10 Jan CycloCross Nationals Verona, Wisconsin
After a long road season I have been training carefully with my focus on two CX races, Master’s Nationals and Master’s Worlds. I say carefully because after having great fitness at the end of the road season, I needed some down time but not enough to lose the edge. No disrespect intended, this is why I raced the 50+ races in our local series for 2/3’s of the CX season. These races allowed me to go at my on pace and not have my race sharpness increase to quickly. Subsequently I feel very close to perfect nailing my race fitness. Time to get to the race report.
Anyone that watched the video I posted from the Badger cross weekend could see a Nat’s course that was dry and fast. I made comment then, when the perma frost moves into the Madison ground, this course would grow teeth! It did, there was ice, mud, soup, peanut butter, frozen ruts, soft ruts, you name it, these variable conditions were plentiful every lap. The dry rough fast course had turned into a war zone, a perfect test for a National CX Championship.
During the last month of the season I was trying to increase my national ranking gaining a front row spot for the start of race. Receiving the 4th call up spot which put me next to Kevin Heins and Steve Tilford was as good as it gets.
The whistle blows and the sprint for the dirt/mud is on. Working the road section, which is second nature to me, I grab Tilford’s wheel who is known for riding away from the master’s fields in the first k of these races. This was not going to happen today if things were to go as planed. Into the first left hand turn it was slippery and sloppy, as we both are two wheel sliding on the exit of this corner. I am eating quite a bit of roost in the next flat fast section, internal laughing, reminding myself to relax and have fun with this. I am feeling good and the pace is not too hard, bonus. Steve bobbles in the next corner so I pass him, I did this just to let him know we are still connected, no disrespect intended. This does not effect him as he passes me back in the muddy 180 bumping bars a few times. I am sure he was laughing thinking who is this little guy that I am about to drop. The false flat is perfect pace and my breathing is not labored. We climb the wall section and I have to stall because the pace is not fast enough when Kevin passes Tilly, hooking him in the process. Steve makes comment, “really” and I laugh to myself again. We are showing little respect to Steve with these passes. Now in the second false flat, this is the attack spot. 100 m of 3 percent grade in sticky slow conditions. I have picked my line during my morning laps and stick to it. A quick check to see the damage caused, we have about a 10 second gap on the field. I move to the right side where there is a small line of dry grass hitting a patch of newly exposed perma frost and loosing the front wheel. Now I am on the ground, WTF! Quickly getting up, remount only to find I am in a large gear and have to down shift with no momentum. Finally back to speed which seems like a minute in my mind, I check to see how close the 4th place rider is, still a 3 second gap. Clearing my head I stand up and drill the rest of the uphill, thinking I just lost the race. The two fast boys are now about 12-15 seconds up the road. I do not panic and tell myself to go into safe mode, No crashes. I will try to open the gap on the field while making a push to close on the leaders cautiously . The chances are not good since they will be exchanging pulls trying to hurt each other. Trish Black is yelling splits of the chase group to me by the soccer field, thanks Trish. 10 seconds at the end of lap one, 25 lap two, 40 lap three, about a minute lap four and 90 seconds at the end of the race.
I am happy with a 3rd place finish, other than the huge mistake on lap one, it is a good result. I have another shot at these boys next week, if I do well in the qualifying races. This is CX so anything can happen to any of us.
Dave Eckel was awesome in the pit today, thanks Dave. I took a clean bike every lap, having a lighter bike going up the greasy steep hill, making a huge difference. I have to say Tilly and Kevin rode very well, Congratulations to both of them.
After talking with Tim Butler earlier in the week, I decided to line up in the Elite race, bumping up my national CX ranking. This would also be a perfect 30 minutes of race training, which is difficult to simulate. I was laughing because my call up was 80th on the starting grid. This was going to be a cool experience for me since I am so used to being in the front row.
So I am staged in row 10, and I ask the young man from Mob Squad, who is next to me, how old he was. He responds 18, I laugh outwardly telling him to have fun and be safe, that he has many years to play the game. The whistle goes off and people around me start to panic as I clip into my pedal. I gain a few places, maybe 10 before we hit the dirt and it is total chaos in the first straight, then a huge stall in corner one though I gain a few more spots. Corner two is slippery and I see a crash in the exit, so I go right toward the pile up. Everyone is trying to avoid the carnage to the right, I ride through clean, gaining a few more places. I wait until the false flat and pass a few more people and really gas it on the steep part.
I digress. On the steep section maybe 20 meters long, it was a tunnel of extremely loud cheering, to the point I wanted to cover my ears because it was painful loud. This is quite different than a master’s race!
Now I look back and have a nice gap still being connected to the line of racers in front of me. It stays like this for the first lap. The start of lap two I drop a few guys on the road section, now I can see the ground in front of me which slows me down. The conditions are quite variable, what I would call sucker conditions. Many places you could haul ass, and many places you could crash if you stayed in this aggressive mode of racing. I was here for training, not crashing, and rode very conservatively, only drilling it really hard on the climbs and more stable sections. My goal was to hold off the leaders for 30 minutes, which is exactly what happened, I was pulled ending my training ride in 69th, 1 place behind Paul Mumford, another local rider, that I am a fan of. Watch for Paul in the future, he is quite fast for a first year CX racer.
I am very happy that I rode this event, a really fun way to train. Not only good training but I was able to watch the rest of the race which was awesome, a great battle in the final laps.
I have to mention Machinery Row, an awesome bike shop in Madison that hosted a great party on Friday evening. Heidi took a few photo’s, here is one with two fast cute pro racers, how could I say no when they asked to have a photo taken with me? Also check out Heidi’s pimp coat that she was wearing on Friday at the races, many people wanted photo’s with her, why not, she is hot.
One more week and the season is over, I am looking forward to Louisville and Master’s worlds. Lets hope for a lucky draw in my qualifying heat for my starting position. This would help not only to qualify but would give me a better chance at a forward starting position on Saturday. Well that is provided the heat goes well, it is CX racing. One more race report and then the off season. Hope everyone is enjoying the mild temps in the Midwest, I have been. Remember to send in your photo’s of your PAIN CAVE, you could win a jar of the new ButtonHole formula, check here for details.