Cross of the North (races 2 and 3)
All four times I've raced the COTN courses at The Ranch, they always manage to have a feature or two that scares me to death the first time I come up to it. During pre-ride, I'm lucky to get through some of these drops rubber side down. But every time I've survived the race having conquered something new, and feeling much more confident in my riding and racing.
This year's installment featured a lot of the deep, wet peanut butter mud that I got baptized with last year. While most of the course was nice and tacky, the north end in the bowl was super thick, and not really rideable on Saturday. That meant I was finally able to really put this running advantage I keep telling myself that I have to some good use! The few guys that tried riding the deep stuff had little success, and with the exception of a very graceful slide through the tape on the first lap, I was able to pick up a spot or two in the run on most laps. Unfortunately I started cracking on the last lap, and dropped a couple spots on the long climb out of the bowl, ending up just inside the top twenty for the first time this season.
Sunday was drier, but with all the power washing going on in the pit, the north side was still pretty wet and deep. I was able to ride it three times, but stalled and had to run it a couple laps. The legs felt better today, and I kept up the effort though all five laps. One bobble on the final lap set me down in one of the tight turns, costing me one spot, but I managed another top twenty finish. Tons of fun on great courses this weekend...thanks to the COTN crew! Hopefully I can make it out and race all three days next year.
Our unseasonably warm CX season continued this weekend for the fourth race in the Cyclo-X series. Travel had forced me to miss the first three races, so I was glad to finally get my chance to line up, as Without Limits always puts on great events. I ended up in the fifth row of the starting grid, by far the furthest back I'd been all season, making me think every 35+4 ranked higher than me must have shown up. The start was re-routed away from the first bottleneck along the sidewalk, instead going up along the off-camber hillside. While this kept the first couple hundred meters wide, the hill it went up sloped down the right, and got steeper the further left you went. I made sure to line up as far right as I could, in case things got messy...which they did.
My streak of good starts continued, and the field parted right in front of me, giving me room to move up into the top twenty. As we hit the first off camber running six or seven wide, somebody high up on the slope lost traction, and started a pileup that moved quickly downhill towards me. I snuck through unscathed on the back of a big lead group. Coming up to the one tricky part of the course, I was faced with a run or ride decision into a short, but very deep mud/bog. Given I was in traffic, I hopped off and ran, picking up a couple more spots with a good remount at the top of the bump.
I rode well and steady for the first two laps, hanging on to the top twenty. Unfortunately, my streak of blowing up early and going backwards also continued. I'm definitely not at my best in the heat, and I was cooked by the fourth lap. With my legs cramping, I slipped into 35th place, a bit disappointed given how good things started.
Blue Sky Cup
I love the courses at Xilinx. This is the first place I ever raced CX, and the site of a couple of my best results ever, so I was looking forward to lining up Sunday morning. Some cloud cover and gusty winds kept the temps down, which made me happy after yesterday's broiler.
I didn't get my greatest start, trapped behind a bit of crowd, but I managed to move up several spots during the first lap, well into the top twenty. The cloud cover burned off and it started getting hotter the rest of the way; despite that my legs felt great. This wasn't a very technical course, with only a couple of moderately tricky features, which allowed me to ride about as mistake-free a race as I've ever had. I felt strong every lap, jockeying for spots the whole race, and notching one more top twenty finish.
So lots of good things coming out of this past weekend. Our team had a great showing, especially the ladies (as usual)! Every weekend I've doubled up and raced both days I've had a better performance on Sunday, and I feel like I'm moving the right direction as far as my fitness and skills go. For the first time I'm consistently competing from start to finish, racing for position with other riders, as opposed to time-trialing by myself in the back half of the pack