The first cyclocross race of the season is always nerve-racking. In my return to the discipline over the weekend, I felt under-prepared, on the bike and off, even if my training has been solid and I feel fit. Thing is, until I really get back into the racing groove, I always feel under-practiced. That and my orderly off-the-bike routine has apparently descended into chaos over the past nine months away from dirt.
Im a creature of habit, to a fault, so when I realized that the field I usually park in at the Green Mountain Cyclocross Weekend in Vermont was closed, I became frazzled. This, coupled with my constant feeling of being late no matter how early I am to a race, was stressing me out. The Green Mountain course doesnt change much from year to year, but I was still eager to do some pre-riding, anxious even. And then I saw mud on the bikes that were coming off the course and I genuinely began to panic.
Mud to me means one thing: extra work. Cleaning, re-cabling, lubing, laundry, and more laundry. I felt woefully unprepared. Fortunately, though, the sun came out and the course started to dry up. It went from a borderline Limus day to a definite Grifo day. A few deep mud puddles stuck around to keep me honest, and to make sure I still had to wash my bikes anyway.
In my cyclocross season there are no warm-up races. Riding into form isnt an option. As a second-row starter, I want to come out swinging. The goal is always to finish in the top 10 and to earn UCI points, the gold currency of the discipline. And even though I have a good number of points from last year, its good for the morale to score early and ease the pressure. So finally it was time to answer the big question and race.
I had a good start Saturday, riding about seventh at the end of the first lap, when I got mugged by none other than Adam Myerson. There was this mud pit and everyone wanted to take the far left line through it. Adam was behind me but coming into the line with a lot of speed and I was the innocent bystander. He could either have shoulder-checked me or gone into the bushes. His move pushed me off my line and into deep mud, robbing me of momentum and pushing me out of the top 10. I respect Adam and I consider him a friend, but I still yelled things at him that would have probably disqualified me from the race had an official been within earshot. Adam was in the second group with me, and he took the time to apologize to me midrace (we laughed about the whole thing afterward). In the end, I pushed it in the corners and snagged 10th, happy to pocket my first UCI points of the season.
For second-row guys like me, a good early showing is huge. The riders who make a living wage racing cyclocross bikes are well established, but for the second row, we have to get our name in the top 10 a few times before the announcers remember it. This happened to me last year at this very race. On day one, I had made the front group. As we rode through the start-finish line single file, I was about sixth in a line of seven guys. The announcer named everyone in front of me, skipped me, then named the guy behind me. And thats exactly what everyone in the second row is fighting to avoid. Last year Jeremy Durrin graduated to the front row. This year Im predicting its going to be a guy named Stephen Hyde.
Day two did not go all that well. I crashed twice in the first half lap. The first time someone crashed in front of me; the second time I was trying to make up for the first. When it feels like youve screwed up your whole race in the opening five minutes, its easy to throw in the towel mentally. But we have a rule on Richard Sachs, and its a simple one. Never quit. My second crash happened right in front of the pitembarrassing!but then I heard Richie screaming for me to get back into the race. A hilly course is good for this, too, because if youve got the horsepower you can get around people on the climbs. For the next hour I did what I could, catching people all the way to the last corner on the last lap. I finished the day in 16th place. I was happy with the race I hadjust not with the position I finished in. On the long drive back to New York City, I reflected on my weekend. I was happy. Relieved even. The legs had felt good. I brushed the UCI points monkey off my back. Most important, I felt like I was in the swing of the cyclocross season.
If you were at the races this weekend, you might have noticed that the Richard Sachs bikes arent red. Thats because House Industries redesigned them (check them out here). And the team has a revamped website. Finally, for all you power geeks, the team is using meters from Stages Power this year. I post on STRAVA, where you can see my training and race data.
Next week the team heads to Baltimore for Charm City Cross. Please say hi if youre out there. And, as always, thanks for reading. Until next time.