My 2009 CX season is in the books and I am very pleased to have ended an otherwise rocky season on a high note. I only had a few clean races to shine, thanks to 3 straight races with substantial issues, but the few times I didn't have to claw my way out of some hole, I had strong races and proved to myself that I could hang with the big boys, especially when it counts.
Aside from my 2007 Cat III State Championship win, I have never won a CX race. I finished 3rd overall in the A race that year, but due to the lack of competition I don't really consider the 3's jersey a W. Granted, I started CX in the A's and have managed to score a handful of hard earned second place finishes, even nip at Josh's heels a couple times this fall at Creve Coeuer, but after my third season without the W, my motivation to WIN is even stronger. For some off reason I can't break my will to race some mtb races in Aug (when I should be taking a break before starting to work on my CX base) when I have the good feeling of summer legs. The thought of getting a good jump on CX training spirals further into the tailspin when the endurance man of days of old in me can't say no to racing the Burnin and I'm skipping skills practices in late September to squeeze in 4 hr mtb rides. This past season I added the key component of getting sick enough to not be able to get out of bed for a week and the two weeks it took me to feel normal again after that. I'm done with it. After seeing Josh and Shots wheels dangling in front of me for 50 of the 60 minutes yesterday I know I can do it, I just have to make some sacrifices.
So, after a botched summer rest period, endurance race training in September, followed by sickness in mid October, I reevaluated my goals and devoted my season to training for the "Little Big Show." My confidence was pretty good after my initial success at the Creve Couer double header, but for the next three races after that I found myself chasing from the back with bad legs, tired from the increased training load. I stuck to my guns and continued to drop the hammer all week long and dealt with the consequences on the weekends. My plan was to drop one of my hard workouts the week before Bellefontaine in preparation for States, but after a really hard race at Mount Pleasant the weekend before, I rushed back into business as usual and instead of skipping the said workout, I forced it and went well into the red. At Bellefontaine I had another mishap, watched the lead group ride away and could not muster the strength to latch back on which resulted in another less than satisfying placing for me. Last week, before the little big show, I was worked and instead of blasting some key workouts I found myself resting, trying to breath just a little life back into my legs for the weekend. I knew I might not be as sharp, but over rested is better than over trained so I aired on the side of caution.
On to the race P, 1, 2 Race
I was expecting a bigger turnout with more KC guys, Nate and some usual suspects from the Lou; none of whom materialized. Since I was counting on a bigger list of top five caliber racers, my goal was to try to squeeze into the top five. As we lined up I sized up the small field and set my goal to top three, no easy feat when 4 of the 9 starters had won races (myself not included) and 6 of the riders were the top 6 in the Bubba Cup points race.
Jay took off like a rocket with me in tow and things started to spread out, right quick. Shot caught us at some point and kept on going. I can't really recall the details but Shot was off the front and the Grranimal and I were in pursuit with a strong chase group 30 seconds back. Grrman gaped me at some point and I knew it was his wheel or failure come the pavement so I pushed to latch on. He didn't like this too much so he lit the whole matchbook on fire when he hit the pavement and kicked like there were 200 to go, I maintained my spot on his wheel and he didn't like that too much either.
The next lap was more of the same but somewhere along the way I passed Grrman and watched in horror as the JJ express closed in. By the time I hit the pavement it was clear the firepower of Josh, Dr Mark and Jay were too much to mess with so I latched on the back, got towed across the tarmac and went to work.
It gets a little foggy here as I was pushing myself to new limits previously hindered by tired legs and bad confidence, but somehow Josh and I started riding away from the group, little by little and closing in on Shot. I was amazed to find myself dangling anywhere from a bike length to 10 seconds back for the majority of the race. My gap on Dr Mark was growing steadily as the encouragement form all my friends was so intense I found myself sprinting out of all turns, killing myself to maintain contact with the dream (crushers). I think it was with one lap to go that I was within striking distance of Shottler who was (just behind Josh) as we neared the crucial pavement section. It was a now or never situation but there wasn't anything left for me to give as I sprinted after them on the pavement, only to watch them slide away as the gap opened.
I would guess that I finished about 30 seconds back from Josh and had a pretty good gap over Dr Mark, over a minute. I'm really pleased with the way I raced, even if I know I'm capable of more once I get the timing down. Two years ago I was struggling to stay on the same lap as Josh, last year I found myself chasing pretty far off the pace in the bigger races or slightly better if he was being generous and this year I feel as though I was competing with him in a race he was trying to win.
"And I stared straight into the future
Tell me what do you see?
That this time is gonna be different "
As I sit here pretty beat up and tired after the first Sunday this season I decided to party it up a little bit and while I did miss the post race camaraderie at the pub, recovering and getting back to business is much more rewarding to me than struggling to get through Mondays and being less than good on Tuesdays. Having said that, it's party season for me now and there's so much to celebrate. Mesa made multiple podium appearances yesterday and it is pretty awesome to see that in just three years our CX team has really taken some shape. Matt James had what I consider to be his best result ever with a hard earned 2cd place in the 3's race to a flying Dan Miller. Christopher Connolly won the SS race, Matt Fickinger won the 4's race, Kevin Bonney won the Jr race, Rico George won his masters race (and made it look easy) and our new team member, Chris Roettiger, came in 2cd in the women's open (no more plugs for you until you get my picture on the team website!!!). SOLID RACING!
Thanks to everyone for all the cold PBR handups and rule breaking tea and crumpet parties I was able to have behind Buddys back! Really though, thanks to everyone out there yelling and ringing them bells every race. It makes the pain cave a much brighter place!