Race # 4 (45+ Category), Macon- Yet another beautiful day for a cross race, maybe we haven't had classic Belgian cross weather thus far here in GA but I'm sure not complaining. I would call this year’s course in Macon a tough one. The one-two punch of the long beach run followed by the climb up cereal bowl hill took it's toll each lap.
The start this week seemed moderate compared to last week, maybe the front runners were pacing themselves a bit for the tough course?? I stayed with the lead pack fairly comfortably for a good part of the first lap. Things really seemed to break up when we hit the sand for the first time, gaps opened and the front runners started pulling away; though in general it seems like the race didn't really blow apart quickly, just gaps slowly/steadily growing as I was able to keep sight of the leaders for a while at various points.
Before the first lap was over I had settled into a position between two GTC riders (imagine that in the 45+ category). Marshall was ahead of me and not sure who was behind. The second time through the sand I went left and my bike went straight, I didn't fall but I dropped my bike in the sand, derailleur side down, shifting was a little crunchy after that but it worked! The chasing GTC rider caught me there and eventually linked up with Marshall ahead. I was afraid the two teammates might be able to work together on some parts of the course and open the gap but it seemed like I was able to hold it pretty steady, I just couldn't close it. The other GTC guy eventually went backwards (mechanical??) up the gravel road hill and so it was just Marshall I was chasing; I spent most of the race dangling 40-50 yds behind him. I could also see Bobby Thrash coming up behind me closing the gap. Just after passing the 2 laps to go sign I was lapped by the 35+ leaders. I didn't think I was going that slow and I thought the course was fairly long and hard so those guys must have been motoring. So instantly I was on the last lap, mentally I was bummed to have been lapped but my legs and lungs were happy that the suffering would end sooner. I could not get any closer to Marshall on the last lap and Bobby disappeared from behind me (learned later he dropped a chain) so I finished where I stayed for most of the race in 8th place.
Some thoughts on the race:
- In years past I had always dismounted and run up cereal bowl hill so that is what I did this year in practice and the race; not sure that was the best call. Marshall rode it and rode it strongly so each lap he opened the gap a bit there. I was hesitant to try riding it for the first time in the race so I continued to run it.
- My quest to eliminate my stutter step on re-mounts took a step backward this week. I find that the time I really want to stutter step is on slower speed remounts, like say after the beach run and at the top of cereal bowl hill. I kept telling myself mentally not to do it but my muscle memory kept doing it anyway.
- Years ago I would have loved having the long beach run as I was a stronger runner then but now I just survive it. However, I really like the variety in the series courses and this one gave the strong runners a spot to shine. I decided in practice I would try to ride the sand in a straight line to the hardened ditch and dismount right before it; that seemed to work okay. My bike drop was just me fumbling it as I went to shoulder it.