After a satisfactory weekend last weekend in Rochester I was really motivated to put some solid training in this week. I am not a guy who likes to rest on my laurels. Racing is good and really gets the high end revved up, however, by racing, resting, and repeating weekend after weekend it is often hard to build fitness and work on specific things. So Jim Lehman, my coach, and I decided that this week and into Nittany Lion Cyclocross this weekend was going to be part of a training block. The race was only 45min from my house and my family was pumped to watch me race close to home so I had to include it.
I put two good days of intervals in on Wednesday and Thursday, some longer, over-under intervals to be exact (this is where you spend some time at threshold then some time over then back down then back up and you do this throughout the whole interval). I was feeling good, but those days were hard so I had my doubts going into the weekend.
When I showed up to the race on Saturday I discovered that I was leading the ProCX series, which really isn’t a series because it is literally every race on the calendar, but I guess it is still something. This didn’t really add any pressure to my situation, because the “series” was never part of my season goals, but oddly enough it made me want to win just that little bit more and gave me a new focus for the day. Full “series” calendar and standings found here.
After some course laps I was pretty pumped because it wasn’t going to be a dry, dusty, bumpy, crit race like it had been in years past. We had a decent amount of rain off and on all week and the sun never really came out so the ground was saturated. The amateur races earlier in the day cleared off all the grass and thus the afternoon races were left with a nice line of moist, sometimes slick, sometimes velcro, dirt/mud.
I decided to run an aggressive tire up front (Maxxis All Terrane) after Alex Ryan got in my head, so I could really push in the corners. Then I ran a pretty mellow mid in the back (Maxxis Raze) because there was some suction like sections on the course and I didn’t want to have all the resistance a double All Terrane set up would have brought.
I had a good start and led the whole first lap. Right at the end of the lap, there was an off camber that was at a low point in a field so it was extremely muddy. It was possible to ride but challenging and even harder when you came into it gassed or under pressure. I knew that would be a crucial spot later in the race if you were trying to shake an opponent or trying to maintain a gap.
A group of three of us separated ourselves from the field by the end of the first lap. We all took turns on lap two then I decided to put pressure on Curits White and Matthieu Bolo (a Frenchman) in the corners. I was feeling really confident in the the turny bits and was hoping a little pressure would start to open up some cracks so that the race wouldn’t come down to a sprint.
It worked and I gapped the two. Curtis was swinging a leg over his CX bike for the first time this season and it showed he was a little rusty. Normally, a move like what I pulled wouldn’t have worked like it did.
I pulled away for a lap until Matthieu started to pull up to me. I kept making mistakes in the muddy off camber at the end of the lap. I was struggling to find the line then when I found it I was struggling to execute. Regardless, Matthieu caught me and I was pleased. I didn’t want to do the last 6 laps of the race off the front by myself.
We worked together to widen our gap and I started to pick apart his riding style. He was strong physically but I had him on the skill part. So again, with 2 laps to go, I put pressure on and a gap opened up. I kept it on through the first half of the lap and had 7 seconds. With him not being able to see my lines in the corners I exploited his weakness and expanded on my gap at the start of the last lap, then kept the pressure on to finish the race.
I was pumped on the W, especially after training hard through the week. It was great to win at home and put on a show for my family too. Sherman was pumped with his first UCI podium top step appearance too.
It was Emily’s birthday on Friday so we all went to my Aunt and Uncle’s house after the race to have cake and celebrate. A surprising number of my friends showed up to race or cheer on Emily and I so we had quite the crew over for the post-race party. It was a great ending to a good day.
I had planned all along to not race Sunday. This is the third weekend of the race season and the world cups are on the horizon. I wanted to get the Saturday effort in as a high-intensity workout without having the mental strain of gearing up for a workout. However, but doing both days on top of the training I did earlier in the week could have dug a hole I may not have been able to climb out of before next weekend’s Waterloo World Cup.
So I opted for a nice endurance ride from my house to the race, which was awesome. I have done similar rides before, but usually around Thanksgiving time as we usually do Thanksgiving at my, aforementioned, aunt and uncle’s house. However, getting to do the ride in the sunny warm air of September rather than the frigid, crisp, often wet air of late November, was a treat.
All back roads, farm roads, little cars on a Sunday morning. It was just what I needed after being focused for the last couple days. I listened to some good tunes and just pedaled. I rarely looked at my GPS unit for anything other than turn by turn directions, it was choice.
I got to the race in time to watch Em crush and take pictures, which I wish I could do more of. Photography is hard and watching Bruce Buckley trod around course, profusely sweating, hauling 20-30lbs of camera gear, really put that into perspective. Not to mention the difficulty in framing shots, getting from one side of the course to another, and shooting all the unique sections. Bruce said he lays out a logistics plan on paper so he can know with certainty how he can get from a to b to c and back to a. There is more to it then you think.
The focus this week is rest and then get opened up. I leave Thursday for Madison, WI. Rebecca will meet me there and then we will dominate Waterloo. Rebecca will finally be on board her new Super Jakes and thus the final pieces of the Kona- Maxxis- Shimano CX team are complete.
All race photos Bruce Buckley @bruce_buckley