Tuesday, January 10, 2012

USAC Cyclocross National Championships

What a weekend. I wasn't very optimistic or excited for this years National Championships. Early reports were that the course was too wide open and that along with big questions about my fitness I wasn't expecting much. Jay and I hit the road early Thursday and rolled into town just before sundown and picked up our numbers. Trek hooked us up with a smoking deal on a hotel. It was about 30 minutes from the venue but it was actually nice being away from the hustle and bustle of the host hotel.

Any doubts I had about the course were quickly set aside as it was far better than expected. The greasy freeze thaw conditions would play to my liking which would only leave the fitness question unanswered. On our AM pre-ride the legs felt good and after talking to Bill Elliston and Michael Wissink it seemed like everyone indulged their fair share over the holidays so we were probably all in the same boat.

Saturday morning came quick and the conditions were going to play a huge part. The opening section was a maze of frozen ruts layered with a thin film of partially melted mud. It would favor those who could ride light and transition from rut to rut.

I missed my front row call up as they only called top 7 from the previous year which meant I had to rely on my USAC points. Luckily it meant middle of the 2nd row. I cued up behind Pete Webber, figuring that was the wheel to follow.

At the whistle I missed my pedal and slotted in somewhere around 15. I was really concerned about the opening section so I gave the guys around me plenty of space and let the pin ball game commence. I kept it smooth and straight and came onto the base of the first climb in 8th position. Over the next few laps I would swap positions with Michael Wissink and Brian Hludzinski multiple times. Guys were coming up and falling back. Somehow I managed to not hit the deck once and only had two off course ventures, oddly at the exact same spot on consecutive laps.

Photo: Josh Stamper

Photo: Britany McConnel

Photo: Britany McConnel
With a lap and a half remaining I finally made my passes on Wissink and Hludzinski stick and had about a 15 second cushion. Mike Yozell was pretty much out of reach in 4th with Adam Myerson another minute or so ahead of him. I late charge from Wissink kept me honest on the last lap and I rolled across the line in 5th. I wanted top 5 and to stand on the podium at a National Championship was a great feeling.

Adam and I tried to keep everyone out of jeans but the other guys didn't have their gear. Adam rocked his sponsors Mountain Khakis, I got the memo too late so full clown (PRO) suit for me.
Photo: Greg Keller (Mud and Cowbells)
The fun was far from over though. Spent the afternoon getting the bikes ready for the my first Elite race. The goal was simple, try to get to three laps to go before getting pulled by the 80% rule. I got a decent call up as I was one of the higher ranked guys without UCI points, middle of the 6th row I think. At the start I got myself on big Justin Robinsons wheel, figuring if anyone crashed around us he'd plow the way for me. I had a good start and filed in around 40th. The first time up the climb I was amazed when I saw Zach McDonald next to me. I picked my jaw of the ground and tried to grab his wheel. That lasted about 3 seconds as by the bottom of the next descent he was out of sight.

I was surrounded by a solid group of masters. Micheal Robson, Jon Cariveau, Brad Cole and others so I knew I was in a good place. Brad and I had a good thing going as we worked our way into the top 40, 37th I think at one point. As luck would have it though, I guy got between us, bobbled and I lost Brad's wheel. He was gone and I wasn't bringing him back. The Elite race is pretty crazy. The crowds are so intense with people screaming, heckling, whistling, shouting, you were racing through a corridor of noise and it was awesome.

I started to fade on the fourth lap as the heavy course conditions took their toll on my back. Pulled with 3 laps to go I was satisfied. 44th place was a success...wanted to be top 40. But I held my start position so I'll call it even.

With Jon Cariveau early on
Photo: Emily Hoesly
Finished off the weekend at the after party and had a great time catching up with super announcer Richard Fries and Boulder brotha Greg Keller. Got to reconnect with Nicole Duke too, which was awesome. Back in the day she drove cross country with us (Manitou) and Hayes. It was a fun trip and I'm amazed how wonderfully small the cycling community is.

Final week of the season now. Masters Worlds, this should be interesting

2 comments:

Shim said...

Awesome!

sda said...

Fantastic Mark - strong work!