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Cross Racing Week 3 | The Fort Collins USGP's

The big show. The Grand Prix's. The circus comes though once a year to Colorado and it's fantastic to see great friends as they follow the caravan from city to city. But alas, I've had a love/hate relationship with the USGPs. It's a crap shoot so for me, I can really set no audacious goals. Just train within the tempo of the folks who have been racing or are peaking for these two days. And that's exactly what I did. With no meaningful call up procedure (my sorry ass was in the smoking section both days), I had to just look at personal objectives: ride smooth, attack all the hills, stay in the wheels. I still can not figure out why the GP's can not use USAC's ranking system to determine call ups. Order of registration feels like a cop-out as we've now compiled and can access much more sophisticated data to lay out a start grid. But I digress. 

Day 1

It seems like the weather gods know exactly where to be on the first Saturday of the Colorado leg of the GP's: Directly over Fort Collins. The morning races were gorgeous....but by mid day (the Junior races and elite master races), the skies opened up, temps dropped and the rain began to piss down. 

My oldest, Aiden (10), is now in full swing racing in his 3rd season of cross. He gets it all...the mud, the suffering, the self control...but on the start line he and all the other brave kids were standing there in a collective vibrating mass. All shivering. Nerves, fear and cold all building up waiting for the whistle. Aiden, on the front row was looking at me terrified. Then the chief referee signals "30 SECONDS!!!". Aiden looks forward, breathes and stops shivering. Today he's racing with the BIG kids. The teenagers. His calmness inspired me and when that whistle blew, he ripped to an incredible 14th amongst a huge field in horrible conditions. So proud of him. I can only envision what he is learning about himself at this age. Let's face it, when I was 10 years old, I was not doing this. Not even close. Shivering on the bench in a hockey arena or soccer field can not compare to this level of bravery. 

Photo by Amy Keller

The 35 Masters then lined up. I'm in the back of the bus in the 6th row and I can see my teammate and current world champion Pete Webber not too far ahead. I'm thinking: "How can a world champion not get a courtesy call up? When he goes to Belgium, the organizers bring Pete up to the front based solely upon is credibility as a US National Champ." I guess we are just that puritanical on this side of the pond. It' won't matter: Pete will go on to shred the competition in his the front, in the shittiest conditions possible:

Photo by Terri Irsik Smith

The racers generally got off clean save one typical pile up in that first muddy section off the pavement start when you can expect the nervous and the ill prepared to yard-sale. I wove through the traffic with Marc Gullickson and we flowed until we were clear of the shit-show. Then, I just put myself into 'bury yourself and worry of no one' mode....

Photo by Terri Irsik Smith

The equipment we have is insane this year. The Ridley X-Fire's disc brakes absolutely performing epically. The sealed cable systems we are using from SRAM ensure the 2013 Force works shift after shift....and I would go on to ride the same bike the whole race, even with a pit crew there. No need to change bikes as I'm not panicked and worried about placements. The Clement PDX's now are a known commodity to us and are used not just for the slop like we experienced on Saturday, but frankly 90% of the Colorado courses we ride on. Mountain bike'y and riddled with dirt off camber and kitty-litter corners, the tires just completely carve. 

Photo by Terri Irsik Smith

I'd go on to place anonymous top 30 of a massive field. No crashes save for a small dab and satisfied enough with myself for my 3rd race of the season. As the race is underway, I'll admit I am still terrified. The fast downhill slaloms are greasy and I simply do not want to hear 'that' sound again. Of my clavicle breaking like a chicken bone. Lap after lap I settle in, feel more confident that the PDX's are NOT going to break away and just race my race comfortably. I'm also thinking during the race, knowing that had a big sun symbol for Sunday: "Tomorrow is going to be so fast. Save some."

Day 2

The sun is glorious from dawn until dusk. And you can almost hear the water draining from the course. Aiden is AMPED today. I have him on 'fast' tires for the first time...Dugast Typhoons run at what I think is like 18psi for his little carcass. Again, in a HUGE field he proceeds to go and flow and have a spectacular race, coming in again in 14th. His little Boulder Junior Cycling teammates completely crushing the field. It's awesome to watch.

I line up even farther back today. I'm sort of tweaked but then relax and just don't bother stressing about the whole thing. I know it's going to be a crit, just like last year where I took a top 20 in identical conditions. 

From the whistle the field is ripping. Lap after lap I settle in but honestly make no gains forward, but really make no gains backward. It is pack racing which unfortunately I discover as Gullickson kindly lets me know: "Dude, we're just following your wheel." I look back and see I'm towing like 15 guys. Awesome. I attack the pavement mid race to get into the technical flow to try and create a bigger distance and make a better selection but it's no use. They close me and finish me off on the next lap's pavement section and I just have to concede. That was my top 25 goal right there. Ha!

Photo by YannPhotoVideo

I pull in again in an anonymous 34th holding off a charging Don Myrah. I maintained sub 7 min laps each lap consistently, fading each lap so I know the type of work I need to continue to do...but man the tempo was fast. And yes, super fun. 

So this weekend's efforts are in za bank. In za leg bank. In my head not as disappointment but of bullets I am pushing down into the magazine, hopefully to fire them off when they count in the meat of the season. 

Two classics coming up this weekend: Blue Sky at Xilinx and Interlocken in the grass. Should be fun...but I'm still hoping for a snowsquall.  

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