It’s that time of the year again – spouses rejoice and racers cry. It’s the end of the cyclocross season at least for most of the amateurs. Pros, you have a way to go. Hang tough. I have been gone for a little over a week – chasing points and attending races in the greater South. First day of the new year I headed from California to North Carolina with my daughter and mother in law, plus 6 bags of luggage, most of it mine. After arriving at 2am on Saturday I got up at 8, put my bikes together in my mother in laws driveway and beat feet to Tennessee. Say what? Yes, there was a UCI C2 race that day and the start list got a little scary. Aside from me being there, J Pows was to make an appearance along with a bunch of other pros. “Try not to get pulled to early” was my mantra.
I drove through some amazing scenery on my way to Kingspor, TN. When I got to town the scenery was even more amazing. Seems that Eastman chemical practically owns the town. Pipes filled with who knows what traversed the river that ran through town. Factories billowed white smoke on both sides of the river. Being a hazardous materials specialist with the fire department here in Santa Rosa was intrigued. So I rode my bike over to one of the rail yards and checked out all the tanker cars filled with various chemicals. Weird right?
One side of the river
And the other side of the river
The race course was pretty flat and straightforward. It was a real power course and that suited me. I started in the back row, which was fine by me. I just wanted to get pulled and get some good points leading up to Nationals and this was the way to do it. Winning a race in the master’s category gives me worse points than if I race against the pros and get pulled before completing the race. Sure enough I made 5 laps and got some great points. I returned the next day, but many of the pros did not. The course changed very little, which was a bummer. This time I managed to stay on the lead lap and finish, which meant more points. I enjoyed seeing different parts of the conutry. That area of Tennesee has some pretty beautiful terrain. Not sure I could ever live there, but it was a nice visit. Time to start preparing for Nats.
Cyclocross Nationals were being held at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. The Biltmore is largest privately held estate in the country. It spans over 800 acres and includes a pretty big house, plus some other stuff, including two hotels and a winery. George Vanderbilt developed the area as a kind of “one up” on some of his brother’s and sister’s who had built similar places around the country. His net worth was estimated at $6 billion – adjusted to our inflation…and he never really worked a day in his life. I am making the second part up, but it might be true.
The big house – Biltmore Estates
The race took place near the two hotels. There was a lot of trepidation by racers over various aspects of the race. We had to pay $15 for a wristband to get in, there might not be any parking, the course was too hard, etc…. I found none of it to that bad. There was parking. I paid for a silly wristband. The course was hard, but I found that it wasn’t that hard…at least not for me. It was truly a great course with a lot of everything.
My first race was on Tuesday, the Non-Championship Race 40-49 year olds. Sage and I managed to get lined up in the 4th row. Again without much points we were both well back from where we should have really been. I went down on a tricky off camber section at the start and bent my deraileur hanger. This cost me some placings. We were in the little ring quite a bit and I was having trouble shifting. I should have changed bikes, but I wanted the disc brakes for the nasty downhills. I toughed it out and every lap I rode by my daughter who gave me inspiration by yelling “Gigi!” – my nickname she gave me. It was one of the best days I ever had on the bike. I finished up 14th and probably could have done a little better except for the mechanical. That’s cross though. Sage finished in 6th – one off the podium.
Riding the off camber section below the barn, which we rode through
Off camber was the game
My biggest/smallest fan
The next day was my age group race 45-49. It was touted as the most talented field all week, in any category, except of course the pros. I got handed a pretty stellar 8th row start position. I kept it to the outside for the start to avoid crashes like I had in the last 3 Nationals. After weaving my way through traffic I made it clear by the 2nd lap. I was slowly moving up, even riding the Heckle Hill all laps, whereas most had to run it. The bike was fixed and performing flawless. I was just missing a little of that top end that I had given the day before. I ended up 29th after following fellow Cali rider Anatsio Flores for the 1st and 2nd laps. He made his way up to 16th. Ahhh..if only I had just stuck to his wheel. These races gave me great confidence going into next season. I wasn’t having a great year until Nationals week. I felt really good on the bike and rode a flawless race the second day. Things are looking good for next season….. See you then!