Sunday, October 16, 2011

Oakley Night Cap Cross

Mile Marker 2895 - After hearing great things about the Night Cap Cross, actually make that the Oakley Night Cap Cross, last year, I had to add it to the calendar. Even more so because Rob Versteegh, our Oakley rep and one of our sponsors was promoting it. It really has all the ingredients one wants at a 'cross race. It's at night under the lights. It's at a bar with tons of spectators. And it has three live bands playing just inches from the course. What makes it tricky, is the whole thing is contested on a 8/10ths of a mile course. Very tight, very twisty, great for great bike handlers.

I knew I had my work cut out for me as Kevin McConnell and possibly Brian Eppen would be in attendance. I knew virtually nothing about Kevin, only that he was capable of competing with KCCX fast boys Kevin Fish and Brad Cole.

We had a late start to the day as we all arrived at the Trek Store at 4pm to load up the Sprinter Van for our quick trip to Des Moines. It was strange leaving so late but with the 3's race starting at 7:30 and our 1/2/3's race not starting until 10pm we had plenty of time.

Shim was first off having driven up earlier to make the Masters 5pm start time. We missed his race but he took the W.

Next was Jeremy and Larry in the 3's. They both had good battles throughout the entire race and finished up 10th and 9th. Leah followed in the women's taking a 5th place finish.

By this time it was getting late. After a bit of stress I got myself situated on the trainer and got into my warm-up. The legs felt decent after a tough week of recovery after the USGP in Ft. Collins. The plan was simple, get to the start line early so I was front row and follow some wheels and see how the legs felt.

Photo: Des Bike Pedicab
At the whistle I was immediately swarmed and stuffed back in 5th wheel. I've learned to not panic too much as there's always a good handful of guys who's pace in the early laps is way higher than they can maintain. A Mercy rider shot clear and I thought it was Mathias Perret. To my dismay, by half lap I figured it was actually McConnell who was away. Not the way I wanted to start. By the time I realized this he had 5 seconds on us and I was having a hell of time getting to the front to take chase. I finally managed to get into 2nd place with the help of a few elbows after the first lap and a half and went about chasing Kevin down.

It took what must have been 4 or 5 laps to bring him back. After the chase I opted to sit in and try to recover. We were pulling away from the chase group so there wasn't much urgency on my part to drive the pace. Kevin eventually bobbled a corner and went into the tape which handed me the lead. I set the pace for the next 3 laps before Kevin came back by.

By this point I was picking apart his strengths and weaknesses. He was faster than me on the barriers and just as clean through the corners. Usually those are two areas where I typically have an advantage so I had to find another way. I seemed to have good power on the two straightaways so with 6 laps to go I took to the front and started to force the pace. Kevin equalled my accelerations and after 3 laps of punchy riding I let up. It was going to come down to the final lap.

Photo: Amedeo Rossi
With two to go, Kevin took the lead back. I waited and waited until with a half lap to go I jumped him on the final long straightaway going into the technical and tight last half of the course. I thought this would be it as I fought hard to accelerate out of each turn. On the last mini straightaway leading to the final sequence of corners I heard him coming and he squeezed inside me on a turn executing and pretty aggressive block pass as he almost punched me into a white Jeep Cherokee parked on display next to the course. The rest was a formality. The course was too tight for me to attempt any sort of pass and I managed to just keep it close for 2nd place.

Behind Paul Webb was having a similar battle with Perret. Perret got the upper hand as well, just nipping Paul for 3rd place.

All in all it was pretty intense racing. McConnell and I had a good battle and I definitely got my 60 minutes worth of hard racing. The atmosphere was awesome and the payout was great. In addition to the cash purse, yes promoters, did you hear that? They paid out in cash. Nothing sucks more than getting a check for your payout. Anyway, in addition to the cash purse, I also walked away with a cool Oakley backpack and 12 pack of Miller Lite. I know, Miller Lite, hey, it's the thought counts.

A big thank you to Rob and the other promoters, super fun race, will be back next year. Although next time, I think I'll get a room and spend the night. These late night drives home have got to stop.

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