15 October 2012

The SmartWool Cup - USGP Fort Collins

Big time cyclocross comes to the Front Range!

Fort Collins was host to the latest USGP race this past weekend. I have only ever done the Louisville race so this was a first for me.

I registered early so I was at least assured of a third row start. But, I did my homework and raced enough local races to be in the first 8 riders (I was 8th) in our local Colorado Cup Series. This got me a call-up immediately after anyone with USGP points from Madison. Lucky number 13, second row! As good as this was, it was still not an automatic route to a good wheel off the start. But, hey it was better than 8th row!

On Saturday we had cool temps and rain. Full-on slippery muddy conditions prevailed. As it turned out we were the only race with these conditions. It essentially rained throughout our race then stopped. The 35+ race had improving conditions while they raced. By the time the pros raced the course was tacky and smooth.

I got off to a decent start somewhere between 5th and 10th. Then on the second downhill turn there was a big pileup on the inside. Luckily I was in a position to skirt it and slipped up to third spot. I got stuck behind a guy named Tim Butler who was struggling in the corners while on the front Mark Legg was starting to ride away. I finally managed to get around Butler and set about closing the gap to Legg. I eventually did, but it wasn't to last. I ended up getting taken out in traffic as we started catching juniors early on. That pretty much did it. Legg got a gap and I would never get it going well enough to bring him back.

Meanwhile, Jon Cariveau had caught up and passed me. I was able to stay with him and as the race progressed I start to feel stronger. I was riding pretty sloppy and was probably losing little bits of time all over the place. But the biggie was going down 3 times in 2 laps. I would pass Cariveau then proceed to slide out or make some other bobble and he would pass me back. This happened 3 times on the 3rd and 2nd to last laps. Finally, I put the gas down going into the last lap and kept it together for a full lap. This was enough to get about 12 seconds on Cariveau and close to 20 seconds on Legg. Good enough for 2nd place. I'll take it, but I've got some work to do!

Sunday was almost a repeat, but with dry fast conditions. I did manage to keep the rubber side down at least. I had the same start position and managed to work myself into 3rd again somewhere on the 2nd lap. As on Saturday, Legg was away with a gap of 15-20 seconds already. I moved clear into 2nd place for the rest of the day but was never able to make any serious inroads into Legg's gap. I think it stretched to as large as almost 40 seconds, but I brought back a little on the last two laps and finished back 27 seconds.

The podiums was the same both days:  Legg, Me, Cariveau.

This weekend was a fairly stacked field so I have a good read on where I stand relative to my competition for Nationals and Worlds. Time to get to work and move up a couple notches for January!

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