Troy, Nate, Jeff, and I all loaded up the Midwest Cycling short bus and hit the road. The drive to the Madison area was uneventful but the conversation was great. We rolled into the venue, Angel motorsports park, just as the course opened for pre-rides. We grabbed our bikes and headed out to inspect the course. It was tight, punchy, and pretty rough, with more than a few challenging spots.
The evening found us picking up our numbers at Williamson Bikes in Madison but it was soon early to bed so we could get up and get a prime van / tent spot for the days racing. Morning came and we got our number one privateer set-up perfectly placed. Troy was first out of the blocks in the Masters 45+ race. He had an awesome race finishing 3rd behind winner and former Omaha/Lincoln and Trek Store Kansas City mechanic Tom Price. Randy Crist was in there too and came through with a top 30 ride as well.
Next up it was time for Nate, Jeff, and I to take the stage. Since this was my first big CX race I had no idea what to expect and who was fast and who wasn't. They say the Masters 35+ race is the second fastest race of the day, behind Elite men. Everyone looks fit like they could do some serious damage. I took my cue from the official and rolled into my third row starting position. As the gun went off it quickly turned into the melee that is every CX start. My start was decent but not as good as I'd like. The first lap was a blur. constantly charging around guys. Avoiding nervous crashes in corners and over barriers. My goal was to always be passing and not getting passed. By mid race I was in 8th or 9th place with a group of five just in front of me. I had an off lap and lost contact with this group and I payed the price as I dangled off the back by 5-10 seconds for the remainder of the race. I would roll across the line in 8th, thoroughly pleased.
|Photo: Bunny Vonbokel|
Day two would be significantly different. I knew the lay of land now. Course was slightly different, faster, with more flow. The top riders were recognizable now, Bill Ellison (Van Dessel Factory Team), Micheal Wissink (Specialized), Mark Legg (Planet Bike), Richard Feldman (Durance Cycles), I knew the names, I knew the faces. Both Wissink and Feldman have won national CX championships before, and Feldman is a 5 time world masters time trial champion, my work was cut out for me. I lined up next to Ellison, again in the third row, no call ups from the previous days efforts.
As the gun sounded I grabbed Ellison's wheel and we railed the outside of the two sweeping right hand corners and slotted in just inside the top ten. The pace was fast but manageable and I easily picked off a few more guys as we exited onto the longer straightaways. Almost immediately a gap was formed behind us and we were away. The plan to today was to stay in contact with the front runners, ride clean and capitalize on others mistakes. Ellison and Wissink gapped themselves off the front and I was on the tail end of the Feldman group. Legg was the worst off of all the top guys starting in the last row. I kept an eye behind as knew he'd be coming. As luck would have it, there was a crash that would tangle Feldman and a couple other guys gifting me an advancement up the running order, 5th place.
I kept thinking of Skip's written comments to me the night before "fifth place tomorrow". What I didn't think was very attainable was now fully in grasp. Fourth place, Brian Conant was fading but before I could catch him, Legg came up from behind on a mission to catch Ellison and Wissink up front. A half lap later I was by Conant and into 4th but Legg's super human chase from the last row must had taken it's toll because he wasn't pulling away from me. Each lap I'd bring him back by a second or two and with two laps remaining not only was Legg within grasp but we were pulling in the leaders. There must have been some cat and mouse going on up front. With one lap to go I made contact with Legg and immediately went about trying to figure out how to beat him. I'm a little rusty in situations like this so I decided to just go for it as I'm not the quickest of sprinters. I put in a surge through the first pit straight and claimed my podium spot. I was smooth and fast through the barriers, accelerating out of saddle through ever corner, but he was glued to my wheel. Through the second pit straight he took the position back and put in a really hard acceleration. I brought Mark back in the next tight technical section but as it opened up into the final drag to the run-up I just couldn't match his power. 4th place.
The weekends efforts now have me in 5th place overall in the USGP series. Which means front row call up for the Louisville race in 4 weeks. Plenty of time to fine tune my performance for the next round. I could only have dreamed this outcome but to realize it at the first race weekend of the year is amazing. There's a lot of credit to be thrown around out there so in the effort of maintaining good karma I have to thank...
- Anne for her support and patience as I once again chase the crazy bike racer dream. This is hopefully my third times a charm attempt, road, mountain, and now finally cyclocross
- My good buddy Nate, his enthusiasm for CX has re-lit the fire in me. It's always better to race with your friends than have to go it alone
- My good buddy Tom at Ibis Cycles for hooking me up with a sweet deal on some amazing equipment
- The big bosses Jay and Kent. Flexible hours and one bad ass race vehicle
- The Wednesday Worlds Trek Store riders and the weekend Wohlners rides crew, you kicked my butt all spring and summer and I'm fit because of it
- Randy and the whole Omaha CX crew. Wednesday night CX practice has been amazing and you guys push me to ride harder each week.
- And finally the entire Omaha / Lincoln cycling community. The support and kind words of encouragement I've gotten from all of you in and out this year has been amazing.