I've pretty much had it with this winter and I was looking for any excuse to ride in some warm weather. So, in a last minute decision, I decided to head down to Austin to start my season about 6 weeks early. The weather was just about perfect, high 70s and dry. I arrived Thursday afternoon and immediately got a few laps on the course. The course was super fast, with a few punchy climbs and a ton of loose rocky corners.
Friday was registration, number pick up, and call up assignment. I pulled 42 for call up which would put me around row 5. Pretty good spot considering I don't have any UCI points. Two other New England riders (Tom Sampson and Billy Melone) and I headed out to do a few laps and immediately I ran into issues. About 8 minutes into the ride, I slashed a tire open so bad that nothing was going to stop the leak. "Better today than race day" I kept telling myself. Still dressed in my kit, I drove to the nearest shop and picked up a new tire, installed it, then hustled back to the course to finish course inspection. It was only about 3pm by the time I got back, so there was no rush, but the stress of the situation was making me anxious. After a lap, I settled down and was able to put the mishap behind me.
Race day was great, media everwhere, tons of fans, and sunny skies. I shook the nerves, got a good warm up in, and heading to the start area for staging and call ups. It was about 82 degrees when the whistle blew, and we were off on the 1km start loop. About 200 yards into the race, the course bottlenecked and went uphill. Immediately the back of the pack came to a stop. There just wasn't enough room and everyone was fighting for position. After everything cleared out, we were all back on our way and chasing to get back on. The next bottleneck came after the double track heading into the singletrack between two tight trees. So many guys were trying to squeeze through at the same time, it was complete chaos. We came to a standstill and it seemed like a minute before we got going again. Now it was time to start chasing. The field was pretty spread out at this point and I settled into a group of 3-4 riders. After a lap or two, there were riders dealing with mechanical problems left and right. I knew I had to focus on riding smart and make advancements when I could. It would be a race of attrition, and staying smooth and consistent would be better than going all out and breaking equipment.
Half way through the 4th lap, I was going around a sweeping turn and my rear brake gave out. I told myself it wasn't a big deal, it just means I can't go as hard on the downhills. With no rear brake, I started to get a little sloppy and had to slow down. Just before the final feed zone, about 1/4mile from the finish, the insanely fast lead group of 4 (Plaxton, Kabush, Wells, and Bishop) caught me. I let them pass with ease and knew that the race would be done when I reached the finish. I just needed to make sure I didn't let anyone else catch me, I wanted to make sure I got a result. When I rolled through the finish, it was for 51st. Not as good as I hoped, but it's still early.
There was media everywhere, once some photos surface, I'll add them to the post. I'm thinking I'll head to the Fontana ProXCT race later this month. Anyone else want to go?