Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Missouri State CX Championships

As the season here in Missouri winds down, we once again found ourselves back at the Hermann city park to contest the state cyclocross championships in the hopes of putting an exclamation point on the season and possibly put in the performance that would carry us through the impending darkness of winter and keep the motivation high for the coming season. My season and my feelings about it have been well documented here and although the Bubba series was consistent but not remarkable, I had been targeting Hermann since the day after I won the 4's race last year. I hoped for a good ride and for the efforts I had been putting in over the last few weeks to provide me with some confirmation that I do, in fact, have some decent abilities in my preferred cycling discipline. However, the nature of the past season had led me to resolve to simply have a good time, enjoy the course, and get back to the feelings that have so enamored me with cross in previous years.

It was with this attitude that I lined up against a strong field of twenty some odd category 3's and prepared to leave it all out on the course. The preride had shown a course that was thawing into a greasy skating rink with fantastic flow and a number of truly classic CX features to challenge and intimidate. This would be the real thing. My race strategy was to get towards the front off the line and try to mark wheels as the race wore on and hope that it would pay off with a decent result.

When the whistle sounded, we tore down the long pavement stretch and dumped onto the grass with Scooter taking the hole shot and me taking tenth wheel. A little further back than I wanted but I stayed calm and hoped the technical nature of the course would provide me with opportunities for progress. I moved up a bit through the 180's and the mud bog and successfully rode the hill that others chose to run. This put me into the top five with Alex Edwards pulling up front. Since he had won the 2/3 race at Jingle Cross last week, I was happy to be on the group and was feeling very comfortable up the stairs and through the twisting turns toward the end of the lap.
Going into the second lap, we had a group of six off the front and Dan Miller moved to the head. Since he had been riding so strong all season, I was happy to follow his wheel and try to stay within myself. Onto the second half of the lap, a rider from KC named Travis slotted himself between me and Dan and toward the end of the lap, a bit of a gap had opened to Dan's wheel. Given his remarkable progression and consistency this year, I thought he might ride away from us until Martin passed me on the pavement and told me to grab his wheel. He put in a big pull to get us back up to Dan and shredded the group in the process. I owe Martin some gratitude for the teamwork and it certainly contributed to my result. The SKC was dropped and Alex and Travis were about ten seconds back from our lead trio. I got around Martin on the 180's and got on Dan's wheel. Martin must have crashed somewhere because Dan and I had a gap halfway through the third lap. Surprisingly, I felt very strong and although Dan was clearly the better man, I was holding on and feeling really good.
The course was amazing and as we slid around corners and carved the twisties, I fully remembered the joy and love that cross brings me. The crowd was raging at all sections of the course as we rode wheel to wheel. Going into two laps to go, I assured Dan that I wasn't trying to suck wheel and was happy to be hanging on. He asked me if I had a pull in me on the pavement and I obliged when he said we'd ride this in together. We had a number of great battles last year in the B series and it felt great to be clear together, especially since he has stepped up to a whole new level this year.

Our gap continued to grow into the bell lap and it looked like a sprint finish was possible until I bobbled on the steep hill, giving him the gap that he needed to take home the jersey.
He absolutely deserved it and was by far the strongest in the race. If there's any excuse that I have to offer it's that he was simply stronger. No shame there. For myself, it was wonderful to rediscover both my cross legs and the love of the sport. This year has been tough for me and this was exactly what I needed to bring it all back in line. The support from the fans was amazing and the comments afterwards were truly inspirational. Much gratitude is due my wife who has been a fountain of support in my weekly endeavors and her Matt-centric garb for the day was as comical as it was touching. Mesa had a banner day, standing on 7 podiums and taking three wins, showing that we are by far the most consistent CX squad in town. It was a blast to cheer for the 1/2's after our race was over and bask in some of the festivities that my move to the a class had eliminated this year. A great day all around.
One more race to close out the season next weekend and then I'll take some time off to recharge for next year. I have a few ideas about what to do differently, but time will tell what result those ideas will bring. Thanks to everyone for the support all year and I really look forward to doing it all over again next fall.
Thanks very much to Chris Ludwig and Mike Dawson for these pictures of myself that I spent all day scouring the internet for.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bubba #9 at Bellefontaine

Hmm, what to think about this season and this race in particular? I was somewhat disappointed with my ride on Sunday despite having reasonably good legs and a truly enjoyable course. Did I go to far in the preceding week? Have the external forces and lack of rest in my life over recent months taken as much of a toll as I think? Did my back going out Friday keep me down? Am I making excuses? Have I improved at all this year? Has everyone else's massive leaps made it hard for me to assess? I don't really know the answer to these questions. I am relatively satisfied that I have remained consistent start to finish. My legs have felt better and better through the season but one variable or another have prevented me from truly realizing my potential, or at least the potential that I like to think I have. I don't really know. I would have liked to have done better Sunday, the legs were there, the back wasn't and I crashed three too many times. Regardless, I finished in a familiar spot (13th), so some consistency was maintained. I really wanted to crack the top ten this year, but that will have to wait ten months. At least I picked up three dollars in primes, so I got that going for me. We'll see if a bit of a taper week will bring out the benefits of the last couple weeks of training. State championships this weekend and then the season closer in Washington. They're both 3's races so I'm hoping for a couple good rides but I'm looking at the rest of this season as a transition to a hopefully new level next year and moving forward. If that level never comes, it's ok, but hopefully I can find the joyous enthusiasm of CX season's past. On to 2010... Congrats to Martin, Dave, Drew and CC on a series of strong rides all season. It's great being teammates with you guys and hopefully we can get that '08 comraderie back for '10.