You ever leave a concert hall in the wee hours of the morning and your head is hurting and your ears are ringing? That is precisely how I felt after this amazing weekend of racing, color-commentary announcing and general cross-nerding with our community.
For the past few months, Colorado has been a true desert…hot and dusty races with your skin suit unzipped and your mouth as dry as a cotton ball. The racing has been fast, but we all were lusting true ‘cross weather and so it came and greeted us in Fort Collins at the New Belgium Cup, the most recent stop of the USGP series.
Let the truth be told: I was as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. It was my first race back after crashing 3 weeks ago and the conditions…while SUPER fun, muddy and crossy…still had me in a mental bind. I did not want to get caught in a pile up, and I did not want to hit the deck on my own accord. Pre-riding the course it was obvious that if you did not flow on the courses super fast descents or rail the off camber corners coming out of them, it could be your demise. So I made it a goal to just ride the course and stay out of trouble and get back to racing again locally to ‘be in it’ so to speak so I can continue to work for a good showing later in the season.
The weather was super cold as we waited in the grid, a group of roughly 75 racers from Colorado and many of the Nation’s best Masters from around the country. We all focused down the start/finish pavement section for the signal from the UC official’s start gun. POP! We all got underway cleanly nearly instantaneously into mud off of the pavement. I settled in mid pack and that is where I’d stay for the day. Keeping people away from me and attempting to keep myself out of trouble!
My compatriots, Ward Baker, Pete Webber, Jon Cariveau (coming back from a super scary injury in the beginning of the season) and Michael Robson would have banner days…They pushed the pace hard from the get go….with Pete Webber coming from nearly the back to the front by the end of lap one. For the next two days he would put on a clinic of bike handling and flow…combined with a level of fitness that no one would even come close to matching. My race was one being fought ‘in the middle’. For roughly 3 of the 5 laps, I was happy to race with a hero of mine, Ned Overend. Everyone on the sidelines was going nuts for us and even
Ned when we traded turns would yell at me ‘Come ‘on! Hup!”. The guy is gold. It was super rad and watching him flow was great…made me realize that my lines weren’t all that bad either!
Brandon and Josh were faithfully working the pits. I was happy to have three bikes to play with…one that was in there as an ‘emergency.’ so to speak…with Typhoons on and was truly only a ‘break glass if necessary’ situation. The other bikes had Rhinos and hooked up SO WELL it was crazy. It was like cheating. Coming into the pits later in the race there was some confusion and I was handed that Typhoon-laden bike. Talk about hilarity in motion…even with pressures in the 20’s, the bike was like a deer on ice. I had no game! I was laughing my way around the course…and running many sections I’d ride with the Rhinos as the rubber simply would not…COULD not…hook up. Honestly, no excuses, stronger dudes with ONE bike showed more grace than I but the point being it was amazing to me the difference between the tread patterns in these conditions.
I made my way around the course taking my time and re-learning how to feel blood in my lungs again…and it was good. Coming across the line I was happy to be back in the game again…even if the game was MINUTES ahead compliments of Mr. Webber. I took a ‘meh’ 24th but I survived and was truly happy. The people around the tape shouting for me I want to say THANK YOU and much love. It was humbling and motivating all at the same time.
I awoke to the sound of the alarm at 6:30. I was sore…but a good sore. I had a massive task in front of me: Get these bikes in SOME sort of racing condition! They were shattered from the prior day’s racing…with mud and grass still embedded in places that I did not know mud could enter! Two hours of cleaning, scrubbing, polishing and lubing later…I packed up and headed north again for the second day of racing.
Day 2 would be a sort of carbon copy of Day 1 for me…even though I was actually going to ‘attempt’ to race and suffer a bit more. Moreover it would be a carbon copy for the leaders with Pete Webber again demonstrating a cannibalistic tendency to eat Master’s racers alive. No one, not a single racer, could match his flow. It was an impressive display of athleticism.
Photo by Dave Weber
The course on day 2 was a bit modified….adding in some new features like a stair case run up which many of the pros would ride to our astonishment. My race was super interesting. I suffered more than I thought I would but I felt like I railed better. Most of my day was spent racing with a well known Master competitor, Richard Feldman. He was having an obviously tough day in the mud and I tried to simply stay as clear as I could so I could race my own race, but there we were locked in virtually the same rhythm until a gap opened up that I could cover on the last lap. I ended up virtually the same as the day before…26th…having again raced my own race once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to truly be anywhere near the true action.
Racing aside, I was able to have a boatload of fun with some race-announcing action. Colt from Cyclingdirt reached out to me a while back to ask me of my interest in helping do some color-commentary for the Open Women's and Men's races. I took on the challenge as I’d had fun working with Dave Towle at Schoolyard Cross a few weeks prior. I did this on both days and had a BLAST. It was tough hurrying from the finish of my race directly to the booth. I was hypoxic and FREEZING but I hope what I said on the mic sounded decent and made people laugh and appreciate more of the goings-on from a racer’s perspective. Day 2 features me with my friend and Boulderite Jeremy ‘JHK’ Horgen-Kobelski. We had a blast and I think I saw a glimmer in his eye that he really wanted to be out there racing…and not in the booth!
All in all a fantastic weekend. My love for the game has never been stronger and the pride I felt having all my friends yell their guts at me around the course was again, truly humbling. It is a direct reflection of the community we have built amongst and within each other’s spirits that continues to draw me to the start grid every weekend, no matter what.
I am indebted.