I was out for a spin Friday afternoon and it was an incredible Fall day. It was hard to believe that later on in the evening a nasty storm was supposed to blow in. I went out for dinner later that evening and it was still nice. By the time I went to bed at midnight the storm had finally hit with full force. It was raining hard and the wind had really picked up. It looked like it would be a carbon copy of last weekend's race.
I got up at 6:30 and didn't even look outside before I started getting ready. It wasn't until an hour later that I finally noticed there was actually blue sky overhead. I don't mind racing in the nastiness but for me, getting ready and warming up in it sucks. I checked the weather and saw that it was supposed to pick up again later in the morning. Maybe a few races would go off before it hit.
Since parking was going to be a premium at this venue I decided to get an early start and landed a nice a spot right next to the course. That was nice for a change. I got out on the course and really liked the setup.
It seemed to have a little bit of everything (except sand). There was a short run up but nothing that would kill people. There were two barrier sections, a single at the base of the run up and another with four tiny barriers on a slight incline. The ground was pretty saturated but was holding up nicely. It looked to be a pretty fast course. I noticed two sections that could get sketchy once they got "mudded" out. One was at the top of the course near a fence. It was a left hand turn in the grass that was really off camber and the other was just after that going down the hill while being off camber. At the bottom there was a huge boulder and then a sharp left hand turn. Other than that the course was pretty straight forward.
I finished warming up and rolled to the start for staging. During the call up I checked the competition and most of the usual suspects were there with the noted exception of Jeff from Cycling NW. He is always a factor and I was bummed he wouldn't be battling it out with us. I also noticed a larger than normal group of guys that were out for the first time this season. It could make for an interesting race.
Here is another great video by Kenton Berg that shows a single speed lap in the mudfest.
You also can read his local race articles on Cyclocross Magazine's web site.
So far this year my MO has been to hit it hard at the start but still let someone else get the holeshot if I was leading the group. I don't know why but I guess I just haven't been comfortable enough to take the lead right off the bat. I think that strategy hurt me a little in the last couple of races. I had trouble keeping pace with the leader when he caught slower riders. For this race I decided to try to be first no matter what. I did hit the grass first and Brian (Stanley) was right there but just as we made the transition he dropped his chain. He doesn't falter much so I needed to try to take advantage of it. I put my head down and went as hard as I could. The first part of the course was not really technical and we were pretty bunched up. I couldn't see Brian but I knew he would be fighting hard to get back up to the front. We wound back down a short hill and then hit an uphill section on pavement. I decided to hit it hard to see if I could drop a few guys. About half way up a guy I didn't recognize came up next to me and yelled, "Let's increase this gap!!" I looked over and noticed he had a 6XX number, the same as the field that took off one minute before us. Our field is all 5XX. He was really strong so I figured he must have crashed during the start of his race and was pushing hard to catch back up. I had no reason to work with him so I just got on his wheel and followed him to the top. As we crested we had already caught the slower riders from the first field. Now was the time to put the pressure on and get by as many as I could to make the rest of the field have to really work. At the top of the climb there was a gazebo that we had to ride through. It is paved and we hit it as we made a left turn and then a slight right after exiting. The guy that led me up the hill hit it first and went down really hard. I don't know how I missed plowing right into him but somehow managed to stay on my bike and squeak by. While he was remounting it caused a short traffic jam and I was the only one out in front. I decided to take advantage of this and hit the gas again hard. The course slowly wound it's way though the back of the park and then onto the first set of barriers at the base of the run up. I got over and up fast and headed for the fun section. I decided to take a high line through first off camber turn at the top of the course. My rear wheel slid slightly but I was able to keep both feet in the pedals. I started setting up for the off camber downhill and realized there wasn't really a good line to take. It was pretty tricky. I took a low line and was able to make the hairpin with no issues. I was now on the paved trail and hit the gas once again. As I went by the pits my teammate Ed told me I already had a nice gap. Cool. I still planned on riding really hard but would take no chances while passing slower riders or on the tricky sections of the course. I started the 2nd lap and the course was flooded with riders and I wanted to get by as many as possible so I kept the pace. I reached the off camber sections again and they were now getting pretty muddy from all the traffic. I had to unclip to keep my balance on the top section and almost overshot the hairpin at the bottom. As I went by the pits Ed told me I still had about 30 second lead. The next lap I just concentrated on riding steady and tried to conserve as much energy as I could. The lap was pretty much the same except it had finally started to rain. I was just going to ride hard enough to keep my lead but take no chances. As I wound back up to the top of the course there were a few sections where it switched back and I could see where everyone behind me was on the course. During the last two laps I never saw anyone. As looked over I saw the guy with the 6XX number and noticed how hard he was charging. He looked strong and was closing on me. I starting thinking that there was no way he could be from the first field and be this far behind the leaders. I had been riding cautiously but just in case, I decided that after getting though the off camber sections safely I would hit the gas again through the last section of the course. As I went by the pits Ed told me I had big lead and to just make no mistakes. As I rounded the last turn I knew I had the win but I could see that guy pounding really hard to close the gap. I coasted across the line to take 1st. I think this is the first race I've won leading wire to wire. A few moments later the guy with the 6XX number came through. I asked him what field he was in and he said was in my field. If he hadn't crashed going though the gazebo on the first lap I might have just paced him the rest of the race and not tried to pass him. I'm glad I saw him on the last lap and picked up the pace. If he had passed me I would have just let him go, not realizing he was part of my field. I wished the officials would have told us that our numbers were mixed.
I think it was a great course. After our race they altered the course slightly at the top of the off camber section and then took both sections out completely for the following race. I think that was a smart move.