Cyclo-cross season is upon us. As everyone gears us for the first big Midwest race of the year at Trek HQ I get to take the weekend off and work on recovering from not just the race but the non stop atmosphere of Interbike out in Las Vegas. The hole reason for the trip was to participate in Cross Vegas. I came out with few expectations knowing it would just be a ton of fun. Cross racing after dark is quite possibly the best thing to ever happen to cycling. The course looked challenging and rewarding. Then a few days before they decided to change the course, for the better, and make an already difficult course even more so. New additions included a bermed corner and a second flyover.

I was seeded 144 of 154 but managed to be starting in the last row. Looking at the reality of the situation I gave up all hope of doing well and just set out to push my self and have fun. That's exactly what I did, and it payed off. Off the start there was not much flat fast wide grass course which broke up the field and I managed to work my way up and put myself in a good position for the technical part of the course. This included quite a few short steep climbs up what seemed like a grass covered wall, a wooden bermed corner, 2 18inch barriers, 2 massive flyovers, and 3 sets of 4 6 inch barriers with what we all call kitty litter behind it. This made for a lot of getting off your bike sending your heart rate through the roof and hopping back on with not much time to recover in between each obstacle. All of this made for the most challenging course I have ever and will probably ever come across. This meant at the end of the race it was all the more rewarding to finish.

Being in the last line of riders my goal quickly became do not get lapped. The light at the start turned from red to green and all I heard was someone 10 rows up yell out, "hey shut up back there the race has started." 30 seconds later it was time to clip in and get going. I made sure to take it easy and not make any stupid moves on the first lap. Take it easy and play it safe I keep telling my self. And by the time it came for the first big climb I found myself catching up to the only other person I knew in the race who was staged in the 60's. I knew I was doing well but it was just the first lap. The second lap I felt even better. The field was strung out I found out where my Chicagoans were and made sure to go just a little faster through the sections they could see. The third lap started off great I felt great I was flying through the course. I hears someone say, "look at this kid he is killing it," and then came my least favorite part of the course. A sharp descent with a 90 degree turn off of pavement onto grass. I came into the pavement section from the grass bunny hopped up and was flying down and then it came time to start turning and when I leaned into the turn my rear wheel got away from me and I went down, and hard. I heard my body hit the ground, then my head, then I heard every spectator gasp, and finally as I was still sliding down the pavement a UCI official yelled out, "are you okay?" I thought to myself it's go time. If I do not get up now I am going to be pulled from the race. So I hopped back up grabbed my bike remounted and was off. Only 3 more laps to go. Each one of those laps hurt more than the last. Lap 5 I could see the race leaders as the course snaked back and fourth and I thought to myself it's go time. If I do not pick it up I will be pulled a lap short and feel like a failure. I made it, time for lap 6. The pain of hitting the concrete, dehydration, and just general tiredness set in. My legs felt heavy and I did not want to pedal anymore. I finished the race and came very close to passing out at the finish line.

About 15 minutes after everyone finished the results were posted and I saw I came in third place in the Mechanics Challenge Presented by Feedback Sports, yes every thing had a sponsor. About ten minutes later Vince on Half Acre Cycling, who was in Chicago, sent me a picture of the overall leaders board someone had taken and congratulated me on having won the  Wick Werks fastest lap competition. I had the single fastest lap time out of all 154 people in the Wheelers and Dealers race presented by Bicycling Magazine. All in all it was the most fun I have had at a cross race this year. But then again the Chicago Cross Cup has yet to start. Lets stay classy and have some fun this year.

See you on the grass in a park near you soon.       

 -A. Baldyga