Wow, so here we are, already to the end of the 'cross season in Colorado! There's actually one more race on Jan 5 as a tune up for Nationals, but it's likely to be a fairly small affair. This past weekend's races were held at The Ranch in Loveland, which is a fairgrounds and events center just off of I-25 about 30 miles north of us. A race was held here last year and we really enjoyed it. The weather promised cold & dry, and it certainly was! The course featured a long, paved start leading onto the dirt for about 50yds before a 180 degree turn. We knew this would be the first pinch point. After that, it continued to alternate long, high speed straightaways with short, twisty sections. It had one set of barriers and a loose, steep runup. Carl's Report:
I raced the 45+ Open on Saturday afternoon, and the SM3's Sunday morning. We had a course-side team parking spot, so as soon as we arrived, I was able to see the the track was being broken down into fine, powder-like dust in most the corners. Given those loose conditions, I decided that once again the Rhino mud tires would be the best choice. I headed out on warmup laps and liked the course a lot. I've done a lot of core strength work that has increased my power considerably so long fast sections are no longer a weakness for me, so the moderate, balanced course felt like it would go well.
I was really focused and motivated, fully intending to finish towards the top of the field. I got a great start (which too often hasn't been the case this year), heading onto the course inside the top 10 and feeling really strong. Unfortunately, heading into a twisty, maze-like section, the rider in front of me clipped his arm on the fencing, sending him flying sideways through the air, then slamming to the ground. I ran over his bike and came off. As I tried to grab my bike, it was tangled in his, so we stood there, trying to sort it out as about 15 riders flew past. I finally was able to jump back on and started to chasing.
I still felt really strong, cornering well and digging hard out of every turn. I was catching riders and getting cheers from friends all over the course, inspiring me to keep charging. With two to go, I had caught back up to some of my fast friends, Harold, Greg, Cary, and Doug. I was able to get past them on the pavement, even getting a cheer from Harold as I went by since they had all seen my crash on lap 1. I did my best from there to ride away from them and get up to more riders, but didn't end up catching any more places. In the end, I was 15th on the day. Subtracting out the 30 seconds the crash cost, I would have been top 10, so I feel good about the ride and the resulting confidence will pay off in January!
Sunday's race was almost the exact opposite! I was racing with the SM3's, in which most the fast riders are Juniors. Right from the start, I could tell they ride really aggressively, but don't have great handling skills. They were rubbing wheels, crashing, blowing turns, and chopping lines like crazy, but they're so young and strong that they just sprint out of every turn and get right back up to speed! In the 'old guys' categories, we work hard to ride clean and carry as much speed as we can, because we can't afford the energy of sprinting over and over. Plus, my legs were pretty dead from the previous day's effort.
I battled hard for 3 laps of the 6 lap race, but then drifted back a few spots as I faded in the second half. In the end, I finished 15th again, which is a strange coincidence with such different races! I was a little disappointed about that, since I know I should be top 10 in the field, but I console myself with the fact that it was largely because Saturday was such a huge effort.
Saturday I prerode the course for a couple laps trying to get a general feel for the course and dial in some of the cornering. I was feeling pretty good so was looking forward to the race.
For the rest of the day I worked the pit for Carl's race and cheered Nick on in his. Nick was so excited to be back on his bike. He had a great race and you could tell he was super motivated and focused.
My race was at 12:30 on Sunday but we got there pretty early since Carl was racing. This was actually good so I could continue to ride some laps on the course. The field was so great! We had almost 40 women including pros.
I knew the first race was to the first 180-turn, so I really buried myself to stay in the front. On a side note, Nicole Duke (former pro-downhiller, state champion and eventual winner of the race) took the first corner so fast, for a second I lost concentration. I didn't realize you could lay a CX bike over that far! Anyway, coming up to the first turn I was sitting 4th position behind Nicole, Meredith Miller (another pro) and Karen Hogan (just a REALLY fast chic!). I stayed in contact for a couple laps with Karen but eventually she gaped me. Coming up fast behind me were 2 other riders, Judy Freeman (a pro mountain biker) and Rebecca Gross (another pro rider), so I knew there was NO letting up. Fortunately I felt good both mentally and physically and fought hard to maintain my spot. I finished just seconds ahead of Judy for 4th. I was psyched!