This weekend, the plan was to race both days, as usual, at the Highlander Cross Cup down in Waco. Originally, the intent was to spend the night in Waco and save 4-5 hours of driving in the car commuting from DFW down to Waco on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out as planned and I was only able to get down for Saturday’s race.
I remembered well from last year how hard this course is. And this year’s edition was no different. If anything, it was tougher than last year. Coach Christina told me after she finished her race that it was the toughest course she remembered doing. For me… now at the end of my first full season of cross and a starter season last year it was clearly the hardest course I have ever ridden, bar none.
This course had it all. Wide open, flat out power sections in deep grass, Belgian stairs (two sets), tricky descents and lots and lots of climbing. Some of the climbs were just that… simple grinders that just sucked the life out of you one pedal stroke at a time. Others were short, steep and in loose soil or gravel. And all said, there was really no place to rest.
The race started off well enough for me, I was able to hang with the group the first time up the long grinder to the finish line, move up a few spots on the descents through the technical-ish section and then on one of the bumpy, rough descents, I dropped my chain. And what should have taken a handful of seconds to fix took seemingly forever. My gloves kept getting stuck between the chain and the chain rings and twice I thought I had the chain back on only for it to fall back off.
The guys that I had been racing with disappeared into the distance and effectively, my race was over right there. I settled back into a good rhythm, trying not to blow up in my attempt to bridge back up and just make up a little bit of time at each different section.
I was starting to get a good feel for the course and the lines to take on my 3rd lap through, and had just started the long grinder to the finish when I got lapped by the two leaders – who were on their last lap. And my race also ended at the top. It was a mixed blessing. On one hand, I was 100% completely and totally gassed at the top. I couldn’t even stand up as they were collecting the timing chip. On the other hand, I wanted to crest that hill, recover and finish one more lap so I could finish on the lead lap, albeit a ways behind the leaders.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda, had I not had that chain issue on the first lap, I believe I was far enough ahead of the guys lapping me that I would have crossed the finish line before they finished their last lap… which would have allowed me to continue on and get one more lap in. But that’s not how it played out and it is what it was.
I figured, no big deal. Come back down Sunday and hit the race hard, and finish on the lead lap. And as you know, that didn’t quite work out either. Again, it’s a bittersweet end to the CX season. I have learned a lot, gotten stronger than last year, had a ton of fun – and, outside of a handful of occasions of dropping my chain – had zero mechanical issues.
Hats off to the staff from the Texas Cross Syndicate for making such a challenging, fun course. You can tell it’s a labor of love for Jeff and the crew.
I took today off the bike and I’m jonesing to be training hard again already.
I think there’s going to be some mountain bike racing in my future and I can’t wait to toe the line once again in 2017.