Despite being occasionally disturbed overnight by the plight of my next-door hotel neighbor Sergio, I felt pretty good after coffee and breakfast. I finished packing everything into the car, checked out, and headed back out to the Winery. The weather turned out to be gorgeous- a little chilly, but just the right amount of wind, and lots of sunshine.
Once I was changed, I rolled around a little (including a pre-ride of the first “run up” on the “cyclocross course” that we’d negotiate before heading to the road) then headed to the start area. Eddie O’dea made his usual pre-race announcements then started the race. As always, it’s a little hectic until everyone gets to the road- getting to the pavement with a group of fast riders and catching a good draft to the first hills can be instrumental in putting a gap on competitors.
I wasn’t sure of the gravel grinding abilities of most of my competition, but I knew that Cheryl Sorensen and Selene Yeager would be kicking large amounts of ass. So, I made it a point to hold their wheels. They’d put a small gap on me in the first half of the CX loop, but I caught up to them by riding the initial runup (see the Cyclingdirt.com video HERE . They pass the camera about 40 sec in, and around 55 sec, you see me ride by. I caught them at the top) The three of us exited the Winery together with Cheryl and Selene trading pulls all the way to the gravel. I wasn’t sure where the other women were, but I figured I was doing well in that position.
Once we were on gravel, the first few rollers started to break the pack up. One woman wrecked hard on a washboarded downhill, taking herself out of the race. I watched Cheryl drop Selene up the first decent-sized hill as they both rode out of sight. I settled in to my own pace. Within a few minutes, we were on Winding Stair- the first of two major climbs. There, I realized that singlespeeding has been good to me. Rather than use my lowest gear all the way up, I stayed more in top half of the cassette and tried to maintain a cadence I’d feel comfortable with on my singlespeed. I was back and fourth with some of the other women, and kind of lost track of where I was placed.
At the top, I swapped out bottles at the aid station and kept moving. I felt great, and the descent on the other side was exhilarating. I realized that the Addict CX is not only awesome for “normal” CX racing, but is also very stable and comfortable down sketchy gravel descents. Bonus!
Once at the bottom, I gathered up with some other riders and flew through the mid-race asphalt to the next climb- a long, steady grade that follows a gorgeous creek for several miles before heading uphill to the 2nd time through the aid station. I still felt great. I attribute it not only to good training, but also to consuming moderate quantities of Gu Roctane drink and gel. I’m usually one to be skeptical about expensive versions of fancy sugar, but I can’t help realizing that I just feel better when I eat Gu’s version with the addition of small amounts of caffeine and amino acids.
Back at the top, I refilled a bottle and went back to climbing. Not much after that, I came around a corner to find Selene flipping her bike upside down with a double flat. My surprise reflex exclamation was “Oh, SHIT!” which, in order to cover up my surprise, I quickly followed up with something along the lines of “do you have enough stuff?” I was a little dumbfounded, which, once she said she was OK, made me pedal really hard.
Another descent later, it was back on to pavement. I went all-in and put my elbows on my bars to time-trial to the finish. Along the way, I managed to pass one more woman that I’d been back/forth with on Winding Stair. I put my head down and didn’t look back until I reached the final CX lap at the Winery. The last run-up is always a killer, but at that point, everything already hurts enough that it doesn’t really matter. Within minutes, I crossed the finish line. Cheryl and the other two women were still there, so I knew it was a close finish. Cheryl was out there, but the other two had only been a few minutes up.
With that, my reign of Southern Cross semi-domination is over.
Upset? Not really… I mean, I’m not happily celebrating 4th or anything, but, as I mentioned in my previous postings, with a 2 month pre-Worlds hiatus from rides over 3 hours in duration coupled with a 2+ week break following worlds, I wasn’t expecting to be able to come out swinging at this race. I’m very happy with how hard I was able to push myself the whole time, and I feel like I’m climbing better than ever.