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Cross Racing Week 13: Fast, sunny and hard. A thriller at Arapahoe Ridge.

62 degrees. Sunny. Perfectly tacky and autobahn fast conditions. No, this is not a crit in was our 'cross state championships in Boulder, CO! Clearly my voodoo dances to the Rain and Snow gods did not work. Friday afternoon there was three inches of snow on my front lawn and roughly 35-37 degrees. By midnight the Chinook winds came BARRELING in, blowing at 60mph and literally raising the temps to the mid 50's. It truly was as if a large hair dryer dried up everything. By morning....not a piece of snow. Lawn dry. My Karcher pressure washer sitting in my car....weeping.

It would be fast....and it was. On to the race...

The pre-ride of the course showed again why DBC Events are some of the single best race organizers and course designers in the country. It takes a lot of experience...and trips understand how to dial in a course and Chris G, Joe DeP and the crew made an unbelievable one. Not 100% suited to me given some of the long straightaways but the course was riddled with technical features that forced you to be consistent and smooth which would be my saving grace. Lots of 180 switchbacks...some that traversed uphill (see pics below I took of pro men going through the switchback maze), sand traps that also 180'd which forced most...including the pro dismount and run. Stair features and barriers strategically placed. It was cherry. Why the HELL is the UCI removing barriers from their races??? Lame lame lame lame lame. That *IS* cross! I digress...

My pre-ride showed that Typhoons would again be perfect. I had file treads with me too but the off camber stuff I was a little freaked by as I thought a little tread would be needed. 35 front and 36 rear psi did the trick.

The 35 Open men start to queue at the start area and as I am there, I count the slots....1....5,6,7,8. 8? D'oh! I was 10th in the regional standings and I wanted the front row. Sure enough, the ACA official calls us up, one by one and the front row gets filled. I am in 2nd row....which probably should have been good enough for me and prevented me from blowing my wad on a hole shot. But, I'm me, and thick like that (more on hole shots in a second). The start was a super long and paved uphill slog. Once you reached the top of said slog, it would send you DIRECTLY back down the grass literally coming back down the way you just went climb it again! It would literally sort out the race on that very first up and back.

"30 seconds gentleman!" TWEEEEEEEEEEEET! Captured on film by my man Dave Hixson. Note that I am on the left and on my second pedal stroke, I slip a pedal but somehow recover and get it back in. Like Moses parting the seas, you'll see a hole open up and I saw it and went for it to win the hole shot as we come up to the top of the hill (after we pass Dave's camera here...):

CX States from Dave Hixson on Vimeo.

On the way back down, I get a gap and we start to snap off the core group already. Take a look at this shot Longman got. On the left, look at Ward...who literally gets thrown outside the tape and he lifts it himself to get back under! Ha!

After winning the hole shot and coming back up the pavement, I started to (of course) get a massive lactic build up. I am trying to spin a super fast gear to unload 'em (see Dave's video above) but things are getting a wee bit difficult. We traverse into the woods for the first time and I sit in with Jon Cariveau, JJ and Matt Opp. The technical sections all go well. I have power and fluidity but the straights are causing me woes. I can't stay on wheels I am still loaded. I manage to stay in the top 5-8 or so by laps two and 3. The sand pit I made a pre-race decision to run every time and this proved to be good for me for the day.

By lap 3, Boups, who is doing his warm up for the Pro race (ha!) comes by me and yells at me to stay on his wheel but his pace is nothing I want to match. I slip...rider after rider they come and gobble me up. I hear someone say 16th! as I come through a section and I get....angry. The legs start to feel fresher and fresher. I decide that if I am going to suffer on the flats, I'll use them as recovery and maintain my gaps and do what I can to close gaps on the technical stuff people are fumbling through. It works.

I start gobbling up riders. Find a wheel...bridge....recover...launch. I do this I guess 5 times or so. I work with Michael H and we are grooving together. There is a group coming up fast behind us and I tell him it's time for us to move on it. Michael literally says..."Christ mate. Put the bullet in me now and get on it!" I laugh and almost go off course but have to go so launch from him and bridge to the next group containing my team mate Brian H and Spike's David Overstreet. Each lap Dubba is yelling at me and it feels good and I am working as hard as I possibly can as its motivating me to power down and bridge. It's not a bad thing to have the reigning Master's 35-39 National Champ in your corner (Dubba photo by Mat Barlow).

By the last lap the race is sorted. Essentially three groups: JJ and Jon C whipping each other senseless by 25 seconds over Ward and Whit doing the same to each other....Dennis Farrell coming on like a freight train to catch them....then groups with Jeff Wardell, Mike Hogan and Ross D followed by David, Brian H and and me. Brian is having a good day but a shifter issue is ruining it for him unfortunately. I tell him I gotta go and launch from him to catch David Overstreet who is also on a great day as well and there's just not enough course left. I flow in behind seconds behind him and roughly 1:40 behind the day's winner JJ in 10th place according to my lady. I still do not know how I could pull some of those folks back. I really wanted to do better but when I see with whom I am racing...National Champions, established pros....unbelievable athletes. I am proud no doubt. 10th is where I was to be...needed to be this year.

After my race, I swapped out my chamois for my work pants and camera. I would split time between the pits as well as shooting the pro mens race. This was one of the most spectacular races of the year. Mat Pacocha, Dubba and Jake Wells put on a clinic. Jon Baker had some unbelievable mechanical dramas and still was able to maintain 4th which was excellent. But the three up front put on such a fun race to watch, it was sick. I made the call that Dubba would take it (even though I told Matt before the race it was a course he could really neutralize people on...) but I knew Dubba was on fire. By the last lap, Dubba attacked but just did not have the sprinting legs to hold off Paco who took an amazing win, Jake Wells in second, Dubba 3rd. Some pics and HD video from my new Nikon D90:

The first lap through the sand..

CO States Pro Men Lap 1 from Gregory Keller on Vimeo.
The technical/apex run up:

CO States pro up from Gregory Keller on Vimeo.

Some of my photos...

See the full size pics and more here.

So there you have it folks. The Colorado racing season for 2008 is all but done. I took 8th overall in the series so I can not complain. Only Nationals left. I still look back at this year and I feel it was miraculous. The fact that I could get out this year week after week and trade pint with fellas I truly admire is nothing short of miraculous....given when I look back at what a difficult year this was for us as a family. The 'cross was, is and hopefully perennially will be my salvation, my medicine for keeping me on the straight and narrow. I pray my sons find their version of the 'cross...and bear it strongly.

Reader Comments (6)

Yesterday was far from cross weather but it was good for doing other things outside. 10th in that group is a great finish!

So how does the UCI think a race without barriers a cross race?

December 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterUltraRob

Awesome video - that was a clinic on how to run a sandpit and remount!

December 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Good job Greg.
The most important is the fun and what you learn at each race.


December 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMichel

Nice videos! We should put them into Final Cut Pro, and make a nice short artsy film about Boulder CX racing at some point! I keep meaning to video more, but have been working on some print projects.

December 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCat Johnson

sweet. missing the last few weeks of the season was made easier by reading your blog and seeing the nice pics. the d90 video via vimeo looks pretty sharp on your site. best of luck at nats!

December 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjeff

Greg, quit killin' me with the Rock Lobster bike pr0n! :D

-wes (@somnambulant)

December 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWes

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