We're nearing the end of the Colorado season here with only 3 weeks until the State Championship race. Kristal is still leading the Cross Cup points series, and also has RapidRacing in 3rd place in the team competition, which is pretty impressive for a team of one! We're in 9th place in the Men's 45+ Open, which is also interesting since Rob and I only did a handful of races in that category, spending the early season in 35+ Open and 45+/4's. Rob and Nick are both still on the Injured Reserve list, but Carl and Kristal's results have been steadily improving in recent weeks and it feels like the form is coming around just in time. Saturday was Big Ring CX at the Equestrian Park in Parker. This venue was new last year, featuring 3 separate twisty sections and a sandy riverbed. This year they added a steep runup on a north facing slope with ice underneath. It got progressively more slick throughout the day as the dirt fell away and if you want some entertainment check out the video on 303cycling.com or the various clips on U-Tube! There was true chaos with people stalling out halfway up and sliding back down the hill, often multiple times! Carl ran up it okay in the morning, and Kristal rode it most the time in her race.
Sunday was a new race called Quarter Mile CX at Bandimere Dragstrip in Morrison. This course had a steep, paved descent and subsequent climb back up to the finish line, along with a steep, 44-step staircase and lots of very loose turns in gravel and dust. So, it had something for everyone to struggle with! In total, it had over 250' of climbing per lap, which is a lot for a cx race! Judging by comments since, this course was controversial, with a lot of people opining against the loose turns, long stairs, high speed descents, etc. For our part, one of the attractions of cx is the challenge of overcoming whatever the course throws at you. Some of the European courses have features that are downright scary!
I've been surfing a wave of improving results, feeling good, but also dealing with the added pressure that comes with being at the front of the race. Having mostly raced the 35+ in the past, I would ride anonymously in the back half of the field, but okay about that because it's one of the fastest categories. Now I feel like I should be a factor in every race and it's much different having to fight hard for every place. Guess I know now how Kristal feels at every race! I'm having fun and feeling really motivated, plus I feel like it's good prep for States and Nats.
On Saturday, I saw some guys try to ride the runup in warmups and all failed, most of them sliding/falling back down the hill and decided it was too high risk to do in the race. Much better to go with the safe bet of hitting it fast and running. I got a decent start on a gravel road, playing it safe to avoid any crashes. I was about 6th wheel coming through the finish straight, but immediately lost a handful of places on a loose turn. I dug hard to try to get them back and soon got back to my friend Greg, with whom I've been racing closely lately. He and I rode together the rest of the race and I finally got a gap on the last lap, although we weren't able to catch the 2 riders ahead of us. I ended up in 9th place, perfectly happy with a top 10 finish.
The next day it was a challenge to even locate the course during warmups. They were still setting up and wind was breaking and blowing the course tape everywhere. I wasn't psyched about the course at first, it was really loose and sketchy in places, but as I rode more I started to feel better. I got a poor start due to fishtailing on some loose gravel, and was in about 12th wheel heading into the long stair climb. I eventually started to move up late in the first lap and picked off some riders, catching up (again) to Greg. He was riding the twisty sections better than me, but with less time to train during the week was struggling on the climbs. I knew I didn't want to have to sprint up that final climb, so I put in a dig late in the final lap to get away and was able to roll across the line in 6th place.
On Saturday we had a strong field with Local Pro Nicole Duke showing up and the always fast other local women. I had a great start, got the hole shot! First time this season so I was pretty psyched. My starts have not been great so I was very happy about this. I was in 2nd for a good chunk of the race, then Rebecca caught up to me. She and I rode together for most of the race with Karen Hogan chasing us. Karen gets better as the race goes on so I knew I had to keep charging. Going into the last lap she caught us. The 3 of us rode together until I bobbled on the steep run/ride up (see above). I finished in 4th, a bit disappointed but looking at the positives, as it was a good race.
Sunday's course I was not into as I prerode. I crashed in warmups and came back to the car needing Carl to help me calm down. I was tense and over thinking everything. To add to the challenge, Meredith Miller, a national level pro roadie/crosser was racing just having recovered from a major injury. Carl talked me through the stuff that was making me tense (thanks coach!) and I got a few clean laps in so I was ready. Again I had a good start and found myself chasing Rebecca (AGAIN!). The stairs were challenging, by the top I thought I would explode, the cornering was intense (loose dirt/gravel) and the finish straight was up hill. whew! Not a moment to rest mentally or physically. I finished in 3rd on the day and chalked it up to a good training day.