Mark Kraus, Brian Laswell, and I loaded up the Yukon and headed east at dark-thirty for the 3-hour drive to Hermann. When we arrived at the venue, we were greeted by miles of white course tape. It was an impressive sight but it made for dizzying racing. How many times did we twist up and down the berm? The course was 2.1 miles long, featured lots of twisting turns and switch backs, a long sand pit–really two since there were two types of sand a distinct drop between the two, and the dreaded stair climb. The weather? Cold and windy, of course. Welcome to Hermann Missouri and the 2008 Missouri Cyclocross Championships.
We arrived as the Jr’s hit the course. It was easy to see even from their race that the technical aspects of this course would factor into placing well. Fortunately for them, the ground was frozen, which provided for decent traction in the corners.
We hit the course to warm-up as soon as the Jr’s finished. According to the schedule, we would have 15 minutes, which isn’t a lot of time to learn a 2-mile course. The Pro 1-2 woman’s race was scheduled to follow but ended up being scratched due to low turn out (indication that women are smarter than men???). That gave us a full hour to ride the course. I focused on the far north section, which looped 4 or 5 times up and down a berm and then turned hard up another berm, cut back down halfway, and then turned back up to the top of again before a fast descent. Picture an M built on the side of a hill. It was ridable but required serious power and balance because it was steep, off camber, and potted with deep holes.
When we finally lined up, I was placed in the 3rd spot on the front row, which gave me a dead bead on the first turn. The whistle blew and we were off. I made the holeshot but didn’t want to lead into the first turn. I sat up and allowed 4 riders to pass me. We snaked our way through the park, past the creek and then to the berm sections on the north end of the course. The first two riders were able to ride the “M”, but the next guy through came to a dead stop. Traffic jam! Everyone behind him had to dismount and run the section, which gave the two leaders a small gap. Best I could tell, I had fallen back to 6th or 7th. I started chasing after the leaders and was able to pass two but wasn’t really making up ground on the leaders.
The dreaded run up the stairs was next. Running up them wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. The transition was on pavement, which made it a little more difficult to stop and get off the bike. Otherwise, it was just 5-8 seconds of running. The leaders were in reach as I cruised down the hill and transitioned back to grass. Then, in one blinding moment, everything changed. The sand pit got me. I rolled through the first section of sand only to wash out after dropping into the second pit. I flipped over the bars and hit the ground hard. Three more riders piled up on top of me. I shook everyone off, grabbed my bike and ran out of pit. Fortunately, I didn’t loose any places or suffer any injures. But, I did loose considerable time on the first four racers.
The rest of the race was pretty much tempo riding, as I worked to chase down the leaders. I caught the 4th guy on the start of the last lap, but seeing me must have inspired him because he hit the gas and countered my move. I was able to stay with him to the berm section, where he opened a sizeable gap on me. The next rider back also closed ground on me through the section. He and I rode 5, 6 through most of the course, and then he passing me in the sand pit. His transition and ability to ride the twisting section near the finish gave him a gap that I couldn’t close down. I crossed the line in 6th place.
Brian rode most of the race 1 or 2 places behind me. Then, on the last lap, I noticed that he wasn’t there! Turns out, he washed out in a corner and suffered a small mechanical problem. He was able to fix it and finish the race, coming in 12th place.
Mark raced the CAT-3 race and looked strong the entire time. He came out of the start mid pack and was able to gain 5 or 6 places over the duration, finishing in 11th.
A big shout out to Jeff Winkler the Masters 40+ Missouri State CX Champion. He doubled up and raced the Pro 1-2 event, and finished in 13th place.
I’m searching the web for photos and will post a few if I find anything. Brian mentioned that a cameraman was at the sandpit when we went down–Brian came in just behind the first pile up and executed a perfect Superman dive to head plant. Hopefully a few of these better moments were captured on film.