A staple of the Mid-Atlantic calendar, this was my first time racing the annual DCCX cyclocross race. I didn't know what was in store, but I was pretty sure it was going to be RAD!
A Week At Home
Often times racers are on the road for weeks at a time, racing around the country and venturing from one host house to the next. Every once and a while we're fortunate to have a weekend at home to be "normal". To me that meant I could get some good training days in that I missed when I was sick after Jingle Cross, and reconnect with my non-bike racing friends. It was a relaxing week/weekend of catching up on chores, cleaning up for the next trip, and just relaxing.
The week wasn't all easy going though. There were plenty of hard days on the bike and solid days of training to get ready for the 5-week block of racing ahead.
The trip started with a few challenges. On Thursday I arrived at the airport around 4:30p for my 6p flight. Breeze through security - no TSA troubles with my pedals in my bag! - and off to the gate we went. But it wasn't going to be that easy. I arrived at my gate and saw the departure time had changed from 6p to 9:30p.
No reason to stress though. Afterall, this is why I now fly on Thursdays to races, to allow plenty of time for these sort of mishaps in air travel. Fortunately for me, I had some pretty AMAZING hosts in Stephen and Erika, who waited for me to arrive at their house at 2a. Like I said, amazing hosts.
I crashed out and took my time getting going on Friday morning. A quick stop for coffee at Vigilante Coffee and I was ready to get some work done and prime the engines for the weekend of racing!
Saturday - Dirt Naps & Dust Lunch (12th)
Saturday broke and the cool morning temps gave way to warmer afternoon heat. The course itself was on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in the Washington D.C. city limits. With little precipitation leading into the race, the course was dry and dusty, which was a challenge to deal with in it's own right. But despite the fine particulate, the track had a good balance of hard, power sections, with more technical bike driving sections, making the most of the natural features of the park.
My one UCI point put me on the second row of the grid, and I was feeling confident in the race ahead as the course suited my abilities. There was a bit of jockeying at the start and I found myself in a good spot in the group as we rounded the bend onto the grass. Trouble came, as predicted, when the group hit the dusty "W" section in the first quarter of the lap. Riders were sliding everywhere, and I was able to dismount to avoid the carnage or bikes and bodies and flying dust. With the opening lap behind us, the race started to break apart into smaller groups.
Due to the heat, I didn't want to "overstart" and go into the red zone too early. My conservative approach started to pay off a few laps into the race as riders were coming backwards from the front of the race. I eventually found myself in a group riding for 10th - 13th place. With 3 laps to go, Jules Goguely (Apex/NBX/HyperThreads) and I broke away from the pair of riders in our group and started working to chase down the top 10. Jules was throwing down more watts than I was and started to open up a bit of a gap over me. "Just be patient," I though as I continued to remain cautious about going into the red. But in this instance, my patience and reserved approach to the race would prove to be my downfall.
Two and half laps to go, I was descending into the sandy "W" section when my front wheel went left and I went tumbling right. Covered in dust and upside down, I righted the ship and got back on the gas, but the gap was too large for me to close to get back to Jules' wheel. Instead, I started to lose ground and was eventually caught by the pursuers. The final laps ticked down and it became a clear battle for 11th place. On the last lap, I found myself sitting second wheel and in a good position for the pending sprint having gapped the third rider, Jordan Snyder (BicycleRealtor/ERO/Verge), leading into the finish. However, cat and mouse games gave Jordan the opportunity to catch back up and come around, winning the sprint to the line. I was left to take 13th, last in the sprint, but was moved to 12th after Jordan was relegated for improperly entering the pit earlier in the race.
Hot, dusty, and frustrated, I took some positives from the race but was kicking myself for having hesitated at the start and missing an opportunity to race for a top 10 result.
- Check out the Cycleboredom VIDEO Highlights from Day 1
Sunday - Pour On the Gas. Need a Bit More (11th)
Day two was a new day and offered a shot at redemption from Saturday's race. After a relaxed morning, I got to the course early and had plenty of time to ride a few laps and check out the changes. Mostly reversed from day one, Sunday's course was still a well-balanced track. What was uphill on Saturday was now downhill and even though there was a fair bit of technical sections throughout the race, the track felt faster.
Again I found myself on the second row of the grid and mentally prepared myself to leave it all out on the course. I had an amazing start and settled into my position about 10 wheels back from the head of the race. My plan was to start conservatively again, but this time make the group racing for the top 10. As we entered the dust bowl, I pushed past a few riders without apology and dismounted to run the dusty "W". Though I could ride this section in pre-ride, the track in this part of the course was so blown out from a weekend's worth of fellow cross racers that the safest, highest percentage option became to run this part of the track each time.
The elastic started to stretch as the Kerry Warner (Kona Bikes), Anthony Clark (Squid Bikes), and the other leaders pressed the pace at the front. Once again, a group battling for 6th to 12th formed just a few seconds up the course. And, once again, I played the waiting game, electing to let the first couple of laps sort out then pour on the gas.
With 6 laps to go, I started to reel those riders in one by one, each time hitting the gas as I caught them in an attempt to them both mentally and physically. It worked to a degree, though there were some that suffered unfortunate crashes or mechanicals, which aided in my chase. I carried on solo, me versus the course, in pursuit of the group battling it out for the top 10 that was just in front. Passing the pits, my buddy/pit crew Frank Cundiff informed me the gap was just 20 seconds and starting to fall a bit.
With each passing lap I poured more “gas on the fire” pushing myself to ride a bit harder and a bit faster. There were certainly mistakes made along the way and as I began to tire, some of my smooth riding was replaced by less flow. My friend Rebecca Gross (Zero D Racing) was yelling at me to go harder and catch the last rider between me and the top 10 spot I wanted to bad. I could see the group coming unglued, but the energy I was putting into the pedals seemed to be yielding little to no return. In the end I crossed the line in 11th place, just two seconds behind Jordan Snyder (BicycleRealtor/ERO/Verge) in 10th place.
- Check out the Cycleboredom VIDEO Highlights from Day 2
Dealing with Disappointment
As in life, sport is full of disappointments. We work so hard to be fit and strong for a specific race. We work, not just weeks in advance, but months and years in advance. Then the day comes and we can’t deliver the result our mind pre-determined we should achieve.
To finish the race in 11th place, one spot outside of the coveted UCI points schedule, is frustrating to say the least. I came into the weekend knowing that I had the tools to compete for a top 10 result, but it was my own mental hesitation that caused me to miss out. I gave myself an hour to pout and then re-focused on the positives:
“You’re putting yourself in the race for a top 10. That is where you live now. Keep doing the work and the points will come.”
- Johnny Sundt
It was a quick trip home to Dallas with enough time to do laundry and pack more layers for the next race. Thursday we’re off to Cincinnati for the second race of this five week block. I’m looking forward to racing on the sweeping hills of Devou Park and racing for the first time in Harbin Park.
Until next time!