Light snow and freezing temps held right up to race day so it was going to be interesting as this was truly my first race of the year at cold temps. So far in '13 I had good results on sloppy/slick courses and likewise historically so a little challenge from mother nature was fine by me. The week leading to the race I had done several training sessions outside dialing in my kit and accessories for sub-20* conditions and felt confident I was prepared.
Dale and loaded up the 'secret weapon' Saturday morning and headed to STL to get in a little pre-ride. Found our way to the course and took in a handful of laps at 22*. Did quite a bit of surveying the sand pits and after numerous passes dialed in my lines for the following day. Rode the 'stair climb' several times along with the 'single track' decent immediately after until I was comfortable with all. Always interested to see how many people simply ride thru these sections during warmup/pre-rides and don't really explore 'lines' and various options; what is a pre-ride for????
Course was pretty cool with several 'crossy elements and none leaning toward one type of rider over another; great mix (I'll be back next year). Slick on and off-road corners, some from snow/ice but a lot from leaves and some walnuts, frozen fast ground, couple decent climbs (one paved and one not); it was all good except not a single place requiring dismount from the bike (I was bummed, as that's a strong suit for me). A ton of the course was going to come down to handling your bike consistently, not over riding (too fast) the corners, and drilling it on the couple of open sections; figured those who made the fewest mistakes would do well. All in all I was looking forward to the next day.
Race morning comes and our Masters 45+ had a small field, but a quality one. Was really disappointed numerous KC guys did not attend the race, but deep down I know only a couple guys from each 'coast' actually drive outside their city limits to event so was not surprised. In essence it was an STL race and that was ok as I hardly race against these guys and didn't really know who was the one's to watch outside of STL mtb guru Tim Kakouris. Leading into the race the great debate was flat bar vs. cross bikes on a local forum and Tim's name was definitely being thrown out there as the favorite for the course and conditions. I was looking forward to the challenge. The way I see it is this: USA Cycling doesn't prevent mtb's from non-UCI races so let them ride and stop griping. Now that said, it's a 'cross race and not a mtb race so bring a 'cross bike and race. Either way didn't matter as I liked my fitness, my driving abilities, and one type of bike over another was not going to be the difference (in the Open race however... HA!)
It was cold out for our 10am start, but had the kit dialed in pretty well. Spun a couple laps in one set of clothes and swapped out to dry warm ones right before my start. The 'secret weapon' earlier referenced was awesome - Dale's enclosed box trailer (12' x 6') with a propane heater (left door open a bit not to overheat and choke on inhalation) was a perfect spot to sit on the trainer for 30+ minutes warming up the legs and body out of the elements. Dialed to perfection and honestly think this was a huge advantage to doing it outside in the frigid conditions!!!! Clothing of choice was Castelli thermal skinsuit with a thermal long sleeve base layer and a windproof vest (under the skinsuit) for the core. Castelli Nanoflex leg warmers, Giro winter wool socks (not too thick) and Specialized insulated Defroster boots (they are sweet) took care of the pistons. Specialized lightweight base thermal gloves with a no-name thin shell kept the fingers working and lightweight skull cap under a full head cover and Giro Air Attack kept my brain cool and operational. OuterEdge full-zip thermal tights and Showers Pass Jacket peeled off with 2 minutes to start. Cold on the line, but cool (never cold nor warm) during the 45 minute race - perfection.
Off to the line for the start. 35+ took off, wait 1 minute, 40+ go, wait 1 minute, then off we go. First half of the lap pretty much went as I expected: Tim took the quick lead with a mtb guy (think it was Sam Moore) and myself slotted in behind. Pace was not too fast as it seemed we were getting a feel for things before the hammer drop. Through the first sand pit I took my line (from the day before) and quickly moved to the front where I kept a moderate tempo until the bottom of the paved climb. Tim jumped up the pace and I slotted in behind liking that it seemed the racing was about to get started. At the top of the incline the transition from pavement to grass had a curb; the day prior I pre-rode this a handful of time and got my line figured out, wasn't hard just had to either take it straight on or 'hop' your wheels as it was icy and slick. Not sure if Tim hadn't pre-rode this or simply made a bad choice as he went at it at a shallow angle and immediately slid his back tire (actually his whole bike) around harshly and landed on the ground right in front of me (I took the lip wide and hopped it head on) leaving me no place to go but on top of him. As I was un-tangling us I saw on his face he was hurting. Got back on my bike after a bit and by then Sam had passed me and as began my pursuit I looked back a couple times and Tim was not following (he was screaming though, but at the time I figured he was just mad). Turns out he broke his ankle. Wishing him a quick recovery!
Quickly caught up with Sam and set on him for quite a while until the 3rd placed guy (Cleeland) bridged to us. The pace during this time was quite a bit slower so once the three of us were together I upped it and one by one gaps opened. We ended up riding five laps and I only really made a big effort on number four to ensure my gap was big. The last lap was making sure I stayed upright and under control. Mission accomplished and finished comfortably for the win.
Course was super fun and like I figured less mistakes would trump power/over riding. Disappointed not being able to battle with Tim for the win as I think it would have been a fun go for both of us the entire way. Heal up Tim!!!
|Did a bit of tripod'ing just in case...|
|Snow and ice added to the fun of this course|
|Clement PDX at 24 and 25lbs were my|
choice of tread for the day and they performed
as expected - great
***Above photos from Mike Dawson***
|3rd place (Sam Moore) must have been warming up somewhere as he was |
AWOL on the podium
|Swag for the day with a State Champ jersey coming later|
So with the season a wrap it was time to shift focus to warmer temps. Deb was heading to STL to pick me up and head to the airport as we were heading to Miami, FL to catch a cruise to Mexico the next morning.
Five day cruise hitting Key West and Cozumel in mid 80 degree temps with my best friend was awesome; did a ton of nothing the entire time. Deb and a book, me and a deck lounger (never too far from the ice cream machine) was just what old man winter ordered.
|The scale showed I did way too much of this during the week|
So it started Sept 14th and 21 races later 'cross for 2013 is done. Maybe in a day or two I'll do a quick recap, but for now I have a couple things that stand out: 1) after missing all of last year its hard to describe how happy (and I mean it) to simply line up each time and compete in a discipline I love so much no matter the outcome, 2) very happy with my season to include not only my results, but only having one mechanical, the selection of events and schedule, only getting sick once... and lastly 3) already itching and can not wait until 2014 as I have a couple serious tweaks that no doubt will have me riding faster and sharper then this year.
The question probably asked then if I am 'itching' is why not keep it going into Nationals? Simple answer: Deb is incredibly generous and supportive from Sept thru mid-December and to train focused into and at Christmas and New Years is asking too much of my family and I see no reason for it (plus I have no desire to race at Boulder altitude and who knows what kind of conditions in January). There you go: simple.
Parted ways with the MWI crew as it's tough being so far separated from the main group in Wisco and now am looking for maybe something more regional (who knows might race solo for a bit). MWI was a great time with super folks and good support and I hope they can keep things going.
Laying low off the bike until January 1 and then it's mtb racing and gravel events all spring and early summer (skipping crits from here on out as it's never a question of if, but when...).
Lastly, thanks to all who in some way supported, trained with, heckled, or simply waved or said hello sometime this season; you guys (the 'cross community in general) are great and enjoy each and every one of you.