2017 Cyntergy Hurtland
Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig
After a few weeks traveling around Ohio and then to Kentucky, I was starting to feel the wear and tear of the constant travel. Back in Dallas, I was able to reset and get some rest and recovery that is so critical for training and racing at a high level. The week at home was much needed and it was a nice chance to get back to "normal" before the next race, Tulsa Tough's Cyntergy Hurtland.
In just it's third year of existence, Cyntergy Hurtland has quickly gained a regional reputation as a fun race with solid payouts. Having been a part of every edition of the event, it's been fun to see it grow from a one-day local event to a UCI race attracting some big names in such a short amount of time. That's not to say the Hyde, Compton, Powers of the 'cross world are making their way to Tulsa, but there is definitely an increase in those riders chasing UCI points.
Being that it was a one-day event held on Sunday, I rolled up with my buddy Ryan Hobbs on Saturday morning. We rocked up to the course after a smooth cruise up to Tulsa and hopped on course for a few laps. The course itself traverses Owen Park and the grounds of the Tulsa Schools of Arts & Sciences. There have been few changes in the past few years, but the track still presents some challenges and it is imperative to get a good start. With lines dialed and legs opened, we hit up a quick afternoon coffee at Chimera and then took to a relaxed evening.
Sunday - Taming La Culebra (6th)
We awoke to gray skies and some cooler temperatures on Sunday. The first order of business was, of course, coffee, which meant another stop at Chimera. The early races were rolling as we got set up at the course, and we were fortunate to have another year of dry conditions. Though I have never raced this track in the wet, I have no doubt it would be "interesting" if and when precipitation graces us in the coming years. I went through my normal race day procedure and took a few more laps on course to get the turns burned into my memory.
The Elite Men's field was small, just 13 riders on the grid. My one UCI point and the small field size was enough to put me on the front row of the grid, a first in my UCI experience. To be completely honest, I was more nervous for this race than I have been for any other race this year. UCI points are only good for one calendar year, and it was at this very race in November of 2016 that I earned my one UCI point. Those points are so vital, not just for World Ranking, but also to ensure you are not victim to the random call-up. Moreover, points guarantee your call up position and qualification for the Elite race at Nationals. I knew all I had to do was beat three people and I would achieve both of the aforementioned benefits. But in cyclocross, much like in life, nothing is guaranteed and anything can happen.
The whistle sounded and I got off to a good start. Local Texas shredder/ mustache aficionado, Tristan Uhl, blasted off the line like he was shot from a cannon and took the holeshot. I was a bit farther back and asserted myself to be in fifth wheel as we blitzed past the pits for the first time. The first lap was FAST. With a narrow track and few places to pass, I was in a good spot in the top 5 riders. The group stayed together in one long line as we made our way to the defining feature of the Hurtland course, La Culebra. This serpentine portion winds back and forth across a hill. Though it is all rideable, the tight turns and dusty conditions meant each rider was tip-toeing through the turns hoping to keep as much traction as possible.
Gaps started to open up and by the start of the second lap, there was a group of four followed by my group of three. Passing under the start/finish banner, Travis Livermon (Maxxis-Shimano) attacked to up the pace and make the jump to the front group. Not wanting to give up my spot, I jumped on his wheel and worked hard to stay there as we ripped the course. It wasn't long before Travis' power and speed, coupled with my pedal issues, were enough to distance me. As he continued his pursuit of the front group, I found myself trailing in no man's land.
By lap three, I was joined by teammate Dylan Postier and we both passed Tristan, who had flatted on the previous lap. Riding in fifth and sixth position, we were away and all that we had to do was continue working for the next five laps to secure our place in the top 10. This for me was the turning point of the race. For the first couple of laps, I was fighting to stay in the top 5 and make the front group of the race. That was still in the realm of possibilities but as I kept pushing the pedals to stay with Livermon. However, when I realized that all I had to do was hold my place and I would be in the points, my motivation to push forward was gone.
Over the course of the next five laps, I continued to have issues getting back into the pedals after remounting. I'll attribute this mess to my own lack of preparation. That is to say, my at home training bike has a different brand of pedals than my racing bikes. Sure a pedal is a pedal, but, in my defense, the interfaces are just different enough to create issues. This mistake has since been remedied on my side!
Pedal issues aside, Dylan continued to ride well and open the gap on me. I did what I could to keep it close and to chase, but if I'm honest, it was half-hearted. By the final lap I was finally able to get my mind right and mount a purposeful chase to get to Dylan's wheel. However, it was too little too late and I was able to cross the line in 6th, just outside the wide angle podium.
I was pleased with my 6th place and that meant that I was able to tick the box on a few goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the season. With my spot in the top 10 I scored 8 UCI points, moving up to 506th in the world (so now I'm somebody! lol), and more importantly qualify for Nationals in January.
More to Be Desired...
Goals are a double-edged sword. They can propel us to success and achievement and at the same time provide a glass ceiling to our performance. Going into the race I wanted so badly to be Top 10 and get at least one UCI point. I struggled with this mindset, as I know that I am capable of much more that sneaking in the top 10. On the start grid I was pumping myself up, asking myself to go harder and put myself at the front of the race. Yet, once I was firmly in the Top 10, I abandoned my killer instinct and became complacent.
Yes, I am happy that I was able to finish 6th, my best finish in a UCI race to date. And yes, I did display some improved handling and rode well throughout the race. But I left the race wanting more.
My own complacency was the death of me. I had done enough to achieve the minimum and that was "good enough".
I fell victim to my own goals.
And now that I have achieved some of the goals I set for my season, the question is "where do I go from here?"
As I write this report, I don't have the answer for how we can go about quelling our complacent mindset. I think that will continue to be a problem that I wrestle with for as long as I race. For me the challenge becomes figuring out how to reignite that killer instinct, how to shed complacency and ask more of myself. As cyclists, we know how this goes. We do our intervals over and over, continually asking more of our bodies. Just one more minute. Just one more effort. It's this masochistic attitude that provides a sense of achievement, when we finish our ride shattered and broken only to do it all again the next day. I guess it comes down to practice then. How I train each week will set the tone for how I race. If I become complacent with the bare minimum in training, doing the same in a race becomes common place. Allen Iverson is famous for his quote about practice. But in my case, practice is just as important as the game. Better yet, practice is the game and maybe that will be the ticket for me afterall.
Next up it's the Major Taylor Cross Cup on the Marian University campus in Indianapolis! The weather looks like it will be cold and wet, so be on the look out for many mud photos in the next post!
Until then, be safe, wear your helmet, and enjoy the ride!