First cross race of the year for me and I was really excited to get at it. This was the first race for my new bike as well, so I was excited about that too. The race was in a scenic park overlooking the Mississippi River in Davenport IA. The park was up on the bluff a little, so the course was very undulating. In fact, one of the funnest parts was a series of four switchbacks that went back and forth across a valley between two hills. Besides those switchbacks there were several more throughout the course. There were two sets of barriers, one set on a basic straightaway, the second at the beginning and end of a runup. The one part of the course I really didn't like was called "The Rock Garden". Basically they put a bunch of flat rocks (12-14 inch in diameter, about 1 inch tall) you would use for landscaping before this log you had to bunnyhop over and some more after the log. This part was hard for me, and it seemed I was continually hitting my chainring as I went over it The course was relatively long and we completed 8 laps in our 35 min + 2 race. I did well from the start. I placed myself toward the front of the group at the start and made sure I stayed there. As the selection during the first lap I was very comfortable setting in 5th place. Rider one and two were beyond my ability level and simply rode off the front of the group of 5. Two other riders and me shuffled positions during the rest of the race and I held the 3 spot securely for a long time. Toward the end of the race the three of us ended up together and I think I did too much work in front. Almost like I was just pulling them around the course. With two to go I screwed up going through the barriers and a gap was created between riders 3 & 4 that I couldn't close the final lap and a half. Without realizing it I was almost caught by rider 6 in the last part of the final lap. Once I saw him approaching I hit it hard and finished strong. The race paid 6 deep, so my 5th place finish netted me $20. Not bad I guess.
The race exposed two major weaknesses. First, I need to improve tremendously going over barriers. I would have a small gap and as we went through the barriers riders 3 and 4 would simply catch up and practically run past me. Not good. Second, I was kind of a wuss today, because after the gap was opened that put me in fifth it's like I almost gave up. I need to suck it up.
The bike handled well, my lungs burned like hell (nothing like the crits and road races I did this year), my legs felt good, and I collected some money All in all, not too bad for my first race. I can't wait for the rest of the season. Cross is here!