Photo from Kevin Dillard. Cyclocross in July? Lobsters on the East Coast. At the New Jersey's State Fair? Sounds like a recipe for getting beer battered, deep fried and eaten out of a trough. Dangers aside, I thought it sounded like an awesome way to kick off the season a little early. So a group of us piled into a car and drove through the night to the State Fair where we would be greeted by deep fried twinkies, prize winning cattle and the first annual SpectaCross races.
Before the racing was to start, I had been asked to teach a beginners cyclocross clinic, which was pretty exciting. I feel like the last few seasons have been a huge learning experience for me and it would be cool to pass on some of the tricks I had picked up. Plus, if I could relay just part of my enthusiasm for the sport, the folks who attended the clinic will be hooked for life. Running from the rain wasn't the best way to start, but it was alright because there was a lot to talk about before the actual demonstration needed to happen. Which is the sexiest smelling embrocation. Which skinsuit brand shows off your butt the best. The correct method to getting mud out of your hair. This is a very fashionable affair and we needed to make sure we looked our best. After the rain had let up, we moved back into the field where I got to demonstrate all the fun that goes into a cyclocross race: smashing my nuts, bruising my shoulder and arms and tripping over things. It was a ton of fun, but there was racing to be done as well!
Friday night's racing was a short event at 30 minutes, under the lights and in the mud. The rain from earlier had let up, but it left small ponds of mud in the arena that normally showcased tractor pulls and demolition derbies. The promoter had used neon colored fabric tubes to mark the course leaving me wondering where the disco ball and go-go dancers had gone. It wasn't long before it was down to buisness though and the promoter was counting down from ten as we all stood ready on the start line. I got caught up in some others little first race jitters, but was able to work my way up to the front rather quickly in the first lap. I had not even made it through the first couple corners before I had mud (or maybe it is pig crap) in my teeth, this is pure cyclocross! As every race is, the whole time is a blur. Lap after lap went by super fast as the laps were short. It was a blur until I hit the deck in one of the greasy grassy corners, which was unfortunate because I was still leading the race. I lost a couple places and sat in third, but with a decent amount of the race left I knew I could claw my way back. I kept the pace high and managed to make my way back into second place, but there just wasn't enough time in the race left to contest the lead again. Either way, it was fast racing against some fast East Coast racers and I was happy with my second place.
Saturday was going to be a completely different story. The sun was out and sweltering. The earlier races had packed down the dirt in the arena and the course went from slippery and slow, to smooth and FAST. The start was much more traditional as well, with a 30 second warning and the gun at random. I took the wholeshot and made it into the arena first which felt great. The pressure in my front tire however did not feel so great and I was loosing ground rapidly. I made it through the first lap in front, lost my lead switching bikes, but still had contact with the leader. Over the next few laps though, my race took some bad turns and I lost contact with the front group of three. Then somewhere in there I got passed by another couple guys. With the lap cards coming down, I refocused my efforts and started gaining back some of the ground I lost, passing back into 5th place. Sadly, there just wasn't enough time left in the race for me to gain any more spots and 5th is where I finished.
It was an amazing event and an awesome start of my racing season. I feel much stronger and am excited to see how the fall goes. A few more intervals, some sprint work and then the start line!