It's 2am after cross vegas and I am still wired on racing and caffeine. The event started under a full moon at Desert Breeze Soccer Complex (six miles east of Las Vegas Boulevard) around 9.30pm. 125 racers toed the line and the crowd estimate ranged between 8,000-10,000 people. The course featured mostly hard grass but there were a few sections of soft stuff, with a healthy mix of obstacles to bring the riders closer to the crowds.
Instead of heading right out onto the course, officials added in a short 500 meter oval into the opening section of the race to help string out the riders. Although I was placed 71st of 120 on the preliminary starting sheet, at packet pickup I found that my day would be a little more difficult with a 108 on my back. But the opening lap proved good for me and over the start finish line on our way onto the real course, I was able to move up a lot of spots. By the end of the first lap, Keith said that had moved up forty or so spots. This of course caught up to me and the group I found myself in soon placed my legs and lungs in great discomfort.
Take a lap:
After a close run along the crowd over the start finish, the course winded its way into the main complex. The crowd lined the ridge and it was just nuts to race in front of so many people. Some sections of this area were astroturf/really hard soccer field so the speeds were definitely high. Riding up the sides of the steep banking surrounding the pitch proved the first chance for the crowd to get a close look at the riders; it was also a rider's first look at the tunnel effect. Powering up the first section of embankment, the speeds slowed down and a few out-of-saddle pedal strokes took to the menu. Followed by a fast and bumpy left/right set of corners placed riders at the first of two pit entrances. The orange barriers also the pits narrowed the width of the course, making overtaking into the fast approaching blind right hander a pitch sketchy. The 90 degree right hander set the riders back towards the embankment surrounding the soccer pitch, the exit of which remained shrouded by the a wall of beer garden spectators hanging out over the sides of the orange metal control fencing. As you take the corner, a wall of light knocks you senseless; its bright beams shroud the faces of the rows of spectators below but highlight the fast approaching barriers. A cacophony of noise rocks your senses and you approach one of the more technical elements of the lap. Once up to speed, I unhook my right leg and swung it over my bike, placing it between the gap between the frame and my clipped-in left leg. Grasping the top tube with my right hand, I wait for just the right moment as the barriers approach at 30km/hr. Now! Unhooking my left leg and bounding off one impact off my right foot, I lift the bike with the help of a fist full of front brake from my left hand. Over the first barrier, then two steps to eat up the 4 metre distance to the second. Once clear, gently place the bike on the grass and sprint the remaining 12 meters to the 180 degree bend up ahead. Just as I near the top, I throw my right leg over my saddle in as smooth a motion as I can muster and if my dismount 10 seconds earlier proved good, then my right foot will find my right pedal right at the top of the power phase of the pedal stroke. One or two really hard pedal strokes and I hurl down the hill, clipping into my pedals fully as soon as I came. The next right hand double apex corner has a little drop through its 10metre turn radius, and the exit is again clouded by eagerly watching fans. Once again the course sends me back towards the embankment. This time, already half way up the hill, four stairs full of sand force another dismount. Vering to the left once at the top, the camber of the hill makes an efficient remount challening. If I can push up an extra couple of feet along the right hand side of the taped course, I can maintain a high enough momentum such that post remount, I'll be able to save a little energy. But when passing other riders, sometimes the low line remains the only option and a little more power is needed once the feet hit the pedals. The difference is only about two feet but the fatigue definitely accumulates throughout the 1 hour event. A couple of fast corners greet the riders in the coming sections, then onto another sand stair section (this time immediately following a hard right kink after a fast appraoch) before heading out onto the start/finish area of the course. Approaching this last obstacle each lap, riders would take the corner at full speed with a leg already swung over the bike. Running deep and jumping off just at the last moment, a rider could really nail this section with fast foot speed and make up a lot of time.
The race was very tough but the conditions were ideal. There was a bit of a wind but that actually helped keep the temperatures low, around 73. Since this exceeded the UCI minimum for feeding of 64 degrees, riders could take on water from supporters in the feed zone. Albeit, it was a brave maneuver as speeds in that section topping out at 30 km/hr over treacherous combinations of bumpy grass and dirt.
This evening's race was the first time that I have finished on the lead lap at a UCI cyclocross race (only 2 previous attempts including Starcrossed 2008 & 2010). I think I was close to breaking into the top fifty but full results will come online tomorrow morning some time. It would have been rad to come away with some UCI points but my fitness is good for being on vacation, although my asthma definitely hit me hard tonight and it was a real struggle at the halfway point. It was great to do a good ride tonight as the whole sales team at Rolf Prima came out to watch and cheer. Starting in the hundreds made making the top 50 miracle material but I almost got it!
Keith was able to snap a few shots, I've also included a few from Interbike today. Some flashy stuff in there for sure. Also a big thanks to the Luna Chicks team for having me share some space with them at the Luna Team trailer tonight. Really made my evening easier than it would have been otherwise.
Peter (Rolf Prima) & I prestart at Luna Chicks Tent
Sandy Stairs at 2laps to go
New Fizik Line
This one is just for Andy Erickson
Check it out!