At our Jackson Park race, I pre-rode the course before the 3s race began with Liam, and as soon as the staging area cleared, we grabbed our rain jackets and food, and staked out our spots a full fifty minutes before our race began. Really? YES!! We weren’t the only ones. Soon, eight to ten other racers lined up within minutes after us, including the winner of that race. A good number of racers who would go on to finish in the top ten were standing in staging under a rainy sky. What’s the point? You do what you gotta’ do with 100 thirsty category 3 CXers. That includes all the little races before the whistle. I fixed my eyes on watching the official, because I knew he would call us up to the line, and a person could easily lose his or her spot in that quick moment. As soon as he made the motion for us to proceed, I raced to the line, and made it safely.

Because it was the first race of the series, Victoria was drawing names from a little sandwich bag of pre-regged racers. My name was drawn third! What luck! This was HUGE! Being on the front line ahead of mishaps makes all the difference. If a person makes one mistake in a packed cross race, they can count on losing spots. I like to think of it as a 1:3 ratio. Make one mistake, watch three people go by. Maybe that mostly applies to the little mistakes, but if you’re behind them, you’re in trouble. I did well at Jackson Park, getting my first cross podium. Also, Victoria, that race and call-up set the tone for the rest of my CCC series. Thanks, Victoria!

Since Jackson Park, I have been holding my own by consistently earning a call-up. But after a few 4-10 place finishes, I began to wonder if my form was fading. Nonsense! Listen to Coach Randy, people! Do your base miles and drills during the winter and obey the rest week all year long! A racer doesn’t need to “lose fitness” and not be competitive. We can be fast all year and fastest during two or three planned periods. Randy also helped me by reminding me to make sure I have a plan to beat the competition if riding together on the last lap. For example, the top three finishers at Sunrise Park all made moves to earn the podium. I was there with them, but only followed along matching moves. You gotta’ make the move when it comes down to the finish. Even though you taste puke and feel like you’re totally dying, and the thought of attacking is ludicrous, “You gotta’ die for twenty more seconds.”

So that brings us to Campton:

This is one of my favorite races in the CCC series; the Campton Cross race was well organized, offered racers interesting challenges, and was simply loaded with fun. Thanks Mr. Kelley and Bicycle Heaven for working hard to provide us with such an exciting day -and extra payout! I should also give a shout-out to the CCC director(s) and ALL the CCC promoters. Thank you!

While pre-riding the course with teammate Liam, we rode up the stairsteps side-by-side. I hopped my way up on the left and he rode up the far right side. When I got to the top, he was waiting for me, so that little experiment decided which side would be fastest. If you raced this course as a cat. 3 last year, you may remember a guy getting off his bike and shouldering it on the first lap, in an idiotic attempt to run the steps. That was me. My chain fell off, the group left me in silence, and childish temper-tantrum ensued. Stick to the plan, man!

I also noticed that three of the turns were somewhat misleading, because if you lined up the turns' valleys and peaks, a racer would be able to cut a nearly straight line right across the entire section. That equates to going faster. Also, while planning with teammate Luke (who is having a solid CX season breaking legs in two races every Sunday) he told me to line up on the packed gravel as it would be faster than the grassy side. Done.

I lined up next to Austin, the winner of ABD's Sunrise Park race, and who I have had the privilege of chasing around this fall. Just thinking about these top guys who line up are enough to give me the hibby jibbies. The whistle blew and my bars inched forward slightly beyond the chaos. Then I noticed my bike had space, and I knew I had nailed the hole-shot. I pedaled harder through the sweeper and braked hard for the hairpin turn. Because of the hole-shot, I was able to choose all my lines going through the woods. After the barriers, I put my head down and scraped together more power. After the double barriers, I was able to look back. They were all there and I thought we would soon form as group. Until then, however, I would continue to pedal A.H.A.P.

During the second lap, I noticed David had glued himself to my wheel which gave me additional confidence. The two of us had widened the gap between us and the sharks. David has been crushing all of us in many of the races, so I thought if I was riding with him, I was doing okay. He gurgled some advice to me through turns, and you better believe that I accepted and followed through. As we approached the barriers, I dismounted and jumped while David levitated and sailed over the barrier. It was amazing. By the time I had climbed back up upon my bike, he had twenty meters on me, which meant I had to chase him down in the wind. On the next lap, he did the same, but only a tad slower. Once, David reminded me to work together, which I wanted to do but had just led through the woods and uphill barrier section. I reminded him of that and he took the lead into the wind. I was really tired and thankful David pulled on this windy section. He surly didn't have to. My plan took on a slightly devious tone when I looked back at the next rider coming. Liam. I had my teammate closing in fast. I would sit on the wheel and wait for a while. Our pace slowed slightly, and when we turned around the soft-ball backstops out back, I told David I would come through and pull. He agreed. "Hup, hup. Here we go," I managed. I thought that if Liam hadn't joined by then, we would have to pick it up -on account of the shark pack. Chase, our impressive overall leader, was also breathing down our necks. There have been several races now where he went by me like a laser; for a while, I thought this race would be no different.

We went through the woods and I begin to feel better, going through the finish line area as fast as possible. I rode the last two laps alone easing up a bit in order to concentrate and take no added risks, as Luke reminded me while racing. I hit my pedal on a tree on the last lap, and also snagged it on the grass while turning. I was also down to one contact lens. I received a ton of encouragement as I approached and passed lapped riders. Thank you! As I rounded the final sweeper the last time, I looked back just to make sure. No sprint needed. I turned the bend and raised my fists.