Race reports can be very self-serving. “I am a bad ass because I suffered in the rain and mud while you watched football on Sunday.” The truth is it can be really fun. Even those of us towards the back have our own reasons to be there and our own little week-to-week battles. It beats Fantasy Football and it provides great entertainment for those who like to drink beer and yell at people riding and carrying their bikes in the cold and mud.
Sunday morning dawned dark, wet, and cold. The good news was that the rain and clouds kept the temperatures above freezing. The bad news was I did not want to get out of the car.The Woodlands course climbs and descends on an old landfill and features several off-camber turns through the trees or down the hills. There is a good variety of climbing sections to recovery sections that meander up and down the hill that now hosts a Frisbee golf course. The recovery sections were twisty and challenging but still provided a respite which Saturday’s course never seemed to offer. A few wet clay sections keep things very interesting but overall the course has enough speed and variation to make it fun for both racers and spectators. The run up was a slippery affair full of spectators surrounding a large propane heater, hot chocolate, and beer.
After the start, I quickly found myself in the my rightful position somewhere around tenth. Soon the top guns were pulling out of sight and I found myself no man’s land.Around the second lap, I caught my nemesis of the last two years, Corvin Alstot from Houston. He seemed to be having“a moment” after the quick opening lap. Historically, I can ride with Corvin until the last couple of laps where he usually pulls away and leaves me for dead. Although, I had promised myself to race smarter, save my matches, and not ride past him in an adrenaline-filled state which usually leaves me sputtering as the riders I pass motor away, I went by him in the hopes of demoralize him like he had done to me the previous day (and the whole year and most of last season). I managed to pull away by a few seconds in some sections only to have him come back (and past me) on others on the varied course.
I figured out I was faster on the slipperiest off-cambers and had a few good lines going into some slippery clay single track where I could gain some time. He would manage to catch me on the tighter turn sections and barriers while I had a little advantage on the hills and the run-up. The course turned back on itself numerous times so you could always have a good idea where the other rider was.
He caught me towards the 2 lap to go mark and quickly went right past me. The day before, he had come from nowhere only to ride right past me and disappear on the last lap. He had beaten me all year and it was getting to that point in the race where one really has to decide how badly you want something. My thoughts fluctuated between the defeatist “Here we go again” to “I can outride him on the off cambers and single track”. My legs were feeling relatively good and I was actually able to recover from some of the harder efforts while still pushing on the power sections. We went back and forth a few times and I would pull away when in front only to have him catch me. I managed to keep him close when he would take the lead so I was feeling optimistic (or at least hopeful) that I could hang on and at least make a race out of it.
On the last lap, with Corvin, once again, breathing down my neck and my heart rate well into the zone of discomfort, I knew my only hope was to get some time on the more technical sections and hope I could hang on in the other parts. Approaching the sketchiest and fastest of the wet off cambers- a long sweeping right hander leading a straight that provided both speed and recovery if you could hold your speed-I squared off the entrance, put my foot out and let it fly with a nice controlled two wheel drift right up to the outside course tape on the outside bottom of the turn. I carried plenty of speed into the straight and enjoyed some “free speed” and the chance to catch a few breaths. Going into the next section, I looked back to see that Corvin had not made it around the turn. He was OK so I kept pushing thinking he still had a long lap to catch me or for me to blow up. After few sections, I realized he was nowhere to be seen (he had rolled a tire) and there was nobody in sight either in front or behind, so I could ride the last half lap at reasonably pace. It was fun to get a “little victory” out of it, but also leaves me wondering how things would have played out had he stayed upright.
He will be out for bear this weekend as we revisit the scene of the state championships, Fredericksburg, where I scored my only other coupe on him at the State Championship. Hell hath no fury like a middle-aged, mid-pack master cyclocross racer.