For the last three races in a row I have felt like Tom Brady with a deficit, late in the fourth quarter, looking deep for Randy Moss. I don't like racing like a would be hero and definitely am not strong enough to be one in our blossoming CX scene. Mistakes equal failure. Aside from the three big guns at the front, there has been a fairly constant shuffle in the top five that makes for some fast and furious racing.
I was feeling pretty good on Saturday after leaving out one workout last week to get some rest in leading up to the little big show. I, like everyone else there, had probably enjoyed a little too much holiday cheer over the course of the week, but nevertheless, I was feeling confident and liked the course. The Grranimal and I joked at his drunken cycling escapades earlier in the week, but not so funny was his concerns for his noggin and sore shoulder. Pre-race he took a little dive over the bars and clearly was a little shaken up.
The race got underway and knew I had the good feeling. I was sitting in the wings of the lead group with relative ease and being patient to let things pan out. Since it was a straightforward track, the group was about 8 deep and the gaps didn't open up too fast on the chasers, but with some boggy slow sections, greasy corners and ride ups, hanging on meant riding smooth. I slid out around a corner and slipped to the back of the pack but stayed on and kept my focus.
There were three sections of the course that were fast enough and had enough wind to make being in the group crucial, for me anyways. Going into the second lap people started to get a little bit froggy and the attacks started up. I found myself covering some early attacks and then on the front as we were racing for corners. I slipped back in the group and was happy to let Dr. Mark resume the pace making as I was really marking Nate and Shot. Unfortunately, on the technical backside of the course I slipped on the root and went from front to back of the group and latched back onto Grranimals, wheel coming down the pavement at the 180 by the lake. I saw his foot come un-clipped and then his bike went sideways as I plowed over him and thought I heard the crack of carbon. I was upright but he was clearly dazed and not getting up so I grabbed his bike and offered some kind words of encouragement. Precious seconds, which felt like an eternity, ticked by before he came to and told me not to wait.
Riding in defensive mode again I chased the lead group and watched the gap grow when my wheel would hit the wind. The openess of the course allowed me to keep pretty good track of the gaps which stayed fairly consistent to the chase group, but Shot and Nate were Audi 5000, G. Following a couple laps of rage inspired riding I started to fade and Nagy was creeping up from behind. I caught up to Dan Miller and had him and Nageltronic keeping me in check for the next few laps until I saw the 5 to go card and kicked in the turbo. Wish I could ride like that all race, but somehow my head won't let me.
With two to go I came up on Martin who was going backwards after a really strong start and started to close on Yielding who also had a great start but just got passed by Jay. Jay had been maintaining his gap on me most of the race but it was starting to shrink and I was thinking about points and placing.
With one to go I was closing in on Jeff and maybe 15 seconds back from Jay. I caught Jeff at the barriers and Jay was just ahead, but he had some fight left in him and wasn't about to let me close that down. I rolled across the line in 5th again.
So after a flat at St Vincent, a mechanical at Mt Pleasant and a common courtesy at Bellefontaine I feel like I haven't had a clean race in awhile. In all three races I was clearly stronger than my placings. One of my biggest problems is pushing myself the same way I would if I were clinging to someones wheel at the front of the race. Watching Nate and Josh race their bikes leaves much to be desired on a personal level. I need to be more patient, smoother and save the juice for when you need it. How often do you see those guys attacking before the selection is made? I said it last year, but with each year of racing CX I am driven by the challenge of not succeeding the way I have off road. I have learned quite a bit in my last three seasons of racing CX and know what I need to do it 2010.
Next weekend is going to be some hard racing!