Monday, October 1, 2007

New Belgium Worlds

Warning! More sappy ramblings ahead....

Gloucester, MA holds a very special place in my heart. My wife's family is from Gloucester and I fell in love with my bride-to-be over the course of the summers of 1998 and 1999 in Gloucester before proposing in 2000. Coincidently, this fledgling little bike race began to take root around the same time. 222 racers showed up in Gloucester in 1999. A huge race in those times. There was no Master's 3/4 race or Women's 3/4 race. You could race A Men, B Men, C Men, Women, Masters, Juniors, or Cub Juniors. I remember the race really well. It was my first fall out of college. I was racing with my pal Major Michael Shenk, who was an instructor at and raced for West Point/Army in around 20th place. On the last lap, a nail found its way through my rear tire and into my rim. That bit of bad luck cost me about 2 minutes and 15 places.

B Men - 55 starters
35 211 Michael Zanconato Northampton CC Pittsfield, MA

Over the next few seasons, Goucester became more and more epic. What was it about this particular race that turned it into one of the premier cross races in the US? Well, the dedication of ECV to put on a world class event was a huge part of it. But why this race? Why Gloucester? Cetainly the views don't hurt. And how the city has embraced the race is great. Not to mention New Belgium in October is breath taking. Was it the freak snow storm? Maybe having Vervecken and Pontoni over helped. Certainly watching local PRO Tim Johnson's wins drew a crowd. My theory is it falls just at the right time in the season. The fair weather cross racers are still enjoying the tail end of their season. The die-hards want bragging rights for the next 2 months. The PROs want UCI points. The leaf peepers see something funny going on in the park and they stop for a look. The kids are psyched to race, with the inevitable win by an Anthony (how many kids are in that family anyway?). It kicks off one series or another, so a good show there gets you the coveted call up for the rest of the season. All of the planets align I guess to draw some of the biggest crowds to the races. Over 1000 racers are already pre-registered for two days of racing. It is our Worlds. New Belgium Worlds. The biggest race of the season.

I have watched the event grow from day one. Sadly for me, I missed racing in 2000, 2001, and 2002. I was there, but not in racing shape. I cheered a lot, but didn't turn a pedal in anger. In 2003, I returned to what was called the Beginner class that year. 19th out of 51 starters. In 2004, I tried my hand at the Bs again. I remember thinking "oh my God, they are going so effing fast." I finished 91st on day one out of 93 finishers and 69th on day two out of 77 finishers. The blizzard of 2005 took its toll on me with a nasty crash on the first lap. I dragged my body around to 76th out of 81 finishers. In 2006, it was back to basics in the C race. I remember psyching myself out right at the start, feeling like I had no business being there. I rode to 23rd on day one out of 50 finishers and 17th on day two out of 49 finishers.

What does this have to do with anything? Nothing really. Except for the fact that I will thinking back to 10/16/99 a lot over the next two weeks. I want the top 20 B race finish at Gloucester that I didn't get back in 1999. No nail this time. I will see that yellow and black Army jersey of Major Shenk leading me around the course. And maybe, just maybe, I'll have the legs and the head for a top 15 and earn the one Verge point that I so badly want this year.

See you at Stage Fort Park.

9 comments:

josh said...

I wasn't to upset about missing it, but now I am. Thanks.

RIHans said...

Zank,
We can feel the passion in your posts. Thanks for spending the time! Best of luck.

gewilli said...

*sniff* *sniff*

Epic passion pounded out on your keyboard my friend! Epic.

And yes, Epic is an oft over used term in cyclocross. However, that post for some reason gives me goose bumps!

Josh? not going? THAT is a shame.

This is a race NOT to miss. Under ANY circumstances.

IF Chicks said...

It is the biggest race up in NE for sure..bring your parents to Gloucester to watch you race !

I did the elite women 's race in 1999 and came in last to Jen Dial in first. I didn't race again there til 2005 when they had a women's B.

At least this year our race is 40 min and separate from c men w/ot field limits(..
let the games begin !

zank said...

Wow. Jen Dial. There is a name from the past.

Robert said...

Mike,

Boy, you've come a long way in a short time. You and I raced three races together last year, my first year of racing. Our placings were not that dissimilar, although you beat me in every race (pretty soundly on Day 2 in Gloucester). I feel like I've inched forward as a racer, but you, you're killing it, dude.

Impressive.

Keep it up.

megA said...

i am not commenting

i am not commenting

ok, i am

no, no i'm not

zank said...

I heart mega, but she is such a tease.

FELTSLAVE said...

Great post Zank. Never met but heard a ton about you from Zoo and from reading you are a terrific human being,...good luck in Gl'ster. Sounds as though you are in ripping form for a pinnacale race for you.