Since this is my first race report of the 2013 cyclocross season, I’ll quickly rewind two months to the beginning and start off with this nugget of wisdom: a separated shoulder and a concussion that knocks you out for over a full minute is not the best way to start off a cyclocross campaign, and can put you in a pretty deep hole:
Then trying to race just one week later, in the first Sacramento Cyclocross race of the season at Lagoon Valley in Vacaville, is an even better way to dig that hole for yourself deeper. Why I even attempted that race, when during the week I could barely even keep myself awake during the day as my foggy brain tried to reconnect its jumbled neurons, is a case study in block-headed stubbornness. But I timidly showed up, cautiously toed that line, then promptly pulled out after just 3 laps while solidly in dead last, just trying not to crash and protect my head and shoulder, yelling at myself for even trying to get out there again so early.
Fast forward two months and we’re now at the 4th race in the Sacramento ‘Cross Series at a long time favorite venue, Lange Twins Winery. I’ve been able to rebound from that disastrous start to the season taking wins in the Single Speed A category in both the 2nd and 3rd races of the series at Orangevale Park and Lembi Park, Folsom respectively.
The last few times I’ve raced at Lange Twins winery it has been a total mudfest. Deep water crossings, power sucking grass soup, mud lines that would change every lap, and cold wind. This year however was dry as a bone and warm, with loose roller-ball turns, and dust clouds encircling the fields of racers. People were describing it as a power course, but it was riding extremely bumpy making it difficult to lay down that power.
About a dozen single speeders lined up behind the Elite Men and Master A’s and it looked to be a competitive field: Dan Sovereign and Jay Sturges who are in the points hunt for the overall series; 2012 Elite Men Overall champion, Pete Knudsen from TBB.CX; former National level crusher, Rich Maile; and Pro Mountain Biker, Clint Claassen dabbling in SSCX during his off season and a host of others that I didn’t quite recognize.
I haven’t been too concerned this year with getting the holeshot at recent races, but I wanted it at this one. The geared A fields ahead of us looked deep, and since we always catch up to them by the second lap, I knew that getting around traffic smoothly could possibly be a factor in our race. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a very smooth launch, and could only manage 4th wheel as we blasted off the pavement and into the dustbowl. Dan Sovereign and Rich Maile were trading places at the front for the 1st lap and setting a pretty hard pace, and slotting in just behind them was Dylan McReynolds who normally races in the BASP series. As we raced over the flyover at the end of lap 1, I looked down and saw that indeed we would be on top of a line of Masters geared racers in no time, so I quickly moved around Dylan and slotted in behind Dan and Rich.
The next two laps was a complete blur of dust, wheels, and somewhat sketchy passes around lapped geared riders as I tried to keep Dan and Rich within a 5 – 8 second gap as they made their way around the Masters fields. I think at one point they may have gapped me by nearly 10 seconds on the 3rd lap as I got held up behind a cluster of lapped riders that they were able to quickly move around. But as we finished off the 3rd lap, I was able to bridge back up just before the fly over, make them both simultaneously, and move into 1st as we begin that 4th lap.
Ahh, now I was feeling more comfortable. Being in front as we continued to make our way through the clusters of geared riders made life easier as I could set my pace and not have to worry about passing lanes closing up on me at the last second and then having to stomp back on the gas to bridge back up. Despite the bumpy course, my race became smoother.
With each passing lap, Dan was still hot on my heels, but I could tell each lap I’d pick up 2 seconds here, another second or two there. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but in a 60 minute cyclocross race, it begins to add up quickly and by the time 45 minutes elapsed, my gap was approaching 15 seconds or so.
Luckily, the remainder of my laps went by smoothly, and I was able to hold onto the win. Dan Sovereign came in not too far behind at all in 2nd, followed up by Jay Sturges for 3rd.
With all of us on the podium once again, the overall Single Speed standings remain tight, but I can virtually seal the overall series win if I can get on the top step again at the next race in Condon Park in two weeks. If I do that, then I’ll have the season finale race as a freebie and maybe I’ll jump into one of the geared fields on the SSCX for fun for the last race of the season and see how that goes. Looking forward to the next one….