The spectacle that is Northwest Cyclocross..
Friday afternoon I sent a text to Hottie saying, “I need to sleep in tomorrow.” A busy week at work and some ambitions training had left me pretty knackered. I did the full meal deal of weights on Monday, bike commute on Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday I ran in the morning (sans Tux this time as it was COLD), and I did a spin class on Friday harder than I meant to.
My motivation was waning, but at my age, good and bad habits are hard to break. Accordingly, I loaded up the war wagon and Hottie and I made the pilgrimage to the south end of Tacoma where one of my favorite courses, Steilacoom, can be found. My mum was once again in tow, and her voice would later pierce the cowbell infused din during my race.
My nemesis, spinner John, had an illness in the family and my teammate, Dave F, couldn’t make the race so I felt like I had nothing to lose. It was cold but dry (aside from some frost) so I was armed with file treads on the front of my machine. The sun was bright, so despite temperatures in the thirties, I was going with long sleeves, bare legs and even skipped the embrocation.
The top two guys in our category were upgraded during the week, so if I repeated my placing from last week, I’d squeak into the top ten. The venue was the same, but the course was different than it was a few weeks ago when I had my last top ten finish (same course, just backwards - but the same amount of climbing and intimidating descents).
With the top two guys (and Dave F) out, I got a front row call up. This time the course had a hundred and fifty meters of asphalt, so I wanted to get a fast start to avoid any “incidents.”
Evo hitting the first corner..
At the whistle, I drilled it to the first corner and was sitting about fifth, then some jockeying through some grassy turns and I lost, and then picked up positions. A loose gravel corner took us onto a long paved climb. I felt good, but tried to keep it real as this was supposed to be a four-lap race. Some single-track rollers and then three barriers on an uphill and I was still sitting about sixth or seventh. I tried to keep my feet moving fast and gained some ground.
This year; for the first time in my Cyclocross life, I have my brakes dialed in. The other change this year is bar top brakes. These gave me the confidence to pedal hard and bomb down the loose dirt downhill. More loose gravel led to a series of S-curves under monster oak trees where we made our way through the fallen leaves.
A long climb on loose gravel had just one line unless you really wanted to increase your workload. I held my spot and passed a guy as we turned at the top. We went around a water tower and began a curvy downhill that tests your nerve, your bike handling and your brakes, in that order. I pushed again and on the final curve grabbed my brakes and began the long flat trail back to the grasslands. Two guys nabbed me and when we entered the grass section there were five leaders and I was one of two chasers, with a big gap to everyone else.
Lap one, this is how we were...
We passed the finish line and I heard my name as sitting fifth. Way to go Evo!
“Ride Smart Evo,” I told myself. Ride good turns, relaxed shoulders, and breath deep, keep it together. I heard my name and smiled as I realized that a lot of these folks know me and were cheering me on. As we closed on the fourth place rider, a Blue Rooster rider who always beats me, he slid out and we went around him. I expected him to catch back on, but we weren’t going to wait.
On the climb we put more space between us and the rest of the field. I had faded in a couple races earlier this year and was determined to try hard to hold my spot. I tried something different and remounted and rode just past the uphill barriers rather than running the fifty meters to the highpoint. I took that speed into the downhill and was well through the oak tree chicane when I saw places six and on.
I was trading places with a rider named Earl Zimmerman and with one lap to go he had about three seconds on me.
Evo stalking Earl..
We were catching riders and if I had been thinking, I would have thought about where passing would be a challenge and adjusted my effort accordingly. As it was, each time we entered a tricky single-rider-wide section, Earl was just ahead of a lapped rider and I was behind that same rider. I lost time before the uphill barriers. I worked the downhill and final climb and made up a lot on the downhill. Then a section of single track leading to the grass and I was behind (and cheering on) a lapped woman who offered me an inside line when it became available.
At the first grassy hairpin, I was a good five seconds down, but when I was on the other side, I realized I had an even bigger gap on the sixth place rider. I kept pushing but so did Earl. Over the last barrier and onto the asphalt finishing straightaway I was in the drops drilling it; taking no chances. Earl rode it to the line and so did I. He got me by four seconds, and I had over twenty on the sixth place rider; the Blue Rooster guy that I hadn’t beaten before.
Fifth place. I’ll be hard to live with all week.