The Wilcox was driving the Pedro's Party Van down for three weeks, so I stashed my bike in there for extra money savings and hopped a plane with Adam Myerson to North Carolina. Dave met us at the airport, whisked us away to some host hosting (did I mention how fake pro I am? Awww yeah), and the next morning it was BIKE RACING TIME. I hadn't taken a race seriously since November, which might've actually been a good thing...
Somehow the race was in a magical snowless bubble, surrounded by white hillsides, with nothing but brown grass on the race course. My disappointment was tempered by the fact that the ground started out frozen solid, but race-time temperature was over 40 degrees, so some impressively greasy mud was coming out of hiding. At 11am, the course was fast, bumpy and dull -- but by race time, one of the off-cambers had become a dismount, and almost every turn had at least achieved "interesting" status.
The course was EURO, which is to say HARD and not especially FUN. There were two technical sections, but other than that, a lot of bumpy straightaways with stiff, dead grass and emerging mud. Power was totally the name of the game. Commence whining.
|45 and sunny is not what I was expecting. [ Kim Bailey ]|
We had 25 starters, which meant that everyone was going to get paid, but also that I wasn't getting UCI points without one of the best rides of my life. As it should be. I fell into an unremarkable 17th place or so on lap one and set about my standard racing style of "hiding from the wind."
I ended up on Dave's wheel, which is generally a good place for me to hang out. I prepared to hang out there for the next 60 minutes, but next thing I know, The Wilcox hooks the tape and goes down, I gap him and there's no one in front of me. Time to... attack?
Kind of. I had that awesome half-lap of attacking where you're totally gaining on the next group and definitely going to bridge to them... and then it just stops. And you're still 10 seconds back, and ten seconds is really long in a cross race, doncha know?
So, solo TT time got started early. The Wilcox was having some gastrointestinal issues (Taco Bell was not my idea, I'd like to point out) and thus I was somehow able to ride away from him all by myself. Unfortunately, the fastest Hup rider I've ever seen (Eric Wondergem) came outta the fray behind me and started eating up my gap like he was a local strongman on a pedaler's course. Because he was. He had monster wattage and impressive local support. One of his fans recommended that I "don't even try," which made me quite interested in, um, trying. Just sayin'.
We still had 30 minutes to go when he caught me, so I sat up a bit and got excited to CONTROL SOME DAMAGE. He sat on for a second and then attacked, which made it instantly clear that my new goal for the day was to hang onto him as long as possible so that when I blew from the effort, everyone else would be far behind us.
Unbeknownst to him, I spend my entire fall trying to hold the wheel on faster riders on power courses, so the cycle of trip to the pain cave->brief recovery->repeat is my bread & butter. A few times he would sit up at the end of a 60-second attack and swing off to "let" me pull through. I politely declined, as I was in full-on barnacle mode and he would have to start swimming into the rocks to remove me.
|Fleeing absurdly-strong HUP dude at our picturesque race venue [ Kim Bailey ]|
He did figure out that my non-pulling was a sign his efforts were working, so we kept doing warp-speed laps interrupted by the occasional sit-up-and-look-at-each-other break. With three to go we caught Noah Metzger and became the 12th place group, so all I had to do was not get last in the group to set a personal best finish in a UCI race.
...but then with 1 to go, Eric attacked both of us again, and I put in a stupid-hard effort to close the gap, didn't make it, and then promptly threw out my parachute when Noah came around me to continue the chase. I dropped 40 seconds to them on the last lap and limped across in 14th.
A lap too far!
All in all it was a great time, though, for a first-year UCI event in a region without "big time" cross racing I thought it was really well done. More starters and more turns would've been nice, but I'd still do it again in a second.
I raced the next day in the Tennessee State Champs and actually remembered to turn the camera on that time... so stay tuned.