Since Jingle I have been keeping my focus on the second weekend of January, Nationals!
I raced Hendersonville NC GPCX, an NCCX series race, the weekend after Jingle. I was actually a little relieved that it was dry because three days in a row of mud at Jingle was more than enough for two weekends of racing.
Since the course was dry, it was fast and very tactical. A big group of 8 went to the line both days. I was a little tired from Jingle and possible a little under the weather. I made a few mistakes each day, which didn’t put me out of contention but made me work harder than I should have been to contest the win. Unfortunately, I defend my number 1 number…
I was hoping to seal 4th place in the overall at Hendersonville but my less than optimal performance meant that it was going to come down to the last UCI race of the season Kingsport CX Cup in Kingsport, Tn.
There were two weekends off between Hendersonville and Kingsport. So I put my head down and got to work. I was very fortunate to have amazing weather for those two weeks and got some very solid training in. I motor paced a bunch, did some CX specific intervals on a CX course, and got to play in the mud a bunch which helped.
Therefore, going into Kingsport I was looking forward to having some good form or being flat. Luckily, I was feeling more like the previous. There is always a little bit of uncertainty when it comes to what kind of form you have coming off a big training block. Sometimes you over do it and aren’t rested enough and some times you wonder if maybe you should have gone a little harder. I think Jim Lehman and I found the sweet spot so I was looking forward to Kingsport. There wasn’t as deep a field as there could have been so I was especially looking forward to a good result as a little confidence booster before nationals.
In the honor of keeping things lite, Emily, her dad, and I went to the Avett Brothers Concert at the Greensboro Coliseum to bring in the new year. We had cheap seat tickets, which was actually ideal because all the people in the floor seats and lower level seats ended up standing, which probably wouldn’t have been good race prep. It was awesome though. They put on such a good show. Their set was over before I knew it and the New Year was here.
With only Saturday being a UCI race, it was all in. The course is flat but a lot of turns with short straights between so it was very punchy and the race broke up more than I was expecting.
I managed to grab the whole shot and stay at the front for the first 4 laps, which was crucial. Jermey was punching it hard out of all the corners into the head wind and waiting for Jermey Durrin and I to crack. It eventually happened around half way through and from then on it was Durrin and I keeping tabs on each other while also holding off a chase group of Travis Livermon, Ben Frederick, Anthony Clark, and Tristan Cowie.
We kept trying to crack each other distancing the chasers but then we would sit up and the gap would go back down. We were together on the last lap and all the way until the end.
I went to stay in front on the technical off camber bits to try and get Jermey to make a mistake but he held true and we came into the finish together. There was a 180º turn into the finish straight with not much room for a sprint after the turn to the finish so I knew I only had to hold him off to the corner. I focused my effort on that and it worked. So I got 2nd, which was a relief because I was bleeding UCI points. I won a bunch of UCI races last year at the end of the year so they were starting to tick off and it was hurting me.
Getting 2nd sealed my 4th place in the overall so I am more than happy with that. Finishing in the top 5 was a season goal for me and I couldn’t have done it without the support from the Raleigh-Clement team all year. The team has been behind me every step of the way making it easy for me to just focus on riding my bike fast. Thanks to Donn for making the team run smoothly, James, Chad, and Doug, for making the bikes work like swiss clocks. I am always confident that the bike will work flawlessly when I toe the line. Finishing in the top 5 at nationals is the next goal I am looking forward to checking off my list.
With the UCI day over Sunday was just a local MSG series race, which I wanted to do to keep things normal leading up to nationals. I think last year I was focused to much on Nationals being this big event and ended up thinking too much about it and changing my routine up a lot, which lead to me racing and feeling not as well as I wanted to. So this year I wanted to race both days at Kingsport so it would mimic any other race weekend. I also don’t plan on showing up to Asheville until Friday morning to minimize time at the course, that way there is less time to over think things.
Sunday’s field was drastically reduced and I found myself battling with Cooper Willsey, a young junior on the Cannondal cyclocross world devo team. I tried to crack him early but he held on longer than I thought he would. I ended up racing the last half of the race alone but it was still a good effort to keep me honest.
I was very saddened to hear that this is the last year of the Kingsport CX Cup. It has always been great to have some many UCI races in the Appalachian region but cost is an issue and I feel for the promoters that put money out of their pockets to push the sport along. Thanks Dwayne Letterman for making it happen as long as you did.
I road tripped it back to Winston Salem on Sunday night and made it in time for dinner!
Now its time to recover and get mentally ready for my last and biggest race of the season. I am confident in my fitness I just have to keep my head on straight and focus for a few more days. My parents are flying down on Friday to catch the racing action, which I am excited for. I always like having them at the races to be the foundation of my own personal fan club.