The weather for day one was warm and sunny. For the end of November, one could easily say that it was a bit too warm for the liking. There was also some wind throughout the day, which helped dry the few muddy sections of the course from the weeks heavy rains.
Conditions for day two were starkly different than day one. Though the forecast was to be similar to the prior day, what we ended up with was cool temps and a heavy, bone chilling fog much of the day. The inclination was to dress lightly but the reality was that it was really quite cold and damp.
The day one course was the staple Sterling course that featured a parade lap around the (dry for a change) cinder track, the muddy turn behind the backstop and the steep run-up. The fast down into the sweeping right turn into the log jump up, a host of tight turns, and onto some long power sections. The 180 degree up/down on the steep hill, more power into some turns, the barriers into the side slope, more power and some more power into some sidehill up/down work and finish it all off with a few more power stretches before turning onto the track for the finish.
Day two had many aspects of day one but threw in a number of technical aspects. The run-up was replaced by a muddy power sucking ride-up of the same hill and the sweeping right and log were replaced by a jaunt into the woods for some rooty singletrack fun. The 180 up/down was replace by an up and cross-slope traverse, the high speed barriers were replaced by low speed barriers that sat at the crest of a little rise, prompting many to hop them. The rest of the course had a similar feel and flow to the prior day with the need for ample power.
This was my first race in four weeks. I suffered a concussion at Canton and the symptoms persisted longer than anticipated. I was able to do some light workouts about two weeks prior to Sterling and I started doing full intensity ones about a week before. I did not have any expectations because I wasn’t sure how much I lost; I just wanted to get back out there. I got there an hour and a half early and went through a typical warmup. As race time got closer it quickly became very warm and I started ditching cloths until I was only wearing a long sleeve skinsuit. Unfortunately, the start order was randomized so I was lucky number 54 (I would have been 10 had they staged from crossresults). As the race started I tried to move up the field while also preserving my legs because I have a tendency to go very hard at the beginning then die. About halfway through the lap Mike told me I was in 26th place which was good news to me because I was just getting going. Sadly, I was following a rider who didn’t know how to turn right and when he went down, I went right over him. I got back on my back before noticing my chain was off. I hastily put me chain on as riders were flowing past me. When I finally got back on the bike I started to really push but something didn’t feel quite right. I hoped off, and sure enough, my rear tire was flat. I a bit past the pit entrance and I was unsure if there was even neutral support (I don’t have spares). Because of this and because I was already so far down in the field, I decided to abandon. There’s always tomorrow.
I arrived in Sterling on Sunday with plenty of time for my usual warmup. I was feeling pretty good and was just hoping to finish the race. I rode the course three times with Ari and Noah. They made some modifications to the course and I really liked them. I felt like I could have a good race. The only thing I would have done differently was not wait until 5 minutes before the start to pin my number on. I was fine, though, and was at the start with time to spare. They used the same numbers as the day before so I had the same starting spot (seriously???). There weren’t 53 people in front of me because quite a few only raced Saturday but there were sure a lot more in front of me than there were in back. Whatever, can’t do anything about that now though. I got a good start, using the same strategy as Saturday. I started making my way through the field, but I lost my chain again when I put my bike down too violently after climbing up stepups. From here on I made a conscious effort to be gentle when placing my bike down. I got back on the bike pretty quickly and started to pass people that I had already passed. Through the first lap and a half I passed quite a few people before finding my own space on the track. Around this time I found myself going through a faster, dirt section. On a left hand turn I got caught in a pretty deep crack in the dirt and went down. I was fine and got back on but I lost some precise time and was passed by a couple people. I made my way back up to them and past them for a third time. I started to settle into a grove. I was chasing some people about 20 seconds in front of me. They were each separated by probably 5 seconds so I knew I couldn’t pass them all, but I wanted to get some. I started to make my way up to the caboose of their pack slowly but surely. I noticed that Ari and Noah were slowly catching up to me as well. You get pretty motivated when you’re one, chasing down someone and two, fleeing your chasing teammates. I managed to catch the rider right before the finishing straight. He knew I was there, though, and turned it on and I just couldn’t hang with him. I ended up 14th, with Ari 15th and Noah 16th. I was quite happy with all of this considering I had two mishaps during the race and missed quite a bit of training time. Now that I can train hard again I am hoping for some big results before the season ends.
