to the “roadie” (too much time spent on a paved walking path).  The first lap went very well, and I crossed the line unexpectedly leading the 3s.  It didn’t take long before I was overtaken, but by lap 3 I had a healthy lead on third place and was beginning to get excited about a possible podium.
It appears that, at least this cross season, whenever I think a podium spot is within my grasp something happens.  Struggling up a hill I clicked my shifter to ease into my (favorite) 28-tooth ring.  Click, click, click...nothing.  Click, click, click...what, is my chain dropping down to my 12-tooth…?!  I coasted to the side of the course, where the Spouse was cheering with a couple of guys, and tried to make sense of why my rear derailleur cable was so slack.  Race over.

The stick that saved my race
Or so I thought.  Over my meek protests, one of the bystanders (an excellent mechanic) decreed that we could fix this with a good stick.  “No, no, I can just DNF…” I said as he hunted through the bushes for the right tool.  A minute later and he had the stick jammed in my derailleur holding me in the 19-tooth ring, I had only lost one place, and I was back in the race on my (unintentional) single-speed bike.  
And that is how I got to race the second half as a single speed.  I understand a partial race isn’t much for experience, but I am starting to understand why people like this set-up.  My bike dictated rest spots - once you’ve spun out on the path you really can’t go faster - and forced me to climb stronger.  While it might be my inclination to sit in my 25 or 28 on the hills, I have to admit that climbing in the 19 was do-able and quicker.  And since I race better when I’m able to disconnect my brain, not having to even think about shifting made it even easier to let go of my thoughts and just go.
Because of my mechanically-induced rest stop, second place was far out of my reach.  But there were a couple of places on the course where I could measure my progress against her, and I was happy to find that the gap was coming down with every lap.  The stick held for the rest of the race, and I was glad to finish with a smile on my face.  Third place with an exploded shifter?  Heck yeah!  

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