This was the last week of a training block, and my rides on Wednesday and Thursday were good but I could tell I was tired and ended up sleeping 9 hours several nights in a row. With that heavy and worn out feeling I made the trek to Saratoga for the Spa: CX
My expectations for the race were pretty low, but the plan called for racing this weekend so I decided to go for it. Last weekend's Uncle Sam CX was a great event, so I had high hopes for the Spa: CX. I wasn't disappointed.
The course was hard, and I would describe it as lumpy with chattery tufts of grass and tons of sand. From the paved start stretch it was basically a series of short, steep-ish bumpy uphills connected by some twisty corners, then a fast section into a couple hundred yards of sand that was anywhere from slightly slow to nearly unrideable. The part I feared the most in my warm up was the sand, but I rode it cleanly every lap during the race. The uphills were tough, and I knew I could only go a certain speed so I went as hard as I could up and then used the corners and sand to my advantage on the way down.
Somehow I got a call-up to the third row. As I dropped my thermal vest and knee warmers I felt super pro and disappointed that I knew I didn't have the legs to take advantage of my great line up spot. My teammate and 'cross race rabbit Nate was also in the 3/4s, but he quickly pulled away on lap 1 and I didn't see him again until the finish. I met a couple of other teammates (who's names I forgot) at the start line. Terry was there to give us encouragement, take pics and provide his low-key, affable support throughout the race.
The gun went off and as expected I slotted into the group and watched the leaders pull away on the first lap. I was seriously hurting, and I was slowly getting passed by many riders on course. We did 6 or 7 laps, which is a lot for 45 minutes of racing. When I rolled through and saw 5 to go I almost quit.
Somehow I kept going and was focused on just riding the tough stuff smoothly. As I did that I started to pull back some of the places I'd lost earlier in the day and remarkably I saw 2 to go and realized I could finish. Somehow I'd also managed to pass Pinarello Man, last week's nemesis, and a couple of other familiar faces from the Troy pain cave.
With 2 to go a particularly vocal and disappointed racer was yelling sand riding tips from behind me. As I pulled out of the deep sand I glanced over my shoulder and thought to myself "seriously?" He never got any closer than that.
On the last lap I traded jabs with another guy on a mountain bike, though this guy had shaved legs and the courtesy to follow the rules and remove his bar ends. He got ahead of me going into t he barriers and I could have sketch-passed him on the inside corner but didn't. I waited for the pass on the last pavement stretch. As I wound it up and shifted into the big ring my chain jammed. I quickly downshifted, shifted back into gear, stared sprinting again and finished less than a bike length behind him. With another fifteen feet of road (how many times have you heard that one) I would have beaten him for a most excellent 37th place... or whatever it was.
After a quick cough-filled cool down I packed up my gear and headed home. I was pushing it pretty hard and didn't realize that it was in the mid 40's and raining until I stopped moving.
The NYCROSS series hasn't let me down and is worth checking out. If they can make my start time a more reasonable 12 I'd make it a point to make all of them.