Last Saturday I made the quick trip north to Austin to race the Cyclocross Scuffle. I was coming off a good results on a very open course but was now approaching a more technical course.
The course had a rolling uphill start before a sweeping left over some pavement and then another sweeping left into a fast off-camber section. The off-camber section curved right before a hard left around a tree. The off camber left around the tree was a hard turn on a steeper off camber grade that also had some loose dirt. The pre-ride confirmed that you could easily enter the corner way to hot and either fall or go off the course. It then led into a grass sections with a series of 90 degree turns. This threw you onto a bumpy straight that led to a steep run up with two taller then regulation barriers. A hard left followed onto a dirt/gravel road that was fast but had a railroad tie laid across the road. This was just low enough to convince you to try to bunny hop it but was tall enough that if you mistimed your hope (which could happen after a couple of laps and your brain is short of oxygen) it could send you over the bars (which happened to several riders). You then went up a steep ridable berm and immediately went back down to a long grass straight. The course finally cut back down a sidewalk followed by a hard left into a sandpit. Another grass straight followed with another sandpit before a couple of tight turns that led into the start finish.
Heading up to the race my stomach felt queasy and I questioned whether I should race but my competitive side overruled my unhappy belly. When I arrived at the race I was surprised to find a couple of teammates there to race the 4s with me. Jimmy was back off his Wurstcross shoulder injury and Connor (1 of our super juniors) was there after his high school cross country season. Jimmy and I agreed to start fast due to the large field (almost 40) so we could have a good position going into the off camber section around the tree. I guaranteed Jimmy there would be a crash in that section on the first lap. The whistle blew and Jimmy took the whole shot and I was 4th wheel. We came to the tree fast, braked hard and no sooner had I cleared the treacherous section then I heard a a bike go down behind me. This caused about 6-7 of us to have a gap on the rest of the field. Jimmy went off with a Bike Heaven rider and I blocked and sat on the chase group. It was nice having a teammate ahead as I was able to take it easy the first 1 1/2 laps while others had to chase. Rolando (a marathoner that is finding success in cross) and I caught Jimmy and Bike Heaven going into the run-up on the second lap with Brett (Austin Flyers) not far behind. Jimmy was hurting and Bike Heaven had nothing left. We passed Jimmy and Bike Heaven and Rolando put down the hammer. Going into the barriers for the 3rd time Rolando had a gap and only Brett was close behind. I caught a foot on one of the barriers and went down and Brett caught me. We rode together trying to bring back Rolando but he still had a decent gap going into the last lap. Both sand pits were deep but had been ridable. Entering the first sand pit on the final lap I was on Brett's wheel and he went on the right side of the trap and I went left. Almost simultaneously we both sunk our front wheels and filled over the bars. Brett was slightly faster back on the bike and through the second sand pit and had a small gap. After getting through the second pit I tried to shift and power down but my shifter was full of sand and wouldn't budge. I tried to spin a high cadence to bring him back but he held on by a bike length. Jimmy finished 5th and Connor 10th.
With a large field on a more technical course I could not be happier with 3rd. It was the most satisfying result of the season. Two consecutive podiums despite last lap crashes. The season takes a break till Houston in early December. Time for rest and base miles.
Heading into the oversized barriers
(Closest, Brett, then Roman, followed by Jimmy on the left and me on the right)
You almost had to jump more than hurdle to get over the barriers
Going through the last turns to the finish