My first foray into cyclocross racing has so far been a huge success! We are now three weekends into Washingtons premier series, MFG, and so far I am shooting 3-0 and leading the Series Overall by a significant margin over Fernando Paez and Steve Fischer.
It turns out that cyclocross is A LOT of fun, and because the cycling community in the greater Seattle area is so strong, these races bring out big crowds. Over the course of the day upwards of 800 people will toe the line on a busy weekend, and with twice that many people standing on the side of the course cheering, the environment is electric! Its such an accessible discipline, that people love coming out.
The first race of the MFG series was on the shore of Lake Sammamish in Issaquah. The racing was fast and tactical on a dry course without many technical features. My mountain bike prowess shined on the loose corners, and that was ultimately what made the difference in the last lap of the hour long race. I was able to blow up our lead group of four riders by attacking into a fast set of corners and opening up a gap. He who braked the least was going to win, and I was able to carry momentum through the final set of corners better than close training buddy, Steve Fischer and fellow mountain biker Fernando Paez.
The following week I had a long solo effort at Marymoor Velodrome. Fernando took the whole shot, and set a blistering tempo for the first two laps, but crashed hard early in the race and was never able to recover despite being the stronger rider on the day. The course was bumpy and dry, and the temps were climbing into the high 70's. It was certainly not 'cross weather'. I wasn't feeling particularly good, but managed to hold my lead for 45 min to the end, crossing the line wearing the green jersey of the Series Leader and further consolidating that lead.
The most recent race took place at Silver Lake Park in Everett, and we had the deepest field to date. My confidence was at an all time low, because my left arm was swollen to twice is normal size after I'd been stung or bitten by an unknown insect the day before while out on a trail ride. Even the smallest bumps sent shooting pain up my swollen arm, despite generous loads of kinesiotape and Ibuprofen. My plan was to take it easy, try to finish in the top five and hope that meant I held onto the series lead. But of course, the adrenaline of the moment threw the best laid plans out the window. We had a fast start, with Steve, Fernando and myself setting the pace in the early part of Lap 1. The arm was painful, but I couldn't back off. As we traversed a long sand section, Fernando had another spectacular crash, which left Steve and I on the front with Spencer Paxson chasing. Then Steve started yelling to his mechanic that he had a flat, and so all of a sudden, 8 minutes into the race, I found myself on the front with a 30 second gap over second place. At that point I couldn't exactly sit up, so onwards I pushed, fighting through pain, to another MFG win aboard my Shimano equipped Focus Mares. It was a hell of a day, one that my arm still hasn't forgiven.
Its on to Boulder Cup next for me. I'm hoping to score a few UCI points so I can jump into a bit more racing next year, maybe even a World Cup or two if they bring those races back to the US! It'll be exciting to be in a proper National caliber event, and see what I can do!