The Boston ProXCT: a new race on the calendar and the perfect opportunity to make my first trip to New England. The race, held just south of the big city in Walpole was a great chance for me to utilise the UCI points I’d gained in Colorado Springs and race a bit closer to the front of the pack. Lining up on the second row was a novel treat, and the race started with me holding position near the front. A great start, and a world away from battling through 50 people at the Springs. The course flowed through a few rocky sections of trail before breaking out onto dirt roads, and the pace was ferocious. The field was comprised mainly of New Englanders who race each other regularly, and the pack chopped around as people desperately tried to move up before the rock gardens started in earnest. I got into a great group with Cole Oberman, Tom Sampson, Billy Malone, Ryan Woodall and Cameron Dodge. All of them regular names on the Cyclocross and MTB scene on the East Coast, and really strong technical riders.
I was lucky enough to follow Billy through the rough sections of course on the first few laps, and his lines were immaculate. Slowly the feeling of riding on roots came back to me and I gained some confidence towards the middle of the race. The dreaded humidity was not as bad as I expected, and the thick soupy sea level air was a revelation for my lungs. I felt good. Without much on the course to separate the pack, I was starting to wonder how the race would play out. Four thought-inducing rock gardens were spread out through the course, with the rest of the riding on punchy singletrack littered with unrelenting roots. I was really glad of the full suspension on the Scott, and I left my suspension fully unlocked for almost the entire race. I’d been having some trouble with my brakes after getting my bike out the box, but the Shimano neutral service at the race did a great job of getting me squared away, and I felt really comfortable on the technical stuff all weekend.
Todd Wells had hit the race hard from the gun, and being far back in the group, I missed Dan Timmerman flying off the front as well. The group I was in began to slow by lap three as tiredness set in, and with 3rd to 8th all together, I knew I needed to get away. Tom Sampson came to the front at the beginning of lap four and turned up the pace. I saw the chance, and goaded him into hammering. We got a little gap, and I repaid him by keeping the pace high for a while. We succeeded in dropping everyone else, and I felt really strong going into the final lap.
We took a couple more turns on the front each, but with half a lap to go, the temporary allegiance was over and it was business time. Tom, as I would expect, was flawless in the ‘snake pit’ rooty sections towards the end of the lap, and gave me no opportunities to move past him. To my dread I realised I’d be contesting another sprint finish. Ugh. I’m not good at those. A lack of confidence stopped me from taking the front on the run in to the finish, my terminal mistake, and we rounded the final turns neck and neck. Tom got the smoothest lines through the last corner, and I failed to gain the third place. Fourth for me. The disappointment of another failed sprint subsided, and I was absolutely elated to finish in fourth place. A world away from my previous best place finish of 17th in the Missoula ProXCT. Combined with the four UCI points I earned in Colorado Springs, I gained 12 points this weekend to give me a total of 16 points: way closer than I thought I’d get to my goal of 20 in order to race a World Cup.
Next up for me on the racing front for me is the Wisconsin round of the ProXCT: the final round for 2015. This race is a classic, and I’ve heard many good things, but once again it will be a new venue for me, and I’m excited to see another chunk of this huge country.
I’d decided to race in Boston with the knowledge that the field would be a little lighter than the earlier season races. That was the deciding factor for me to book a ticket, alongside a generous offer from Bryan Horsley and his family to host me on Cape Cod (a hour or so south of Boston) for the weekend. Without much choice on flights, I booked a super late flight into Boston Logan on Thursday night and forced Bryan to drive through the night to pick me up. We drove through torrential rain to get back to “the cape”. I awoke in Bryan and Meredith’s beautiful little house in Cotuit, a small village on the southern end of the cape. Coffee made and breakfast ready, I realised quickly that I was going to get properly looked after this weekend. They gave me a quick driving tour of the surrounding area, benefitting from the local knowledge to get good food another the way. We drove out to Chatham Lighthouse and looked over the beach, and I marvelled at its similarity to South Devon. Identical.
Bryan’s Mother joined us at the race on Saturday, and took the role of support crew for both of us. I was a little nervous for her to take on the mosh pit that is a feed zone at a ProXCT, but she was solid throughout the entire race, not wavering once for the race. I was very grateful that she’d spent her Saturday looking after me. We had interesting conversation both ways to the race, and got back to the Cape late on Saturday night, in time for a couple of beers and a good night’s sleep.
We woke early on Sunday so Bryan could treat me to a proper Cape Cod experience: A sail around the bays of Cotuit. Sailing to a deadline is never recommended, and there are few deadlines as immovable as a plane to catch, but we headed out anyway. Bryan and his Dad take beautiful care of a 28 foot, twin mast sailing boat that’s moored in the bay, and we rowed out with the sunrise, and succeeded in being the first sails on the water. From Cotuit we sailed out through the Popponessit river into Nantucket sound, the stretch of water that lies south of Cape Cod. Benefitting from an ever-increasing breeze, we got heeled over and up to a good knot of speed. Looking in on the Cape reinforced how much New England looks like Old England, and I can see why the first settlers to Massachusetts didn’t travel far to make their homes. We got ashore in time for a sandwich, and got to the bus just in time to sling my bike and I aboard.
Bryan and his family really made my weekend. Alongside the hospitable and welcoming New England race scene, I feel like I got a true taste of the state. I’m really glad I made the trip, and I would highly recommend the weekend to anyway who wants a true Mountain Bike race on fun trails.