My first race of the season this year, Mellow Johnny's Classic, was also the opening round of the 2013 USAC Pro Cross-Country Tour. Held in the always beautiful hill country surrounding Austin, TX. I went into the race this year much stronger and more confident than last year. The course is super fun, high speed with a fair amount of climbing and enough rocks to make any east coast mountain biker smile.
Being my first race of the year I was nervous to see how my start would go. I've just started to do VO2 work for the season and I was surprised to see that I was moving up rapidly from my fourth row start. No sooner than everyone was up to full speed, the race took on the scene of a beachhead invasion with a massive crash involving about a quarter of the field. I don't know if i've ever avoided a crash by a narrower margin. Someone's bike came flipping through the air; their back wheel flying close enough to my face that I felt the air coming off of it. Holy $#^%!
|If you look close at the center of the field you can see things starting to go south.|
Having narrowly avoided disaster, I made it into the single track somewhere in the upper teens or low twenties. I continued to work my way up over the course of the next two laps, ultimately moving up to around 15th position. I could smell the UCI points!
Not quite mentally prepared to suffer like a dog for the entirety of the race, I was just tapping out a hard but steady tempo. Holding back just a bit on the climbs and absolutely blasting the descents. Also, have I mentioned that I love being back on a full-susser? My new Scott Spark RC 29er is perfect for my riding "style", i.e. picking the worst freaking lines at breakneck speed. Cause riding smooth is for chumps.
At some point in the first lap and a half, presumably while doing my best Steve Pete impression, I managed to cut my rear tire on the top of the tread. I had intentionally elected to run tires with extra protection due to the abundance of sharp rocks on course here. Alas it was to no avail as by my second time through the Strava climb I had to stop and dig out my inflater.
By the time I finally got my inflater out of my jersey pocket and blasted my tire, I had lost about a minute and 10 or so positions. I stayed calm and immediately started chasing, gradually reeling lost positions back in. On my third time through the Strava KOM, I had to again air my tire up as it hadn't fully sealed the first time around. I lost more valuable time and positions.
As it would turn out, today just wasn't going to be my day. After airing up my tire for the second time, I managed to twice drop my chain and then for the first time in my life, have a contact fall out of my eye. Frustrated and half blind I angrily finshed out the remaining laps while miraculously avoiding smashing into any trees. That my friends, was a feat in and of itself.
In the end I finished up the race in 30th position, about 15 places better than last year! I was disappointed at my luck but very stoked on my performance. I know things are going in the right direction because even in the face of so many technical problems, I still had one of my best national level finishes. My fitness is at an all time high and I can't wait to tear it up in Bonelli Park this coming weekend at the second stop of the Pro XCT.
On the whole, the trip was an overwhelming success; I got to make a bunch of funny faces while riding my bike, reacquainted myself to the idea suffering through a race effort and got to eat breakfast tacos and Texas BBQ with my wonderful hosts (Thanks Shannon, Tim and Angie, ya'll are the best)!
Now off to L.A., heres to giving it 110% this weekend!