Lined up against all the heavy hitters of the St Louis CX scene last night with some new found confidence that I was afraid exceded my current level of fitness. Not sure how the call-ups were ordered but I found myself near the back and fighting working through traffic. Although I haven't done any big CX races I understand that some elbowing, door closing and aggressive riding is required to move up in a big field. I have never felt like that was needed when your lining up with your local crew on any given Sunday but last night I was elbowed, pushed, ridden into stakes and even had the door closed on me when I told someone I was coming on their side. I guess we can do it like that from now on and am pretty sure that the guys that were doing it to me are going to end up off course. I miss playing contact sports anyway.
Ok, enough of my rant that's really directed at a select few. So I end up working myself up to the front with Grrmanimal, Josh, Nate, Mar Mar, Jay, Yielding and a couple others. I was pretty surprised to find myself up there staying in contact and slowly started fading off Mar Mars wheel and then catching back on.
Maybe 3 laps in I caught up to Martin and Yielding who weren't far behind the lead three and gapped them. At that point Grrman dropped his chain or something and left the lead two with me chasing. I buried it and caught them going in through the finishing stretch and knew it was going to be tough to hang when Nate told Josh they had company and Josh attacked. I knew there was no way I was going to handle much of that action but remember telling myself pre-race to go down swinging so I came around Nate and chased Josh down with Nate in tow. Not too long after that I lost my front wheel in the mud, ran it, and jumped back on only to find I had dropped my chain. I was riding for third from then on.
With something like 12 laps to go out in no mans land between the lead two and a strong chase group I started to worry but was able to hammer through the straights and ride the technical muddy sections pretty clean. Maybe 3/4 through the race I spotted Nate running his bike not even half way through the lap which opened up a window of opportunity and created some goals for me; hold off Nate as well as the chase group.
At one point my gap on the chase group grew quite a bit but then it shrunk when I slid across the pavement and almost into the lake at full speed. I recovered and it normalized once again with Nate tearing his way back through the field which would have presented a real threat had the race been any longer. In the end I was able to hold them off with help from the top notch Specialized support crew and Cris Ludwig who had a nice new bike ready to go when I really needed it. Can't feel more pro than that. I rolled across the line in second with a big smile.
I have to send out a big thanks to Jeff Winkler for some advice last week when I really needed a kick in the ass. I don't know Jeff personally, but he was quickly able to assess the weaknesses in my training and get me back on track. Thanks Jeff!