My trip to EuroCrossCamp allowed me to learn and grow as an individual. I was able to be fully immersed in the Belgian 'cross culture, the "motherland" of cycling. I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity I had to push my limits on challenging course with death drops, steep run-ups, long muddy power sections. Many of the experiences were new, and pushed my comfort zone, which increased my skill-set, equipping me with the preparedness to face courses and conditions with more confidence.
I want to take a brief moment to thank Geoff Proctor for all that he's done over the last ten years to help the development of the sport. This year was the camp's tenth consecutive year running. That's ten Christmas' away from family and friends to help young up-and-coming riders have this wonderful experience. It's appreciated, Geoff!
For me personally, the camp fulfilled a goal I created a couple years ago as a young, naive rider to race in Europe with the Belgians. It has also led to the fulfillment of other goals I've set for myself (I'll touch on this in a future post).
After returning from CrossCamp, I took it easy, only incorporating a few hard efforts to keep my body primed and ready to go! The week leading into Nationals I had been feeling pretty tired (I think my body was still adjusting from the time change). I knew it'd be important to manage the amount of rest and recovery I was getting, especially the few days before the first race. That was my number one priority.
I was able to preview the course on Thursday afternoon. It felt good to get out in the fresh air after traveling all day and being cooped up in the bus. The course was almost identical to the layout of what we raced last year. The weather ended up creating similar course conditions both days (Saturday: U23; Sunday: Collegiate) too.
This year I was able to acquire enough UCI points to earn a front row spot. I was happy to have the start position I did, it allowed me to take third in the holeshot, setting me up to steer clear of traffic. After a quarter of a lap I found myself riding in fourth, I kept a steady pace and began to reel-in Drew and Skyler who were riding in 2nd and 3rd. It wasn't long after Drew dropped Skyler that I made contact with him and proceeded to push ahead to Drew. I eventually caught-up to Drew midway through the race, rode with him for a bit before he opened a gap on me. I continued to ride in my rhythm, finding smooth, fast lines. Tobin caught Skyler, and they both closed within a few seconds of me. Going into the last lap I pitted (it was so muddy most of us pitted every half lap!) and drilled it on the straight coming out of the pit and on the steep climb. This immediately opened a sizable gap, only to come crashing down when I hit and ice patch going into the backside stairs. I quickly got up and got going again still maintaining a slight advantage, but when I remounted I saw that my stem had gotten turned 45 degrees to the right. I managed to make it down the descent after the stairs and struggled around the next corner before I had to dismount and straighten my bars back to center. By this time both Tobin and Skyler had passed me and were rocketing away on the road climb. I did my best to chase them down, but the damage had been done. I rolled across the line with a solid ride landing me the last spot on the podium in 5th. I was pleased with my race, but disappointed with the last lap mishap.
My goal for the race was top 3. I had been riding there most of the race. That gave me a sense of accomplishment knowing that I had the ability and was carrying it out throughout the race.
|Giving a few high-fives as I came through the finish area.|
|U23 Men's Podium|
Cyclocross Magazine Report
Last year I stood on the podium with a 4th place finish. This year I was looking to improve on that and race for the win! Off the line I was third around the bend on the pavement start/finish straight, forging ahead around the turn I took the holeshot onto the frozen, rutted course. I knew the race would be fast due to the fast, frozen circuit. There was only one good line through most of the course making it hard for other riders to advance their placement. I led into lap two and was able to open a gap over Kerry Werner (Lees-McRae), working to increase my advantage. After the barriers I was going through a turn and slid-out, allowing Kerry to catch me and open a gap of his own. I was back on my bike quickly and chasing after him. I was steadily gaining ground on him, but had another mistake... I hit a rut wrong, launching me into a wooden stake and snowy bank. This really set back my chase efforts. I needed Kerry to make a similar mistake, or it wouldn't be any easy task to win the race. He didn't make the same mistakes I did and rode to the win. I maintained my position, and went on to finish 2nd, one spot away from the stars-and-bars.
My goal in the collegiate race was to put myself in a position to win the bike race. I did that. I knew whoever took the title would be the one who made the least mistakes, that was Kerry. He rode the race you have to in those conditions. I risked pushing the pace early, which narrowed the race at the front down to two riders. Unfortunately, I was the first one to make a mistake. Nice work, Kerry!
|D1 men on the trying to stay warm on the start line.|
|Werner & I battling early on in the race.|
|Rolling across the line in 2nd.|
|We successfully defended the title to claim Marian's 2nd consecutive overall D1 Collegiate Team National title in Cyclocross!|
Cyclocross Magazine Report
Stay tuned for another update in a few days - Thanks for reading!