Friday, December 17, 2010

One Small Step

Montrose Harbor is home to my favorite race of the year. It was where I watched my first cross race, where later I competed in my first cross race and where I had my best finish, ever. The crap conditions, technical nature of the courses and huge crowds feed every craving my cyclocross super-ego begs of me.

This year about mid-way through the season, when I finally got into the call ups, I knew I wanted to podium at Montrose. That desire became serious motivation at 5:ooam on bitter cold, pitch black mornings.

This year, Montrose once again delivered all the best parts of cyclocross. What follows is the launch sequence and subsequent flight that is The Illinois State Cyclocross Championships.

T-4 Weeks
The race in Woodstock was run on a great new course. More compact and more technical. I cracked the top five for the first time all season and was seeing my form take shape. I was in the call ups and feeling good.

T-3 Weeks

Indian Lakes Day 2 was hard. The wind was relentless and insulting, and ended up being a major player. I had a good race and was able to dig deeper than I had all Fall. I finally beat young David Lambardo - kid is fast - realized I was starting to put together clean races on demanding courses. 8th place felt good.

T-2 Weeks
Northbrook was another great course. After a per-ride, I thought a top five was doable. The course suited me, I had been on the bike a lot, and I knew the railroad ties and a few other spots would let me open up gaps on some of the less technical guys.

Hole shot. Then David Lombardo and I took off with a gap. Chip Williams made me look like a star with a beautiful shot of me skying the railroad ties. I got around the first lap in the top five or six, then I tired to ride the run up out of the woods. I had cleaned it on my pre-ride and first lap, but ended up jamming my chain under the inner keeper and loosing about 10 spots. Then I crashed trying to catch back on, then I through my chain again trying to revenge the run-up. I finished 25th... and barely stayed in the points for the call up at Montrose. Lesson learned, run up the run-up.

BTW, that was my fist and second dropped chain on my bike in almost three years of racing.

T-1 Week
Thanksgiving weekend I had my whole family in town and was going to host a five course avant-garde meal. Laura and I had been planning, practicing and prepping for weeks. Then I got sick. Horribly sick. Just like last year, but not on the weekend of the race. I was able to serve Thanksgiving on Saturday and it turned out pretty good. However, I'm already looking forward to a simple, delicious, classic meal at next years Thanksgiving.

T-3 Days
The weather man says snow. I'm getting pumped.

T-1 Hour
I pre-ride the course for a second time - it was perfect. Turin built a great variation on last year's course and Mother Nature coated it in a crusty white layer of awesome. I found a few corners where the worn line was pretty icy, but with a different apex you could get around faster if you were confident in the deeper snow. This was the first time I also stopped and tried a few different lines in a pre-ride. It was a confidence booster.

T-30 Minutes
Hemme makes his move in the 1/2/3 race. Fourth place is meaningless, he wanted in, he wanted on the podium.

T-10 Minutes
Hemme is on the podium and everyone is cheering like mad. Hemme gets a lot of love out here - dude is fast, exciting to watch and couldn't be nicer. Word.

T-5 Minutes
I get out of the car, high five some of the Roscoe Village guys, and eat a caffeinated gu.

T-2 Minutes
Snuggy off.

Hole shot!

T+5 Minutes
I'm holding everyone off and real thoughts of the podium begin coursing through my head.

T+ 6 Minutes
I'm loving the course - it sucks so good.

T+8 Minutes
Just gave up my lead to Bryan Lee and an overly aggressive junior from EXPO. I cannot loose another place or the podium is gone.

T+10 Minutes
The three of us battle pretty aggressively after the big lake front sand pit. In the following half a dozen corners I think there were five passes made and I finally get back ahead of them. Then I hear them tangle and I step on the gas to open up a gap.

T+14 Minutes
Brian Hague comes flying by. I had been hoping the fast man of the 4As wouldn't be able to get his power down in the shitty course conditions, but it wasn't the case.

T+20 Minutes
Tim Holt of BSM comes by me with a lot of speed on a straight and I just couldn't react in time. I worked hard to stay close but he's riding fast and smooth.

T+24 Minutes
Lew from Rhythm Racing had been giving me splits throughout the race - helpful on such a stressful course. Turns out my friendly nemesis all season long, Half Acre's own, Paul-Brian Mcinerney was closing... I know Paul-Brian is a mountain biker so he's loving this course too, and he's fast and knows he can beat me, so I have to start digging deeper. Anyone have a flashlight?

T+28 Minutes
I'm keeping it together. I haven't crashed, and I have the course figured out. I just have to keep it together up and over Cricket Hill and around a few more icy corners.

T+30 Minutes
Finish line in sight. Third place! I did it, and it felt good.

T+35 Minutes
While the third place finisher doesn't actually have a step on the CCC podium, it still felt like being on the podium to me. I think next year I'm going to donate a 2'x2' sheet of plywood just for all the third place finishers.

Quick Thanks
Thank you CCC, thank you Turin, and thank you officials, fans, and racers. I'm organizing a longer community focused thank you entry to get into more details, but until then, you all rock.