Race Report – Bamacross Dirt Crit by Dan Hadley

Race reports: we like ’em, we need more of them! As ‘cross season kicks into high gear, we asked local ripper, Dan Hadley to spin us our first guest race report.  – YYR

Dirt Crit, what a bad-ass thing to do on a weekend, sounds almost like a satanic ritual doesn’t it?… Dirt Crit“. The words of a friend at last week’s cross practice indeed rang true. The first race of the Bamacross Series, the Dirt Crit, was by all accounts bad-ass with parts of the course driving you deep into the darkness of the pain cave.

The Dirt Crit course is nestled in a quiet, beautiful little corner of Alabama, just north of Birmingham. Circumnavigating a small campground and following Fivemile Creek for a time, the course begins flat and fast as it follows the horseshoe bend in the river. Then, it progresses with a gentle incline to some slightly more technical bits before sucker punching you right in the gut with a paved hill that sends your heart rate through the roof. A couple more turns and you’re shot out of the trees and down a fast and loose gravel descent towards the finish.

Driving north on Saturday allowed Kelsey and I to preride the course and enjoy the verdure of the setting before the battles that would be fought the following day. Sunday dawned cool and misty and progressed calmly through a surprise tubular flat, the earlier races, and some donut hand-ups.

Lining up for the 3/4 race I recognized a few fast faces from the Follycross3.Doh race the previous weekend. I knew the race would be fast as the course lacked any barriers or other features requiring dismounts. I had to get on the front, peg it, and hold it as long as I could; there would be no working through the pack in this race.

As we raced down the straightaway to the holeshot gate, Michael Lambert and I were neck and neck on the front of the pack. He took the holeshot into the first right turn but I edged around him as the course straightened out along the creek. Going flat out into the slight uphill, Peter Reed made his move and put some daylight between us. Thinking we still had a lot of racing left to do, I left the gap out there through the back section of the course as we climbed the hill and then, dove in for the second lap.

Working through our second lap, it was Peter off the front and I was in a pack of four with Michael, Said Assali (winner of Follycross3.Doh), and Arthur Wilke battling for position through the turns. Said and I began working together to reel Peter in and soon, it was just he and I with a solid gap on the field.  But despite all our efforts, we could not seem to gain any distance on the man who was on his second race of the day and would go on to podium in each of the three races he entered.

Said and I traded pulls for the remainder of the race as the problem grew in my mind of how I could improve my odds at the finish against this more experienced racer. It was my turn to pull on the bell lap and I knew I would have to do something beyond putting down more watts to shake Said. Converting that sucker punch hill to a run-up was the only option I could think of in my oxygen depraved state. As we started up the first incline of the hill, Said was glued to my wheel, as we hit the sucker punch section, he shot past me like I had stopped for a hand-up. I held on and stayed on his wheel but to no avail, the last few corners and the loose, gravelly downhill allowed no opportunity for passing. We finished second and third behind Peter Reed who was already putting his feet up at the finish line when we arrived.

Photo by Molly Beth Shaffer

After a hard race, a jump in the swimming hole down the bank from our campsite and some Birmingham barbecue was the perfect cyclocross recovery regimen. The Bamacross series returns to this course (and adds a totally gnarly river bank run-up I hear) on October 24-25 for the fourth race of the series.  I already checked the schedule for you – there’s no DSGP race that weekend. I would strongly encourage you to get out and check out a Bamacross race (or two or three) this season, well run races, nice folks, good food, all just across the way in Sweet Home Alabama.

– Dan Hadley

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