Matt and I drove down to Cow Palace yesterday afternoon for Cross Palace, which was held in conjunction with SF Bike Expo. The course was incredibly short and went through a little pump track built inside one of the wings of the arena, then went outside again and dropped down into the lower portion of the fairgrounds where it took you up a run-up and back down an incredibly steep downhill then wound you through a maze-ified animal paddock then back up to the arena.
The rumor was that the downhill was around 45-50° grade; this might not have been true, but it WAS the same hill that the dirt jumpers were bombing down, and once you got down the hill you had to do an immediate right-hand turn on a berm and then an immediate left into a double-wide section of peanut butter mud. I hopped on the course to do do a few warm-up laps and ended up crashing incredibly hard coming down the hill the first time around. I didn’t even get to make the turn – I hopped on the bike at the top of the hill, got one foot clipped in and spent the entire downhill frantically, and unsuccessfully, trying to get the other foot in and ended up plowing full speed into the berm at the bottom and endoing over the top of it onto the asphalt. Fortunately I jumped back on my feet really fast and was completely fine, except for a bit of road rash on my knee and a super-size feeling of embarrassment from crashing so hard in front of so many people. I hopped back on the bike, finished the lap and went around one more time to give the hill one last shot. I was able to stay upright the second time, but got whacked in the “boys” by my seat so hard that I had to stop and sit down. I went to the top of the hill a few more times but just couldn’t bring myself to go down it again. At that point I had the full-on Fear, and decided not to take the start.
At first I was pretty disappointed in myself for losing my nerve, but as the day went by and I watched a few of the races it became apparent that the downhill section was genuinely dangerous. The hill and berm ended up collecting an alarming number of victims, one of whom had to be taken away in an ambulance. Another person voluntarily dropped out of the race because he thought the hill was unsafe, and Matt and I also spoke with one of the bigger names in the Bay Area ‘cross scene who refused to start for the same reasons.
I’m not sure if this race will be held in the future, but if it is and that same downhill is included, I will not be doing it. I love racing, but not so much that I will willingly ignore my self-preservation instinct.
- Nick in SF