A couple of weeks ago was the pre-season opener of cyclocross in New England out in the western part of the state in Monson, MA. Cathy and I have done this race the past couple of years with relatively good results. Going into the event I had mixed feelings. My training has been off a bit from the early part of the summer. I've certainly lost fitness and strength. Not sure if it is dreaded overtraining, the lingering RA issues or if it's all mental. Regardless the numbers are not adding up. The season also came all too quickly this year, as it always seems to, but this year especially. Being busy with work is no doubt part of that.
I've been struggling with heat lately. I'm blaming it on some medication I was taking which listed issues with the sun as a side. Fortunately I'm off the stuff as it wasn't, IMHO, helping anyhow. Before the race I rode some laps and felt OK. Based on attendance I knew it would be a struggle but was still partially optimistic. On the line we all went hard and I hit settled into third spot. Within a half lap I moved to second but the leader, Dave H., was pouring it on hard. I chased and made no ground, in fact he continued to gain on me.
With that effort I sputtered a bit and got caught by Don S. as I was coming around for the third lap. I sat on and thought that we could work together. The run-up was giving me fits and putting me way over the top. Not sure what changed as I'm usually pretty good with the running sections. Anyhow, I followed but hung back a little bit on the technical woods section, just in case.
I've know Don long enough to know that he likes to hang it all out there, which often pays dividends, but nearly as often ends in spectacles of calamity. Sure enough, he'd watched me take my 'secret line' through that section and gave it a go himself. What he missed was that in hugging that tree, you needed to use the first rock as a kicker to jump the second rock and setup correctly to clean the third rock. Needless to say the second rock flatted him instantly and the high speed corner at the bottom didn't go so well. It was like Days of Thunder, at the end I mean, and he slid low and I stayed high and missed him. I've nearly killed Don by nearly running him over in similar fashion on dirt-bikes, sleds, MTBs and now cross bikes :)
From there I collected my thought and kept the gas on as best I could. Dave continued to ride away and I fought hard to keep a charging Snoop away, barely. And so it ended, but not before the first and second Elite racers, Justin and then Todd, who started a couple minutes behind the masters, caught and passed me. I kept Alec off though. Small things.
All in all I was reasonably disappointed with my performance. I've been targeting cross all season and was really hoping for more. The heat cooked me again as well, though I managed to not get physically sick this time. Will see how it goes this weekend, which will be the official start to the season. I felt pretty good last night and although my lying b!tch PowerTap was flashing 'you still suck' all night, the results looked promising. Either that or everyone else was on a rest night.
Cathy on the other hand had an excellent race. After what could arguably be called the worst start in history and hitting the first section nearly dead last in a very large field, she steadily clawed her way up through the field and well into the top ten. Looks like she is ready to race.