After a successful first day at Cycle-Smart International, Day 2 came with a cringed awakening at the wind rattling the black windows long before the morning had approached. My roomy for the weekend, Chris Burati, looked about as excited as someone who had just need kicked in the balls as we went for breakfast. I didn’t feel much better. Coffee-ing our way out of yesterday’s aches, pains and hangovers we made it to the race in good time. More organization at the start allowed us to get on the trainers pre-race and get a solid warm up in, because it was a lot colder the second morning, we were glad of this. Embro and gels were still used liberally though. The second day I was able to get to the griding on time only to be made to stand around for 20 minutes for reasons unknown. Conversation was made with other racers and jokes cracked. The banter that surrounds cross racing is spot on, no one gives a shit at the end of the day and everyone is just there to race bikes and have a laugh. The way it should be. The minute warning was finally given and a round of applause went out when they remembered the 30 second warning. Today I got a slightly better start and rode into fourth wheel after the holeshot.
Shortly after a few turns we entered the woods for the first time and hit a super tough muddy climbing turn littered with rocks, roots and a tree at the apex. Because the apex was so high and decent the other side of the tree was pretty rooty, we had to dismount at the top and run down the other side. Coming into the apex, keeping as much speed as possible and hot on the wheel of a guy in front of me, I got my first taste of cross love with a nice kick to the face. I think I got a good kick (ha) of adrenaline from this and rode the next few sections well. A few days later I’m now sporting a cheeky shiner.
By this point I was second wheel and we were pulling a decent gap on the group. I decided to bide my time and not worry about attacking yet, hoping an event would present itself for me to attack. Half way through the race my time came. I was keeping the pressure on by staying just in the draft. We entered a fast gravel chicane and the lead man washed out. I just managed to squeeze around him unhindered. Thinking about it now I missed the opportunity to kick him in the head, maybe next time.
Having watched Stephen Hyde race the previous day by pulling a gap and then taking the safe lines I knew now all I had to do was race safe and not do anything dumb (yes I was pretending to be Stephen Hyde in my head). I pretty much succeeded in this, making only a small mistake by trying to ride another rocky climb which resulted in a quick dismount and push.
By now there was a guy creeping up on me, still several turns back, but slowly gaining. I still had plenty of time I thought… Once through the techy section unhindered all that was left was the grassy section of turns, a few straights, a barrier hop, a couple more straights plus turns then I was home and dry. After each turn I’d get out of the saddle and put in some hard digs to maintain the gap but every time I turned around he had edged that little bit closer.
Like in the final few k’s when you’re shouting at the guy on TV not to look back and just pedal because the chase group is imminent, but he always does it anyway because he knows he’s going to get caught, I was probably this guy, looking back way too much and dribbling down my face in exhaustion. Turning into a race of attrition he eventually passed me in the last quarter of the final lap. I was completely blown and had nothing left to chase him. All credit to the young lad he timed his overall effort perfectly to take the win, while I hung on for second.
Two podiums in the bag I’m super pleased especially having just joined a new team plus being injured for the start of cross season. It’s turned out pretty well so far. With my upgrade approved this morning I’ll be racing as a 3 in the 234 at Stony Point. Does this mean I can’t drink beer anymore?