2015 Cyntergy Hurtland CX & HPCX
Though I haven’t thought too much about the road season, past or upcoming, Tulsa Tough has become one of my favorite events and I have been looking forward to heading back to Tulsa for some cross racing. And one that has “A Tulsa Tough Production” in the name is surely not one to miss! This past weekend Rob and I made our way up to the rectangular cousin of Texas (Oklahoma) for the Cyntergy Hurtland Cyclocross race. The race was another first this year but everything I had heard about the event leading in to the season promised another great race.
Saturday - A Tulsa Tough Production
We got up on Saturday to what looked like a beautiful day… until you stepped outside and realized the winter had arrived. Okay, so it wasn’t THAT cold, but the chilly November temps had arrived and it was time for the first cold race of the season. This of course, is in comparison to the Soudal GP Hasselt (short highlights here) race I watched earlier in the morning where Sven won in what looked like miserable, wet conditions. But I digress…
The course itself was located in Owen Park, just northwest of downtown Tulsa. With undulating terrain and some good technical features thrown in, the course was going to be a difficult one. Not necessarily because it required ridiculous amounts of skill, but mostly because it required you to be “ON” the entire time. Lots of pedaling, lots of speed, lots of hurt.
Not only was the course hard, but the field itself was also stacked with the top riders from the region. Tristan Uhl, Jake Lasley, Skyler Mackey, Chris Drummond, Rob, Dylan Postier. If I’m forgetting anyone, I apologize. There were simply too many good riders to keep track of. I just hoped I could land somewhere in the top 15 to be in the money!
With all that talent, I somehow managed to squeak onto the front row of the grid. As the whistle blew, I got into my pedal quickly and had a good jump as we charged up the start/finish straight. Not wanting to push myself into the red too early, I held back a bit and entered the course around 10th wheel or so. Skyler Mackey (KCCX) was the first to make a move, bolting to the front as we passed the pits for the first time and stringing out the field. I tried to keep calm and pushed my way up in the group to be closer to the front.
By the end of the first lap, Skyler and Tristan Uhl (Giant South) had a solid 8 – 10 second gap on the chasers, including myself. Our group of six rode together, trying to pull some seconds back here and there but after the second lap, six had whittled down to four and it proceeded to get smaller from there. I kept riding hard, trying my best to have a steady race and not overdo it too early. In hindsight this was probably a terrible idea and I should have just gone hard anyways. Lessons learned.
My lack of pushing the needle meant I was in no man’s land, not gaining time but not losing it either. Rather than looking forward to try and catch Chris Drummond (SPCK p/b RK Black) and Johnny Purvis (DSCC), I started to monitor the progress of the rider behind me and keep my advantage over him. Shifting my focus in this direction did two things. First, it made me ride the hard sections as hard as I could and be smooth where I needed to be. Good. And second, it meant that I lost focus on the race ahead of me. Not so good. Let’s remember to NOT do that in the future. Okay?
The gaps remained solidified where they were over the next 4 laps and I crossed the line in 7th place. While the result was acceptable to me, I certainly had higher hopes. But the awesome venue, the crowd and the event as a whole was enough to put a positive spin on it and leave me wanting more. I certainly hope 2016 will be another great year for this event and maybe this time around go with less numbers.
Sunday – It’s all on uphill from here
After Saturday’s fun, no doubt a few people enjoyed a trip to Soundpony… for tradition’s sake, of course. Being the “good(y two-shoes)” bike racers we called it an early night and nerded out in preparation for Sunday’s race and the Koksijde World Cup. The temps on Sunday were a little more pleasant, with less wind and a higher overall temp. This time I only needed the leg warmers for warm-up! =D
On a side note: the day started wonderfully, watching Sven conquer the sandy World Cup round in Koksijde, Belgium. If you haven’t watched the race or seen the highlights, I highly recommend you check it out! Probably the most exciting race of the year, so far (no slight to the JPow vs Hyde battle in Louisville)! But I digress…
Sunday’s course was another one that required an open throttle. Set mostly on a hillside, the course was suited for those with a good power to weight ratio and/or lots of power in general. My legs weren’t totally trashed from Saturday but they certainly weren’t feeling the greatest. Either way, with several punchy climbs and the same power-sucking grass as Saturday, Sunday was going to be a hard race too!
Readying ourselves for call ups the head official decided to mix things up a bit on the order. I guess there was some kind of technical glitch that wouldn’t allow them to print but the official made due by establishing his own order. Two Oklahoma riders. Two Arkansas riders. Two from Texas (Rob & I). And two recently upgraded riders. Maybe the official was in the mood to play out a Noah’s Ark scenario??
The whistle blew and I missed my pedal and sent me backwards in the field. The race strung out pretty quickly as we hit the grass and I did my best to move up as quickly as I could. Jake Lasley (SPCX p/b RK Black) took over at the head of the race and proceeded to ride us all off his wheel. Though it seemed like we were holding the gap pretty steady, it wasn’t long before Jake shifted to the next gear up (probably just 3rd gear) and put us all in our place.
In front of me John Purvis & Gerald Drummond (DSCC) took off in a two-man time trial after Jake. Again I was hesitant about pushing the needle too far too early and settled into my own rhythm in 4th place. I kept the gap somewhat close for a lap or two, but as the lap counter ticked down, it was harder and harder to push myself.
Riding in no man’s land is a hard place. Generally, you aren’t really gaining time and you might not be losing it either. So you often find yourself in this mental struggle to ride faster but not blow up. This was very much my state for the last 6 laps of the race and again I started watching the rearview mirror rather than focusing on the race ahead.
Entering the bell lap, the officials stood in the road and told me that I was done.
“What?! I’m in 4th!” I shouted back.
I’m not sure why they would try to pull me, perhaps out of pity. But I ignored them and finished out the lap, maintaining my place just off the podium. You never know what can happen in cyclocross! So don’t quit until the race is truly over.
Though I wasn’t able to grab a podium spot this time around, I felt like I had a good weekend of racing and it was certainly a good test of my current form. Now it’s a good time to focus on family and resting before taking on the UCI swing at Ruts and Guts!