2016 Cyntergy Hurtland Cross

Back on the grind. After a nice weekend off to train and just ride bikes, it was time to get back to work. The 2016 Cyntergy Hurtland Cross race is one of the only one-day cyclocross race on the calendar. Set in Owen Park just northwest of downtown Tulsa, and organized by the same promoters of the annual Tulsa Tough criterium, the event has a lot to offer for spectators and fans alike.

Friday

I had a day off from my 9-5 job and enjoyed a relaxed trip up to Tulsa. I rolled up to the course and quickly got kitted up to check out the course. Having raced the event last year I had an idea of what to expect. The course navigates several off-camber sections and ditches around the park, with one notable addition be "La Culebra" section. Just as the name denotes, this section of course snaked up and down a notable hill on the second half of course. While it was all rideable, there was definitely a speed limit on some of the corners and by the end of the day, the track was sure to be a bit torn up. While the course has some flow, the layout requires a great deal of punchy power and the sections that do flow are uphill pedaling. Taken as a whole, the course makes good use of the park, but it is definitely a track that can wear on you.

Once I had the course re-memorized, I hopped in the car and headed to my host house for a relaxed evening on the couch. The life of a cyclist is not always the most exciting, let me tell you!

Saturday – It Only Takes One Point

Working a day job means that I’m up about 6am each day to get my training in before heading to the office. This also means that I don’t sleep in much on the weekends either. Since the Elite race didn’t start until 6pm, I had plenty of time on my hands on Saturday morning. With time to kill, I hit up Foolish Things coffee, one of several delicious coffee shops in Tulsa. After some good breakfast it was time to wash bikes, sit with my feet up, do a bit more writing, and sit around before heading to the course.

As race time approached I started my familiar routine - park, organize, pin numbers, reorganize, kit up, eat, etc. I jumped on course for a couple of short laps to make sure tire pressure was dialed and then made the final preparations for the race.

Both the men’s and women’s elite fields were small. With such a small group, the opportunity to score that elusive UCI point was starting to build in my head. The nerves were mounting but I calmed myself down and reminded myself that at the very least, I would get some cash and some more ProCX points to my name.

My call-up put me on the second row of the grid and a good place to start things off. As the whistle blew, I clipped into my pedal instantly and stayed aggressive in moving up. As the first lap played out, I was riding in 10th position, eyeing the gap to the front group. The gap was small and I was being patient waiting for other riders in front of me to close the margin. As the pace slowed, I took my chance and shot around a couple of guys that were fading and started moving closer to the front group.

Three laps in, I was in a good spot, in 7th or 8th place and making time on the front group. We hit the first section of stairs and somewhere along the way, either running or getting back on the bike, I clipped the BOA dial on my shoe. In an instant, my right shoe came completely undone and I was forced to navigate "La Culebra" with, essentially, one shoe. After making it through the winding, off-camber section I was able to slow a bit and retighten my shoe. However, in that time, I had lost a few positions and was now sitting in 11th, one spot outside of the points.

My mind started to panic a bit and I wondered if I would actually be able to deliver the result so many people, including myself, expected. Somehow, some way, in that brief moment of panic, I was able to muster one question to myself,

“What are you going to do about it?”

The only thing I could do in that moment was ride hard and push myself to make it back into the top 10. Over the remaining laps, I buried myself on the pedaling sections and conjured up some laser focus in the technical sections. Making it to 10th I took a breath. It would have been easy to be complacent and ride conservatively to hold my position. The problem with making that approach is you start to look over your shoulder at every opportunity and begin riding in a way that you wouldn’t normally. The race is in front of you. So it’s best to keep your focus ahead and keep moving forward.

I kept trying to eat up the ground to 9th place, but in the end I ran out of real estate. Crossing the line in 10th place, I had a mix of emotions. On the one hand, I was left to wonder what could have been if my shoe had not come undone. That wasn’t the dagger in my race, so I won't make it out to be an excuse, but it definitely didn’t help my chances. But on the other hand, I could be satisfied knowing that I had achieved one of the goals I’ve been pursing for two seasons. One UCI point.

With a point to my name, I am no longer subject to the random draws and last row call ups. It also means that I am qualified for the Elite National Championships in January. If you just heard that rush of air, don’t worry that was just my big sigh of relief. And while I could sit back and coast for the rest of 2016, it’s time to get down to business. Call me greedy, but now that I have one point I really want more! More racing, more points, more fun. Hopefully that all comes to fruition, but after the race I didn't think about the next race and instead enjoyed some pizza and gelato as a small celebration.

Sunday – Keep it Easy Like... Well You Know

It is hard to get to sleep after any night race and Saturday night was no exception. But I was up early on Sunday to go ride with some of the local Tulsa folks. It was a nice spin along the trails and a good chance to meet some new people and have an easy start to the day. Rather than race I elected to play pit crew for my friend Cat. She crushed it, so I’ll take full credit for that, of course. It was a change of pace for me to be in the pit, but a good chance to sit back and actually watch a race from the outside looking in.

With a trip to Los Angeles coming up in a few days time, the turn around will be quick. But it’s another adventure on the ProCX circuit and hopefully a chance to put my UCI point to work!