Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Race Report -- Cyclocross National Championships by Kirk Groves (@LSVLKirk)

Ever since it was announced that Cyclocross Nationals were going to be
held in Boulder I've wanted to participate. I wouldn't travel to race
CX Nats, but with the event in Boulder at Valmont, I HAD to participate.
First, to be eligible for Nats, I had to upgrade from a 4 to a 3.
Going into the 2013 season I had zero upgrade points. It took longer than I
expected as a result of chain issues, crashes and a rolled tubular,
but I got finally accumulated the points and upgraded in December.

As you'd expect for a high profile event like Nats, the course at
Valmont was top-notch. In addition to the inclusion of the gravel pit,
the steps and the stairs, there were brand new, never used before
lines. There was one off-camber section and one short descent that
were unlike anything we've seen included in a Valmont course before.
The course was both technically and physically demanding. It was
certainly a course worthy of hosting Nats.

By the time of my race, the 40-44 age group, most of the snow from the
previous weekend had melted. My race started at 9 and at the beginning
of the race we had to deal with frozen ruts. As the race progressed,
the ground started to thaw and become a little slick. My race was one
of the largest of the week, roughly 120-130 started.
My first and foremost goal for the race was to have fun and enjoy the
cool atmosphere. Otherwise my goals were modest, hold off the leaders
as long as possible before getting pulled. My race plan was to go out
like my hair was on fire and then hold on for dear life. I was called
up 85th which placed me in the 11th row. It felt like I was in the
20th row, the front of the race was so far away.

The race started and I made my way through the mess down the
start/finish stretch. At the first corner there was a wreck. I don't
know what happened but all I could see was a riderless bike laying
across the trail. Fortunately I was able to navigate around the wreck
cleanly and continue to gain positions up the long climb. I wasn't at
the front of the race, but all things considered, I had an amazing
start. I could hear spectators counting places. Twice I heard I was in
25th place. My race plan was working.
At the same time I realized my pace was unsustainable. A fade was
inevitable. I lost spots, in bunches. Between miscues (a couple
bobbles in slick off-camber corners and small crash on a section of
black ice) and just not not the power to hold position, I was moving
backwards. I wasn't losing spots in the more technical sections of the
course but the power stretches were killing me. Just after the 2nd
time past the pit with 2 to go I was passed by a BCS rider. He quickly
got a 2-3 second gap on me. As I got to the corner before the
start/finish stretch the BCS rider was allowed to continue racing, I
was pulled. I ended up the top pulled rider, in 68th.

I'm happy with the experience and my result. Looking at the results,
the riders who finished in front of me deserved to be there. I
recently upgraded to a 3 and many in the race were 1s, 2s and super
strong 3s. I ended up getting a good result given my fitness.

Of course the only people in the crowd were there to support other
racers, and the crowd was a small fraction of that for the Elite race
on Sunday, but nevertheless, it was certainly the largest crowd at any
race I've done. The atmosphere was amazing. The run up the Belgian
Stairs was epic -- all the sound and people. I could hear people
cheering for me but I didn't even know who they were.

I have lots of folks that I need to thank. Jon, Your support before
and during the race was awesome, allowing me to focus on the race! JD
-- Thanks for keeping my bikes running all season and coming out to
cheer. You got some great photos! Brad -- With your coaching I
qualified for the race and made a decent showing. I recall thinking 2
years ago I'd race 4s for the rest of my life, my ceiling was a
competitive 4.

I've raced at least once every weekend (except one) since the first
week of September. I'm looking forward to some rest and recovery
before ramping up for 2014, but at the same time I'm going through
'cross withdrawal right now.

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