That's it folks: The last, race: she's in the books! Brian Hludzinski, bruised eye and all from a dramatic sledding incident, braved the cold weather with his Boulder Racing and ACA crews to put on the last race of the season: Boulder Racing's Lyons 'Cross. The race was unbelievably festive and attitudes relaxed (as they should be ALL the time). I think a lot of this had to do with the presence of the Oskar Blues crew...who were out in FORCE with the Dales Pale Ale semi (and it's unbelievable air horns blowing as we raced!!). OB woudl be hosting an apres-race party with their fantastic adult beverage selection and food.
Boups and I made the trip down to Lyons by bike. We rolled from our hood to race the men's pro event at 12:30...Boups towing a trailer behind his Yeti single speed 'cross bike with all our extra wheels and crap. It was 20 degrees and people thought we were retarded as we rolled down the 36 to Lyons. Cars honking, pointing fingers, etc. Hilarious (and Boups wasn't even wearing his new 'skin suit'...more on THAT in a sec).
The last couple of weeks since Nats, I've been in hyper-sleep mode. I'd resigned myself to my winter hiatus of beer drinking and mountain biking in the snow...but still restless. I wanted some more! We got back from NJ (seeing my mom and family for the Holidays) and I did a couple of tempo rides and one opener. I felt pretty fit. Hmm. I think that my Nats debacle was some of the deepest training I'd done all year! HA! It must have baked in during Christmas break as I ate piles of peanut butter cross cookies (the kind with the Hershey's Kiss on top).
Make note to self: Following this training plan for next year.
So Boups and I make it to the course after our long freezing cold journey, sign in...or I should say BARELY sign in as we were going hypothermic and couldn't even hold pens! Seriously! We eventually get our numbers and get some pre-riding in. The course was short and to the point: Power rider course. It was nearly all flat with the exception of two technical sections: one including a barriered run-up/ride-up....and the other this giant dirt mound that had you go straight up...then straight down. You needed some degree of technical savvy but mainly those sections if you were smooth would preserve your gaps during the race. I ride down to Lyons from Boulder with Grifo file treads on and just left 'em on after the pre-ride as they hooked up on everything (I am a HUGE fan of this tread pattern after a season on 'em now! They can basically do everything!).
After sufficiently warming up, Boups goes ahead and does it: Dons the gold sequin skin suit. Purchased on eBay, hopefully washed, it was saved all year for this special occasion. He's going out in style:
So the pro men, including Boups in his gold suit, line up....and all simultaneously look down at our tires. GOAT HEADS. No embellishment, I pulled out between 4-6 (probably should have left 'em in but I have Stans in my Challenge file treads) so all seemed OK. Others just left 'em in and raced 'em as is.
The ACA official sends us off and it's such a civilized start I couldn't believe it. Slow motion start. Ha! We just gradually ramp up and get the machinery going, Chuck Coyle taking the hole shot. I think I was in 4th. From the get-go, a split happened after the barriered run up. The Cliff Bar Devo kids, Brady Kappius* on a 42x16 single speed, our State Champ Matt Pacocha**, Coyle**, Spencer*, Michael Robson* and yours truly.
Team Clif Bar and Matt get a massive gap from lap 1.5. Ball game, me thinks as they are gone and GONE. Brady, Michael, Spencer and me form another group for essentially the whole race. Each of us taking turns pulling us around. By the closing laps, we can see that Paco is dangling in front and we're getting closer lap after lap, so our tails go up. I for once use my head and just sit in for a bit. Michael uses that massive engine and yanks us around the flats one last time and we make contact.
In the last lap, Spencer attacks from our group, peels of Paco and I come from the back behind Brady and Michael to bridge up and we successfully split. We cruise the whole last lap together grooving in and out of the technical sections and start to get a feel for who's freshest. Coming in on the last dirt road section towards the finish, I am sitting in the back. It's either 3rd place (the Clif Bar devos stomped it and won...no one was catching them) or 6th. It's Paco, Spencer and me. Spencer attacks with 500m to go, and I peel off with him. I'm thinking I got him but unbelievably he keeps the wattage going and I can not nip him! D'oh! Spencer 3rd, me 4th, Paco 5th.
It was a super fun race and a great way to end the season. Truthfully, while I felt decent and the course was pretty ideal for me, the fast guys were not on their A game....many having checked out after States...but I'll take the scraps amongst this crew any day.
So now it's OFFICIALLY mountain biking and beer season. And time to start planning. That's right folks: clearance from the control tower has been confirmed; Za Trip Part Deux is back on for 2009 racing season! We're going back to Belgium.
*My team mate Philip Ball (all photos above except those water-marked by Pro Peloton's Nick Saucier are Philip's). A link to Philip's photos from the Open Men can be found here.
**My personal photos