Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kicking the season off with a bang

Lighter, stronger, faster, smarter and on better equipment. That was what I kept telling myself going into the first week of 'cross racing. It's such a tough call when you're really not sure where you stand fitness wise. I had changed things up preparation wise quite a bit this year. Gone were the endurance mountain bike and gravel races/rides, replaced with shorter cross country mountain bike races and criteriums. I was pretty confident that the fitness was there. I was riding really close to Cam at the mountain bike races and I knew he was riding well this year. And my one podium and other finishes at Gateway Cup were against really quality guys. So the only real question in my mind was how would this all translate into cyclocross?

Andrew? Where are you?
Pretty well I guess. First up was the Gateway Cross Cup. This would be my first time racing a mid-week race and my first time racing at night. Jay and I initially had registered to race Masters but changed to the USAC Open race at the last minute to give us another couple hours drive time to get down to St. Louis.

This was a good thing and a bad thing. Good thing was that the racing would be much tougher and longer. Bad thing was our late transfer meant we were both starting from the back row, 6th row to be exact.

The start was a bit scetchy, long paved straightaway with a left hand turn onto gravel. The goal, keep it upright and more importantly, don't let anyone else take you down. I managed a decent start and went about weaving through to the front.

Matt, off the front taking the holeshot
Matt took a beautiful holeshot and was a couple seconds clear at the front. Behind, Jay and I were making up good time, passing two to three riders in each corner and dismount section. The course was crazy. It had two staircases, a double barrier and a flyover. Four dismounts a lap. We were together for the first lap or so until I got through a couple riders and Jay got stuck behind them for a few corners.

By the time I got close to the front, Matt was away with Taylor Carrington and I was opting to let Andrew Coe do the work to chase them down. Andrew brought us up to them and continued to drive the tempo putting in surge after surge. I made a few efforts myself but the only place I really had an advantage was over the flyover, and Taylor and Andrew were more than strong enough to pull me back on the wide open sections.

High speed run-up
The pressure finally got too high and a final surge by Andrew just before the bell lap popped me off the back. Taylor answered the move and took the win. I found out after the race that Taylor is a major 'cross talent. When I mentioned his name to Tilford later he knew exactly who I was talking about. Turns out he's finished top 20 at Elite Nationals on multiple occasions and Andrew is no slouch either.

One race, One podium. I can live with that :-) Matt and Jay finished the day off in 7th and 10th. Great start by the team with no issues at all.

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