I’ve talked before about cross and its meaning for me above and beyond just being a sport. It’s an anchor for me in the calendar…helping me pull my spirit through the dog days of late winter and spring, through the challenges of life and work. It’s a beacon that pulses to help me remember I am an athlete.
Cross is a reason for existence. Of course not the reason. It’s one of the core pillars of my life alongside my spirit, my wife, my children and my passion to breathe air and know I am simply doing my best. Making him proud. Allowing my children to see the simple math in life:
hard work + passion + belief in yourself = success.
And so, some of those feelings came rushing to the surface this past week. The first week of the 2011 cyclocross season.
Training this summer was blissful. Pre-work suffer-fests were what was squeezed in and I simply smiled all along the way. Epics on the weekends with my teammates traversing the grandeur of Colorado on its finest high-elevation dirt roads. All the while being so happy to my core to be pushing hard and seeing results. Frank has been helping me to see my strengths and understand my weaknesses and how to bolster them. It’s been months and months and I simply can get enough and I was feeling like an athlete again. Like a crosser. I can’t wait to see the plans each week and discuss with him how I’m feeling. I still feel major room to improve. But all my best friends are going fast. Real fast. I’m motivated.
Lookout Cross – Golden, CO
This past weekend was my first cross of the season. The Green Mountain Sports Lookout Cross in Golden. It's actually one of my favorite courses. Yes it’s heavily weighted toward the mountain biking-savvy riders (ahem…me) and less the straight-power gifted diesels as the course designers keep it flowy and obstacle-ridden. Barriers, staircases and radical corners aplenty…all the stuff to ensure it is not a pure grass crit. I had zero expectations pinning that first number on my skinsuit. Literally it was sort of an opener before Cross Vegas and more or less get a taste of where I am at under racing intensity. I lined up for the elite master’s race as planned and toed the line with my old friends and teammates to open our respective accounts. My teammate Tim Faia and I were able to get front row call ups which was great as we knew we’d drill it, get out safely in front and get to work. And so it would be…
Upon the whistle, Timmy, Jeff Cospolich and I were off like darts. We three flew into the course quickly and were able to get a gap on the rest of the hungry peloton. Having Timmy up front, I could let Jeff work and maintain the gaps and sit in. We flew and were flowing well as a trio. I rolled and flowed and literally was soft pedaling. Eventually Tim’s gap was growing and I could see Jeff suffering. I made the jump and went in pursuit to go flow with Tim. We were ripping it through the turns, seconds between us. It was fantastic. Our lead increased each lap and Tim maintained his poise to take a great win, me at :06 with more than a minute on the chasing 3rd place group…Jeff coming back strong to take the sprint for the final podium place. I guess the engine was OK on this opening day…
After Lookout, I had to get the bike prepped, work closed out and everything packed as Robson, Chad Moore and I would pack up the big Ford F350 (a.k.a. Trevor) and head to Sin City…Interbike and Cross Vegas. I was motivated to race with a lot of great, fast masters and industry folks and rep the Boulder Cycle Sport colors proud. I’d managed an 8th place last year after just getting ramped up from my broken clavicle and was hyper motivated to bring home the flowers. Funny how the best laid plans…
Cross Vegas 2011 – Las Vegas NV
The boys and I made the trip from Boulder to CV in 10 hours or so. Chad pulling these AMAZING shifts behind the wheel. He was insistent to ensure Michael and I felt fresh for our race the next day. On race day, we all made the trip to Interbike in the AM. Meetings with industry folks and reunions with old friends, it was great from the people-meeting side of things, but I’ll be honest, the show was…lackluster. Seriously nothing that made me step back and see cool trends, exciting technology…nothing. Last year. the UCI announcement for disc brake allowance had as all thinking that the 2011 Interbike would be groundbreaking in terms of the year’s worth of technological progress. Nada. Total bummer in fact.
We finished our biz and regrouped to truck on over to the course. We set up our ‘Boulder bubble’ compound and had the beers chilling on ice. We’d towed a bunch of our friends bikes from The Republic as well in a trailer and had them prepped and waiting when they arrived. Michael and I were like rabid dogs once everything was set up…couldn’t WAIT to get out there. The conditions: EPIC. A rare weather front came in for 2 days and dumped rain over Vegas. Flash floods and wind ripped through the region giving us…a ‘cross! We pre-rode the Desert Breeze complex and unlike other years where the course was hard….it became epically hard. It was AWESOME. It would ensure that bike handling *and* power would be required. Not just crit style slogging. The pre riding had the muscles open up and honestly I felt ready. I was feeling the Lookout cross fro the weekend prior and was ready to roll.
The bike was ready as well. My Ridley was completely dialed. I was so proud to show it off along with its SRAM Red Black group. My favorite set of Dugasts would be run…feeling like absolute RAILS when I was taking on the wet descending grass turns on the pre ride of the course.
I had a 2nd row call up….Michael in 3rd row, Jon Cariveau in the first row as last year’s winner. We wanted to ensure CO would win yet again and add fun fuel to the “Industry Cup” shit-slinging contest and would get to work with each other right away after the whistle. Cross Vegas is meant to be a super fun exhibition race. It has a mixture of folks in the lineup…men and women, experienced and inexperienced, so the rule of thumb in this race is to start out carefully, gas it when clear and then just put distance in to ensure a safe ‘parade’ into the race. It’s all about the bragging rights and possibility of hanging with Elvis on the podium.
The UCI official counted down the awaiting 100+ racers and upon the green light, we were off. We were sent around a parade loop first and all seemed in the clear. Some jostling for position but pretty clean in the first 3 minutes of the race. Michael got right with me and let me know he was there. It was going to be great!
Almost as soon as Michael said the words “I’m here, let’s go!”…literally on lap 1…a guy makes his way on my right, trying to come around and I assume into the pace line and chopped in to my line, his rear left skewer launching into my front wheel. “PING PING PING PING PING!” as it made its way around my spokes, some popping, some bending….and that quickly my front wheel starts to disintegrate and lock up as it flopped its way to an un-true death. It was completely wasted. I’m past the pits…no way I could ride around the course and have Mavic swap wheels and be on my way. My night was over. Plus there was beer waiting for me in the cooler. C’est la vie.
After collecting myself and getting a few Smithwicks in me it was time to get to work. It was AMAZING to see the race this year and I'd be witnessing it from the pits...working for my BCS Ambassador Team Mates Allen Krughoff and Brandon Dwight. Lars van der Haar, Bartje Aernouts, Bart Wellens, Rob Peters…it was fantastic to see all the Euro-ness make their way State side and rip it. Bart’s last lap attack was epic and brave and the tightness of the racing was SO gratifying to see. Our Americans like Trebon, Timmy, JPows and Danny Summerhill absolutely drilling it and riding comfortably with the best of the best.
Our friend Chad Moore, a working-for-a-livin’ photographer like Michael here in Boulder was able to take some amazing shots of the evening. Some of the Industry race, but TONS of the Elite event which he sent on for you all to enjoy.
We are a nation of cyclocrossers. It is now weaving its way into our fabric. I am happy to be alive and racing at this exact moment of our sport’s growth.
On to the season…