I was still a little shell-shocked from Nittany, but looking forward to the weekend of Charm City racing. My main goal was just to ride a clean race, and try to not get pulled. The course on Saturday was looking really dry, with dust clouds following the racers, but there was a very high probability of rain during the Elite race.
The field was stacked, Jonathan Page was the biggest name, in his stars and stripes jersey, but the talent ran deep throughout the field. I was on the last row of the starting grid, but even there I was next to Cameron Dodge fresh from his 21st place finish at Cross Vegas. Yup, the Cross Vegas with Svyn Nys, J Pow, Ryan Trebon, Ben Berden, etc… Heck, he beat Todd Wells, Sven Vanthourenhout, and a lot of other fast guys. There just are no slow guys in the UCI Elite field, even at the back of the field.
I held back in the start, wanting to error on the conservative side. Sixty minutes is a lot of racing, and it is too easy to get sloppy after going too deep in the red. After the first lap, the initial frenzy of the start settled down, and I could focus on trying to pass and move up. I was looking for the Bicycle Therapy duo of Brendan and Willem, it’s good to have a target to chase. I actually managed to catch up with Joe, and was behind him going into the sand pits, but totally botched it and lost a few seconds. I then slid out my rear tire on the uphill right turn before the team tents, and lost a position. I managed to get that one back, but couldn’t quite catch back up to Joe again. The skies opened up and the deluge of rain actually improved the course, it went from dry and slippery to tacky. I didn’t get pulled, beat my cross predictor spot by 8 spots, and rode a relatively clean race. So I was happy. It was a really fun course, very fast and very flowy.
On day 2 I was fearing a super muddy course, after the downpour, but amazingly it drained off, and almost completely dried off with the sun and wind. Now the course was ridiculously, blazingly fast. Somehow I ended up on the second to last row, and wanted to shoot for a better start. However, the start was super aggressive, and after putting in a bunch of really hard efforts to try and gain a few spots, I would just as quickly lose them again. I came around onto the back part of the course absolutely dead last. My efforts to move up were completely futile, and costing me a lot of energy, so I went back to waiting until things strung out. Once some gaps opened up after the first lap, I could keep passing and was slowly moving up. But the pace was brutal, and I was getting close to danger territory of getting pulled, so with 3 to go I put in as hard of a lap as I could, but saw the official coming onto the S/F straight, and I was done. That was just as well, because then I was free to watch the final 2 laps of the leaders. There was a good lead group, but something happened in the sand pits and only Jonathan Page and Stephen Hyde were together coming out of the back of the course. With one to go, Stephen got on front, and stayed there the entire last lap. The last chance to pass was a small hill on a straight section of course shortly after the sand pits, but Stephen was ready for Page’s move, and held him off, legitimately over powering him. Through the final turns and onto the S/F, the entire crowd was electric and errupted when they opened up their sprints, and Stephen came through for the win. That was a good battle.
I’m looking forward to some of the PA races now.