Sunday featured our team hosting the 2nd race of the Chi-Cross Cup Series with North Central Cyclery at Hopkins Park in Dekalb. Props should go out to everyone involved, as this race turned out great. An excellent course, with perfect cross conditions made for a very exciting day.
Naz, Erica and myself arrived in Dekalb at 7:15am to help setup for the day. I took on the task of taping up the course with Bob, Jason, Helge, Kevin and a great group of guys from NCC. Due to the immense length of the course (2.3 miles) we ran out of tape with an hour and half before the first race, which caused some panic. Someone from NCC ran to Lowes to get additional tape, and we quickly finished the course while the masters riders were preriding. While wearing street clothes and shoes, I quickly hopped on the bike and made a lap around the course to make sure nothing was missing and to get an idea of the fun that was instore for later that day.
Other HAC memebers took to the task of setting up registration and the bake sale table. I must say, they did a great job. Registration was smooth and the bake sale items were outstanding. I heard nothing but compliments about the registration, course and bake sale items.
10am approached before I knew it. I examined the weather outside, and decided that a chance of rain was likely at some point in the day, thus making the course muddy and slick. At this point, I changed tires from my Michelin Jets to some knobby Bontrager tires that would get better traction and shed mud should the conditions turn out that way. After the tire change, I went to cheer on Adrian, Zach, Kevin & Mike in the Cat 3 race. It started to sprinkle lightly at the end of the race, so I was happy with my tire selection.
Near 12pm, it started to rain hard enough that I didn't want to be outside. I grabbed my gear from the car and changed, borrowed Adrian's trainer, and proceeded to warm up for about an hour in the comfort of the shelter. It just so happened that the rain subsided and the sun came out just in time for the 4a race at 2:15pm. I rode down to the start line at 2pm to catch the end of the 1/2/3 race and get a good place in line to start the 4a race.
Much to my dismay, we were instructed to take a mandatory lap, as Max and I were both going to pull over and let everyone else go for a lap, and proceed to claim a prime spot at the line. However, the race official had other plans, yelling at us to move it. So, I used the time to see how the course had changed since my early morning ride. It had definately gotten muddy and slick in spots. I prerode the entire course and on coming back around to the line, I was upset to find that everyone was already on the line. People must have cut the course short to get back and line up.
So, for the 2nd race in a row, I found myself sitting in the 3rd/4th row of a 50+ field. I had desperately wanted to avoid this so I could test my hole shot and endurance with the faster guys. I guess I learned my lesson for next time. The whistle blew, and we were off for 30 minutes (4 laps) of muddy fun. I found myself 7th from end in the first turn, bumping shoulders with Helge and trying not to run over the guy in front of me.
My first lap was basically worthless. I tried to get around people where I could, but I used up a little too much energy as I sprinted out of every corner to pass the next person in front of me. The tire change helped on the off camber downhills. As everyone else spun out or crashed, I rolled right through it. My 2nd lap had me fight off a side stich. It came on suddenly, and I tried hard to control my breathing to make it go away. At the same time, I worked on passing another 5 riders in front of me. Lap 3 found me maintaining position over everyone behind me, but not making any significant gains on the guys in front of me. I figured this was fine, as I didn't want to blow up or crash, so I chose to play it safe. I picked up the tempo for the final lap, taking a few more risks to distance the riders behind me and to make attempt at bridging the gap to the few riders in front of me.
I was feeling good and on the way out of the single track section on the back end of the course with about 1/4 of a lap to go. I hit the right hand 90 degree tranistion from mud to pavement with a little too much speed. As soon as my front tire hit asphault, I went down. I let out a few explatives and just like that, I lost 2 spots. I regained myself, hopped on the bike and tried to make up the distance I had just lost. I used up everything I had but to no avail, I could not reel in the 2 racers that had just passed me and I settled fro 28th.
While I am pleased of how I am finishing these races, I know I have a lot of tactical work that still needs to be done, such as improving my starting positions and learning how not to go down in mud or off camber turns. I also have additional training that needs to be done so I can maintain that first lap intensity. However, my overall goal is to upgrade to Cat 3 for Montrose, and I currently have 2 of the 5 races under my belt.
Cudos to everyone from HAC and NCC who put this race on, as it was a truly memorable day!