Once again it's been a while since I've found the time to write here. Since my last entry we've raced Maine, Noho, and Sterling. With only the last 2 races at NBX in RI left, a lot has happened, but not much has changed.
Maine was a soggy wet mess. Saturday was pouring buckets all day and although Sunday was a great looking day, the track was destroyed and was our muddiest race in years.
Saturday was good since Kevin and I were able to ride a very cold Roger off our wheels, after he nearly dropped me earlier in the race. Kev and I rolled to the line together and we had decided to take the jersey by putting me across the line first rather than duke it out and possibly leave the jersey on Roger's back. I was now 5 points ahead of Roger and had my first series lead of the year.
Sunday should have been good for me too, but I got the worst start I've ever gotten in a cross race. I had put in new spikes for the running I expected to be doing in the mud. They were real long and it's been a while since I ran new spikes. At the start they seemed to block me from getting into my pedal, and combined with a bit too much PAM on the pedals, I slipped it 3 times in a row and honestly thought I was gonna get run over from behind. On the flip side, Kev got the holeshot. He and Roger separated immediately and I was buried in the middle of 30 guys that were talking about their lines and how it's a party back there and swerving in front of me wrecklessly. Panic! I finally got out of it and started to make my way up when I made the next big mistake of the day, there would be more too. I truly raced like a cat 5 that day and was lucky to pull off a 3rd place result. Roger muscled away from Kev on the last lap and the jersey was back on his shoulders.
Noho is one of my favorites and the weather gods smiled on us again this year, with warm sunny days both Sat. and Sun.
I had put in a decent block of training and hoped to see the rewards. Saturday brought Matt Kraus into the mix and this was a welcome sight for me. Matt rides for Richard Sachs and is hugely talented in my eyes. A true cross racer for years & years and a 2nd place finisher to Brandon Dwight last year at Natz.
The race started on the lower deck this year and I got a good start as well as Kevin who was right next to me. First time through the pits Jamie yelled to us that Roger had a bad start and was back a bit. That was all we needed to hear. We lit it up and tried to separate before he got through the masses. After 2 brutally hard laps it was me, Kev and Matt at the front with Roger alone in 4th about 9 or 10 seconds back. We all worked together to keep the gap and with one to go it was clear we had gained more time and he was gonna ride it in and save it for Sunday. That was good, because now I could try to plan how to win. When Matt pulled through on the last lap I wasn't gonna go to the front again except to win. On the bottom of the course I attacked into the sand and out of the pit and powered the last 2 field sections, Kevin was also able to get around him before we hit the pavement and we went 1,2 with Matt 3rd and Roger 4th. I now had a 10 point lead in the series. My biggest yet. After the race the Corner Cycle Crew hammed it up on the podium. Then I visited good friends in the BOB camper, these guys do it better than anyone! They treated me to chicken Catcitore and lots of laughs. Dave Foley might be the funniest guy on the circuit and I'm glad to see he's doing a little more cross this year, Tim Shea, Garabed and Eric Marro are like staples of New England Cyclocross. This scene we've got going here in New England in the Fall is a freaking blast!!!
Sunday was FAST. I almost checked out on the first two laps, but couldn't quite snap the cord. Roger made no mistakes and Matt was extremely strong all day. It was a 4 man group for most of the day. I bobbled the sand pit once and spent the better part of 2 laps trying my hardest to get back on while Kev tried to slow things down for me in the group. The last lap was wierd, I guess since I finally recovered and I was able to move up fairly easy. I decided to go a little earlier than Saturday, but it didn't work out as well. I attacked before the long straightaway before the sand, but coming out of the sand Roger and Matt had more punch and I struggled to hold them. I got up to speed on the last 2 sections of grass going onto the paved finishing stretch, but we were all going the same speed with little gaps between. Roger was 1st, Matt 2nd, Kev 3rd and I came across 4th. Lead gone. Back to 10 points behind. CRAP!
Sterling was 3 weeks away and I vowed to myself that I would show up for it more fit and ready to peak for the end of the season and Natz.
