Monday, September 22, 2014

Waterford CX Day 1 and 2

Doublecross weekend. One of the (I guess) classic venues for Cyclocross in the states. Not a typical place to race cross, but the place does have everything you need for a great race. Its been a good place for me to race over the years as well. And at least this weekend yielded better results than last year. But since the weekend was compact with racing, here is the short story.

Day 1 - It was really hot and sunny. I was excited to race, but not about the heat. And in typical fashion, I botched my hydration plan a bit. The was was fast from the start. I was in a good spot. waiting for things to sort out. 3 laps in, the pace is high. The group is still 10 strong, and my heart rate is not coming down. I'm feeling sick, and my mouth is completely dry. I start sliding back. Brian W. Finally makes a jump to break up the group but I can't react. I slip back into the somewhere around 8-10. I had to back off and recover. I still felt like crap, but was able to start working my way up. I finally reach Andy F. and Tom B. who are fighting for the last podium spot. Tom makes a dig and I cover it, but it hurt. It was enough to get rid of Andy. But Tom surges again in the last lap, and I watch him ride away. It was probably the hardest 6th place I have earned to date. A ton of lessons learned on the day...

Day 2 - It was a lot cooler. Thank God. I get a good start and settle in on the top 5 group. Brian, was driving the train containing Alex M., Simon B., Andy F., Tom B, and myself and he was making it hurt. Again after 3 laps, Brain made another huge effort that finally dislodged a group of about 8. I was just hanging on. For the next few laps, I was getting gaped at the end of each lap, and having to burn a match to get back on during the long paved start finish area.

With 3 laps to go, I finally was able to keep the pace with the group and got a slight bit of recovery. I figured If I made it this far, I might as well throw in an attack and see what happens. By this time, the lead group was down to Brain, Alex, Simon, and myself. With a half lap to go, I attached on the paved climb. Brian stuck to my wheel, about Simon and Alex yo-yo'ed a little bit. This was the sign I was looking for. The group was content to let me control the back for the rest of the lap. on the 2nd to last lap, Brain Attacked through the barriers. I knew this was my train, and had to chase him down, I went. I was closing the gap, and opening up a gap of my own on Simon and Alex. With one lap to go, Brain dangled just ahead of me. I kept trying to bring him back, but he kept the throttle on full gas. The gap kept going up to Alex and Simon as well, which gave me some relief. the last 1/3 of the lap, Brain was almost completely out of reach. I just continued to keep my pace high and focus on not making any mistake. I finished a strong 2nd, and continued to learn even more...

Congrats to Ann on her Double wins!
Congrats to Brian on his Double wins!
Congrats to Aryn Pongo-moto for taking a win in his first CX race, and to his son Ash for taking a podium in his first cx race. I hope to see you boys out there again.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Alma Grand Prix of Cyclocross - If You Build it, They Will Come

It's my favorite time of year... And what a way to start the Cyclocross season off with a new venue, and race that attracted over 200+ racers! "If you Build it, They Will Come" is all I can think about when I think about this race. My hats off to Brain Hancock for having the vision and dedication to take a piece of land that was abandoned by the city of Alma and turn it into what will probably be the biggest CX race in Michigan! It turned out the be a great event, with a great course layout and tons of great sponsor support! Just work out a few "bumps" and it will be even bigger and better next year! Thanks Brain!

Now for the show.

Looking at the pre-reg list days before the event, it was hard to believe how stacked and deep the Master 35+ field has become. The typical self doubt crept into my head. Will I be fit? Am I going to suck and be slow? Will all the other guys be faster, and have they been training harder? Longer? Better? It never ends.

I arrived at the venue very early to help out Brian with parking and some last minute set up. I was excited, but had to wait to pre-ride the course. Reports were coming in that it was bumpy. No big deal I thought. So, finally I was able to take a slow lap. Yup, Bumpy. The self doubt was creeping back in. Now I felt like I just wanted to get through the day and move onto the next race. I wasn't sure I would fair well on the course with fitness or not. So I knew once the whistle blew, I would have to give it all I had and see where I ended up.

From the line, I stayed near the front. I was happy with this and just hovered around 5th wheel. There was lots of bumping and elbows. Just like any good CX race! a few crashes and a few early attacks. Brad lako, Andy Fedawa, Alex Monte-Sano, and Simon Bailey were leading the charge in front of me. I just held my ground and waited for opportunities to move up. A few laps in the pace was still high, but I was feeling good and seemed to be handling my bike well through the rough terrain and twist and turns. Soon after some of the leaders started peeling off and slipping back. First it was Alex, then Andy. Now Brad took the bull by horns and started to turn the screws. A small gap formed but I was not concerned. It was still early. I stayed on Simon's wheel and we chased. Another 2 laps or so, and it appeared that Simon was fading. I figured this would be my chance to try and drop Simon and bridge the gap to Brad. I accelerated and Simon could not counter. I soon was on Brad's wheel and we were both away and had an ever growing gap. Brad pushed hard, and I was content with sitting in. By now the race was about 1/2 over, and we both know the winner would be one of us. Each remaining lap, I would stay close, but Brad would inch away through the bumpy stuff, and I would pull him back in the turns. We continued to work together and keep the pace as high as possible.

With 2 laps to go, I made a small dig to go around at the start/finish straight. I wanted to test him, to see if there was a sign of fatigue. There wasn't. I controlled the pace for the next lap. We entered the last lap, and I was starting to feel the affect of the first CX race of the year. But I still had power and was ready to fight. Brad Made a really hard out of the saddle attack, I went too, but could not latch onto his wheel right away. I instantly went into the red zone to catch back on. He continued to pour it on, but I was not willing to let go that easy. I was in complete pain now, but somehow managed to bring him back a little at a time. Through the final twist and turns it was still any one's game and we both knew it. with about 500 meters left, I could not accelerate anymore to bring back the last few meters I needed to get onto his wheel going into the final straight to the finish line. Brad hit the final chute first, and I tried to real him in. He finished first, and I finished just a few bike lengths behind for 2nd.

I was really happy with the result, especially being so early and only working off of base fitness. A great sign for good things to come I hope.

I was even more happy to see Brad get his first Masters CX win, and to have a front row seat to witness the entire thing! I know how hard this guy works on the bike, so its great to see you getting the result you deserve. Somehow over the years, we have ended up in these great battle or race situations that I will never forget. And this one will be added to the list for sure.