This year they used their farm equipment might and the help of a local landscaper to build an entire pump track in a field the night before the race complete with two big table tops, a 180 degree berm, and a series of rollers to pump. The rest of the course was pretty comparable to last year with some grass straightaways, high speed corners, two sets of barriers, and a run up with stairs.
The 4/5 race was fully loaded at 100 riders and I had managed to lower my points enough this year for a front row start. Not only that but race predictor had me on the podium which was very new for me. It had been raining a bit all morning and the course was greasy and slick during pre-ride. This had me very pleased. Mud always seems to do me favors when it comes to my results. I staged up middle left because of the line I wanted going through the little chicane turn before the first straight-away false flat.
Got a good start and was 3rd wheel heading into said chicane. My line was correct and I exited said chicane winning the race. This was VERY WEIRD. I have never been at the front end of any cross race let alone a full 100 rider field. Knowing that there is this mass of riders right behind you but having your path be completely clear and quiet is weirdly surreal. I traded spots with Addison Minott a few times but I led a decent amount of the first lap. I lapped through in second and was feeling pretty comfortable being there. There were 4 of us in the lead group, pace wasn't too volatile early on lap 2. Seemed we were all getting sorted and settled into something resembling a sustainable pace before we started attacking.
lap 1 run up at the front of the race
Unfortunately for me I didn't make it to the fun attacking part because heading into the run up on lap 2 I forgot to bring my bike with me after my dismount. Not sure exactly what happened but as I went to clip out right before the stairs and grab my bike to run I either slipped or just missed the grab and basically just dropped my bike on the ground right across the track. Luckily I didn't screw anyone else up but the lead group ran away while I got sorted. Lost about 15-20 secs and finished about 15-20 secs off the podium. CYCLOCROSS!
There was a bit more intrigue than that though. I wallowed in no mans land for the rest of lap 2 and much of lap 3 trying to bridge back up...to no avail. Brian Cole was creeping behind me the whole time and eventually I could tell he was closing. Lap 3 or maybe 4(?) I had a temporal issue getting back up onto my big ring on a straight-away and Brian powered past me. I got shifting issues sorted before I lost his wheel and got back to proper racing. Towards the end of 2 to go Jose Ordovas came up to us out of nowhere and we were a group of 3 going for 4-5-6. Jose promptly crashed in one of the slickest corners on the course and I thought that was probably it for him based on the gap that opened up.
Brian and I were working relatively well together but Jose did it again and completely snuck back up out of nowhere. He redeemed himself and made a good pass on the corner were he had crashed the previous lap. He got a tiny gap heading into the pump track section and I was worried about diminishing real estate to get him back so I went all in at the entrance to the pump track section. I left it in the big ring and was out of the saddle and hammering the whole way up. I think I was probably a bit more comfortable than Jose on those features and was able to sneak by on the rollers. I held the gap heading back up to the grass but he passed me back shortly after. I had to dig REALLY deep to stay on his wheel. All that was left was a few turns, the barriers and then a short little out and back with a 180 before the finish.
I was hypoxic but right with him heading into the barriers. He bobbled ever so slightly on the entrance and I got a half step through the barriers that turned into a bike length on the remount. I think my remount must have been a bit smoother as well but I'm not entirely sure what was happening behind me. I was focused on getting through the 180 fast and clean because from the other races I had watched coming by someone who didn't mess up that turn was near impossible in the distance that was left after. I didn't leave anything to chance though and went as hard as I could to the line to take 4th.
I was really pleased to win out of that group. That killer instinct to make those moves and hold those wheels when needed is not something I excel at. I blame my lack of a truly competitive nature but I do like getting the most out of myself and there were certainly a few times my brain was telling me I did not have the capacity in that moment and I ignored it to great effect.
I'll be looking to put the finishing touches on my race resume for my Cat 3 upgrade request this coming weekend with the VT double of Paradise and Putney and then after that it might just be fat biking to end out the year.