The race at Eva Bandman Park and Cyclocross venue was tempting. It would be my third cross race which was exciting enough to draw me in, as I’ve been pretty amped on cross racing since I did Bloomingcross. But the Eva Bandman event was also a costume contest, an excuse to spend a day in Louisville, and a chance to race on a fairly historic course, as the UCI 2013 CX World Championships were held there. It didn’t take much arm twisting to get me there. Ted and Leigh joined in on the racing action, and Giesla, Hugo, Constance, Vic, Dustin, and Adria all made an appearance to yell from the sidelines. The weather turned out to be beautiful and sunny, so the stage was set for a pretty awesome race day.
I only had time to get in a lap and a half of pre-riding, but it was enough to get me excited and extremely nervous. The course was impressive – it was technical yet fast. There were plenty of punchy climbs that made the choice between running and powering difficult. And there were some long grass and singletrack sections where you could really fly. One of my favorite course features was a steep run-up section, stair-stepped by large slabs of limestone – definitely not rideable. Also not rideable, at least for me, was the long sand pit. Guys on mountain bikes could float right over the sand. Really strong riders could power through if they could keep their front wheel straight. And then the rest of us, sadly, would have to dismount and run. I knew the sand would be a major factor.
As this race was part Halloween-featured, Ted, Leigh, and myself wore our best flannel, denim, and mullet wigs. I prefer to keep with tradition, and when a race or an event encourages dressing up, I think you should dress up. There were definitely more non-participating racers wearing the normal skin suit or racing kit. I really just wanted to beat everyone that didn’t dress up..
The start came quickly, and I had a really great call-up in the front row. The opening section was wide and flat and then swooped down into a long grassy section with a jump large enough to get some air. I stayed in the lead group of about ten and held my line. The starts and any kind of high power sprinting are not my strong suit, so I try to get a decent position and hold it. I think I am a little stronger later in the race when endurance comes into play. My first lap was rough and I traded places with a couple of guys several times. I gained a lot of time on the run-up and dismount sections but lost a ton of time in the sand. On the first lap, still in a fairly large group, I entered the sand with as much speed as I could and not long after went sideways and into the fence. That didn’t work – I’ll run this from here on out. I got up and ran the rest of it. I was pushing hard to keep up with the guys in front.
A guy dressed as a caveman with huge, long dreadlocks (it was a wig) passed me and was hammering. I figured he either had a bad start and would be up front the rest of the race or he was outside of his limit and I would catch him again. As I passed Vic on the sidelines, he yelled out, “Eighth place, go go go!” The first lap was quick enough, around 8 minutes, that I figured we would be doing four laps today. The second lap was a bit more open as the field was starting to spread out. I could see the lead guys moving really fast, and again I lost some time in the sand. The dreadlocked caveman rode on through, and I carried my bike and ran. Surprisingly, I didn’t lose much time to him, and I could immediately tell the sand sucked a lot of energy out of his legs. Passing Vic again, he yelled I was in seventh place. About that time, I saw a gap on the right side and jumped on it – I passed the caveman and could feel him close on my wheel for about a half lap before he dropped off. Okay, sixth place.
Lap three, starting to feel the effort in my gut, like I might puke. Which probably means I’m doing it right. I caught up to another guy and we were trading places back and forth. I stayed behind him for a while and watched his run-up and how much pop he had out of corners. He seemed pretty strong. Lap three we stayed together and just pushed each other. On lap four, I really wanted around him. I blasted the limestone run-up and passed him on foot. I had a fairly smooth remount and descent down the hill into the trees and planned to hold him off. I could tell he wanted around me badly, but we stayed in our positions. On one of the last punchy climbs, which I had powered up every lap so far, there were a couple of racers we were about to lap. It was barely double-track width, so I dismounted and started to run-up while he blasted from behind and tried to push through the other racers and me. I didn’t appreciate that move and felt it was dangerous to the other races, so now I had a fire in me. I didn’t want to get beat by a shifty move like that.
I got around him again with a few turns to go and pushed hard to open a gap for the final straightaway. I was preparing for a sprint finish, but he fell off the pace and I cruised in to a fifth place finish in 32:49. That was a challenging course, and I was happy my mullet survived. After crossing the finish, I coughed for about fifteen minutes straight with some residual cold/allergies, mullet flapping with each cough. I imagine it looked beautiful.