Monday, November 3, 2014

PA State Cyclocross Championships

UPDATE: [11/4/14] Spoiler alert: Start reading at paragraph below if this is your first reading of this post. Go. Now. Seriously. Since the PA State Championships are awarded in 5 year increments and the winner of our 45+ race has a racing age of 51, apparently I am the 2014 PA State Cyclocross Champion in the 45-49 age group. Woot!

Photo credit: denS @
Yesterday, the PA State Cyclocross Championships were held in Adamstown, PA at the Stoudt's Brewery. It was one of my favorite courses thus far this season. While there were no Euro-style white-knuckle sand descents and no serious mud bogs, this was certainly not one of those "grass crits" that everyone lamenting 'cross going mainstream is complaining about. There were some seriously steep short ups, fast descents and fun twisty sections.

After a stressful interstate move that saw me logging a paltry 11 training hours in July and an even more disappointing 3 hours in August, my cyclocross season got off to a very slow start. Combining the lost fitness because of the reduced volume with the "interesting" call-up procedures in the Mid-Atlantic I was literally and figuratively not where I wanted to be. After working my way up the PACX standings and finally earning a front row call-up for Crossasuarus Awesome!, my performance at that race -- marked by getting a little too intimate with terra firma FOUR times -- relegated me back to a second row start at Stoudt's. No worries, though. I got a good start and was solidly top 10 going into the holeshot, probably sitting 7th wheel or so. I was feeling good, legs were strong, head was right. For the first time in a long time, things seemed to slow down -- in a good way. I didn't feel panicked. I felt ready.

The first time down the first descent, Charles Kline overcooked the turn a bit, sliding out and, I believe, taking another rider with him. I move up two spots. Then, going up Goat Hill on the second of the three sadistic ascents each lap someone stalled. Not sure if it was a gearing issue or what, but that bobble allowed me to pass that racer and Kelly Cline. Over the next half lap or so, I close the gap to Reuther and ride his wheel for another quarter lap at which point his bike starts to mis-shift and he needs to pit. As Reuther pits, I move into second and hold on for the rest of the race, which is another 4-5 laps. Craig Cozza, the race leader, just kept opening the gap between himself and me. At lap 3, the gap was 00:20, by the end of the race, it was over a minute. That guy is crazy FAST! On the plus side, during those last laps, I could see Blair Saunders trying to close the gap and was psyched to be able to hold him off.

photo credit: denS
As I go over the race in my head, it's hard to not feel like I got second place as a default or at the expense of some others' misfortune. Would I have not placed so well if Charles had not slid out, if Kelly had not been held up, if Reuther hadn't needed to pit? We'll never know. As a good friend said, "'Cross is a coulda, woulda, shoulda sport."  Paying homage to that thought is last week's performance at Crossasaurus. I had been flying, feeling really good and sitting second wheel behind Reuther for over a lap and a half until the "s" hit the fan and I started to give away places each of the four times I hit the floor. I found myself wondering there, where I would have ended up had I not been so hyper-focused on making up spots so quickly after being put into the tape on a questionable pass. In many ways, we make our own luck by being prepared, by being aware during a race, and by making good choices. At the end of the day, I'm really happy with the result -- a Silver (now) Gold Medal at the State Championships!

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