Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Last Dance

It's a wrap. Another season in the books. It always amazes me how fast a cross season goes by when you're racing almost every weekend. And this year it went a little deeper for me than years past. So going into the last 2 races, I made sure I focused on keeping the engine revving high and not fading off too early like I have done so many times... Well I think I nailed it.

A big goal for me this year was to try and take the Series Championship for overall points in the Master 35+. I have never done this since I began racing Masters, and missed it by 1 point last year. A lot of things need to go right for this to happen. And remaining fit enough to go head to head for 4 straight months is only one of those things. Leading into the last Tailwind series race which was Saturday, I was tied for 1st overall with Simon Bailey. So my goals were simple, try and win the last race of the series and take the maximum points I could. And this is how it played out.

I headed over to Grand Rapids the day before and shacked up with the KLM boys. We arrived the next day to John Ball Park. Flat, grassy, and a very steep Euro style run up into the wooded hill. The Course was about perfect. And to make it even more interesting it already getting muddy.

I went through my usual warm up rituals and was ready to go. The field was small but there were enough of the regular guys that were just as hungry as I was for 1 last shot at a win before the end of the season. The clock counted down and it was show time. We fired off the line and into the slow muddy grass. We were locked in wheel to wheel, sliding and bumping off each other. I had an OK start, and settled in behind Tom Barrett, Andy Fedwa, Todd Greene, and Peter Monoko (Chicago rider) Tom was laying down and great pace, so I was happy just to sit in and see where things would go. After 3 laps, Tom was still leading the charge. By now Andy had slipped behind me. Todd and Peter were still in the hunt as well. Peter started making a few small mistakes and it would cost him a little each time. I decided that on the next power section I would put in a monster effort and attack to see who had the legs and possibly pop Peter and settle out the points race with Todd and Tom. I went, Todd reacted first and hopped on, and Tom followed. Peter was dislodged. It worked! But now I'm towing the other 2. Know that the effort hurt everyone, including me! I turned the screws a little more to grow the gap and try and soften the legs of Tom and Todd.

We rolled around another lap, and I decided to try the same move again. This time, I was able to get a small gap on Tom. Todd stuck like glue. We both turned the screws some more and began to trade pulls. With about 4 laps to go we had a good lead over everyone else, but I needed to find a way to get rid of Todd. This deep into the race, the steep muddy run up was killing us both. The mud on the first half was getting deeper and we were both on our limit and not willing to give each other an inch. By the time the last lap rolled around, I figured if I can't attack him and make him pop, I will need to be in front of him after the steep and sketchy downhill and try to take it in a sprint.

I pushed hard through the slow deep mud in the first half of the course going tape to tape in the turns to shut down the doors, and take away any opportunities for him to pass. My legs were screaming and now the steep run up awaited us. It was painful as hell. I was done with this hill on the 3rd lap, but knew I had to stay ahead. We coasted down the hill, and I was still ahead of him. The next part of the course was to not do anything stupid by taking risk and leaving a seam for him to squeeze by. It was all working so far. One more time through the barriers and into the power section one last time. I pedaled as hard as I could through this section to make sure he did not try and attack. I maintained the lead. Through the last twist and turns into the final straight I could hear everyone screaming. The legs were no longer feeling any pain. I got out of the saddle and started to sprint just after the apex of the last turn taking the inside line. I could see Todd's front wheel come along my rear wheel on the inside as well. I kicked again made sure I held my line and accelerated to the finish. It was enough! My 2nd CX win of the year, and my 1st overall Series Championship in Masters.

The Midwest Regional Cyclocross Championships were held the following day. My season was all or nothing on Saturday, so I decided to give it a go in the single speed class. I finished an OK 6th. But the good news was, Tailwind put on one hell of an event! Raising their bar to a whole new level.

Congrats to Simon Bailey and Todd Greene for round out the series overall podium. And special congrats to Todd for one hell of a weekend. 2nd on Saturday, taking 3rd overall in the series. 3rd in Masters 35+ for the Mid West Regional Podium and 5th in single speed on the same day!

Thanks to all the fellas that raced in Masters this year. It was incredible how fast and deep the field is and keeps getting. We truly have some the best and fastest racers in the state and the Midwest! See you all next year!

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