What a weekend of racing! The Howard County Double 'Cross (HoCo2xCx) are two of my favorite venues for many reasons, not the least of which is their proximity to my home. Schooley Mill Park is a 25 minute drive and Rockburn Park is 30 minutes, far shorter than any race I've done this year. Because of how close they are Karrie and boys made it to both races to cheer me on, which is totally awesome. Have I mentioned that Karrie is the best cheerleader and supporter ever? She is always the loudest person at my races and I love it! My very good friend Danny Kao, whom I haven't seen in many months since I had to abandon autocross, also came out on Sunday with his wife Jodi to cheer me on and take pictures and it was fantastic to see him again.
My weekend started with me getting to sleep in until 6:15am on Saturday, about an hour later than most race days this year. I got to Schooley Mill at around 8am and did my normal routine of taking some laps to scout out the course. This year included several big changes over last year. Gone were the stairs which created quite a bottle neck, the small horse jumps and the uphill barriers. New this year were a short, steep climb followed by a 180 and dive back down the same hill into an off-camber turn and then some positive camber switchbacks, all of which put a hurting on your legs. The barriers were moved near the pit and several sections that were straight power sections last year were broken up with turns this year to make the course longer. At first glance I loved the changes except for the steep downhill into the off-camber turn, but even that found a place in my heart by the end of my race. I had made a mental note before this race to put in a really good effort at the start; based on the video I failed miserably, but you can see my teammate in a blue jersey fly by me almost immediately after the whistle after starting two rows behind me. This isn't the first time he's done that this year so I really need to get together with him and work on my start. After the first lap I settled into a group of four racers, two of whom are on my nemesis list. We raced together for a lap or two, trading positions occasionally. About halfway through the second lap I developed a ghost shifting problem; about every two revolutions of the crank would result in a gear change. I dealt with this for a lap or so, not wanting to stop to make an adjustment and lose contact with my little group; unfortunately on this day I decided to leave the pit bike at the truck. About the third lap, climbing that short, steep hill became more challenging and required me to stand up, which was not pretty with my auto-shifting bike. After the start, I chose a relatively flat section to stop and give a couple of turns to the barrel adjuster. Unfortunately I guessed the wrong direction and the problem persisted resulting in an second stop and adjustment almost immediately. the problem solved I did my best to reel in the 20 second gap the group had developed. I caught and passed one rider who was dropped from the group, leaving my two nemeses in my sights. An apparent attack by one dashed my hopes of catching them both, but I did manage to catch and pass the other (the one who nipped me at the line at All Hallows for some payback!) on the final stretch to the finish. I finished 58th of 71 starters.
After the race, Karrie, Lucas and Tyson (first cross race for him) headed out to her parents' house and Brady and I stayed to watch some races and play on the playground. This was the highlight of my weekend as we both had a really good time and he laughed so much, which totally pwn3d me. Couple of race notes: my back did not bother me as much today as it had in the past but I did make more of an effort to stand up when putting down a lot of power. Also, I'm not sure if its related or not, but when I got home and tried to put my bike in the stand to adjust the derailleur I noticed that the seat was a full 3cm lower than it should have been. I raised it back up, but I'm left wondering if it had any part in the lessening of my back issues.
Sunday I got started 15 minutes earlier and had my regular routine at Rockburn Park. The changes to this course from last year were almost all intended to ad length. All the sections I struggled with last year, primarily the hills you had to slog up coming out of both sets of woods, were still there much to my dismay. I had a third row start for this race, and again told myself I would give it a good effort at the start. I think I did better this time, but you will still see my teammate, again in the blue jersey, zip by me on the right within 10 seconds of the whistle. Watching he video for this race makes me realize that I am really tentative in crowds and for that reason (among others) I tend to lose a lot of places early on; this is something I have to work to overcome if I am to improve in cross or do any criterium racing next year. My legs did not feel all that great for this race and they seemed to fatigue much earlier than normal. Looking at my Garmin data after the fact seems to support this notion as I was unable to get my heart rate up where it normally is for my races; at Schooley Mill I averaged nearly 10 beats per minute more than at Rockburn. At any rate, this race hurt. I raced with a couple of guys for most of the race and then got the mercy lapping as I neared the finishing section of my fourth lap. Finished 70th of 79 starters.
Afterward Brady and I stayed and watched my Ben's Performance Bicycles teammate Mike Birner race in the Elite Masters. This race was won by Dave Weaver of ALAN North American Cycling Team in impressive fashion. Dave also won the Elite Masters race at Schooley Mill, by nearly 60 seconds! This race was interesting because Mike had lost the points jersey the day before at Schooley Mill to Kris Auer of C3 after being worked over by Kris and some of his teammates; no harm no foul, this is racing and team tactics do come into play. Unfortunately for Mike, he didn't have any teammates in the race with him. Fortunately he did on Sunday at Rockburn in the form of Blair Saunders. Dave jumped out to an early lead and a decent gap, while Blair, Mike and Kris were in the chasing group (not really chasing) by themselves. Blair and Mike kept the pace high to keep the pressure on Kris and also isolate him from his teammates. In the end it worked out as Blair finished in second with Mike in fourth and Kris fifth. The one spot was enough to put Mike back in the points lead heading into the final race of the series.
So, just one more race in my schedule for 2010 and that is Taneytown for the MABRA Championships this coming Sunday. I plan to do my race, drink some beer and pop some popcorn to watch the Elite Masters race in which I'll be pulling for Mike to win the series.
Tail Gunner videos follow: