Arriving in Austin early Tuesday morning after a 24hr train ride was always going to seem a bit dreamy, especially after finishing nearly 700 miles of riding on the West Coast, all on a single speed, in the days leading up to Nationals. Having never been to Austin or attended a national championship race of any kind, the crooked sleep of the night before wasn't even an issue and couldn't dull the excitement. Austin being no stranger to festivals or cycling there was an immediate buzz in the air from talk of post race parties and 32c knoblies humming in the direction of Zilker Park. The course is split over two distinct areas. One on the top which is mainly flat and grassy, being exposed to the wind here will make it tough plus a couple of off camber sections will need attention. The other area negotiates a gradient multiple times with added crux sections including two unique limestone run ups, an up hill barrier section and multiple off camber turns. We pre-rode the course in warm dry conditions allowing for an interesting but not overly technical lap. However looking at the wet forecast ahead the men's and women's elite races for the weekend, it will be a different matter altogether. Tactical decisions will have to made on whether or to run the off camber or ride, after the uphill barrier jump will it be quicker to run or ride the uphill that follows? We shall see. With fewer long straights to gain high speed the technical elements will no doubt decide the outcome of the race, especially once the course becomes wet.
There were several races yesterday including the non-championship category, industry category but most of all, the first category with jerseys up for grabs, men's and women's singlespeed. With a packed field in the women's and full field in the men's it provided exciting racing and spectators began getting early heckling practice and cowbell technique dialed before the bigger events later on in the week. While the singlespeed category is most certainly a race it's also a bit of fun so it's not uncommon to see fancy dress among some racers, notably Austin Horse (Red Bull) racing in jeans and sweater but still overtaking half the field after starting in the back.
Both races were shown dominate displays - Mo Bruno Roy (Bob's Red Mill) and Justin Lindine (Team Redline) taking the women's and men's respectively with early leads straight from the gun and increasing the gap with every lap to go. Each rider showered class and although chase groups formed it was never closed down.
So if you were on the fence about coming to Austin for the nationals, do it because it's only Thursday and it's already been a blast.