After having a few difficult weeks at the office and riding, Enzo is felling good being back at the rock pile. As stated earlier, I would allow my fitness to drop in order to have the focus needed to make a good run towards the end of the cross season in January. I will admit that this is a very difficult thing to do, since the road season fitness was as good as I have had since 2008.
DeKalb is always a weird race for me, at least the past two seasons. I have always liked the layout of the course but not so much the terrain. The property/park is beautiful with large oak trees and enough off camber to keep your interest. I have never liked the many roots we have to contend with, I think this is more suited for MTB racing, not cross racing. This is not a complaint, it is the same for everyone, you just ride higher tire pressure to avoid breaking a wheel. The course is always quite bumpy, now combine the higher pressure and varied terrain, this summarizes why this course always thrashes my lower back. The two main alterations to the course seemed to create an imbalance, in my view. First the elimination of the tennis court loop and second, the tightness of the 180 style turns. I thought this reduced much of the flowing nature of the course, which in past years was excellent. There were many positive comments I heard like, “I love that they took out some of power sections, it is more suited to my riding style” or “I really like courses with many sharp turns, that is better for me”. Enough about that.
As the whistle blows I have another poor start, missing my pedal a few times going from front row to 12th by the first turn. Danny Warner, my ex-teammate, nails the whole shot and is putting pressure on the field. I have to wait in order to advance my position since there are not many sections to pass safely. I make it to 4th place only to wash my front wheel in a greasy right hander, a solid 25 inch front wheel drift before losing it. Back to 7th place, I quickly remount, straighten my brake lever with a few hammer fists, and regain my focus. I see Danny and John Shull (Alberto’s) have 10-12 seconds gap, so the chase is on. It takes me a full lap to make up the distance, reconnecting in the start finish straight section. Waiting about 20 seconds, when there is a short straight as we enter the single track, I attack. Gaining a small gap only to give back in the technical tight turns. This is the story of the race, gain a few seconds give it back in the turns. Because of the firm front tire pressure, I am not able to go fast in the corners, very frustrating, oh well, that is CX racing. You need to be excellent in many aspects of riding a bike in order to be on top all the time; that is what makes it cyclocross great.
The continued attacks eventually drop John and it is just the two of us. I decide to sprint from second position, letting Danny lead through the back section of the course. I hope he will push the pace and maybe make a mistake, but no dice. Off the bike at the final dismount and I nail the remount, now a right hander and 50m to the line. I now see a lapped rider in my line, which causes a slight distraction, having to choose which side to pass him. 50m was not enough race track for this slight hesitation and I lose in a bike throw. It was close enough that Danny asked me, “Who got that?” I said, “I am not sure”, though I knew he nipped me by 4-6 inches. Good race Danny.
The other highlights, Ward, after being sick as a dog and off his bike for 6 days, finished 4th, with Brian Karlow hanging on for 5th. Brian Karlow Jr. in his first CX race ever, also finished 5th in the 12-14 Juniors. He was riding a bike with standard pedals, no attachments. Way cool, the kid was super jacked about this, so were we.
Normally this is where I would start the next race report, but that was not the end of the day. We did the podium, congratulating Danny on a good race. I loaded the car watching Brian Jr. race then headed home.
The next few days I played kick the dog, me being the dog. I was holding on to losing a local 50+ CX race. This is unfamiliar territory and I will admit not liking it one bit. Sue McVey summed up this attitude nicely after asking how I did. My reply of 2nd in a less then excited tone, Sue says get over yourself, 2nd is great. Thank you Sue McVey for the grounding. Once a mom, always a mom.
Still, you cannot remove the DNA plus conditioning and I was going to Dan Ryan Woods with the intention on hurting myself and anyone that want to stay on my wheel.
Dan Ryan Woods
After listening to the baby cry about DeKalb, Heidi decided she wanted to come and watch and see if the claimed fireworks were really going to be launched. This was nice since we would bring the Enzo’s tent and the weather was going to be in the low 80′s, awesome. After setting up the tent quickly I went for a sight lap in my street clothes, since it was clear the course was quite different from previous years. This was a whole new race track, with the main difference being the direction. The race would be run counter-clockwise, opposite from the first two years. It took me three laps to pick the correct lines for me, with on crash on the technical twisty downhill. I was not the only one who imitated an avalanche in this section during their warm up. Today it was important for a full warm up then off to staging. Danny Warner and I rode around the infield together talking about our kids and other things not related to racing waiting to stage. Then Danny says, “How about we put some separation on the field today?” I responded, “That is my intention” and said no more.
On the line we get the 30 seconds warning from Nikki, and the whistle blows. I nail my pedal second rotation finally nailing a good start, Danny and I are side by side and 30m from the first turn I grab 2 more gears increasing the speed. Now we are rolling and I keep the gas on at 95%. As we reach the first hill I go 100% to the top gaining a small gap. Danny is still close 2-3 seconds though I do not care; I am going to put him to the test today, and myself. The second hill is where I thought the vicious attacks would come and go 100% to the top again. This is about a 40 second effort and at the top I can see the split which is now about 8 seconds. Here is a power section and I find myself in my wheel house keeping the throttle open, only hearing the sound of my lungs screaming for air. “Not now lungs, we are going deep today”… a statement needs to be made.
I am not aware of the actual split time but can see I am leaving one section of the course while Danny, 2nd place, is entering that same section. Again, it is about going as hard as possible for 45 minutes. Now I catch the women’s leader, Samantha Schneider (Team Tibco). Waiting to pass Sam where we will not have a chance of crashing each other, since we are both going fast, a quick thanks and back to the suffering. At the end of the race Heidi had the split, 1:34 to 2nd. Knowing a hard effort has been thrown down, I will sleep better tonight.
Other Highlights, Ward also makes the podium in 3rd while still not feeling 100%. Brian Jr. finishing 3rd making his first podium, great racing kid. This kid is flying with no experience; watch out for him in the future.
This will be it for a couple weeks, since I will not be in town this weekend, I will be giving up the CCC 50+ series lead. I am going rock climbing in Kentucky’s, Red River Gorge with my oldest daughter, which has far greater value to me. Have fun and race safely boys and girls.
Thank you to A.L.L. Masonry, you know who you are. Also to Rob Curtis at Psimet Custom Wheels, freaking awesome wheels for less money than the big factory wheel sets. Last but not least, Heidi who puts up with all the crabbiness that comes with being connected to such a competitive spirit.