Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fair Hill Cross Race Report

At the last minute I decided to hop into Round #10 of the MAC series at Fair Hill MD.  This would be my third MAC race of the season, but only second finish due the injury / cancellation of Granogue Day 1.  I made the 90 minute trip down with a teammate and we were treated to a beautiful setting for a cross race, and bright sunny skies.  Truly, the cross Gods were watching over us! 

I've found that at this point in the season the complexion of cross racing changes.  The size of the early season fields is diminishing and seemingly just the fast guys show up!  This race was no different, instead of 100+ riders toeing the line, we had 35.  That was one of the draws to this race, not doing the entire series typically puts me in a real bad position in the series points, which puts me in a bad position on the starting line.  Today I ended up on the 4th row, not the best but certainly better than my last starting position at Nittany!  The fast guys showed up indeed, the depth of the Elite Masters 35+ group is amazing.  Crossresults.com had me predicted in 15th position, the pressure was on!

I did a couple of warm up laps about an hour before my race just before the start of the 45+/55+ race.  I knew right away it was an awesome course.  I may even go as far as to say it was one of the best courses I've ridden on to date.  Power guys may have wanted more power, but there were plenty of tricky turns, some great sweeping turns, downhills, up hills, off cambers and even a sweet table top to catch some air!  I knew my motocross skills would help me out, the way some of the turn sections were laid out forced you to nail the first turn to be able to set up and carry speed through the next turn(s).  I was off my bike twice a lap, once in a tricky off camber that was rideable, but running seemed to be more consistent and not much slower.  There was also a set of barriers just after a sharp left turn, forcing an awkward dismount.  The course was mostly grass with a few gravel sections and not much mud.  Got my tire pressure dialed in and we headed to the line.

I knew I needed to get a decent start to be in the right position for the first tight section.  I managed to end up in the top 15 which was perfect.  I sat in just behind a good friend of mine, Johan.  You can see us at the top just entering the left hand turn in the shot below.
Fair Hill was a beautiful venue.  Plenty of turns, power sections some great elevation and a cool table top!

 The leaders snuck away immediately.  I thought Mike Yozell and Maurice would have a good battle, but it wasn't to be.  Maurice took it to everyone.  Back to my race, I felt great on the first two laps, consistently making passes and eventually making it up into the top 10.  I knew there were some fast guys who I had passed and I also knew that my lack of consistent racing this year would play a factor as we approached 45 minutes.  I got hooked up with Dan from the Bicycle Therapy team and we had a great race trading positions.
Dan and I had a great battle.

He had some technical skills and rode this every lap.  I thought is was safer and just as fast to run.
We went back and forth for the first couple of laps.  I'm not far behind remounting after the barriers.
 When we hit three laps to go I could feel the legs frying as we drug up the grinding climb near the pit.  I had managed to make a pass stick on Dan, but I wasn't able to hold it.  There was a really sweet downhill after you zig zag your way up through the woods.  It seemed to change every lap and by the end of the race I found my way into the tape.
I managed to get a gap, but my lack of 'crossing this year caught up to me and he got me back.  This was a sweet downhill into a tough 180 degree turn.
Dan passed me with about two to go, then I could see Joe coming from behind.  Joe has an incredible ability to moderate his first few laps and just fly on his last three laps.  That's not an easy thing to master, but I guess all of his experience definitely pays off.  He passed me with about two to go heading up the finish stretch, nicely encouraged me to hang on but my legs protested such an idea.  At this point I was in tenth just holding on.  I knew I had a good gap on the rest of the field with the exception of one rider who was slowing making up time.  That tape that I mentioned up above, well I had to stop and untangle myself on the last lap, giving away one more position.  I crossed the line pleased with my race and my effort.  Came to find out I finished 11th, one spot out of the money.  Possibly my best race to date and definitely my best MAC finish in the Elite Masters race.  Not a large field, but a fast one.  Best of all, I beat crossresults.com!

Went home with a smile on my face, just the day I needed.  There's another MAC race not too far from this location in a few weeks, I'm hoping to be there!