Mansfield Hollow is a "classic" cyclocross course that's actually pretty legit these days. Back in the day (oh yeah, I can totally say that after 4 seasons) it had a million dismounts and an insane runup that you needed someone to belay you for, but now it's pretty "normal," except for the 3 sets of barriers and the 2 sandpits. And that's a good thing! This would actually be a pretty sweet course for a Verge race, as it's got something for everyone and some nice sandpits, er, features.
ANYWAY. I keep coming back to this one even though the wind in the field is always strong and I always wilt like a daisy in the face of it. This year was no exception, 30mph gusts that were a tailwind on the finish straight and a punch in the face everywhere else. I was ready to SUCK SOME WHEELS. Like, even more than usual.
We rolled out with the standard 15 starters in a local 1/2/3, right into the wind, and it was so bad that I think people were already trying to sit in before the first turn. I was like sixth or seventh, before James Harmon owned me on the off camber (check the video), and then we got a bit gapped into the uber-long finish straight.
Luckily with a huge tailwind it was pretty easy for me to rocket back into contact with the front group. Unluckily for Manny G, it was also pretty easy to hit the gravel pile at the end of the straight going STUPIDFAST and separate your shoulder. When I saw him in the fetal position as I came by the crash I thought he was dead, so I'm glad he's not.
From there it was typical lap-one conga, I was hanging out in 7th or whatever, which seems good until you realize there's only 14 guys still in the race. I passed Mark Gunsalus on the rideup because I wanted to crowd to like me, and it totally worked. Then I got to the windy field of doom and had to sit up because Adam Sullivan was 5 seconds back, and let's face it, he was catching me there whether I tried or not.
So Adam and I settled into a 2-man time trial (just like last year!) and "worked together" for a few laps. We caught some dude who had gone out too hard and suddenly were until the top 5, aka THE MONEY.
At this moment the lap cards came out and they only said THREE! Because the A race was 45 minutes. I don't know why, exactly, but it was positively thrilling to skip straight to the endgame of a cross race for once, instead of having that horrible period from 20-40 minutes where you're just counting down the laps and trying not to crack. Or is that just me?
Adam was so excited by the lap cards that he promptly crashed and gave me a 10 second cushion. I debated waiting for him, because I'm afraid of the wind, but decided that hardening up and trying to go it alone was worth a shot. And it worked! He was closing me down in the wind, but I could open it up in the technical stuff (surprise!) so the gap was steady.
With time winding down the guy in 2nd mechanicaled and dropped back to me. Suddenly I was racing him for the last podium spot! The crowd was noticeably confused by the fact that I was fighting for the podium and thus heckling me made no sense.
The guy (Keith Gauvin) was stronger than me and also pretty crafty. He took a big pull in the wind and then sat up and said "I'm done." I didn't trust him, so I attacked instead of pulling through (I'm a dick) but then he mysteriously covered it (so he's a liar) and then attacked me back before the sand (and a strong liar, at that). I was pretty much beaten, right up until he crashed coming out of the sand and dropped his chain under his chain keeper AGAIN. I passed him while he swore at his bike and scurried home to hang onto 3rd. Whatever works, man!
And yes, that is totally a podium, albeit in a race with 15 guys, 4 of whom were on their 2nd race of the day, with the fastest rider in the race separating his shoulder on lap one, and me being the only non-Master in the top four. I'LL TAKE IT. SHADDUP.