I was down and out with a terrible head cold a few days last week and considered skipping this one. I’m glad I didn’t! While the cold kept me from racing at 100%, I still had a blast and finished 4th to boot–probably wasn’t that sick! The venue was perfect as always and the cross guru built a great track!
During warm ups, I focused most of my attention on two different sections: the steep run-up and a short hill on the north side of the course. I was determined to ride the run-up, but after several tries and only getting close, I decided that it was too risky and gave in. Running it proved to be much faster anyway. The tricky hill on the north side really wasn’t challenging. My concern was a tight turn around a tree and timing gear changes before turning again and going up the hill. I’m glad I practiced this one because I watched several racers try it in the wrong gear, which resulted in them dismounting and running–a terrible waste of time! The practice paid off, too, because I felt like I nailed the section on every lap (I won’t talk about the twisty section in the trees that challenged me on every lap).
Last year at this race, I crashed out during the start and ended my season. The wreck wasn’t bad at all. But, landing flat on my right shoulder caused fluid to build under my shoulder blade. Several trips to the chiropractor made things better but it was never right enough for racing. That said, I was a little worried when I saw the start this year was almost identical–long run on blacktop to a 90-degree, left-hand turn to a grassy ditch. Only one thing to do: win the hole shot and be first to the corner!
Call-ups were based on pre-reg, and since I was lazy, well, I started on the second row. Fortunately, I clipped in without problem and was able to move up to 3rd or 4th by the corner. Just like last year, though, the corner proved a bit too challenging for some. Just as I started to turn, I heard tires squeal and guys yell. Then, some guy came rolling (on his back, not wheels!) up beside me. I jumped on the pedals and was able to move just in front of the carnage. I made it through the turn in 3rd place.
After the start, it was simply a test of fitness and keeping two wheels down. The latter proved much easier! I struggled a bit to breath and even considered dropping out when I saw 4 laps to go. I sorted things out in my head during that lap and decided I was going to finish this thing…that or find myself laying face down in a ditch.
Brett Coppage (SKC) rode rather effortlessly off the front and took the win. Paul Fancher (LocalCycling) and I battled back and forth for second, with him winning with 2 laps to go. While Fancher and I were fighting it out, my teammate Brian Laswell, snuck up behind us and moved around me just before the steep run up. He and I rolled across the line 3, 4.
Smithville remains my favorite race of the season. The area is awesome and Chris Locke and everyone else do a great job of making the course and event racer friendly.