And so the cross season starts! I had done some local Tuesday night races but this would be my first "real" cross race. It's a big race, all the best pros in the country go to the USGPs, but it's early in the season so I just treated it as a training race. Dad and I rode down Friday morning so I could pre ride the course. I had forgotten how much fun a well designed cross course can be! I rode the course for a good hour or so, dialing every corner. Afterward,s we went to a hotel a few blocks down the road and relaxed. I got up bright and early the next morning and rode over to the course. My race (the cat 2/3s) started at 9:30 and it was cold! as I warmed up and rode a lap in between races the temp was 38 degrees. Dad comes up to me and asks, "Do you want to try out some embro?" "Sure." I say (embro is a warming cream that you rub onto your skin to protect from wind and water) after some fussing around with my clothes I decided on a long sleeve skin suit with a undershirt and embro on my legs.
It rained a little bit the night before so the course got just enough moisture to smooth out and have really good traction. It would be a fast race. I lined up third row and took off my jacket and vest for the final few minutes before the start.
Last year here I placed 7th in the cat 4's. This year I was lining up for the cat 2/3's confidently. I had raced a few small Tuesday night races before this and I knew I had improved a lot. I was not ready for just how much I had improved.
Right off the gun I knew everything had changed. Despite my starting row, I quickly moved into the top ten and continued to move up. It was crazy, I could see the leaders up front and I knew I could catch them I just was completely and utterly in control. I moved up slowly but consistently until I was sitting top five. I could see my friend Ian not to far ahead when Lionel came flying by me on a downhill section. I got on his wheel and stayed there but he was much more powerful up the one hill in the course and he got a small ten second gap on me. He quickly moved into first and kept pretty much the same gap for the rest of the race. I caught Ian and gapped him a little bit, at that point I was in third place, looking up the course at the one last adult left ahead. On the last lap Ian caught up to me and I became less concerned about catching second and more on keeping third. Ian was strong, but gassed from his effort in catching back up from me. I came out onto the tar in the lead and it stayed that way. I finished 3rd place, 15 seconds down on Lionel, 5 seconds down on second place and less then a second ahead of Ian. I was super pumped!
The next morning it was not as cold. The sun provided some extra warmth as I pre-rode the changed course with Ian. It was pretty different, they took out a lot of technical sections and the surface was fast and loose. It was going to be a very fast race. I lined up in the same spot, third row right next to Lionel and right behind Ian. This time I started even better. After less then a half lap it was just Lionel, Ian, myself, and one adult. The next few laps were incredibly intense and fun. Never before had I been in a situation during a cross race were I wasn't at my limit and it became about tactics. We were flying, coming into corners at tremendous speeds and trading attacks. I got very jacked up about being at the front with Lionel, too jacked up. I got arrogant and decided to attack with three laps to go. I put Ian and the adult in some difficulty, but Lionel quickly and calmly reacted to it. It was a good attack, by far the best I have ever done, but poorly thought out. I did it coming into one of my weaker sections on the course, with too many laps to go. I was spent after my attack and got gapped by Ian and Lionel. not by much, just a few seconds, but it was enough. The adult passed me, and then on the last lap I bobbled riding the run up and it cost me another two places. I finished 6th.
It was a really fun weekend, a big race and really well put on with a fun course and lots of spectators. I raced far better then I ever have before and learned a lot on the second day. It's a great start to the cross season, I can't wait for more!