Eastern PA was treated to some incredible weather this past weekend. What better way to spend a Saturday AM than with some friends / rivals on a TOUGH cyclcross course? No one was there to shoot any pictures, but here’s a video from last year to give you some perspective: Phelps Cross 2009 Men\’s Cat 4 on Contour
I was on the fence about doing this race. Last year the course didn’t suit my style all that much and wasn’t very technical. It had some LONG power sections that ate me alive. My friend Johan talked me into it, so we headed down to Malvern PA to check it out. When we prerode the course and saw the changes we were both impressed. It was a course that combined power with some climbing and cornering skills to really put the hurting on you! I was racing with Johan, my training partner that has put the hurt on me many times before on a bicycle. We were racing the Masters 35+ / 45+ which included riders from Cat 1 to Cat 4. They were paying cash back to 7th place in our 43 man field, but I wasn’t worried about that…I wanted to prove the ever accurate race predictor at crossresults.com to be wrong. Johan and I were predicted to finish 8th/9th respectively.
Temps were in the mid 50’s w/ bright sunshine for our 11am start. I had a 2nd row start and hoped to get into the top 10 from the start. The gun went off and I got clipped in well, probably about 9th wheel into the first turn. I didn’t see Johan in front of me, but recognized most of the usual suspects up front. I didn’t want to lose contact early so I pushed myself pretty hard through the first hill, managing to grab the wheel of the lead bunch and fend off challengers from behind. By about midway through the first lap I had worked my way up to a solid 6th or so. Johan manged to sneak by me going into the back section. I had a strong climb and some good turns near the pit to come back around Johan. I saw Bradley and Jeff in front of us and yelled to Johan “let’s get them”. We made it by Jeff pretty quickly but Bradley was making it a 3 way battle for 5th and he wasn’t backing down.
As we passed the finish and got the 3 lap card we had finally broken free of Bradley and I was sitting 6th behind Johan but we had company, Glenn had caught us from behind. Each lap there were three climbs that just took everything out of your legs. As the race wore on I got better in the climbs…but they hurt more each time. Glenn snuck by us and we tried to stick to his wheel to no avail. The leaders were dangling about 20 seconds ahead of us but we couldn’t make time. Then after the run up with 2 laps to go, Johan muffed his remount and let me sneak by. I was watching his shadow behind me…..knowing sooner or later the inevitable would happen. Those last two laps I picked up the pace to hold him off and he picked up the pace to keep my wheel. All the while the leaders were dangling just in front of us. We had cracked the earlier charges of the riders behind us, it was Johan and I, mano y mano, sitting in 6th and 7th. I knew his weak area from earlier in the race and figured if I could charge that on the bell lap and get up the last climb smoothly it would be a sprint to the finish. Although I had never sprinted to the finish in a cross race….could I even throw down a good sprint?
As the last lap wound down I charged up the big / steep hill and held him at bay. I nailed the downhill and false flat afterward. If I could just make that last climb I had a chance. I made my way cleanly by the two lappers and into the final few turns with Johan glued to my wheel. Coming up the last little inlcine (my strong spot) I dropped two gears and stood up, now or never. Carried speed over the incline down onto the finish stretch. I could hear him breathing behind me, dropped two more gears and pedaled my butt off. We coasted across the line…6th and 7th….and exhausted. I had somehow managed to outsprint my own training parter, the guy who got me into cross two short years ago and the guy that drove me down there. None of that mattered, what mattered was the fact that that race saw us push each other faster and harder than we may have ever done. What mattered was the fact that this race will go down as one of our most fun, hardest fought cross races ever. We both collapsed trying to catch our breath. It was AWESOME. And what was more awesome….we both made out entry fee’s back in cash prizes….AND we BOTH proved the crossresults.com predictor wrong. TAKE THAT!
We’ll be telling stories about that race for a long time. Thanks to Kevin St. Clair for designing such an awesome course. Now to go home and rest up for Day 2…the Kutztown Cross!