Day 1 was WINDY and surprisingly dry after a long day of rain on Friday. It was Tom's (Stevens) classic Sterling course, complete with horse jump and tricky barriers. We shot off the line and it was quickly a 4 man group. Me, Kev, Roger and Kurt Perham. Kurt is riding very well and often wins the holeshot and hangs with us for most of the race. With 2 to go Kevin and I chatted on the track about what to do next since we wern't getting anywhere. He went into the lead before the horse jump and I got into 2nd with Kurt in 3rd and Roger 4th. Kevin can ride corners better than any of us in the Master's group. So he did that while I took my sweet time getting through the 5 or 6 turn chicane. I didn't brake check anyone, just rode slowly. Theres a comfort level everyone has with this sort of tactic and although it would be foolish not to deploy it, I don't want to go over the line and be cheap. Everyone will have a different view and different ideas, but we're all friends in our group and there's no reason it can't stay that way along with some good racing at te same time. Anyway, Kev had a good gap coming out of the turns and I was surprised I didn't get passed through the next few sets of turns. On the backstretch Roger lit it up and it was SAVAGE. That was it for Kurt. It seemed like he was trying to use our tactics to his advantage by letting Kev go a bit, then dropping me while bridging to him and then have only Kev to beat in the end. He almost did just that as I was hanging by a thread. I needed to counter attack when he got to Kev, but he didn't quite close the door and left Kev sitting about 3 bikelenghts ahead. Very savvy! We got the bell. Then right before the run up he attacked past Kev and made it really hard for me to follow since we then entered the greasy corner before the hill. He ran very well up the hill, and Kev encouraged me as I ran past trying to limit the damage. I closed it down before the horse jump. I was taxed but OK. How do I finish? How do I win? Where do I go? Should I sprint him? Lead out? Or come around? Sammy let Marky G lead it out in the 45s and never got around him. Where's Kev? How's he feeling? Can we block for one and other again? Those were just a few of the thoughts that were in my head as I raced the last lap. "Cyclocross is like trying to play chess while you're drowning". Roger went just fast enough to discourage me from attacking and I ended up waiting for the sprint on the track. I would try to come around him. We hit the track with a bit of a drift but both were able to power up right away. I got in his wheel and shifted twice, he was galloping now, time to go. I went left and gained half a bike instantly. My bike was all over the place and he seemed to have another gear at the same exact time as me. I never got closer than his bottom bracket and he held me off. CRAP AGAIN!! This guy is so good and so strong. It's an honor to race a guy that just loves to crush it who is decked out in National Champion Colors. I know Kev feels the same way too. BUT I still wanna beat him!!! 20 points back now in the series and only 3 races left.
I'm happy with my form anyway, it's just that the competition is better than ever. Sunday would be a MUST WIN SITUATION. Anything less would be horrible failure.
Sunday was warm and dry again. Tom made an outstanding day 2 course and even though it was dry overnight we found ourselves in more muddy spots than Saturday. I decided to ride my brand new Dugast Rhino's on alluminum rims with rubber brake pads. A very dependable and predictable braking combination. I hoped to have good day 2 legs for the 1st time all year. I got on the bike to warm up and it was clear I had the legs today......I LOVE this feeling, as it gives me uber confidence.
I've been dicking around too much this year and haven't taken the bull by the balls enough. "So what if he's good.....OK great, but I can ride a bike too. Today is gonna hurt, and I can't wait!" That was my self prep talk during warm up. What a dork huh?
Anyway I got the hole shot and led off the track and onto the lower section. Marky Mac was on my wheel and as we approached the very slimy ride/run up, he asked me "Riding or running"? I actually had to think about it for a second and then I remembered my talk to myself, and I said "Riding". I don't know what happened behind me, but I dove hard left with a hard surge and powered up and over and then really juiced it on the top. Before I dropped into the descent I looked back and I had a big gap. From that point on I just rode as hard as I could and as smart as I could. I felt really good and got to the point where I could take a breath and recover and go hard again. My name rung out over the speakers and from friends cheering and it motivated me more. I slowly pulled away with help from Kevin. He jumped in front of Roger when he could and slowed it down, and then sat on him when he made power in the straight aways. In the end I was able to ride the last lap carefully and cruise across the line for a comfortable win with my arms raised. Roger took 2nd, so I'm 10 points behind with 2 races to go. Anything can happen.
Thats it for the race reports.....thanks for reading, JB