|Post-race, home-brewed goodness by Ian “The ’Cross Examiner” Prust. Photo by Steve Cummins.|
Winter is coming. We could feel it in the stiff wind out of the northwest today at Cam-Rock Cross in Cambridge, and the forecast for the next 10 days is a downward spiral that is likely to end with snow on the ground and temperatures that would be cold even for January. I don't handle the cold very well. But if today’s race was my “last hurrah” of 2014, then I am almost completely satisfied with what has been my best cyclocross season ever.
I took 3rd place out of 19 in the Cat 4 Masters 45+ group on a course that was nearly perfect for me: plenty of hammer-down sections and a couple of technical challenges that were real problems for some of my closest rivals. I extended my series points lead but I probably will need to do at least 1 of the final 3 races to keep it. And I don’t know if it’s worth keeping. There is no season-end award for the points leader in my category; it’s just a bragging rights thing. But maybe next week’s arctic blast will be fleeting and we’ll go back to our usual bad weather before the season ends. I don’t want to be done yet.
Today’s race began with a furious dash to the first turn, which bent to the left at nearly 180 degrees. Seven of us negotiated it cleanly while the rest of the field stacked up. For a lot of guys, the race was effectively over at that moment. Joe Vadeboncoeur (unattached), Barney Sheafor (Trek Midwest Team), Michael Mayer (Trek Midwest Team), West Bend's Troy Sable (unattached), Larry Gundlach (MadCity Racing), Mark Badger (Brazen Dropouts) and I were away. But soon Gundlach faded, a surprise since he rode so well just last weekend to win the Battle of Waterloo. Badger and I were nearly dropped on the first climb, but I worked my way back to Badger and then we bridged up to the others.
Halfway through Lap 1 we reached an interesting obstacle: a small log followed just a few feet later by a much larger log. Just as I had in practice, in the race I was able to ride over both logs. But it didn’t escape my notice that several of my rivals were forced to dismount. By remaining on the bike I was able to accelerate up the little climb on the other side of the logs while others struggled to remount and resume. By Lap 3 it looked like Vadeboncoeur, Sheafor and Mayer were gone. I was running with Sable and Badger when again I hopped over the logs and shot up the hill. That got Sable off my back but Badger was still too close for comfort. Trying to shake him propelled me forward early in Lap 4. I couldn’t lose Badger on the short hill early in the lap—it just wasn’t hard enough—but then I caught Mayer for 3rd place and that was very motivating. Crossing the logs for the final time, I hit the gas on the climb and got a good gap on Mayer and Badger. Heading for the final turn, I could see Sheafor just ahead but I ran out of racecourse. Vadeboncoeur took the win today, his 2nd win in the series this season. Mayer held off Badger for 4th, followed by Gundlach and Sable.
Oh, and …
On Friday afternoon I reached 5,000 miles of cycling, the 3rd time in the last 4 years I have hit that mark. I likely would have gotten there last year if not for the month lost to a collarbone fracture. My last mileage goal for 2014 is to exceed 5,113 and make this my all-time best year.