Wasted. That describes my mind and body at the moment but my spirit is flying. I am at McCarren airport in Vegas waiting for the flight to Denver...to take me home back to my waiting family...and I am sitting here so spent to my core, you have no idea. I'm smiling wide as I type this, and people staring at me must think I am psychotic.
I am on another high right now that is hard to describe. It's all related to this sport I love and the frothy pandemonium that can ensue when an event like Cross Vegas can take place, assembling the elite of the elite here in the US and nearly ALL of the top players in the bicycling industry.
How do I want to break all this down for you in the short time before my flight? Let me sum it up in highlights, sound bytes and other tid-bits of my experience...
- A thumbs up: That was what the UCI guy gave me when I was cleared. The helpful UCI folks got me registered and through a small licensing discrepancy I had at sign-in. They are looking out for the racers all the time and I thank them.
- The course: A leg sapping, heart wrenching, mind blowing course. 99% grass. File treads ruled the day for sure (more on that in a second). It was not technical at all, just fast and furious but designed perfectly by Chris Grealish, Brooke Watts Joe D and the Denver Boulder Courier gang. Only one set of barriers but massively hard climbs with super fast speed sections.
- The warm up: Spent most of the afternoon there dialing the course. By nightfall we were game on and I was hot lapping. I hear a shout across the field: "Hey! Keller!" I whip around and it is Tim Johnson barreling down on me. This is our Nation's stars and bars wearer and on a night that is incredibly important....arguably the most exciting race of the season...he flies up to me and just shoots the shit for a few laps. We hadn’t seen each other since I think Michel’s house in Belgium, and raps with me like we'd seen each other just yesterday. One would think he'd be in cone-of-silence/"I'm focusing" mode....but he just rides on up and smiles that smile at me, throws a hand on my back and greets me like a long lost friend. If you ever, and I mean EVER, get the opportunity to meet with Tim, it is the most disarming, pleasant and warm meeting you'll likely ever have. Contagious spirit that makes you motivated and confident. His advice to me on the race was priceless...but sorry I couldn't follow through homie! About 5 minutes later, J Powers does the identical thing...rides up to say hello...and we talk through all the recent goings-on. It's like Cannondale has a pre-req to ensure their riders are totally core and present with themselves and life itself. I digress, but PRO doesn’t describe these guys. They re-define and transcend it.It's what I want my Aiden and Seamus to experience in competitors when they come of age.
- My warm up was classic Keller. Powers is following me as we're chatting and I come into this apex with a quick riser and 'fa-WAP!'...rolled my challenge Grifo XS file tread. D'OH! So, I end up racing on my back up set and all is well. Bummer though as I wanted to fly those for Donn K from Challenge.
- The RACE!: Crazy fast. Crazy hard. Crazy frenetic. I have never gone so hard. EVER. Master's Worlds was not this fast. Not by a long shot. Add on another 20 minutes and it was the single most suffering I have ever done on a bike. The call ups were crazy. 100 racers in the queue. I talked to a few folks and they said ALL racers would be called up. So I am chilling at the back. Then I see dudes start to crowd up so my instincts kick in. I get myself up behind Travis B and we get up farther. They call up all through Lance and then EVERYONE floods in! So I was probably like in the 5th from last row. Crazy. The start was a total panic with a massive pile up…see picture…that’s me No 74 to the right. Left me near DFL. We motored hard hard hard hard. The fans were SO LOUD it was amazing. A tunnel of people and cowbells and hands in the air and…well, pandemonium. Within a ½ lap ANOTHER huge pile up. My friends: No embellishment: I bunny hopped some dude and his bike and just kept my head down and railed. My friends were screaming each lap. To make a long story short (I’ll write up more later), you have NO FRIGGING IDEA how hard a C1 is. My GOD. I made it to roughly 42 minutes before the fastest train I’ve ever experienced came flying by. Page, Trebon, TJ, JPow et al. I cleared myself to the side and just got on them for a bit. I started hallucinating as I was totally dehydrating (the top guys had bottle cages on which was my mistake). I had a fairly bad crash about this time where I had to get off and straighten my bars….and by this time Barry Wicks….probably 2nd group comes by. So coming through near the S/F area, I rolled off and called it a night. I was SO WASTED I proceeded to stumble over and like an angel put before me…looked at Chris Grealish (who seemed, again, to just materialize in front of me) and mumbled…water. And his eyes grow wide and he grabs bottles and opens them for me and I feel the cool rush of liquid filling my core. I put 3 bottles of water and 2 Pepsi’s into my system in like 3 minutes until I felt my body again. Folks: THIS IS THE GUY WHO RUNS THE RACE! He took the time to just make sure I was OK. Rad. Chris G is so unbelievable to us all. Thank him when you see him for the work he does to get us racing!
- Boups, Paul Brooks and Nick Stevens: WAY TO REPRESENT!!! Boulder was bringing it hard with SAME LAP FINISHES! This was a C1!!!!! They railed it hard…SO HARD…and I am so proud.
- I will blog about after the race stuff later…when I am back in Boulder. In addition, I want to write up my experience at InterBike and need to get a hold of my pictures.
Lastly: A special note to all of you that found me at the race and said such beautiful things..merely after reading my blog. I am living on a high from those conversations in a way I hope you understand, and I do you proud when I write this stuff. It’s about our sport…about my lens on trying to do my best…basically about the REAL crossers who get it on every weekend in Anytown, USA. I am channeling that spirit that you have through my fingers into these digital characters. I am honored to have met you all from SO MANY parts of the country. I can not wait to see you again!
I gotta jump on a plane and when I can focus a bit, I’ll be more methodic with a write up with pics, etc.
Crash photo courtesy of Carlton Reid
Course Photo courtesy of Zach Lee.