We got there around 7:30 for my dad’s cat 4 race, I was racing the junior cat 3’s. I watch my dad’s race and took pictures of Noah and Ari. Once it was 30 minutes from my race I rode around the football field to warm up. Next we got staged and I got staged toward the back. (Since my dad wasn’t racing in this race I decided that I would use his bike instead of my tank of a bike.) Once the race started I got passed by some people because I didn’t start in the right gear. Later on in the race, I was changing my gears to ride up the switchback and my chain falls off into the wheel off of my cassette. Then when I was jumping over the barriers, my chain falls of again. I fixed it and kept going. Those were the only problems I had that day. Next time I’ll stick to my bike.
The Cat 4 race this past weekend was the early race both days, at 8:30. I arrived in Sterling on Saturday at around 7:00, feeling pretty good after a nice Thanksgiving. I had the whole family in attendance-around for the Thanksgiving weekend-so I could be sure I wasn’t lacking people to cheer me on. I didn’t get too much sleep the night before, but I had been sleeping a lot over the past week. The weather was nice, and it warmed up as the day went along. It was sunny, clear, and in the fifties. I made my way over to registration, pinned my number on, and pre-rode the course. Right after the start of the course, there was a left-hand turn up a small hill. It was rideable at the beginning of the day, but as the grass got torn up it became very slippery. Eventually, it was nearly impossible ride on this frustratingly small hill, and with my smooth shoes I had some trouble getting up it on foot. About 30 feet after this turn, there was an unrideable run-up that most people shouldered their bikes for. Shortly after this, the course descended the hill and took a right hand turn into a section with a step-up that required another dismount. Following the mad dismounting-remounting start, the course featured some nice tight turns, some good power sections, a couple uphill steps, and a set of high-speed barriers. I lined up at the start at 8:30, in the fourth or fifth row back. The whistle blew, and we were off. During the parade lap (around a gravel track), I got a pretty good start, and I entered the first turn a little over 10 back from the leader. I held this position for the first lap, passing someone or getting passed every now and then. Then, when I entered the gravel track again, I heard everyone screaming my name and I couldn’t resist the temptation to go all-out and pass as many guys as I could. So that is what I did, and it didn’t turn out quite as well as I imagined. It was pretty glorious as it happened, but when I got back into the course (around 10th), I was dead. I didn’t have the energy to ride up the muddy left-hand turn on the hill, nor did I have the sense to decide to run it. I rode halfway up it, went down, got on my feet, tried to run, slipped, and went down again. A bunch of guys went by me. After I finally recovered from my mistake, I had a pretty good race. The course was a lot of fun. It was a pretty short race; only four laps long with the winner finishing under 35 minutes. I finished in 18th of 57, happy to be in the top half. I lost to Noah, my crossresults clash buddy, but I was determined to beat him on Sunday and set the score even. I went home, got some rest, and prepared for Sunday.
On Sunday, I got to Sterling very early: at 6:30. Having two solid hours to prepare made the race more enjoyable because I had some time to relax. When I got there in the early morning, it was below freezing, and it was barely light out. The field was covered in frost and there was a layer of thick fog sitting over it. It would warm up considerably before race time, but it was still much cooler than Saturday. The sun never really came out. It was overcast the whole day, and the ground was pretty wet. It was fun to have some cross weather for once, instead of the good luck we’ve been having over the last few weeks! The course shared a lot of sections with the course from Saturday. The Sunday course had a sharp right turn into the woods after a steep slippery downhill, a set of barriers after an uphill, a couple sets of steps, some more tight corners, and some more good power sections. During my early pre-ride, the ground was still intact, but soon after the start of the race the grass disappeared and the course became very wet and slippery. I liked the Sunday course a lot better than the day before. The race started at 8:30. Noah, Brandon, and I lined up at the start. The field was pretty small, with only 34 people racing. The parade lap was a little bit precarious with so many people flying around a wet track. Shortly into the race, Noah, Brandon, and I found ourselves very close together. Over the first lap and a half, Noah was slightly ahead of me, and Brandon was right behind me. Then, Brandon blew by me, then Noah, and established a pretty good gap of about ten to twenty seconds. Noah and I spent the whole race going head to head, but we couldn’t catch Brandon. Coming up to the finish, I was just ahead of Noah, ready to have a good sprint to the line. On the final uphill, Noah went down, postponing my victorious and triumphant finish line sprint until next week (or Noah’s). Brandon finished 14th, me 15th, Noah 16th. Sunday was one of the most fun races of the season. The course was great, and it was a lot of fun to spend the whole race going against teammates. I hung out for a while after the race, enjoying the spectating area in the center of the track. It’s too bad the cross season is ending so soon; I have really enjoyed it. But, I’ll be looking forward to the road season over the winter!