Yeah, I’m that Guy
By Chris Jackson (Castex Racing p/b Felt)
Two weekends ago I traveled to Ft. Collins, Colorado to participate in the second round of the USGP of Cyclocross. The field was deep and the competition was tough. Getting a good start position was essential to a solid result. Unfortunately on day one I drew 89 out of 94 possible starting positions. On day two, I drew 77. Needless to say, I had to start in the back and work my way up on both days. Not an easy task. Spooky Cross weekend was set to be different. I knew if I had a good race, I could ride myself to a top 10 finish and lock in some desperately needed UCI points.
Saturday’s night race rolled around and I lucked out with a front row start. My mind was in the right place and I knew the task at hand. The race went out hard and I had a good start into the first corner as I was sitting in the top eight. Two turns later we hit the stairs and shortly after mobbed through the sand pit. As I made my way through, Brandon Gritters (Rock N’ Road) hit the sand hard and then got railed off by another rider. It was rough out there.
For the first two laps a large group of nearly 20 stayed together in the lead pack. The long straits allowed for a mini peloton to form; a rarity in cyclocross. Turn after turn we went and the front group began to thin. Mark McConnell (Synergy Racing) began to attack the front and it increased pressure among the group. Before long the group was down to less than 10, but still a massive front pack for a UCI race. Tobin Ortenblad (Ritte Elite U23) began to take turns at the front as we continued over the next couple laps. Mike Sherer (Optum Pro Cycling) followed suit and got in the pace making action. At this point everyone began to get aggressive. The anticipation started to build. We all were waiting for an attack to come.
With three laps to go the pace began to slow. Tobin put in a small dig and got a little gap. He held it for half a lap. On the back straight I decided to chase him down. As he was merely riding tempo, I quickly caught and passed him with the group in tow. I held the lead for a mere three corners and then nearly crashed myself. Luckily, I saved it by putting a foot down, but I dropped back to sixth. I quickly tried to recover both mentally and physically. I was uncomfortable with this position as I knew a move at the front would come soon.
We rode by the start/finish with two to go. The pace still lagged and we all waited for a move to come. You could feel angst in the riders. With one lap to go the group was down to six riders. Half way through the last lap, just after the back straight I went for a pass to move from fourth to third and the rider wouldn’t let me in. I had no choice but to go to the front. Into the same sharp left hander where I nearly crashed, I late braked everyone and dove to the inside. The front group let me know they were unhappy with my move. I was now leading and in control. I kept the pace high and tried to be as smooth as possible through the remaining turns.
Over the barriers, up the flyover, through the whoops, and over the last kicker, I was still leading. Two straights and one turn stood between me and the finish line. On the first straight out of the BMX section I drilled it as hard as I could. I expected to see someone show a wheel into the final corner. No one came. Onto the last straight I went full gas out of the saddle sprinting. I had a strong feeling the group behind me was going to blow by me at any moment. I looked for shadows, listened for sounds. I heard and saw nothing. Twenty yards out, my eyes widened. I thought to myself, “I might actually win this thing.” The line approached and I threw my hands into the air as I thought I had the victory without question. Simultaneously Mike Sherer shot by me. I began to think to myself, “No… Oh, no! Did I… Did I just get beat at the line?”
It came down to the finish photo and I lost by three-tenths of a second. Ouch! Although I missed out on a victory, I was still ecstatic with my performance. I came in hoping for a top 10 and I narrowly missed the win. I now have UCI points and that’s all that matters! I learned the hard way this time. It won’t happen again.