Saturday was the state championship race, held at Mount Ogden Golf Course. Hands-down my favorite venue of the year, even if Seth described it as “deciding the cyclocross champ and hill climb champ in the same race.” There was a decent-sized climb that changed the dynamics substantially. There was also an absence of technical elements, with two barriers being the only time you’d consider getting off the bike*. Intentionally, at least.
My tirade against sandbaggers notwithstanding, I decided to race the B flight. My motivation was primarily that Adam and my brother Steve race B, and I had never raced against them with fresh legs. I wanted to see how I measured up. Nate Drozd deserves props for racing in the A flight, where he got a respectable result on a course I don’t think suits his strengths—I expect he’ll move further up the results sheet next week at Wheeler Farm.
We had 37 starters in our race, most of whom showed up early to stake out a spot. Just before callups, three guys from The Church of the Big Ring made the little ring* move of the day when they rolled in and entered the pen from the front, not the back, placing themselves on the first row. Brian Cadman would have been called up anyway, but I don’t see why the other two thought they were entitled to start from where they did. I wish I would have said something at the time (but I have a blog, so I can say what I want when I want and anyone who doesn’t like it can leave a comment, because comment moderation is also totally little ring).
*In other little ring news, Tim Az won both cat. 4 races at the USGP this weekend. Which is cool. Except Tim has been racing cross for three years, and has won a number of races and been on the podium in even more in that time. But since UTCX isn’t USAC sanctioned, none of that counts towards an upgrade, so when he races out of state, he’s a four. And since he doesn’t do much road racing, he can’t get an upgrade based on his road category.
I love UTCX. I love Matt’s commitment to it. I love having a dozen chances to race in that series plus nearly a dozen more in other races throughout the season. It contributes to Utah having one of the best racing scenes in the country. But would it kill us to get the races sanctioned? Sure, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference for Utah racers who just race the UTCX series, but you have to be a three to race at Nationals. Tim can’t race at Nationals. Tim beats the crap out of the fours at a USGP. Sanctioning and upgrades keep the competition competitive.
The little ring move didn’t make much difference for me. I was second row, had a good start and was fifth starting up the hill. Passed one on the hill and was fourth.
Next time up the hill, Joseph Moffett (Mad Dog Cycles) gapped us all. I knew I couldn’t climb with him, so I didn’t even try. I had second and third in sight when we entered a series of tight, 180 degree turns. I had good momentum through the turns when my tire washed out, and I was suddenly laying on my side, still clipped in.
I lost a few spots getting up and was in seventh. I chased hard the rest of the lap, probably a little too hard. My asthma kicked in as we passed the start/finish line. It felt like someone was standing on my chest, keeping me from filling my lungs more than half way with air.
I’ve had this happen before in road races, and I’ve sometimes been able to sit in until I recover. But I have to back way off or it just gets worse. There was nowhere to sit in, so I dialed it back and watched as seven guys rode past me on the climb. On the dirt road at the top of the climb, I got to where I could breathe again, so I started the work of bringing back the guys ahead of me.
Over the final two laps, I slowly clawed back all but two of the guys that passed me. Eric Martin (Skull Candy) and Mike Pratt (Canyon) were the last two that I caught and passed. I’ve raced with those guys enough on the road that there’s a bit of a friendly rivalry there. I led Eric from the top of the climb. My breathing still wasn’t normal, and he told me I sounded like his dog right before it died.
Just before the barriers, I hit it hard and got a little gap on Eric. I wasn’t going to catch Drew Free, my Revolution teammate who was the next guy up, so I focused on riding clean and just keeping it upright through the finish.
There was a 180 degree turn 50 meters from the end. I didn’t want to fall in that corner, so I took a foot out just in case. As I rounded the corner, I heard the click of a gear shifting. Mike Pratt had caught and passed Eric, had caught me, and was now starting to sprint, and I only had one foot clipped in.
I turned the cranks a couple times before I clipped in, managed to clip in, then sprinted as hard as I could. I beat Mike by maybe a wheel. As Daren put it after the race, encouragingly, I beat all the guys that mattered. Now I just need to figure out how to ride faster than the eight guys who were in front of me.
While I could have done without the crash, I’m happy with the race. The course wasn’t particularly technical, which was helpful to me. Technical would have been better for Daren, who finished third in the 45+ race. His brother Doug got his second win of the year, making him the 55+ state champion. Congratulations, Doug. Tanner had a great race and finished ninth in the Elites, despite a crash with two to go. Rick finished sixth in a stacked Singlespeed field, and Annie was one step off the podium in Women’s B.
I’m finally starting to figure out how to race cyclocross. I still suck, but each week I feel better. More importantly, though, I’m having a lot of fun. And getting my fix of self-inflicted suffering, which is perhaps the part of racing I’m most addicted to. Who knew skinny tires on dirt were such a riot?