The tension was building for some time now. #crossiscoming was all over the social media outlets, people were getting new bikes, kits, etc, posting schedules, and feeling generally gitty (at least I was). This past week those sensations only increased as the temperature dropped and the opening round of CX, Full Moon Vista’s Rochester Cyclocross, waited, willing and ready.

My right hand man, Doug Sumi, and I were loaded for bear as we barreled north from North Carolina to New York ready to embark on 5 weekends in a row of top level CX racing. Rochester would kick things off followed by Jingle Cross and Trek CXC Cup (both of which are World Cups). Then to Connecticut for KMC Cross Fest and finally Charm City in Baltimore, MD before taking a weekend off.

We arrived in Rochester at host housing on Thursday evening and I promptly invited myself to the Thursday night CX practice, which only invigorated my love for CX and made me feel tremendous about the future of the sport. 40+ under 8-year-old kids, 20 or so older juniors, as well as an equal amount of adults. I egged on an 11-year-old to hop a set of barriers, on a bike that was a little too big for him, only after seeing him do it twice before. Kids these days are jumping over the learning curve.

Friday was tent set up day/ course preview. Doug and I got right back into the swing of things like summer never happened. I got to try out the new Shimano Di2 9170 disc road setup on my Major Jakes. All I can say is woah! Shifting buttons on top of the hoods for when you are really wrestling the bike into submission, the adaptation from cables to Di2 was seamless.

The course was the same as last year minus the striking heat, which caused loads of moon dust. This year the temps were cool and the dirt was moist and tacky. Therefore, a lot of the features that were mandatory runs last year were rideable this year, score.

Saturday was battle day! Doug had the bikes prepped, the tires pressurized, and batteries charged, it was my turn.

Lining up felt right at home until they called “Jeremy Werner” to the line. Seriously?! Stephen Hyde and the rest of the front row got a kick out of that…

After the whistle blew I found myself sitting comfortably in the front of the race until about half way through. I was at my limit more than I would like. I think this eventually lead to me leaning over a smidge too far in a corner and washing the front end. I managed to pin my foot between the bike and the ground causing me to flail around like a fish out of water before I disengaged from my pedal and got back in the saddle.

I lost the front group of at this point and was stuck in no man’s land with Jamie Driscoll dumping all his new found dad watts into the pedals to hunt me down. Luckily, I held myself together and rode in for 7th. For this I was happy. Sometimes holding it together after even tiny slip ups is challenging. Though, I wasn’t happy with how I felt. I chalked it up to an adaptation effort. Racing always pushes you harder than training can so I was looking forward for Sunday’s battle as I was now, “opened up.”

Sunday was the same routine. This time on the call up they even got my name right! The course was a bit dryer and running faster but the group was still the same. No one was able to get away and I knew positioning at the end of the race was going to be key. There was a lull in pace coming through with 2 to go so I kept the power down, surged to the front, and held it until we hit the first steep ride/run up. I didn’t dislodge anyone so I stayed in front through the technical bits.

With one more technical section left, “double trouble” consisting of a running section followed by a steep dip in and out section, I lead into it and punched it out. I looked back and realized I had a gap. I knew that the initial split would be crucial for increasing the gap because the guys behind me were thinking politics I was only thinking about how I could put more power into the pedals. I put my head down and came through 1 to go with 15 sec. The next half a lap was a blur not looking back but I heard through pit 2 that I had 13 seconds so I knew there was still a chance. Stephen Hyde and Rob Peeters were closing fast but I had just enough in the tank to keep their effort at bay.

I can’t describe the relief and excitement for having started the season off with a win.

I was keen to pick right back up where I left off last year but there is always a little bit of doubt at the season opener. You never know how other people have been training if you have been training hard enough, or even how you will react to the first race effort.

Highlight video:

Now my sights are set on Jingle and Trek. I have a huge boost of confidence and now that the first effort is out of the way things only get easier from here. Right?

P.S. My new Super Jakes are built, they slick, and they are World Cup ready. Don’t worry you wont miss them or me. Just look for the black and purple!

Photo Credit: Meg McMahon