Cross racing in Europe involves racing in mud and snow but races in the US are typically "crits on grass". US races are usually on hard, fast course with the occassional sand pit or mud to break up the speed. When I checked the weather and saw it was going to be a wintery weekend I expected it would be a little warmer in Houston but Friday came around and Houston received 3-4 inches of snow.
I drove up to Houston on Saturday morning to meet Jimmy for Cross Houston at Bayou Park. We got to the park and first appearance it looked like a fast course. It turned out to be anything but... It was upper 30s and sunny at the start of the race. The race started by dropping us in the back half of the course into a long straight-away. As the course went under the bridge there was two deep ruts across the course except for the far left. Jimmy and I lined up on the left so as to force the other riders to go through the ruts or fall in behind us. The whistle blew and we went out hard. I took the whole shot. Right after the straight away was a hard right to a very steep climb. I made the choice to run it as opposed to trying to mash my way up and burning myself out. I ran up and had a good gap by the top. Jimmy was a little behind me and had a gap on the strung out field. The course wound around the park before leading to a paved area. It then went through a couple of small, ridable sand traps before coming back to the start/finish. I went through the start/finish onto the front half of the course for the first time while maintaining a decent gap. Right after the start/finish it went into some heavy mud followed by a wet run-up. I rode into the mud, dismounted and struggled up the slippery slope. When I re-mounted the bike it felt like the rear brake was locked and I feared the mud had clogged it up. I struggled to push pedals and Jimmy caught and passed me and I knew the rest of the field couldn't be far behind. Finally something gave way and I was chasing Jimmy. I went into the first corner and hit the brake and there was no rear brake. The rest of the race I rode with only the front brake and was a kamikaze through the turns. The course then dove down into another mud pit that was about 20-25 feet of thick, soupy, ankle deep mud. When you finally slogged through the mud and re-mounted, the grass was so water logged you could barely pedal to the barriers. After hurdling the barriers it was back to the straight away where we started. I caught and passed Jimmy on the second lap and had a lead again. Going down into the mud pit the second time, just as I dismounted the rear tire slipped and I fell flat into the mud. I quickly grabbed the bike and ran while spitting mud out of my mouth. I kept waiting for the field to catch me but it never happened. I had my first ever cross victory. Jimmy was caught on the last lap but was in the perfect position to take the sprint but a bobble in the sand caused him to get third. It was the toughest course I have ever done and the most exhausted I have ever been after a race but it is a great feeling when it comes with a win. Sweet Leaf Tea sponsored the race so the prizes were cases of tea.