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SoCal Cross Race 8 - Hanson Dam - CA State Championships by John Bailey

Today was the California State Championship cyclocross race.  It also happens to be the SoCal Prestige Series race 8 so in effect, this was the most important race of my cross season.  I nagged John Behrens almost daily about what I should be doing over the past couple of weeks to be sure that I was rested enough but had enough edge to put on my best race today.  Although he about killed me with the volume of our thanksgiving holiday rides, I recovered well and felt good this week.

I was completely stressed out all week as work started to seem more like a hospital waiting room, with just about every form of sickness going around.  BP was sick for three days, violently vomiting and even the Gentle Giant John Behrens was taken down for a day or two.  Thursday night was my turn.  I was pasted to my couch and feeling so weak that each breath took effort.  I woke up Friday feeling like death warmed over, fired off an inflammatory email to undeserved colleagues for “getting me sick” (how dare they! :) ), and then just slept off as much of it as I could Friday night.

Fion and I went up to Santa Clarita on Saturday morning to survey the course and see if I could shake this sickness out of my legs and lungs.  We arrived at the course and nothing was setup.  Fortunately the race promoter was there so I was able to get at least a general idea of how things were going to be setup.  Fion was priceless – talking strategy with me, having me try different lines up a tricky climb, and doing a fabulous job of keeping me from getting too nervous.  After the few hard efforts I did while “pre-riding” the course, I knew that I was ready.  My legs felt great and I knew that win or lose, I had done all I could.

Race Day

After being woken up several times throughout the night by what sounded like torrential downpours, I woke up to find sky was blue and the streets still a little wet.  I was sure that I was in for another “Portland” mud race.  I got to the course in time to take a few laps and surprisingly, it wasn’t very muddy – that or I was so blinded by how bloody hard the course was that I didn’t notice the mud.  Riding a lap, going pretty much as slow as I could, had me feeling tired.  There were long hills with grass that was laid on a foundation of dog-sized gopher communities.  It was so bumpy that even getting up to speed took a standing effort.  It seemed that every time you turned, a long, hard, grassy hill kicked you in the face.  No rest whatsoever.

There were some new faces, but the usual crowd that makes my races miserable was there – most notably the SCNCA points leader – Didier Jourdain.  With all this, my tactics hadn’t really changed.  My plan was to go as hard as I could from the start and try get enough of a lead, that by the time I hit the pavement sections, no one could draft me and they would have to work together to bring me in.  From the start, I opened it up as hard as I could and had my lead.  After most of a lap of grass, I made it to the pavement with a gap and railed it – extending my lead.  About halfway through the race, I could see Didier (the guy I am nearly tied for the lead in the series) still in striking distance and I was starting to suffer.  I put it out of my head and just kept going as hard as I could. 

Coming into the start of the last lap, I looked over my shoulder and couldn’t see anyone.  I backed off a little and enjoyed the last lap of my race season – now the Mens 3/4 State Champion and also assured the Prestige Series winner as only 7 of 9 races are tallied for the overall.

Photos:

How about this for a look of angry determination?

The start

A little early to be scowling……

Notice my left foot still isn’t clipped in…funny I don’t remember that.

This is about half-way through the first lap – already blown the field down to just four of us.

A nasty little climb that most just ran.  I rode it a few times – screwed it up 3 times more ;)

No lack of celebration here - putting a minute into the 2nd place finisher.

Podium shot wearing my new state champ jersey and most importantly, a big bottle of beer!  - If that isn’t a cheesy grin then I haven’t seen one.