After Friday's mudbath, the big question was what would happen to the course when "normal" August weather hit it on Saturday. Peanut-butter death mud or hard and fast autobahn? Fortunately for the elite race, we had some crash test dummies, er, novice racers, out there packing it down in the morning and by the time 2:55 rolled around it was hard and fast, except for that one small lake in the tractor-pull arena that was somehow holding out against the heat.
Oh yeah. The HEAT. Did you know August cross is hot? Really hot? Yeah. This race shoulda been at night, because the night races were cool (in both senses), and 50 minutes in the sun sucks. Still though -- it's the same for everyone, right? Shut up and ride.
The start was just as important as the day before, but this time they elected to start us with a quiet horn pointing away from us. The starters said "10 seconds..." and then there was a little "tweet" sound in the background. Was that the gun?? No one moved for a second, and then someone decided it must have been the gun and went. As usual I was worried about doing something socially awkward so I was flatfooted and panicking about what to do when the rest of the front row rolled out... this put me into a 10th place start that immediately drew heckling from my two fans.
With the course as tight as yesterday and much faster, passing was hard. I spent two laps all over Dave Wilcox's back wheel with nothing except wasted energy to show for it, since everyone was gunning it on the few straightaways out there. Luckily we all stayed in contact with the front, so I was only 6 seconds behind Jonny Bold. Of course there were 8 bodies in between us, but at least I felt like I was in contention.
Finally I was able to get past Dave, right about the time the front four riders started checking out and the rest of us consolidated into "chase 1." A 3-minute course with 20+ turns per lap really makes you pay for tailgunning, so I got off the back as soon as possible by passing Brian when he got into the dried-up ruts on a corner. This was basically just poking a bear with a stick, though, because he easily and angrily took that position back a few straightaways later.
Luckily for me sometimes Brian handles his bike about as well as a bear does (which is something like this) so he took a trip over the bars on the lone "descent" on the course a few laps later. I had actually been gapped pretty badly at that time because I was being a total wuss about the heat, but he also dropped his chain in the crash so I was able to pass while he was futzing with that.
As the race reached midway (8 laps done, 25 minutes!) the heat started to take its toll on everyone. We were allowed to take bottle feeds on the only straightaway, but it was pretty costly to sit up and drink instead of hammering in the one spot you could actually do it. I tried to drink and got gapped each time, so I quit doing it. Eventually some of the fast starters started to succumb to the heat, or maybe it's just hard to hang out at the front with Jonny and Al. Either way, I slowly crawled my way to the front. Near the end I caught up to Ben, and when he went for a drink I attacked, because I was like "man, it really sucked when Brian gapped me when I was drinking."
He probably did not like me very much for that.
After that, or maybe before that, I did a bunch of laps fighting with Mukunda Feldman, but then he dropped his chain on the barriers and I got away for good. I am going to have problems once people get their chains to stay on.
Like everyone else I struggled through the final hot laps (and it was only 50 minutes!), but I made it into the arena just in time to see the 3-way battle for the win (it was... physical) and hang on to 4th place for another foolishly lucrative payday.
Spectacross was silly. Spectacross was fun. Would I drive 4.5 hours to race cross in July again? Probably. Would I do it if it was local? Hell yeah. So Mid-Atlantic racers, what's the deal? The elite race had more riders from Virginia (4) than Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York combined (1).
Mid Atlantic dudes, let's race bikes next year! He gave out tons of money!
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