I decided to drive up Saturday morning, waking super early with my bride as she was prepping for her first half marathon in South Denver. The drive up was uneventful, but a low hanging light mist settling over the fields transformed our eastern plains into something resembling the Flemmish region. ( OK, I was daydreaming while driving ).I arrived plenty early for a little course recon and warm up prep. I quickly suited up and jumped on the course prior to the Cat2/3 race and found the course to be mostly treacherous but found if I had just loosened up a bit and gave the bike a little freedom to wander in the frozen deep ruts that it was do-able. Then the sun came out.
By our race time, the course had turned into a quagmire with the classic mix of clay and prairie grass that sicks to anything in sight and makes for great frontier style adobe homes. I was privy to a 4th row starting position and had one of the best starts I've had this season. A huge hole opened up before we even hit dirt and I was able to make some serious forward progress. First left corner into the mud, I see a number of guys go down on my left and now I'm well in the top third of the field. Bike is feeling good, loving the conditions, I'm getting great traction with the Rhino's and then a push super hard into a right hander only to feel the front end push..and push..and push. and finally I go down in a heap. My heart rate is pegged and I make a feeble attempt to mount the bike from the right (something I've never even tried to do in the best of conditions). I completely shank the remount, then run around the bike to the proper side and get back on with a stutter start. For whatever reason, that was it, I was completely redlined, head down, watching heaps of riders pass without any power to make chase. The course had beat me down and I muddled through in 41st position out of some 60 starters.
I spent my evening time prior to dinner cleaning junk out of my drivetrain after a thorough washing at the venue. I was having serious doubts about my decision to travel to Bend this year after turning in a performance like Saturday. Granted most of you know that I don't obsess about podium placements but I do very much care about trying to put out a decent effort on the course and I felt that I've been denied of that during the past 2 races. I just had one speed and that one was slow. Had I been racing too much ? Is there some virus lurking in my system that hasn't morphed into something larger yet ? Part of me wanted pack it in and head South just to not have to deal with a repeat of Saturday.
I spent a good long time sitting on my trainer Sunday morning patiently looking for some energy, I woke up pretty stiff and sore and wanted to take my own sweet time to stoke the engine. I didn't do any openers during the warmup, no test of the system to make sure I had a green light mostly because I figured I'd see a yellow or red light show up. Start time arrived with sunny skies and warming temps. I didn't pre-ride the course but heard about a couple of re-routes and a little less mud than yesterday. The gun went off and again, I had decent start and steered clear of trouble as again riders were hitting the deck left and right. My compadre, Matt Klick who typically sits in the top 5 in the Cat 3's was continually yelling at me on Saturday to just be smooth, stay upright, don't be a spaz. I kept these words in my head all day Sunday and it paid off in spades. I had dumped a bit more pressure out of the tires and the course was definitely faster, but Sunday was pure cross heaven. Railing turns, tons of power, feeling spry, avoiding pileups and having an absolute blast racing my bike. On a double weekend of racing, I typically benefit from Saturdays effort on Sunday and this weekend was no exception. Best I've felt in a long time and rolled through in 29th. Go figure.
For the most part, a fantastic weekend with old and new friends, can't wait until next weekend for the next opportunity test ourselves, against ourselves. Thanks for reading, thanks for a great USGP event, and thanks for everyone showing up to either yell from the tape or pin on a number in support of US cyclocross