Anyway, Day 1 in Vermont was yet another iteration of the long-gradual-climbing course they like to run up there. It is not "real cross" IMO, but of course, it is a "bike race" and therefore one should shut up and race it. The 2-minute power section from before the start line to the top of the hill, though? Gross. Same with the climb from the barriers to the top of the BMX track, although you could at least argue that cleaning the BMX track takes skill.
I remember thinking 20 seconds into the holeshot, "oh, this is going fine" right before getting bottled up dead center of the pack and having 10 guys pass me. Whoops. It was ok, though, because when we hit the first turn that required braking, two guys crashed on the inside and the crash spilled out until it was tape-to-tape, slowing a ton of people. I snuck by like a tape-stretching ninja and took my 10 places back.
Dylan was in the crash and turned on "Angry Dylan" mode which led to him passing me back about 30 seconds later and crashing against 45 seconds later. I told him to chill out, because I like to pretend that people listen to me in bike races.
Lap one of a UCI race is usually pretty fun when you aren't expecting much; just hold your place in the train and let the adrenaline do the work. It's only when you need to "make the selection" that it really hurts, and I had no intention of anything like that. So I banged out a fast lap along with everyone else and things seem ok after seven minutes.
Then we went back up the long gradual climb of eff-you and suddenly things were not ok. Kevin went around me, which was annoying, and then Cary too, which was REALLY annoying.
Side Note: Cary lives with me now, and didn't race a bike from April 24-Sept 10 this year. I haven't beaten him on a cross bike in 2 years and counting. If he dies in his sleep, it was probably me.
Luckily the climb topped out and I was able to keep it tight on the descent to kind of integrate into some kind of group. Five or more people, but I was in "conservation mode" so I did nothing to fight my way off the back. Meanwhile Cary and Kevin moved up, and next thing I know the group is strung out and they're definitely more like "10 seconds up" than "in my group."
That didn't matter, though, because I wasn't even in "my" group anymore, I was going straight out the back like a guy who spent a little too long making websites and thinking of excuses and not enough time... wait, 2010 is the year of no excuses. Shut up, me.
It turned out that laps 3 and 4 were the "bad laps" and I did actually have some pedaling in me after that. Right as I turned the corner back into being able to suffer effectively, Stephen Pierce from CB caught me and I raised the pace to stay on his wheel.
I was out-descending him, but he was out-climbing me (what is this, a mountain bike race??) so I took the lead on the descent, which really just showed him the lines. So then he was just plain out-riding me. But with 3 to go he broke his bike when I was ahead of him, and I thought he had cracked, so my self-esteem went shooting back up and I started gobbling up places.
With two-to-go we very narrowly made it through to stay on the lead lap. The new "80% rule" was in affect, and we were probably 79.5% of a lap behind Tim Johnson at that point, The official was standing there with his watch, looking at our group of 3 (me, Dave Wilcox, some Canuck) and I was READY to sprint if he stepped out to pull us. But alas, we made it through, so I had to ride two more laps. Dave was coming back from a mechanical so he promptly rode me off his wheel, but we both dispatched the Canadian in this process. I'll take it.
With one to go I suddenly realized that hurtin' time was down to only 8 minutes and I did have 8 minutes of hurting left. Evan Huff was up the road, looking kinda tired and kinda reachable, so I went all out. I was cramping (of course) over the top of the BMX track but it's pretty much all downhill from there, so let's go!
Ahead, Brian Lawney had dropped an anchor and Evan smelled blood. Really unfortunate as I was otherwise set up pretty well for a ninja-attack sprint against Evan at the finish. Instead, while I was chasing at 105%, Evan started chasing Brian at 105%, and I couldn't get quite close enough. I came out of the trees about 10 yards behind the two of them, with all of us in full sprint. Evan got around Brian, Brian sat down, and I kept it flat out all the way to line...only to go rocketing past Brian a few bike lengths AFTER the line.
As they say, "that's bike racing."
Race travel, clown car style.