Friday, October 19, 2012

Racing with the BIG BOYS as a Cat 2

After winning the cat 3's at Backer Orchard last weekend and getting on the boxes in the cat 2/3's at Madison USGP the weekend before, I decided it was time to apply for a upgrade to cat 2. As a cat 2, I would race in the 1/2's (the highest category, right under Pro) at all the local races. I got my request approved a few days before the weekend, ready to race with the big boys.

The plan was to race the first race, Cross & the Y and see how I felt the next day. It was strange being able to sleep late in my own bed Saturday morning, on the day of a race. Since my race wasn't until 2:30 and the course was only a two hour drive away we didn't have to leave the house until ten o'clock. I was actually a little bit nervous on the drive over, I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew I'd do fine, I'd already compared lap times and such... but there was something about the idea of racing in the 1/2's. I could remember watching the 1/2 race when I first got into Cyclocross three years ago and thinking how they were going so fast, and here I was about to go head to head with them. My nerves must have affected me a little bit because I wasn't quite as well prepared as I should have been. I forgot a few things when I packed, (nothing important thankfully) and was generally slow and distracted that morning so we got on the road a little late. Because of this I was only able to get one lap of pre ride in and I didn't dial in the course like I should have. My warm up was affected too, I didn't do a long enough or intense enough warm up.

At the start I finally snapped out of the weird distracted haze, it was time to race! Because of my inadequate warm up, I had a slightly lackluster start and had to do some work in the first half lap that I shouldn't have, but I quickly established myself in the front group. The course was fast, it only had a handful of tight corners but because of the high speed it was actually a pretty technical course in a different way, nothing like Madison USGP, but still challenging enough that I payed for not pre riding the course enough. Right off the first lap, A rider, Lance X, made it off the front. He is a good Mountain biker and the high speed corners were enough like fast single track he was able to simple ride away from the front group by going through the corners faster. This is the part of the race I went back and agonized over, if I had gotten a good enough warm up, I would have had a better start. If I had had a better start, perhaps I would have been able to follow Lance's aggressive lines through the corners and ride away with him...woulda-coulda-shoulda though, I made a mistake and learned a lesson, that's life!

Of course that's not what I was thinking about during the race, I was just enjoying being in the front group in a 1/2's race. I felt great, I wasn't in much difficulty and felt in control. It was almost like a really technical criterium after the chaos of the start and everything being established. Nobody was going easy (especially since Lance was still up the trail in first), but we were eyeing each other up so to speak. You could feel the tension in the air, like everyone was just waiting for some one to make a mistake, or for a attack to be launched. Coming into a corner right after the start finish a few laps in, just that happened. It was a sharp corner with a lot of speed coming into it and I had seen a few people look a little shaky through it in previous laps so I decided I wanted to be in the front going into it. I accelerated quickly past everyone into first just before the corner and while going through it heard my suspicions confirmed. The rider in third wheel went down and took everyone else with him. I looked back and it was just me and Fred Mills. "Lets go Josey! We got a gap!" he said, I nodded my head and start to really open up the throttle.

After a few laps of Fred and I taking turns driving the pace, Smithers and Matt Allen were the only riders able to bridge back up from the crash. I backed off the pace a little bit as they catch back on and let Matt take the lead. Matt sets a pace, but it wasn't a very aggressive pace and Lance pulled away to the point were I knew we wouldn't catch him.

We continued that way for most of the rest of the race. I had a minor mishap with my front derailuer and had to pit, but I caught back on quickly. Coming into one lap to go Fred attacked! I reacted quickly as I had been planning on attacking soon. With a little over a lap left he let off the pace and I counter attacked. I held a high pace strong until the last quarter lap and dropped Matt, then Smithers attacked me up a hill. It took me until right before the finish to close down the small gap he had on me, so I was third wheel coming into the high speed barrier close to the finish. I came over it fine, but out of it I didn't remount quite fast enough and Smithers and Fred got a small gap on me! I started my sprint early on the finishing stretch to try and close it down but right before I could catch and pass them Fred started sprinting and Smithers reacted. I finished fourth overall behind Lance, Fred and Smithers. 3rd in the 1/2's because Smithers was a master 35+.
3rd place at the Y Cross Race

The next day at Theo Wirth I was much more organized and got out early to do plenty of pre-riding and and get a good warm up in. I was a little nervous about the monster, super steep run up stairs but confident as well, because there was a single barrier coming into the finish that was low enough speed I felt comfortable hopping it. This time Eric Thompson (a few years ago he was on the U23 national championships podium) was here, so the competition would be a little tougher. Eric, Lance, and Fred got about a ten second gap on me from a little bit lackluster start, but I closed it down by the second lap no issue. I was was resting from my effort when I stumbled on a remount and they got a few yards gap on me. I went extra fast on the the downhill coming into the run up, as I knew they would be stronger on the run up then me but I was going to fast and crashed! I got back on quickly, but they already had a good 40 seconds on me and the crash knocked the wind out of me. I bunny hopped every lap till the finish, but I never closed the gap. Shortly after I crashed Fred smoked a corner and rolled his tire, so I passed him and finished 3rd. Eric won the the race in a sprint with Lance.

I made some mistakes but learned a lot from them, it was a good weekend.
3rd place Theo Worth Cyclocross Race

1 comment:

  1. great blog; you had my attention, anxiuos to see the outcome. hugs