2018 Resolution Cross Cup

The Resolution Cross Cup is an event that is near and dear to my heart. It’s also near to my home and it’s an event I have been looking forward to since the Spring. The Texas Cross Syndicate has a knack for building incredible courses and this year would be no different. And even though I trained in Winters Park all Summer, it remained to be seen whether my local knowledge could translate to international results.

London Bridge Comes Crashing Down

I arrived home from Indianapolis on Monday afternoon, back to the sunny skies of Texas. The warm weather was a welcome change from the gray, cold climes of the Midwest. To make things even better, Thanksgiving was just a few days away and my family from Florida was going to be in Houston for my youngest brother’s soccer tournament. After an AM spin with my buddy Rob & Bob, I hopped in the truck and rolled down I-45. It was super nice to see my family and watching the youngest brother play the sport all three of us (me and my two brothers that is) all grew up playing was a great way to spend the weekend! While I may have been out of the game for some time, I was not lacking in coaching commentary from the sidelines.

Even though Thanksgiving was time for family and food, I wasn’t about to take time off from the trainings. With just three races left in the domestic campaign – Resolution CX Cup, Ruts N Guts, and Nationals – the weekend presented an opportunity to get a solid block of riding in in the run up to Nationals. At least, that was the plan…

Since the races in Indy, I had been feeling tired. I assumed it was just travel and the stress that comes along with it. But it wasn’t just a lack of sleep but a deep behind the eyes tired that was a signal of something more problematic. After chatting with my coach, we decided to proceed with caution and take an easy spin on Friday instead of the planned interval workout. Pedaling slow didn’t make me feel any better and as we chatted more, we decided to take some space for rest and recovery. Frustrated and exhausted, I started digging into the analytics a bit more, only to find that my sleep had been less than ideal. And while I really wanted to train my ass off, I knew (and my coach told me) that doing so would only create a bigger problem.

It took many days of sleep, meditation, and recovery-focused activities, but by the following Friday, I was starting to finally feel back to 80% of my normal operating capacity. Just in time for the Resolution CX Cup!

Sub Optimal (11th) (Strava)

The sun broke on Saturday morning and the mood was high as I drove to the course. Sleeping in my own bed and making pancakes in my own kitchen was a welcome change to the standard cyclocross weekend. Held in Winters Park in Garland, Texas, the course traverses the undulations and woods of a natural amphitheater. Many features of the course were familiar to years past, with some new choose your own adventure sections, an added stairs section, and a whole new path through the woods. While the course favored the powerful, there were more than a few sections that required skill and deft touch of a technically-proficient rider.

This race has certainly started to grow in reputation and it showed as the men’s elite field was deep with talent. I managed to squeeze onto the front row of the grid in the eighth call up and was proud to be there at my “home” race. The whistle blew and I jumped out of the gates as I has done so many times this past summer envisioning this race. I was so quick in fact that I had to pull back on the throttle a bit so as not to jump right to the front of the race. With so many fast guys, the risk of blowing sky high was a real concern, and I elected to slot into second wheel behind Cody Kaiser (Specialized-Lange Twins) instead.

photo by: bo bickerstaff

We made our way past pit one and I shuffled back in the group a few more spots. Making the slog up to the top of the hill for the first time, the front group was already starting to form with Gage Hecht and Brannan Fix (Alpha Bicycle Co.), Michael Van den Ham (Garneau-Easton), and Drew Dillman (SDG-Muscle Monster). I knew that I could make the juncture as the gap started to open in front of me, but that brief moment of hesitation grew to uncertainty in my form. The front group of four rolled on, and I was chasing in a group with Cody, Nicholas Gaurin (PACC), Hector Riveros (CZ Racing Team), Ben Gomez Villafane and Dylan Postier (Garneu-Easton), and Kevin Bradford-Parish (SET Coaching) for the first lap.

The laps rolled on and Nicholas, Hector, Cody, and Ben eventually made their own chase group with the front. By the half way point, Dylan, Kevin, and I were each riding solo in pursuit of the top 10 place (Michael had unfortunately crashed on lap one and was out of the race). I was feeling good physically, but each lap I was losing more and more time. I held fast in my pace and was doing what I could, where I could to make up time on my rivals.

Power and flow,” I thought to myself.

Navigating the last section of the course before the start/finish stretch, I suddenly found myself going ass over tea kettle. I picked myself up and removed my bike from the tape, I calmly spun the crank and just as I went to remount the bike I noticed the tire had rolled off the rim. Doing my best Katie F Compton impression, I rolled the tire back onto the rim and rolled to the pit. Ian Moore and Tanner Culbreth were there to hand me the spare bike as I tried to chase back to the group. Now back in 12th place, I was in full pursuit of lost time. But luck was not on my side as I slid out through the technical woods. All I could do at that point was shake my head.

photo by: bo bickerstaff

The rest of the race was uneventful and I piloted the closing laps without further mechanical incident, eventually crossing the line in 11th place.

