by Jeff (fine, I'll admit it)
As advertised, a few of us took a bus trip out to Dr. TK Lawless Park just outside of Vandalia, Michigan and we were certainly pleased with committing to an early start.
We loaded up the bus with 7 CCCers - Jamie, Christina, Mike, Max, Nico, Jeff, our newest kid on the block Brian Ellison and our guest of honor being Marie Snyder. It was a perfect sized crowd for splitting couches for those that wanted to go back to sleep at 5 am and having room up front for those that wanted to watch the Sean Kelly story on VHS (Thanks Len!!!!)
Naturally we were sent off with some Chicago style fireworks. Before getting on the expressway we heard a bunch of gunshots and saw people running every direction for cover. Word is it was some idiot deciding to pop off shots for no reason and peel off in an SUV. THAT will wake you up.
The rest of the morning mellowed. Between Kelly's highlights and having the drive into the sunrise be super pleasant it didn't feel like too long before lovely countryside led us to good ol' Monkey Run Road which led us to this cx season's best kept secret.
Registration was super cheap, the people were all very nice, and the atmosphere was very hospitable and intimate. Plus everyone was really excited to be at the area's very first cyclocross race. The organizers are clearly naturals given the foresight for having a bunch of free beer, free hot dogs and a DJ.
On top of all that, the course was a perfect design. The 1.5 mile loop started with a recessed start line leading to a grass straightaway, then a flip into a cluster of switchbacks, another grass drag strip, sandpit, plenty of barriers, off camber technical section, paved drag strip leading into an awesome backwoods path, then a bumpy grass stretch followed by a barrier up to near vertical short climb. The descent lead into the halfway mark of a toilet bowl section and then it inclined into another straight stretch. Then it 180'd into the final 200+ meters where it changed to mud and bumps. It was a merciless stretch of 100% effort to go so slow leading up to the final turn for the finish. Done right, the brakes would hardly need to be engaged. Except a couple of the 180s - those provided many adrift and skidding opportunities.
The women's race was held at a lesser attendance than we've been spoiled with via ChiCrossCup but it was still quite a respectable turnout for a first run. Teeners flashed the big guns with James on her heels to take 1-2 respectively. Marie finished top 5. Smiles and laughs ensued once the onslaught of pain reached its inevitable end and we all got our first helpings of "that was a really fun course!"
Following the bit of rain that helped make the course just that much more interesting, the men's C's category took off. It was the beginner category and it looked to be the highest attended race of the day. If the C's weren't the highest attended race, the B's most certainly took that honor. We plugged our 3 B men in (Brian, Nico and myself) for the next session and we fared well enough. Brian probably still hasn't forgiven himself for bonking out and bailing but that is how they learn... I ended up in a cluster of 4 that raced out 6 laps for 6th place. I took 6th in the end. Nico took many turns leading the race and hung hard for 2nd place.
The A's was a smaller contingent that saw separation early on. Max and Mike were 2 of the 4 racers populating the lead group and they all looked super smooth through a hellacious 8 laps. While they were out givin' er, everyone did his and her part to ensure the keg was emptied and the inevitable dancing started early. All the whilstwhile, on the course, one of the 4 gents from Spin Zone fell off the group (but admirably not off the pace) courtesy of a mechanical which left a thrilling trio finish going into the last lap. Out of the woods section only 1 rider flew through before the other 2 and that man was NOT wearing a CCC kit. Apparently Mike had a chain issue over the barriers and leapt to get out of the way of Max's remount but Max already compensated for the brand new barrier and they chose the same direction to veer. Collision city.
Max rolled in for 2nd and Mike rounded out the podium day with 3rd. It should be noted that because the beer went dry during their race, an organizer hopped into her car and did a beer run for them to enjoy some post race suds gratis. Awesome.
All told the racers got some great shots of themselves on the steps of prestige and each was awarded great mason's jar full of dirt sealed with a custom engraved top. Even more than that, we were all awarded with the great memory and connections made with some of them good folks over there at NIMBA and, of course, Spin Zone. Big thanks to them and all their efforts for really pulling off a fantastic day of events.
The drive back was plenty interesting (as it always is with that damn bus). We watched Timecop up until our arrival at Shoreline Brewery and then took the traffic in on the Skyway with a dessert helping of Total Recall. Big shoutout to James Lalonde for not sweating us on getting his box of "Fucking Intense VHS" back to him...
Either way. TK Lawless 2011! We're already considering overnight accommodations. No excuses for missing the next one, people.