|Elite men's starting grid|
As seems to be this case every year, the cyclocross season came down on us all too unexpectedly like a juggernaut, just as we were finishing the summer up with some longer distance gravel road racing. Very different look and feel and some very different training requirements. This year, what with me be located primarily in VT for the month of August, cyclocross specific training lapsed, though I did do a good job of tapering down and ratcheting up the intervals by going out after a bunch of Strava segments. Every ride a race.
Last week the core team (Cathy, Kyle and I) went out for the normal Wednesday night CX practice session. We've started to run into more and more user conflicts with the conservation land we have used the past couple of years. Lots of folks walking dogs in the fields, whom are not confrontational but whom I don't want to offend. This is compounded by larger groups, which is why I've pared the numbers back in the training sessions and why I've started to use alternate areas as need be. Anyhow, we got in a good solid practice, including the traditional helping of sand, the difficulty of which I was quickly reminded.
|Trying to claw a gap open|
While out pre-riding I bumped into good fried Bill Shattuck. We talked a bit and then he mentioned that everyone would be gunning for he and I in the first race. I didn't understand his meaning and then he mentioned he was issues bib number 2 as the second highest ranked rider in the field and though I hadn't picked my number up yet, would be issued number 1. Wow, I had no idea. I'd not even looked at ranking or crossresults.com as of that point but was honored as I'm not sure I've ever had the privelage of wearing bib number 1 before. I also knew the cold reality would be that there was only one way to go from there and that from a crossresults ranking perspective, my points could only get worse. The way the algorithm works, the favorite in any race always receives more points for that race than their current average even if they win. This gets really bad in many of the SSCX races, which is a big reason why I try not to look at crossresults.
The course was awesome, lots of fast flowy turns but also plenty of tight, difficult turns and varied surfaces. The woods section, of which there was plenty, was super fast slalom through the trees with some great change-ups. Kudos to the designer, John Plump, who did a stellar job. The start section was a grass field straightaway of about 75 yards into a hard right hand and chicane that quickly choked down. It then wound right and then a hard left down hairpin and some rolling side-slope next to the pond. Lots of hard driving corners and punchy little power sections as well as the technical woods section gave great variety while keeping racers on their toes.
|Stuck like glue|
Soon it was time to line up. That was after some frantic, last minute shifting adjustment. The starting grid was brilliant. There were 10 slots in each row and there was a sign at the side of each row with the number range that should be in that row. How simple was that. No call-ups necessary.The fact that I was ranked high said nothing negative of the quality of the field. We had Manny Goguen who was the honest favorite as well as Bob Stine who is a solid Elite 35+ racer. We also had Billy who'd been killing it all summer on the road as well as the Geekhouse squad with Mike, Ian and Matt, Colin who has found and excelled at Enduro racing and a host of other really strong guys. This was going to be really, really hard.
|Battling to the finish|
A few laps into the foray I slid out on the loose uphill gravel entry that led to the pit on the front side of the course. Bobby attacked and gapped me. It took a full lap to catch back on but once I got there, I knew I'd need to work hard. There were only a couple laps to go and on the back stretch I went around and started attacking. Multiple times up the back stretch hitting as hard as I could to inflict damage. This increased the gap we had as well and brought Manny ever so slightly closer. With one to go it was go time. I kept it as hard as possible, sprinting through the start/finish area to begin the lap and charging from every corner. Going hard was critical but staying clean was just as important. I continued to attack with the intent of getting to and through the barriers first. Somehow I managed to make it there first and protected the corners making sure that I wasn't leaving things open to a late pass. We sprinted hard from the last corner and the order remained. Manny took it with plenty of room to spare of course but Bob and I raced it hard.
|Elite men's podium|
|SSCX women's podium|
|SSCX men's podium|