After a week off from racing I was ready to get back into it. I put the Maris Farms hell out of my mind and was not going to let it affect me. The event was in Lakewood in the same place I finished 2nd a few weeks ago. It was the first time I was racing at a venue for a 2nd time. The course was going to go the opposite direction and be slightly different but at least I was somewhat familiar with it. This would also be my first time racing in cold weather so I packed pretty much every piece of cold weather gear I had.
check out this video of a lap during an earlier race by Bryan Urakawa
When I arrived at the park it was definitely cold enough to snow but a hazy sun was showing itself though the clouds. There was a nice little breeze which made it feel even colder then it was. I took a few laps on the course and even though it was a different setup I found it to my liking. I managed to stay warm up to the time of staging.. They staged us in the order we finished in last year's state championship race and since this is my first year racing cross I found myself in the back row again. I came into this one knowing that so it didn't bother me as much. The start was on a long paved section and I figured I'd have a good chance to pick off at least a few guys before we entered the course. I was time for us to start and I threw my jacket to the side and got ready to go. Unfortunately the officials weren't. We sat there for about 10 minutes and as I looked around most everyone was trembling violently. I was wondering if I was going to even be able to be able to clip in when we started.
We finally started and I was able to use my sprinting skills to move up through the field. While I was still on the gas a guy in front of me when down hard on the pavement. I had to take evasive action to avoid plowing into him and the momentum I'd built up was gone. At least I was still on my bike. By the time we hit the grass I was sitting about 9th but was right with the leaders. I was feeling 100% better than at the beginning of my last race and was ready to make a game of it. I think I had the slight advantage of being the "new guy" in the field and might be able to slip under the radar. We hit the first climb of the day which was on a paved path and I was able to pass a few guys before the top. We reached the first set of barriers which started on a slight downhill trail but shot up right as we hit them. I got over them fast but I hadn't shifted down and when I jumped back on the bike I was having trouble turning over the cranks. A couple of guys got by me but I was able to overtake them again near the top. I couldn't make that mistake again. We turned downhill and jumped across the paved path and into a short technical section. I was sitting 7th wheel and was still right with the leaders. As we took a sharp turn around a tree the guy right in front of me took a hard fall. This has been happening to me a lot recently. There was no way to get around him while on the bike so I had to dismount and shuffle around him. The five guys in front of the crash were free and clear and developed a small gap. At least I was the first person to get by and had open road to try to catch them. I hit the second climb and started to make up some ground but right at the top the course turns downhill and is pretty fast. This section was a blast! I was flying but so were the leaders. I went into the next technical section on the grass (which wasn't very technical) and could see them lined up in front of me. As I passed the pits Ed told me they had about a 12 second gap. No worries, I still had four laps to make some noise. The next lap was uneventful. I was out on my own and made up no ground on the leaders. As we went by the pits for the 3rd time I was still about 12 seconds back. At least I hadn't lost any more time! I was able to weave my way through the turns easily since no one was on my wheel. When I reached the paved climb I saw that one of the leaders was dropping off. I hammered it on the hill and got by him just before the top. This gave me a little jolt and I was able to up my effort. As we left the long downhill section and got onto the grass I could see that the four leaders, which included my teammate Mark, seemed to be slowing down a little. I think they were starting to play games with each other and it looked like no one wanted to make a move. This was the last lap and I had to hit it hard if I wanted any kind of chance to catch them. As I climbed I put myself in suffer mode and as I neared the top I saw that I had made up some ground. I had to keep the effort going on the next climb before we hit the downhill section or I'd have no chance. As I made the turn and headed downhill I was even closer. I decided to take a risk and pushed it hard and was barely hanging on in the turns. I went around a corner half way down and right in front of me was the first person we had lapped all day. It was in a section where I couldn't pass and I had to wait until I got to the bottom. Right as I hit the grass I was able to power by. I looked up and saw that the leaders had quit messing around and were on the gas. It was the first time during the race that I realized I would have no chance to catch them. I looked back and no one in my field was behind me so I just had to stay on the bike to grab 5th. I kept going as hard as I could and went across the line with almost nothing left. I did hold on to 5th and was probably the happiest guy out there!
It proved to me I could compete at the next level. Now it was time to recover and get ready to race again on Sunday.