It seems the cross gods love giving me chances to redeem myself. I've been bummed about my start in Madison, and when it came time to draw my number out of a bag for qualifying here in Louisville, I drew #80. By my calculations, that would put me 4th row in the 2nd heat, so it was up to me to show that I've learned my lesson on starting slow. Today was my Qualifying Heat to get into Friday's finals for Master's Worlds. Backing up, though, the day started long before the planned 9am race time. At 4:30am, we heard sirens going off and received a call from the front desk telling us there were tornadoes in the area and that we should move ourselves and our bedding into the bathtub! We ended up staying in the bed, but awake in case we needed to dive under it on a moment's notice.
After that thrilling start to the day, we got to the venue just before 7:30am in the pitch dark. It was still raining hard and there was standing water everywhere. I proceeded to set up my trainer in the warmup tent and started opening the legs with many of the other Colorado guys. At 8:15 (with the first Heat going off at 8:30), word finally came down that we were on a 2hr delay so they could do some rerouting and water abatement on the course. So, we all packed back to our cars, where I tried to relax for an hour under a blanket, listening to music and watching the rain fall. Of course, I already had about 40 minutes in on the trainer, so was damp with sweat and now starting to get hungry!
Finally, it was time to head back in to the tent and warm up again. Back on the trainer, spinning easy, trying to get the legs to wake up again, some hard opener efforts, but still the legs felt a little dead. I put it out of my mind and focused on the business at hand. A few guys DNS's, so our field had some attrition even before the whistle. I lined up behind my friend Doug Hudson and told him to go like he has rockets. Sure enough, he did! The guys on either side of him squeezed in to get his wheel and I was forced to defend my position, finally pushing them both out with my elbows. That didn't make for the fastest start, but I was happy I rode aggressively and fought for spots instead of giving in.
The course was thick, power-sucking mud, and for the first half lap, I had my weight too far forward and was getting bogged down. I passed Pit 1 in 20th place and knew I'd better get on it because only 24 guys would qualify. I slid back on the bike and started digging, riding hard and with confidence, passing every time I got the chance. Being only a 2 lap race, I ran out of real estate at the end in 12th place, but very satisfied with that. I think that should put me on the 5th row for Friday's finals and I can prove again that I can start well.
Thanks for reading!