Racing cyclocross in Texas usually means hard fast courses with off-camber sections, sand, and barriers but rarely much if any mud. If there is mud it's usually because the race is run into a creek bed and the mud is usually contained in a small part of the course. For the finale this year, the Texas Cyclocross State Championships, it was an exception to that rule. The course was between Austin and Manor at a Travis County park and Mother Nature dumped 2-3 inches of rain on Thursday and Friday. Saturday was the age-based state championships which I passed on since my age category contains 3 of the top 5 riders in the state and Sunday was the category state championships. When I arrived Sunday not only was 50% of the course wet, it was thick mud that had been chewed up from the racing on Saturday. I arrived early to get a preview of the course. I went pretty low on the tire pressure but after the first preview lap I let even more air out of the tires. After one more lap it was apparent it was going to be a brutal course and I went back to the car to pin-up and wash down the bike.
The course started with a long sprint on the road into a 90 degree left that dropped you into the course. Another hard left followed that started a slight decent down towards the pond. About 50 feet before you reached the pond the mud started and grew progessively deeper as you approached the water. Right before the edge of the pond it was a hard right and the course followed the edge of the pond through the thick mud before a hairpin back through the mud to a pair of barriers. After slopping over the barriers it was a left turn and slight climb back out of the mud. The course wound up through relatively dry ground before putting you on a long stretch of paved path. This was the only spot you could recover on the course. After the path it was a muddy off-camber right followed by a left, then another right and then a 2 foot dip down that crossed the path near the pond. The path at this point was covered in mud and water and was extremely slick. The course then went through a dip that had about 2 inches of muddy water in it making it impossible to see what rut or dip you went into and then back out of the water into the mud along the bank of the pond. The course then crossed the path again to a rise with a muddy off-camber left. The transition from the path to the mud had a lip that would catch your rear wheel if you weren't careful with the angle you approached the transition. After another series of turns it was a long slog through the mud that led to a slight climb. The climb would have normally been very ridable but the mud was so thick and chewed up it had to be run up. Another short stint on the paved path led to another muddy run-up and then into a down and back sandpit that had standing water in it. The course then wound back across the paved path a couple more times with treacherous muddy transitions up onto and off the path. After going through the finish the course wound back through some more muddy turns to where the start dropped us on the course.
They did call-ups at the start based on Texas Cup Premier points which I was third, (my teammate Jimmy was first and Brett Kinsey second) and I was called up to the left front spot which was the perfect line for the whole shot. The race started and after an initial rough start I laid down the sprint and got a good gap and the whole shot. I went hard onto the course and but apparently went too hard as I completely slid out through the first corner. I collected myself, got up, and thought I had rolled off my rear tire but everything was fine on the bike. I jumped back on and took off down towards the pond into the mud in about 8th spot. Right before you reached the water it was a hard right in the mud and then it went along the mud before a hairpin that led back through the mud to a pair of barriers. Most of the contenders had a short gap with Cody Davis and Brett Kinsey leading out front. I moved up two spots by the barriers and caught Rolando Roman by the paved path and we were 5th and 6th. As we headed torwards the 2 foot dip I saw Jimmy go down hard on the slick path crossing after the dip. He was still laying on the ground as Rolando and I passed him. We caught the leaders including Cody and Brett as we went to the off-camber left and Rolando attacked right before the first run-up and I tried to ride it, got stuck and had to dismount. Rolando got a gap with Cody, Brett, and I chasing in that order. I passed Brett right after the sand pit and then pushed passed Cody in the first turn after the finish. I hammered through the slippery parts here and managed to dislodge Brett but not Cody. I chased Rolando with Cody on my wheel for the next two laps but Rolando was too strong and rode away from us. Heading torwards the finish before the bell lap I slowed and tried to coax Cody around. He took bait and passed and I sat on his wheel and tried to rest before what I figured would be a sprint at the finish. I followed his wheel around the course through the paved path and then back along the pond. As we entered the tricky off-camber turn/transition with the lip, Cody caught his rear wheel on the lip and went down. I couldn't avoid him, road over his back wheel and went down as well. I was able to get up faster but wasn't able to remount due to all the mud. I ran through the run-up, remounted and took a quick peek to see a small gap but Cody chasing hard. Amazingly we still had enough of a gap that the fourth place finisher still wasn't a threat. I hammered to the second run-up and flew up it thanks to my newly purchased Sidi toe-spikes. I remounted and hammered through the sand pit. After getting through the sand pit I realized I had a big enough gap as long as I managed to stay upright through the next couple of trick path/mud transitions to the finish. I almost lost it on the last transition into the mud running right up against the tape but managed to hold on and take second with a good gap. While second didn't get me the State Champion jersey I had hoped for it did get me a nice silver medal and enough points to overtake both Jimmy and Brett in the points to win the Cat 4 Pemier Cup title for 2009.
Thus ends the 2009 Cyclocross season and the 2010 road race season starts right on it's heels. I feel renewed with a wonderful confidence and looseness going into the road season. None of the pressure from last year's road season exist and the ability to just go race and have fun is liberating. That's what cross does for you and why I love it so much.....
Below are some of the photos my Dad took. Thanks for coming out and supporting me in the cold!!!
With Cody (left) and Brett (center) on the first lap near the sand pit