Preface: The awesome photos in the report are thanks to the creative talents of Darren McGregor, the other photos are thanks to the point-and-shoot option on my own camera.
Yes, the cyclocross season is over here in Alberta, and it is sad. Darren and I went out to the last race of the season in Red Deer, hunting some final points in the series. It was a successful hunting trip. Darren and I both finished in 5th place in our respective categories, him in Sport, and myself in Expert. These were my first points of the season, as the Expert field has proven to be a struggle for me, despite a big training year.
For the most part, after a practice lap, I was discouraged. The race seemed as though it was designed specifically so that road racers would dominate. It had the longest straightest, flattest sections I have seen in a cyclocross race this season. There were some short, tight, sprinty sections near the barriers, located just before the start finish, that weren’t quite short, tight, or sprinty enough to make me feel optimistic. There was however one section that I did like. It was a longish, steep climb about one third of the way through the lap that was just about perfect to separate the men form the boys – or hopefully, the mountain bikers from the rodies.
On my first lap, the rodies climbed the hill admirably, and I was discouraged. I had to descend recklessly to ensure I had a wheel on which to cling during the next third of the course, which was FLAT, FAST, and not the least bit technical. To my surprise, the group I was impressed by on the hill were slow on the flats—recovering! I felt fine and attacked. True to their kind, when I looked back over my shoulder, they were all there, about eight of them on my wheel, sheltered in my draft. I attacked again when I got to the sprinty section and the barriers, and reduced the contenders to four. I lost position on the long strait-away through start finish, and was fretting about the 3 or 4 bike lengths that had developed between me and them. But when my adversaries got close to the hill, they geared down early, trying to recover in the few seconds before the hard climb. This was my advantage, when they shifted down, I shifted up, and stood up attacking in the 50 m before the hill, regaining my position in the front of this group, again, leading the train through the flats, again loosing position between the barriers and the start finish. And so it went; my advantage on and before the hill seemed to grow with each lap, and the train I pulled through the long flats seemed to get shorter as the race progressed.
One of the most fun experiences of this race was when two riders from Velocity, Rob and Oliver, I think, began using some team tactics against me for a few laps. They would take turns attacking, and the one in back would warn the one in front when I attacked, and would shout out my position, and whether he thought I was suffering or not (I was suffering!) I had to work very hard to make sure that the two of them did not get ahead me at the same time, which would enable on of them to attack while the other impeded my response. It was the hill that separated us eventually, not the climb so much as the 50 to 100 meters prior to the hill where they seemed to slow in preparation. In the end, it was a sprint finish between three of us; an ERTC rodie on my wheel and a Schmo rodie in my sights.
I dropped ERTC early in the sprint, and passed Schmo at the line with about 10 cm to spare. I fell from my bike in exhaustion, directly into the arms of podium girls who gave me kisses on both cheeks, their phone numbers, a tasteful bouquet of flowers and a fruit basket, and eight points. And so, this final bid for glory in the 2010 Alberta cyclocross series brings my total winnings of the season to 4 kisses, 2 phone numbers, one bouquet, one fruit basket, and eight points.