Ah, rest. A term all of us cyclist are familiar with. Your body must rest in order to recover and return stronger. Makes sense right? Do you rest as much as you should? I do! Oh man, I love rest weeks. When I get a rest week and it says ride/or not, I tend to NOT. Feels so good. We spend so much time the previous weeks structuring our days around riding that it feels really, really good, for me at least, to not ride and NOT feel guilty about it. An extra cup of coffee in the morning, a second breakfast, extra snuggles with my dog…and my cat…and my roommates cat. Ok, forget that last part. My point is I like rest. Not as much as I like riding though and since my last update, I had a week of rest that I wasn’t really planning on.
Coming off my best result of the year at Astoria, the Cross Crusade headed to Hilsboro to race around the fair grounds. Some people still associate this race with the first years route through the horse poop coral. We just like to keep things interesting here in Oregon. I remember it because last year my car broke down on I-5. After taking my cross bike off the top, riding a strip club side hill to the off ramp to secure an alternator belt, I was rescued by a perfectly timed Tim Jones who had just popped the hood as I rode back up with the part in hand. Following the rescue, we lined up for the familiar race around in pseudo circles. Then I broke my derailleur hanger. Close to the pit though, so that was nice. I finished that year on my single speed. Good times.
This year was a different story. Front row start. Nice! Not too much bad luck (unlike last years string of crap). Nice! Some extra fast guys showing up. Uh…nice? We took off from the gun with Shannon taking the lead and the rest of us following him around. The first lap is always tricky. You can pre-ride, but you never hit the corners as fast as you do when you’re racing. At some point I decided to try and push the pace and took the lead. Maybe ¾ of the way through the lap? Not sure. It’s always a good feeling when you can help make those first splits. I led through the finish and in to the trickiest part of the course. A slow 180 to a muddy side hill. As I carefully navigated my way to the bottom of the side hill, I realized that I was the only one riding. Dang. I hadn’t thought of running that part. I was promptly passed and settled in to 4th place. A foreshadowing of what was to come. I rode out the hill, only hopping off for the last little rise. For every other lap, I would run the hill and it was much more effective!
What followed was chasing Shannon, Ian, Adam McGrath and Babcock for the majority of the race. I rode with Sean until lap 3. Up to that point, I felt great and the lead was within striking distance. All of a sudden, I found myself alone in 5th place. I didn’t think the other guys attacked and I didn’t feel like I slowed down, but at least one of the two things happened. All alone. Lucky for me, Tuckerman, Reeb and Luelling were gunning for me. Lucky! Anyway, I yo-yoed just in front of those guys the whole time. Kinda stressful to be honest. One mistake and all of a sudden I’m racing for 8th instead of 5th. Come to think of it, I did a nice endo by the finish line, but was able to get back up and moving without losing a spot. Close call!
With two to go I noticed that McGrath had slowed and I gradually ticked him back. When I made contact I didn’t wait long and accelerated past. He didn’t grab my wheel and that was it. I’d moved up to fourth place with a lap and a half to go. I was able to hold that spot and was pretty stoked! The result matched my 4th from the previous week, but was against a tougher field. I’ll take it!
Enter my extra rest. For some reason, following 2 months of training, working and traveling every weekend, everything caught up with me and I got sick. This was not part of the plan! Not cool. Plus, I had an extra shift at work. For some reason, I don’t like calling in sick, but maybe I should have. It could have been the difference of having a head cold for 2 days vs. the entire week. Oh well, lesson learned, and for my Saturday shift, I did cut out early to rest up for the Crusade finals. I was lining up with a shot at 5th overall, rested legs, and a clogged head.
Barton, Barton, Barton. I think every year I consider racing my clinchers at this venue and every year I stay with the tubulars. Unfortunately, it has proven the wrong choice 3 times over the years. Twice in the last 3 years, I’ve flatted within striking distance of a good result. This was one of those years. My first mistake was not pumping up my wheels myself and not double checking the psi. Why did I switch up my routine? Second mistake was not wearing my glasses for the start. This course is a road race where soup mud is flinging in your face the entire time that you’re not on the front. I was immediately blind. Oops.
I settled in to my group chasing Shep, Tuckerman and Ian. Shannon had flatted early and his teammate Tuckerman launched in a bid to move up in the overall. A brilliant move that stuck. Kudos to him for taking that race by the balls and calling Ian out to defend his 3rd place overall. For 5 of 8 laps we raced around with our group changing a little here and there. My goal was to beat Luelling, Tuckerman and Gallagher. Tuckerman had left everyone except Shep in his dust, but the others were in my group. Ben attacked on the long gravel straight and Ian went with him. I was annoyed since I was on the front and no one reacted, including myself. I was a bit gassed at that moment and the race for 3rd went up the road.
Eventually my legs came around and I was ready to see who I could shake. I started upping my efforts and was feeling good about my situation. That’s when it happened. Rolling in to the long run up at the finish my race ended. I didn’t notice it until I set my bike down at the top. I was in the front and ready to go, but my front wheel just sank and so did my motivation. I went over the barriers and thought for a second that I could hang with my flat to the pits. Not too far off after all, right? Wrong. I had already flatted my brand new tubular, I didn’t want to ruin my wheel too. 2 of the 3 that I needed to beat rode away on one of the fastest parts of the course. I stopped. That was a decision that I would end up feeling regret about the whole next week. The Crusade had started with a bang and ended with a whimper. At least I was first in line for the hose! Side note: I had a blast screaming myself dizzy for all the junior racers who traveled from Bend with Bend Endurance. So awesome to see all of the kids out having fun with us.
It’s hard sometimes to not think about the “what ifs”. What if I hadn’t crashed at Alpenrose? Would I have held 2nd? Would Rainier and the following races had gone better? Who knows? What I do know, is that I lined up at every race expecting to do well and to push myself further than I had in the past. Alpenrose gave me a confidence that I didn’t have before this year and I’m carrying that in to the USGPs, nationals and next year. I had my best races, best results and best overall Crusade (7th) this year and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.