Last weekend's 'cross race was not a lesson in perseverance, but a test of mettle. Multiple trips to the ground, hanging out well off the back of the race and periodically having to stop to remove clods of mud and grass in order to get the wheels to roll was a test of not giving in to the siren's song of dropping out. It is those times that mean you must be satisfied with simply completing what you started. DNF'ing is a slippery slope; each time you dropout, it gets a little easier to do it again the next time.
So I headed to the last race of the NC Cyclocross series on Sunday with an eye towards redeeming myself in my own mind. My previous race in Wilkesboro was not how I wanted to end my season. Those low points and bad performances can haunt you until the next season comes. I had a better race left in me and I needed to let it out.
After spending about 4 hours resurrecting my bike from all of the mud and crash damage suffered in Wilkesboro, I was shocked to get to Greensboro, hop on the bike and start hearing a loud and disturbing creak emanating from my bottom bracket. After borrowing some tools (thanks to Kerry Shields and the mechanics from the American Classic team), I got things right and set about warming up. Riding the trainer, listening to Girl Talk put doubts about the bike out of my head.
For some reason, the bright sunshine gave the illusion that it was warmer than it actually was. I arrived to the line with simply a long sleeve skinsuit to keep me warm. No gloves was my call and it was almost the wrong call as my hands got so cold that braking and shifting were difficult, but at least not impossible.
We took off from the line going up a paved climb and then swinging right on to a grass field. The course was undulating with lots of flowy turns on grass with a few patches of mud peeking through to keep you focused on your technique, a double sand pit and a nice set of stairs. There was little flat riding as the course was either going up or going down.
It was good, close racing as the course was open enough to see everyone around you. It is a lot of fun to see the people ahead of you as you chase them down and motivating to see the people behind you chasing you down. In other words, you couldn't let up for a moment. I rolled across the line in 8th place, having flirted with 5th, 6th, 7th, and 9th during the race. I didn't crash. The bike didn't explode or fall apart. And I redeemed myself with the best finish of the cyclocross season.
Thanks to Carroll Composites for the fantastic King Louie cyclocross frame and carbon wheels that I and the Fiets Maan Racing team have been on this season. The King Louie is hands down the best cyclocross frame I have ever raced and it has been a pleasure to ride it every time I have swung my leg over the top tube. The cyclocross specific carbon wheels have proven to be light, fast and confidence inspiring with their wider rim bed to get more glue surface for the tire to adhere to. They've never even hinted at allowing the tire to peel off the rim.
With the close of Cyclocross season, I'd like to encourage you to get out there and race this coming season. You've got 7 months to get ready...