Thanks to mother nature holding off the showers the course was delightfully dry today. That was the best part. It was windy and cold to start the day. Thankfully by the time it got to my race, it warmed up and was pretty spectacular. To make it even better, today was my mom's 66th birthday and she decided to share it with me as she officially spectated at her first cyclocross event. So with mom and dad in the crowd, I had a little pressure to perform, which I hoped I wouldn't let them down.
So after working all morning scoring the first races, and taking care of course issues, I kitted up and got ready for my own race. The B race went off at 1 and was warming up nicely as we came to the line. I got a nice call up as currently I'm sitting 7th in the NJBA cup cross series. I was feeling better this week as I actually toned down my riding and was a little better prepared for this. It was a field of 15 or so and with my usual standing, I figured I'd somehow find a way to finish in 7.5th place to keep my mid-pack streak going. So with a decent warmup I toed the line and awaited the blowing of the ceremonial trombone at the start.
Off we went and I had an amazing place going into the first hill - fighting for dead last. I thought I came out pretty hard and I guess it wasn't hard enough. So I sat in and pedaled strong and each corner I got through a few more, and then a few more. By the time I got around for my first lap I was sitting comfortably in second. Wow-second. Ok, I was hoping I could hold onto this for a little while to keep my confidence a little higher. As the second lap went on I looked back to see a solid group of 5 (including myself) had broken away from the field. Sweet - as long as nothing goes wrong I'd have at least a top 5 - or so I thought. After that lap there was only 4 on the lead pack and I was still in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd depending on the corner. 3rd lap came around and it was still the group of 4 holding strong and me solidly in 2nd. It seemed the pace was weakening the two behind and I hoped I'd stay strong. I knew the guy in front of me - Chris - is a super strong rider and I was totally content holding his wheel. I didn't think I'd be doing that well. So as we kept on lap 4 came about and there was only 3 of us. Part way through Chris and I kicked it up a notch and started a gap to third place. Awesome! If I can only hold this I'll see if I can make a move and go for the win.
I knew where Chris was strong and I knew where I was strong. My better part of the course was early on so I figured I'd punch it there and see what he's got. The final lap came and when I hit my section I launched. I needed that gap since he was stronger towards the end of the course. Back towards the barns I stayed strong but as Chris is an accomplished road racer he flew right on to my wheel. Across the field and onto the gravel road he comes by and drops the hammer. I do what I can but can't match his speed. I stay on it and go up the run up as his gap is holding. I want first so bad I push as hard as I can and stand to try and get back on. It's starting to work as I fly through the sand and start closing into the barriers. I got close but not close enough. As I get to the finishing straight he's got about 30 feet on me and he was driving hard. Not enough time or juice to close that gap. So I pushed hard to the line and took my first ever 2nd place in cross.
I am totally satisfied with that finish. Chris is a super strong dood and I'm glad that we stayed together that long after my rocky start. It felt good to ride a very good strategic race. There were points where I knew I could ride faster but I used him to not do all the work, which was a very positive strategy. I waited for my moment and took it. I did all I could and the better man won. Instead of just going all out I really thought things through and raced a really solid race. What a good day!
After all it turned into a nice beautiful day. I got a great finish and some great points for the NJBA cup. Even better was the fact that I had a great audience with my parents thoroughly enjoying something they have never seen before. Pretty awesome day. Especially in hindsight knowing that I now have a flat tire from dinging my front rim on a cement edge on my final lap. It could have been a much more stressful finish if I had to do a tire swap on the last lap as my 2nd place was falling away... They say cross is a sport where you have to go as hard as you can until you puke - I almost got to feel that first hand on my last lap today. SWEET!!!