Written by Michael Green Thursday, 05 October 2017 18:06
Cross is here.
It seems to suddenly jump up and say "Surprise!" but it's a fact... the Michigan CX has started. Build up seemed to be a little short this year. I'd changed up a bunch of things to try and elevate my game a little if possible and seems to shorten my "prep?" I'd joined a weekly intense group gravel ride, spent more time on the road than on grass, but still enjoyed every ride. They say time flies by quickly as you get old? Nevertheless, my first event this year was the Alma GP of Cyclocross, a race I'd wanted to do in the past but a broken elbow and kids sporting events had gotten in the way. This year was no different, my daughter had a volleyball tournament but this year's Alma GP also served as a memorial for a racing friend who'd been killed recently on the roads nearby. I felt the need to pay my respects to Mike Seaman as he'd have wanted everyone to - racing.
There was lots of hype around this event, from word of mouth, social media, and basic publicity, so I was excited to find out first hand. I wasn't too excited about my USA Cycling ranking points though, as the lack of racing last year had me placed deep in the corral for call-up. I had entered the Open Singlespeed and was excited to mix it up with the other disciples of the one cog.
I'd been a few rows back in the coral before and used my size and elbows to find my way through the crowd and that was today's plan. As we sat in the corral, a few stories and a moment of silence were shared for Mike and his impact on the cycling community and then bam... the swarm took off. Two in front of me locked handlebars and went down. Miraculously, they fell to opposite sides and in that split second I found a small gap. In that same split second my plan changed as I'd found myself in the top eight or so by the first tight right turn as many behind were caught up in the delay. I settled into the back of the group with eyes forward watching the splits open up.
The group started to string out and the leaders were separating themselves. I didn't have enough to go around the group to match the pace up front and knew I'd have to pick off one at a time. An error here, an error there, by the group helped me to move into the top five. First and second on the track were out of sight and I was sitting at the back of a group of three. There wasn't much grass on the course so traction in the dust made for a cautious ride and my plan was to sit-in and watch for more errors in front of me. After three laps that opportunity occurred and I pounced alone into third.
For two and a half laps I pushed as hard as I could to build a gap and was seeing stars. The dryness of the course had dust setting in every nook and crevice but mostly sticking to my nose and mouth. While I couldn't keep my lips and nose clean, I tried to keep my lines that way but the gap I was working on was not growing. There was one big sandpit on the course with a turn and multiple lines. During warmup I'd decided to go super wide where there was a little grass, it was less "loose" and I thought faster. This was important because as we entered the bell lap we started to lap others on the course and this line became unavailable without being held up. I took another and suffered. I lost a few valuable seconds and now I was fighting for my place. With half a lap to go I slipped into fourth.
There I stayed. Finishing fourth after forty plus minutes of racing. I came in seeded eighteenth, so I was happy. First place only finished fifty seconds up the course: I took that as a sign that I'm on the right track.
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