I have never been so pleasantly surprised by a race course in my life as I was at NBX Day 1.
I prerode, and it was basically the fastest, easiest cross course in the history of bikes. As someone who needs accelerations and technical sections to be respectable in the elite race, this sent me into immediate WHINE MODE.
It also sent me into find-a-file-tread mode, because if there aren't any damn corners on the course then I have no intention of having any traction.
So in between whining about how it was a stupid power course and I was going to get crushed and this is lame, bike racing shouldn't have that much pedaling... I got some file treads from Matt Myette. Which was cool.
Then I spent the rest of my warmup complaining about the course anyway. Just to open the lungs, dontcha know.
The Day 1 start is the weirdest holeshot in all of cross, because we ride literally a quarter mile straightaway before the first turn. Everyone accelerates to 28 mph...and then... sits in. So we blast up the hill and then stop blasting and start compressing into as tight a ball of cross racers as we can acheive.
As you might imagine, this makes the first turn especially spicy because we aren't anywhere approaching strung out. And thus the inevitable FREAK OUT took out four or five guys. I saw it coming in time to get a foot down and then sneak by the inside... I think most of the victims were newly-upgraded Cat 3's, who had yet to experience the "joy" of riding in Anthony Clark's blind spot. Hey, now you know!
Then we came out of the turn and it was ON!
My lame-o attitude prevented me from being aggressive at any point in the first 5 minutes, and I ended up with a fairly miserable position. On the plus side, the utter lack of braking on the course meant that I could cruise really, really comfortably around other people's wheels. Especially because was in the even-scrubbier-than-myself zone.
So after two laps of thinking "ride conservatively" I realized that I was actually feeling pretty good, probably because I wasn't doing any work. And it turns out that feeling good is exactly correlated to having fun. Doesn't matter how bland the course is, if you FEEL GOOD it's FUN. Why did it take me so long to realize this?
Of course, I then bobbled the rideup, stepped on John Burns' bike, got gapped off my train of buddies, and that was not fun at all!
However, the chase back on felt strangely... good. Like my body was thrilled to finally give 100%. WHAT IS GOING ON??
So when I made it to the group, I started pushing my way through. Mike Wissell joined me, and next thing I know, the two of us are OFF DA FRONT.
Well, off the front of the 25th-place-group, but still, OFF DA FRONT! Woooooo!
Mike is a very useful engine, and thus we started gaining ground on Evan Huff and some unknown mid Atlantic dudes. I even contributed to the chase, because I work with Evan and I knew we were going to talk about the race instead of working on Monday.
We caught Evan.
Huff is a powerhouse on the road so I started sitting behind him mercilessly, like the useless coworker who takes credit after the project is done.
Then I realized that I did not want Evan bitching at me about sitting on his wheel for all of Monday, so tactics would have to be ignored. I could tell he was feeling cranky for two reasons: 1) he attacked me on the road with the fury of a thousand suns, and then flicked his elbow for me to pull through the second he realized I'd covered it, and 2) cranky is his natural state.
Soooo I enacted plan "pretend to be useful" so that Evan would still be friends with me.
"Being useful" for me generally meant taking my lone pull right before the one twisty section, drilling it in the turns, getting a gap, and then losing said gap AND the lead on the next power section. But hey, I was in front! For like a minute per lap!
At some point Mike and I got away from Evan, I think because of a crash. And Mike is the chattiest bike racer ever! So while I was having significant issues breathing, he was talking about catching Keoughs, and who was behind us, and all manner of exciting things that I was aware of but not able to vocalize.
With one lap to go there were two dudes just up the road, and between Mike's enthusiasm and my bizarrely effective legs, we closed the gap just in time for a FINAL LAP SHOWDOWN, which is my favorite thing in cross, because it means I get to "strategically" sit on wheels and then win sprints.
I snuck into second wheel in our group of four in the sand pit. The guy in front was from Texas, and way better than me, which meant he had traveled a long way and was in save-it-for-tomorrow mode. Thus when I attacked on the penultimate straightaway, he was like "meh" and didn't really react, other than accidentally closing the door on Mike, leaving me with a huge gap to roll in for 21st place.
Thanks Texas guy!
The only thing I learned from this is that I should stop complaining about grass/dirt crits and start trying to make it into a faster group at the start.
Oh, and I totally forgot to mention this, but my tenant and buddy Andrew was in his first elite race and RODE HIS FACE OFF chasing my group. It took 45 minutes for me to stop being worried he was going to catch us. So... nice ride, dude. Don't get any faster, please.