The Colorado Cyclocross season starts in earnest the first week of September, and juggernauts its way through the rest of autumn at full speed. Lining up this weekend was unnerving – I hadn’t really put in the time on my bike like some people, and I didn’t know what to expect.
Saturday was the Amy Dombrowski Memorial Cyclocross race in Golden. We arrived to warm wind blowing across the grassy field, and a few dark clouds gathering on lookout mountain to the west of town. Course tape fluttered gently as the first race went off.
Being a more relaxed affair, I lined up in the “A” category with 30 or so guys. We had a long grassy loop to start, then into a series of never ending swoopy curves that popped out at the start straight 6 minutes later. I had no game plan, other than to ride hard from the gun. I jumped into my pedals smoothly and slotted into second. I always relax once the start is over. I was expecting a small group to yo-yo around the course before someone would attacked, but that didn’t happen. Drew Christopher (on a singlespeed) got to the front and stretched the line of riders ’til it broke. I wasn’t missing a move, so I got on the case of pedalling harder, which I succeeded in doing.
A quick look back showed that pedalling harder separated Drew, Spencer Powlison, and I from everyone else, so we kept pedalling harder until someone cracked. That was Drew. Then it was down to Spencer and I, and that’s where I started to get ragged. Unintentional drifting and a couple feet down popped me from Spencers wheel, and I couldn’t close the gap. I pedalled around, hopped the barrier, and crossed the line in second. Job’s a good’un, as they’d say in my part of the world.
Sunday – a different kettle of fish. Most of the fast locals had shown up with their legs shaven and chains lubed. Rumours of thorns all over the course greeted our arrival, and more than a couple weary riders were carrying their bikes back to the car.The peculiar terrain of a rodeo ground provides some unique features for a cross race, including riding right through a grandstand, across the middle of a couple of horse arenas, and up some stairs normally reserved for walking.
A nice smooth road shot us out of the start, and again I didn’t have to rupture any alveoli to get to the front. I settled into third place, then realised there would be no settling, as Danny Summerhill attacked the course like it was fighting back. I held on, not wanting to get dropped. It worked so well that once again a group of three of us had daylight on the field.
Danny Summerhill is really rather good at bikes, and I was expecting Spencer and I to get dragged through the dirt for a couple of laps before Danny pedalled off into the wind to leave us flailing behind. I think that’s what he planned to do, too, but instead his tyre popped clean off the rim and bounced around, leaving him to flail and us to pedal into the wind alone. I have to admit I was a little scared at that point. Spencer had been on fire the day before, and the thought of losing his wheel and falling backwards through the pack was a huge motivator. My cornering ability was suffering, part from tyre choice and part from cross-eyedness. I pulled through into the wind, taking my share of the work in this little duo.
With two laps to go we started to sense things hotting up behind, and soon Danny was back in the picture, just a couple corners behind. The announcer started calling what we were fearing – we had to work together to hold him off. A lap to go and things hadn’t changed, even coming into the final stair section I wasn’t thinking of the win. At the top of the stairs, though, it changed, and I suddenly realised it would be sprint to the line. Spencer got out ahead, and my moments hesitation as he looked back was enough to lose it – my bike throw just failed to nudge past his wheel, and I was left in second.