Two more weeks of CX...
Well, really one full week off and then a week of training and racing.
After writing my thoughts on my 6 weeks season and coming to the obvious conclusion that it wasn't long enough (due to obviously still improving and needing more time off to recover between events). I decided the logical thing to do would be to take that full week off and race again. In my past life I remember sometimes feeling like I was chasing results too much. That after a bad performance I'd make too many sacrifices in order to atone and spend too much time and effort traveling/racing. Such a situation is often a good setup for a failure. I was mindful of that risk, but the situation for my going down to BadgerCross/"midwest cx championships" seemed too good a fit to worry about that risk. I was recovering well from my minor leg surgery, the weather was looking great, the course looked like fun, the timing was right etc. etc., plus I enjoy Madison.
I took the entire week off after Jinglecross. Literally, only riding 30 minutes Sunday night to head down to the bar.
I commuted every day last week,trained hard for 40 minutes Tuesday at Eastwood- making 6 hard laps of our practice course in the snow including the run-up and the sand and trained hard for about 25 Thursday again making laps in the snow. The warm-up/cool-down time plus commuting wound up at about 6 hours even. I focused on CX skills some as well- exactly how to shoulder my bike, the best form for remounting etc..
I already wrote about Saturday (see below).
I felt great warming up Sunday morning. I felt I could focus entirely on racing and not on CX or bike handling skills (I need to find that feeling on my MTB next year!). It also felt good to be on the front row with the call-ups! A few more "fast" guys had come in for Championship day. My strategy was to ride my own race the entire time, the course was open enough that the holeshot didn't seem super important and I also knew that I couldn't climb the steeper hill as fast as the much lighter juniors who would likely be around me up front. I would have to grind my way up that and make up ground on the more gradual power climbs, the run-up and the fast downhill sections. I had noticed the day before that Nordahl would easily gap me on the hill, but that I could pull him back quite a bit elsewhere and I figured that was just the way it had to be.
The race went very much as expected. I wasn't able to hang with the push of the leaders up the big hill and found myself doing my own thing in 4th. Then Mitch Nordahl passed me as if I wasn't moving while making a huge effort to get back to the front (he had bobbled at the start). I hoped I could reel him back in later at the time, but as it turns out he made a very strong push for the win. Meanwhile, I felt reasonably strong and ground along. I traded spots with two juniors from Louisville for most of the race. I was able to gap them with two laps to go, but blew it with a technical error in a corner that forced me to dismount. Then one of them had a shifting problem and had to switch bikes in the pit (wish I had two matching bikes!) and they fell back to me. The final lap came and one of them dropped me hard on the steep climb, but the other was right in front. I passed on the run-up and finished the rest of the lap comfortably between them, but unable to gain ground on the first. I was 6th. Too bad Nordahl wasn't able to pull off the win!
As an aside here- it has been fun watching the MN Juniors race over the last few weeks. Mitch Nordahl, Nils Boberg, Josey Weik, Alec Porter etc. have all had good races and shown improvement. I hope to see them all going faster next year in many of the races that I attend.
From a training/learning perspective I raced much better this weekend than previously. This was a stronger field than everything but the best day at Jinglecross and I was much more competitive. The usa cycling points system shows this as well where I scored about 225 each day vs. my previous best of 240 at Jinglecross and 255 at the State Championships. It's hard to gauge the meaning of those numbers vs. head to head racing with the same people, but I'm confident that I was much stronger than I had previously been. I think this underscored the importance of rest and that I really need to start the CX season a bit earlier next fall if I want to perform my best in MN. I hope I learned something overall that will help me prepare for important races.
I'm now 100% ready to do nothing but ride gravel/commuting base miles. I might have had lingering regrets about this year if I hadn't gone last weekend but feel great about ending the year on the upswing rather than with 2/3 DNF at Jinglecross. Now I just have to deal with my own expectations for how next spring should go.
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