Not having the greatest road season in 2012, I decided to focus more on cross in the fall and have fun with it. Back in October, registration opened up for the Master’s Cyclocross World Championships. The races were being held in Louisville, not too far away, and I think should I? I chatted with Coach Randy Warren about it, and he was like why wouldn’t you. So decision made, I register and started focusing on worlds.
Fast forward 3 months or so, the bike is all cleaned up, things are loaded up, and we’re ready to head south to Louisville. Two other teammates, Andy Anderson and Chris MacFarland, are racing as well, and we’re all looking to have a great time in Louisville. Tuesday afternoon sees rain in Chicago, delaying getting on the road and getting down south later than expected after forgetting my toiletries bag and a few other things. That night torrential downpours set in to the area, topped off with tornado sirens a little after 4 am Wednesday morning. Not exactly the best lead in for my qualifying heat.
Wednesday morning after a short sleep, I’m up early with both boys, and tired. Decided to skip the 8 a.m. pre-ride session and grab breakfast. Light rain is still falling from the sky. Andy and I head over to pick up our race numbers. While picking them up, we hear about some of the damage the storms have done. The whole course was supposedly under a couple inches of water and starting races were delayed 2 hours. Silver lining to the storm clouds though, through the random draw, I’d be the 3rd rider called up for my heat. So we drove over to check out the course. Organizers and volunteers were hard at work doing what they could to get the course in a ride-able shape. There was a lot of water on the course, and it was sure to be a sloppy, muddy, good time.
After some good time in the pool “relaxing” with the boys, we headed back over around noon to check out the course. The amount of mud and slop was really indescribable. I’ve really never seen a course like that. With the conditions, not wanting to spend time cleaning the bike twice in one day, and multiple racers advising to absolutely not do it, I opted out of the pre-ride. Heat races had also been cut from 3 laps to 2 laps to make up for the delay in the morning. Got in a good warm up, seeing several pros riding around the area, and then rolled to staging on my sweet new PSIMET tubulars. Top 24 in the heat advance to Friday. I haven’t had many front line starts in cross, but I could definitely get used to the view up there. Unfortunately my awesome wife was lugging 2 boys around in the mud and missed the great photo op. Whistle blows and we’re off. The start is on pavement for 65 meters or so, into a pond of mud. Water and mud everywhere (just like when your mom told you not to ride in the rain), it was good to be in the front here, and shortly into it is where the pace slowed. It was like riding through sand the whole lap, and though only 2 laps long, one of the hardest races I’ve ridden. I finished 14th, so I was in and very happy about it.
Wednesday night and all day Thursday a cold front moved in to the area. There were some good snow showers passing through the area, but not accumulating. That afternoon, we rode over to check out course conditions. Temps were dropping throughout the day, and the course was still sloppy with temps hovering around freezing. We picked up our numbers for the championship that afternoon, I had 42nd in the callup after times from all 3 heats were tallied. Went to bed hoping for the course to harden up overnight.
Friday morning came and woke up to a light dusting of snow. I drove over to check out the course shortly after breakfast. The course was frozen solid for the early races, with ruts everywhere and ice where puddles of water were the day before. Unfortunately with the forecast of mid-20s and lots of sunshine, I didn’t think it would last. After lunch, we headed over to warm up and get ready, and as I had suspected, the course was back to a slow, grinding slopfest. Got a good warm up on the trainer under the tent out of the elements and then headed to staging. Starting in the middle of the pack I planned to get as far up the front as I could after the whistle. A slight chilly delay in our new, slick Pactimo skinsuits, and then we were off. Immediately off the pavement into the slop, a guy goes does right in front of me. Through some luck I squeaked by. The slop seemed to be even slower than Wednesday. Rounding a corner into the hole shot, I hear another crash beside me, and then another one behind me. I’d made it through all of those safely and started focusing on the next rider in front of me. About 1/3 of a lap through, I dismounted to run. Some sections were faster on foot that trying to pedal through the wheel sucking mud. I thought wow, this bike seems really heavy. The mud was piling up at an alarming rate, and freezing hard as concrete to the bike. My brakes were frozen stiff with the mud and I had to dismount to go down the couple hills. Things only continued to get worse as the second lap came to an end and I was pulled. I think only the top 10 riders actually finished the whole race. The guys who were still out there had pit crews working feverishly, and were changing bikes twice a lap. Without that kind of support, there was no hope to finish. Final results had me listed at 55th, which although a little bummed due to the conditions, I was very happy with that finish. I was more focused training and preparing for these races than I ever have been and very satisfied with the level of fitness I’d brought to the race. Sometimes the intangibles have a different plan for your day. Hey, that’s racing.