The cyclocross season is underway (sort of) here in Missouri and this past weekend kicked it off with arguably the best race all year, Hermann night cross. The plan for this year's event was a two day affair with the traditional night race Saturday night and a day race the following Sunday. I had started my cross preparation a few weeks earlier than last year to avoid the physical agony I experienced in 2009 and to satiate my legs that have been under raced all year. I showed up not knowing how it would go, but had felt pretty good at cross practice the preceding Tuesday so I was ready to have a good time.
We lined up for a pavement drag race, somewhat uncommon around here, with close to thirty cat 3's. The siren blared as we took off down the road and into a stretch of carving chicanes before a 180 that led to a few long grassy drags before the infamous stair climb. I started reasonably well, around 8th wheel heading into the grass. A few bobbles by some riders in front of me put me into the top six and I started to reassess my goal of a top ten into a top five. After the stair climb and sand pit, I worked my way to fifth and eventually fought my way around to fourth. I was hanging on to Scooter, waiting for the other shoe to drop and my legs to give in, but I continued to feel good. As a gap opened a bit to second wheel, I pulled through and closed it before setting off in pursuit of Schilling, who had gapped the field, through the start finish of the third lap. We climbed the stairs together and I thought it best to take my own line through the sand which put me in front. There were numerous twists and turns after the sand which I could take a clean line through, eventually providing me with a reasonable gap at lap's end. I was a little skeptical about being in front for the remaining five laps, but I felt better than I had in years and just decided to go for it and see where it ended up. I buried myself on the long straightaways to keep the gap in place, confident that the twisting second half would play to my advantage. The gap grew throughout the rest of the race and I took my first win since 2008. It was all a bit surreal as it happened and I felt as if in a bit of a trance. The course flowed perfectly and I was having an immensely good time on the cross bike again. The support from friends was amazing and I don't think I've enjoyed a race so much in quite a while.
Unfortunately, some torrential storms and subsequent flash floods cancelled day two and ruined the park in the process. It's a shame as the Hermann races are top notch and neither the promoter or those camping deserved that kind of end to the weekend. Hopefully, repairs can be made and we'll be back opening our 2011 account at the same venue.
As for me, I am more excited to race this season than I have been in a long time. Much as I complained about it at the time, I think a lack of MTB season is going to work out well. I am making plans to go to Louisville USGP and Nationals and I have upgraded my license to a Category 2. It feels exceptional to have worked hard enough to have earned that and I really can't wait to see where the season takes me. Here it comes...