This weekend was another double-header weekend of cyclocross racing here in Colorado. After taking a break for the USGP weekend, the Colorado Cross Cup was back on the menu with two races. The first was at the Xilinx campus in Longmont, the second was at Monarch High School in Louisville. The two races couldn’t have been more different!
Saturday’s race at Xilinx was on a course that is said to be a racer’s favorite. I hadn’t raced it before, but after a few pre-rides it was pretty easy to see why people liked it: It was fast, fun, and twisty. My buddy Peder called it a power rider’s course. I think that means it is good for someone who likes to lay down the watts and not necessarily climb much. That might describe me in that I don’t like to climb, but I also don’t think of myself as someone who lays down the watts, so maybe I’m just best described as a lazy rider who likes lazy flat courses.
I chose the Cubus/carbon wheels for the race on Saturday because the course was plenty rocky and rough and I thought a tougher tire might hold up better (vs the supple Vittorias I have). To that end the Cubus worked very well.
I was 5th callup for the race so I got a nice start in the front row and settled into the groove behind my teammate Jeff C, who got the holeshot into the singletrack. I sat on his wheel for 2/3 of the lap then, feeling spry, decided to go around into 1st on the first little hill. From there I led the first two laps and felt surprisingly good doing it. “Wow”, I thought, “I might just win this”. I spent some time daydreaming about how awesome it would be to win a race as I watched my lead grow and grow over those two laps. Then, going into lap 3, the dusty conditions and mid-80s temperatures did a number on me. My throat turned to tissue paper and I started gagging on my own tongue. No kidding! I also realized at this point that I was going too fast for my own ability and fitness, and I started coming undone. I desperately grabbed for a bottle in my pocket, took a swig, then stupidly tried to put it BACK into my pocket. While doing this no less than four guys easily rode by me. At this point I lost my mind. I was gagging, breathless, and trying to stuff a bottle in my jersey instead of racing my bike. For about thirty seconds I continued with this foolishness until it occurred to me to just chuck my bottle.
Once that was jettisoned, I was able to re-focus on the race a bit. I knew I was overcooked and would have to dial back my effort a bit. Similarly to how USGP went, I focused on minimizing my losses instead of regaining any sort of position. Because I was so tired my handling got very sloppy, and the course tossed me around quite a bit instead of me flowing over the landscape smoothly. I knew I needed to get back under control, so even though I was progressively more exhausted, I tried to force myself to STEER my bike better. This helped a bit, and going into the last few laps of the race things got a little smoother and faster. I wish I could say held my positions well, but I dropped a few positions further until I finished in 8th place. The race wasn’t a total disaster, but giving up 7 positions wasn’t something to be happy about.
Fortunately, bad races are great for learning and this is what I learned:
1. I don’t race well on the front because I don’t pace myself well.
2. Thus, I need to keep my jets cool early in the race so that I don’t blow up.
3. When tired, it is very important to use whatever energy I’ve got to keep the bike under control better. Bad handling when coasting on the downhills cost me 5-10 seconds per lap. I lost the time not due to pedaling slower, I lost it from taking horrible lines and having to break and correct my line.
The good things I learned from the race are:
1. My fitness is getting better, and I can hang ok if I’m smart with the few matches that I’ve got.
2. Practicing bunny hopping paid off bigtime in this race where we had some 8″ barriers. I was very nervous to hop them, but I knew I’d hopped stuff like that in practice so I had to just suck it up and try. After a few sketchy attempts I got over them smoothly. In the race hopping the barriers probably saved 5-10 seconds per lap. Over 5 laps that is 25-50 seconds which is a HUGE time savings.
The DS caught some video of the race on her phone, so I strung together a few of those clips Here: