Strategy and tactics. Two concepts that almost never find their way into my race mentality. Sure, I usually have a strategy, and I always intend to stick to the plan, but as soon as the whistle blows my mind shuts down and it all fades to black. The plan Sunday was to see what happened and follow wheels for a bit, hopefully the leader’s wheel, and then try and escape.
The whistle blew and a half lap in I was on track, 2nd wheel and feeling good but feared the pack was still too intact, so just before the lap I went to the front and pushed hard. We quickly whittled the group down to three of us with two guy’s I’m pretty evenly matted with, Ryan and Peter. I kept on the gas for the lap trying to get a gap but they were having none of it. Realizing that I didn’t want to spend the race pulling the train I flicked my elbow for Ryan as we came through the start/finish and Peter launched around hard. With effort I got back on and sunk into a rhythm of easing on the power sections and catching back on the corners, all the while trying to conserve as much as possible and bide my time, waiting for the right moment to counter. Except for one issue going into the Flyover when Ryan missed a grab and I ran into the back of him, slamming my bike into my knee, things went well. This was good as this year, things have been less about plans and more about trying to motivate myself to push on when I haven’t really wanted to. Peter kept pushing hard and led for two full laps, which I hoped was taking a toll on him, with Ryan in second and me sitting in third.
Coming around for two to go, Peter finally looked back and I could see the stress on his face. Ryan was reluctant to come around and as the two pondered what to do next I launched as hard as I could between them. I got a gap going into the grass and eased lightly to give the legs a breather, then punched it out of each corner and on each incline. The idea was to soften them by making them chase back on at every possible point. I spent the lap doing that then backed off to steady tempo for a bit on the final lap then hit it again. By the Flyover there was a small gap on Peter so I drilled it coming back through and around the final switchback sections. I knew that I had to be in the front as coming around on the final stretch would be nearly impossible for me, a person who can’t sprint to save their life. Coming out of the final corner with about 150 meters to go I opened it up. I could see Ryan was coming up so I put my head down and went as hard as possible, which luckily was enough to maintain. The plan worked.
Unfortunately, that six laps of intense racing wasn’t the warm-up I was hoping it would be and so the next 8 laps of the race that immediately followed were hell. My motivation was non existent and a few laps in, neither were my legs. Ryan was the only other guy stupid enough to do the double so the two of us spent a couple laps chatting it up then raced each other for a couple laps and then just managed to complete the last couple and get to the finish. On the upside, the course was fun and I feel that I got some good cornering practice in. I wouldn’t call what I was doing racing though with lap times nearly 30 seconds slower in the 2nd race than the 1st and an average HR 10bpm lower. Bottom line is that there is a reason cross races are 45 or 60 minutes and not 105 minutes long.
JD was very kind in the write-up and according to Cathy, his camera was also flattering :)
bikereg.com Cyclocrossracing.com-MRC Cross Race Results