While the result was not something to be down about, I was frustrated with my own performance. Not just on the bike, but also in maintaining my equipment. I would later gripe about having mechanicals in four of my last five races, but if I’m honest, I can only blame myself for their occurence. Cyclocross is an equipment-intensive sport which requires you to be diligent with your bike maintenance. Without my own mechanic, that responsibility lays on my shoulders and is an effort that I must undertake moving forward to give myself the best chance for a result. But if there’s one thing to smile about, it’s my consistency with 11th place!

Will Race for Kolaches (10th) (Strava)

Rays of sunshine were peaking through the blinds on Sunday morning. Temps would be cooler on day two but “cool” only meant I needed to wear a light jacket during pre-ride. The course remained mostly unchanged except for the woods section, which had transformed to favor a rider that could handle their bike at speed. The mood was good and I was confident as I rolled to the line under the warm Texas sun.

Off the line I had a little trouble getting into my pedal but rebounded quickly. My small fumble was actually a good thing as I didn’t have much of a chance to go directly to the front, saving myself from myself. Instead, I slotted back in fifth or sixth wheel as we made our way onto the track for the first time. Again a strong group of five was starting to form at the front of the race with Van den Ham, Hect, Fix, Dillman, and Kaiser setting the pace. Postier, Gomez Villafane, and Gaurin were also tailing just off the back with me a few more seconds behind.

As the gap was opening up the first time up the hill, I was again in a good position to make a dig for the front group. But caution won over and I elected to stay in my position, hoping that some riders would fade and that I could come on strong. Each time the course opened up for pedaling, I was feeling good and strong. I would lay down the power and felt super comfortable when I was in the wheel. However, from the entrance to the exit of the woods section, I was losing three to five seconds each lap. I would chase across the flats and pedal as hard as I could to make up ground. And just as I would get close to those carrots in front of me, we would hit the flowing singletrack and I would lose the wheel.

photo by: bo bickerstaff

Frustration turned to apathy and conservation as I pedaled around in tenth position. A result inside the top 10 seemed out of reach, but if I could keep it together I could manage to get a single UCI point from the day. I rolled through the laps, content to keep a consistent pace, neither gaining nor losing ground. With two laps to go, I peaked over my shoulder only to see a charging Troy Wells (Team CLIF Bar) and Andrew Giniat (The Pony Shop) chasing me down. That sight was enough to light a fire under my ass and I started to press on the pedals a little bit harder. The desire to not lose 10th place generated a level of focus that has been absent from my racing for a few weeks and I was relieved to hold my spot until the finish.

Racing at home is both a blessing and a curse.

One the one hand, it is so nice to sleep in my own bed, cook in my kitchen, race on my home training grounds, and see so many friends along the course! But at the same time, that sort of relaxed atmosphere can also take away an athlete’s edge, at least it does for me. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my Texas cyclocross community! But I felt too at ease and complacent before, during, and after the races.

At the beginning of the 2018 season, I entered my first events with something to prove. I have a new team, I’ve been putting in the work all summer, and I’ve gained this new experience living and racing in Europe. The killer instinct was strong.

But as the season has gone on and the results have flowed, I’ve found that the chip that was on my shoulder has mended itself. I’ve moved up in the rankings, secured a few unexpected results, and raised my profile on the domestic circuit. Subconsciously, that was enough for me to settle.

Of course, that “me vs. the world” attitude doesn’t work for everyone, but for me it can be particularly motivating. I feel like I have earned my place toward the front of affairs, and I want to show people (mostly myself) that I belong. And while I have had some setbacks over the past few weeks, I have not demonstrated to myself the same drive, the same fire, the same competitiveness that was there with me on the start line at Nittany Cross. Moreover, I don’t feel like I’ve done enough to squeeze every last drop of effort from my body and mind in the races. As Steve Prefontaine said, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

It takes a village to raise a cyclocross racer, and a bigger one to put on such an event. I’m fortunate to have a community that does both and my success wouldn’t be possible without them. Thank you to Jeff, Ian, Tanner, Keith, and the rest of the crew for working so tirelessly at the Resolution Cross Cup and for supporting me in my journey. Thanks to my family and my dear friends for coming out to cheer me on as I race around the woods in tight clothes. It means a lot to me that people take the time to watch the races. I owe it to them to put on a show.

Yours in TXCX,