Shortly after arrival Justin showed how quickly having grease and coffee for breakfast can make you by winning the C race, so I had a tough act to follow. The course was hard but fun, two awesome off-camber sections, a long bumpy soul-sucking climb, and a big time run up through the woods. My legs were absolutely wasted but there was enough technical stuff that I could dish out a little pain as well to the roadies.
The start was cool, a quick paved uphill and then fast paved downhill onto the course. I ended up on the third row because of a prerace bathroom emergency, but I got clipped in on pedal stroke #1 (wait, how is that possible if trackstand so much? hmmmm) and picked up some quick places. Turning off the pavement was sketchy, but I was surprised by how everyone nicely set up for the turn. I got on the brakes late and came down the inside to get a few more places. Maybe this was bad form, but hey, everyone knows mountain bikers can't be trusted on pavement. We hit the next turn about 3 abreast and it looked like this (excellent pic stolen from Josh)
I was on the far outside and actually kicked the fence to the left of that picture as I got squeezed. We hit the first-off camber still 2 or more wide, I staked out an inside position at the expense of carrying speed and it paid off when the guy in front of me slipped off his line down the hill. Suddenly there was a giant, tasty gap to pedal through and I nailed it while people all around me were dismounting. I counted 6 people ahead of me at this point. Just like my man G told me, cross is all about the start, and I was pretty happy with moving from 30-something to 7th in the first 90 seconds.
The first lap pace was super hot, or maybe my legs were just super cold. Unlike yesterday there wasn't a group forming, I was clawing to stay on people's wheels but when we'd loop back I could see guys separating off the front. On the runup I was already maxed out so I couldn't worry about the guys at the front, time to race my own race and burn some laps.
Coming through after one lap everyone's favorite jam-related kit passes me like I'm standing still. I realize we all gotta get our upgrade points, but damn, how is that guy still riding 3's? My spindly MTB legs didn't have a chance, he had a jersey full of hammers and holes in his pockets.
On the big off-camber he bobbled and I passed him back, not that it really mattered because on the next straightaway he dropped another hammer and was gone, and not in a "come on, get that wheel" kind of way. Just gone.
Then comes the lonely and painful part, stranded in 7th in no-mans land. Six guys all riding solo in front of me, and when we make the big sweeping turn around the trees I see Josh driving the group about 15 seconds behind me. Ugh.
But it's not all fun an games up front. A UVM guy detonates and loses probably a minute in a single lap, and I reel in one or two more to move up into what is the 4th-place group. Behind me, an IBC guy is closing slowing, and behind him Josh's group is also closing, but not fast enough to get here before laps run out.
The IBC rider makes contact with us with 2 or 3 laps to go, but he's pretty lackadaisical about staying glued to our wheels. I think maybe he was having problems in the technical sections, but he seems to alternate between sitting on my wheel and being 3 second back. I tried taking a pull to drop the dude in the gray jersey, but it's windy and my legs don't have it. With 1 to go, I "accidentally" take a bad line and he's back in the lead.
Alright, time for some tactics. The big problem for me is that the barriers come less than 45 seconds before the finish line, so my remount skills (or lack thereof) are going to sabotage any attempt for making an early move, and there's no good straights after the barriers for a final sprint. I think I need to go well before the barriers, but my legs are pretty questionable...
I don't really like any of these options. Maybe I should just try to sprint after the barriers.
Then, out of nowhere, gray jersey washes out at the base of the bumpy climb. Just like yesterday I barely get around him on the outside. This might be my chance to get home free, but the climb is just too hard and too far out for me to kill it. IBC dude (James Newton I think?) doesn't get taken down and he's back with me by the top of the bumpy climb.
One last time through the runup, trying not to make it a walkup. If I stay in front all the way to the barriers I can probably get this... then on one of the switchbacks I see that I'm pulling away, I guess I'm not the only guy on the rivet here. So I go with 2 minutes left, blasting across the gravel and flailing through the turns. Through the barriers, 10 or 15 yard lead, I can't get in my pedals because my legs are screaming, but when I finally do I leave everything else out there to get in for fourth place.
No money, but a bunch of upgrade points, and that's all the payday I need.
Photo credits to Lincoln Benedict and his $4000 camera, can you tell?
Motivation credit to Josh for chasing and my brother for showing up at a cross race and sounding very serious about me needing to sprint at the end.