How did that happen? We're back in cyclocross season again already. I barely got my bikes together in time, and it felt more than odd to be ripping around on what felt like a road bike while not on the road. I got in a few days though before the race and by then it felt right as rain.
Green Mountain has never been my favorite venue to race at, but the beauty of the place is 2nd to none. It's always so nice to be there, but getting there is a different story. 4-1/2 hours drive time for me. I went up friday and got in a bunch of laps on the course just before dark. My good friend and teamate, David Rath and his family have welcomed me to stay with them for the last few years. It's super convenient, as it's only about 2 miles to the venue, if that. I think the dogs actually recognize me at this point.
This place is famous for the greuling climbs and saturday was no different. I came to the race a few pounds lighter this year and that seemed to help a lot. I can't say enough about how much Alan Atwood does for us at this venue, he also comped the entry fees for all the regional champions from last year's championship races. That meant I'd be racing for free, which is a huge bonus on such an expensive weekend. The guys at Verge are probably the nicest people I've ever met in all my sporting days.
Don & Mike made me a custom championship jersey skinsuit, complete with my Corner Cycle sponsor on the leg panels and red, white & blue banding at the collar, arms & legs. Thanks guys, YOU ROCK!!!
As you can see it gets pretty damn steep going up some of the climbs here, it makes for a good season opener, because everything else seems a little less hard after that. The races themselve's were tough and with newcomer to Master's racing in New England, Brian Willichoski on the line it wasn't gonna get easier any time soon. There was a big void however, my good pal Roger Aspholm is out for the season with some pretty serious injuries from a recent mountain bike race crash. He'll make a full recovery, but he has a long rehab in front of him. I can honestly say without a doubt, that I never would have come close to winning Nationals if it weren't for Roger. That guy pushes me to step up my game year after year. Racing him is just like racing at Natz. Top quality A1 athlete, that guy, and an even better person. We all miss having you at the races Rog, heal up soon.
I don't have time to go into a long race report, but I was able to win both days. On day 1 I had good legs and just followed Todd Bowden at the start, he absolutely crushed it and we gapped the field. When he faded a bit, I just kept going and that was it really. I got out to about 30 seconds or so, but then shut it down on the last lap to conserve for day 2 and also to be careful not to make any big mistakes. The gap at the line was only 7 seconds, but it wasn't that close. I sort of Cadilaced it in while Kevin and Brian sprinted it out behind me.
Day 2 was different. I didn't have the same legs at all, but I bet everyone felt that way. On the first lap a selection was made and Brian, Todd Bowden, his teamate Keith Gauvin and I made up the front group. That was it for the front spots, as the chase group never connected. About half way through the race I tried to crack the group with a pretty hard lap, we went down to 3 but it was mainly due to Keith having a miscue. I knew I wasn't gonna ride away from the other 2, as they looked strong and were riding very well. On the last lap, I attacked up the climb all the way to the barriers which were brutally hard to get over at the end of the long climb. From there it was a series of downhill chicane style corners into a fast sweeper that brought us into the finish straight. I kept the pressure on and just barely held off the other 2. Brian finished 2nd, and Todd 3rd.
I was pleasantly surprised to walk away with wins on both days, and a nice lead in the series. I'm not planning on defending it this weekend as the race is way back up in Burlington, VT again. I'm happy for the northern New Englanders that usually have to travel the farthest on average, but I'm gonna stay a little closer to home and support a couple of the small race promoters. After all they're part of the New England Cyclocross family as well. Then it's onto New England Worlds!
Thanks for reading, JB