For me this was the last race of the first half of the CX season. September is basically getting the feet wet and October tells you where you are and exposes any weak spots. November is the time to fix any weaknesses, hopefully kick your fitness up another step, and get your messy conditions technique working.
As has been typical this year, we had balmy conditions--70 degrees and sunny. Friends and family came out to enjoy the day and cheer me on. I definitely was hearing my name and words of encouragement ("C'mon Old Man!!") all over the course.
This was a new course for me, as I didn't race this event last year. It was a compact course, due in large part to the size of the park. As a result, it was quite twisty and turned back on itself in order to get the lap length up. The course definitely had some interesting elements: sand runs, tough off-camber turns, and some slow-speed, elevation changes.
In particular 2 turns were the primary technical challenges. The first is pictured here: you could get in trouble if you tried to rush this one. Basically, you needed to drop down all the way to the tape and then make your turn and ride straight up the hill. The second was a short, steep uphill chicane. There wasn't much grip on the upslope, so you pretty much just had to come at it with speed and just launch up it right to the tape. Once over the lip, then you could make your turn. Fun stuff.
In addition to testing your your technical skills, the course required a decent amount of power too. I definitely underestimated this aspect of the course after the pre-ride. There were some bumpy sections which generally aren't my favorite, but what are you going to do, it isn't pavement!
So, this was the third race in the series and I had the points lead going in, having won the first two races. Jon Schottler looked to be my main points competition, and of course teammate Joe Schmalz was there as likely winner for the day. Going in I couldn't really tell how I was feeling. I figured I had no known issues that would make for a bad race. As it turns out, I was a little flat. I didn't seem to have any punch and I couldn't seem to kick it up above a steady, hard pace. Last weekend I had that next level, not here. I actually think it might be due to riding too easy the day before the race. I think everyone is different and you need to figure out the best way to ride the day before so that your legs are at their best on race day. This can even change from year-to-year. Last year, I needed that easy day before race day, this year I think i need a little more intensity.
As points leader, I got a front row position. I had a decent start and got off the line behind Joe and Travis. I went by Travis as we passed through the finish line. By the time we got to the first sand pit, Joe, Jon and I had a little gap on the rest. That was pretty much it for the top three. With Joe driving the pace, we gradually rode away from the rest over the next few laps. Joe clearly had the most gas of the three of us. For the first half of the race, Jon seemed to have the upper hand on me. I was able to hold position a few seconds behind him, but just didn't have the snap to accelerate well out of the turns or press the pace. Joe eventually was off on his own at the front. As the laps ticked off, Jon seemed to lose some power, don't know if it was his back or just racing, and I was able to ride up to him. For my part, I seemed to be doing a little better as the race progressed. Around halfway, Jon and I had a little over a minute on the chase, first Brian Jensen (retired with mechanical issues) then Andrew Coe. I was able to get by Jon after halfway and eventually put about a minute on him. I ended up about 30 seconds or so behind Joe. Andrew came fourth, and Adam Mills was fifth.
On the whole, it was a decent race. The big takeaway for me is to nail down the best day-before workout. I may have to rearrange rest days so that I can hit it on Friday to open the legs.
October is the books. Compared to last year, it has gone well. The training has been good, and fairly consistent. I'm happy with the race results, in 7 races I ended up with 4 wins, 1 2nd, 1 3rd, and 1 8th. Time to buckle down and make November a good training month. I will probably race a little less in November to compliment my training and to keep the motivation high. I'll do Jingle Cross and St. Mary's at least.
Hopefully, everything will fall into place by December for Nationals.