Tuesday, September 25, 2012
USGP Plant Bike Cup - When it All Comes Together!
What an unbelievable and fun weekend! A few weeks ago, I was not sure I would have been able to say that. As the USGP of Cyclocross appeared to be in jeopardy, and was not going to happen. But in the last hour, Trek Bikes stepped in with sponsorship and helped save this incredible event. As a result the race lived on and I was able to pull of something I never thought I would ever be able to do at a USGP event. I scored a top 3 podium in the single speed race! What an incredible feeling! And this is how it went.
Jim Goerlich, Mark Caffyn and myself made the trek around the pond and over to Madison, WI for this year’s edition of the USGP Plant Bike Cup. We got there early Friday and pre-rode the course. It was a lot of fun, and it had much more flow over the course from last year. As always, Jim and I traveled light and planned to take on the single speed class both days. The course was very single speed friendly and I could not wait to line up the next day. Well, the next day came and I was feeling great. Before heading to Madison, I felt I would be able to grab a top 5 and even a top 3 in one of the days if I had the opportunity. So my goal was set, and my confidence was high. This was going to be a tough goal to achieve as there are always big name players, and others coming out of the wood work with the same goal. As we arrived to the park, it was cold! Temps in the mid 30’s, and it sure felt like cyclocross. It kept trying to rain, and was windy as hell. I just thought to myself – Perfect! Jim and I helped Mark get ready for the Cat 2/3 race and cheered him on for a few laps before getting ready ourselves. After a quick warm up, it was time.
I was the 3rd called to the line, and was sitting front and center on the start grid. Lots of the same faces I did battle with the year before including pro Raleigh/Clement rider Craig Etheridge. I was feeling calm and ready. My mind was clear, and the countdown began. The official gave the 15 sec. warning, and shortly after, the whistle blew. We were off! A sea of Lycra clad single speeders were fighting for the hole-shot. I settled in behind the leaders in about 5th. It was chaos as the attacks came early and often. I pegged my heart rate to stay near the front, but did not panic, as I knew several of them would pop. I kept everyone within sight, and just raced my race. Soon I found myself near 10th place in the 2nd lap. I knew I had to start attacking myself. I made a surge, and dropped the group I was with. I could see a few more single speeders strung out in a loose line ahead of me and began to pick them off one at a time. By the 3rd lap, I was sitting back in the top 5. I was with 3rd and 4th riders, and the 2nd place rider was about a ½ lap ahead. We tried to work together and bridge back to 2nd place, but it was obvious that no of us really wanted the other around and each took small digs throughout the lap. I finally made my move in the flat section of lap 4. Another one dropped off and now I was battling alone for the last step of the podium, and 2nd place was getting closer. As we round the course and into the finally lap, the guy in 2nd place was still a few hundred yards ahead but showing signs of fatigue. I told the guy I was riding with that we needed to go get him and get him now, but he did not react. So I took it into my own hands. I went around him and began my chase for 2nd. I went as hard as hell, and was feeling really good and in control. I quickly dropped the 4th place rider and was bearing down on 2nd. Every corner I was gaining an inch. He would look back and try to push harder. As we came near the pits and into the last half of the course, I was only about 15 feet away. I planned my strategy and waited for my opportunity to make one last move.
We both pushed as hard as we could and the crowd and announcers were all going crazy and cheering us on. This made the last few minutes exciting as hell! The only thing left was the hardest part of the course. The long hill climb, downhill switch back and then – the “hill side strangler” run up. I was hot on his heels and wheel to wheel going into the last climb. I pushed past the pain, and knew I had to be the first to the top of the hill to beat him. I began to pull past as we climbed, and as we crested the top, I pushed past him and continued to push as hard as I could through the flat section and into the run-up not looking back. Through the final turns and onto the pavement I did not know where he was, so I was still pouring it on. I crossed the line and saw I had a gap. I did it! I just finished in 2nd place at a USGP! I was so stoked, and couldn’t believe it actually happened!
Day 2 was another good day. I did not stand on the podium, but I did finish up 6th and missed the top 5 by only a few seconds. The course was wide open this day, and I was slightly under geared to hang with the leaders. But my effort was solid, and I was able to negative split my laps for the 2nd day in a row. Overall, what an incredible weekend, and one I will remember for a long time.
The MI scene was in full affect as several folks made the journey for some of the best CX racing in the country.
Congrats to Jeff Weinert for take 2nd place on both days and is in the hunt for the Masters 45+ overall title.
Margaret Robinson – 2nd Cat 4 women Day 1
And congrats to Mike Wissink, Matt Baroli, Tom Burke, Ellie Burke, Sven Baumann, Adam York, Danny Gerrow, Mark Parmelee, Andy Weir, David Johnson, Mark Caffyn, Cruise, Greg Johnson and Jim Goerlich for showing the Wisco crew how the MI scene rolls!
Finally, thanks to the Wolverine/AFC guys for offering up there trailer, tent, and compound during the weekend. It makes it feel like being with family at these races!