Today (12/11/11) was the last cyclocross race of the season (for Jake & I; Nationals is still a few weeks away): The Luray Caverns Cyclocross race. Only in its second year, it is held right on the grounds of Luray Caverns.
Since last week was the final race of the MABRACross Super 8 series Jake and I were free to treat this one a little differently. Basically, I didn't want to try and get to Luray (1.5 hour drive) in time for the 9:30AM 45+ race, and by this week in December I knew the temps would likely be cold at 9:30am (indeed it was in the 20s). So I figured Jake and I could both race the Cat 3 race at 3pm. It would be the first and possibly last time that Jake and I race against each other. It would be the "battle of the century."
Luray is nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, so has beautiful mountains all around. (I only had my blackberry for photos, but I'm hoping that In The Crosshairs will post some excellent video soon; indeed he did, it's here http://www.cxhairs.com/2011/12/12/luray-caverns-cx-2011/ and for your convenience embedded at the end of this post)
The course was built on the side of a hill, with a road section up the hill, there were a number of tight turns then a drop down the backside of the hill, a climb back up then a series of turns traversing back down the hill before making way back up the hill. So there was some solid climbing but also some very tight turning. Conditions were a bit slick with a thin layer of mud on many of the upper corners.
Being the last race of the day, it was a small field of about 20 Cat 3s, but we had 5 Coppis. Kimani was of course the class of the field and would ride away to win.
Me and Jake were on the front line, but the officials pulled a "surprise" whistle that caught me completely off guard. I missed my clip in and didn't finally get clipped into my pedal until the top of the road at which point I was at the back of the pack and Jake was toward the front. I put in a big effort to pass some people quickly and get back to Jake. Kimani and Dave Pederson were up front. I quickly realized I didn't have great legs, but was ahead of Jake a little. I stayed a little ahead of Jake on the first lap. But on Lap 2 at some point he easily rode past me on a climb and when we started to climb back from the drop off the back side of the hill Jake EASILY rode away creating a decent sized gap. Ugh. This was bad. I really thought it was over. But I dug in and started to claw him back on the turns going down the hill. I kept his gap manageable and on Lap 3 was starting to close. Jake was catching up to Dave P and I was ever so close and was afraid that Dave would help Jake. But by the bottom of the hill we were together as 3. This is where Jake should have dropped the hammer and left Dave and I to rot going up the hill on the road. He had the legs, but instead he sat behind Dave, which let me sit behind him.
I made my move to go around them both coming out of a turn by the pits. Jake jumped on my wheel. We dropped down the back side of the hill and were running with Jake just a step behind and next to me. I led up the hill going all out. Jake says he was just sitting on me, but this was his second mistake. He should have attacked and used his superior legs to get a gap on me rather than let me go into the turns ahead.
2 other guys caught up to us at the bottom of the hill and mixed in a little. I could hear behind me Jake's gears skipping and I even yelled back to ask if he was ok. One of the guys got around me and led me up the hill. Jake was, I think, just behind me but maybe with a small gap. I waited to stand up as the hill kicked up. I wasn't able to get around the guy in front of me and as soon as I cross the line I turned around to see Jake just getting pipped by the other guy. He was maybe 20 feet behind me. I was 8th and he was 10th.
It was a good race and Jake rode very well. I was able to beat him only because he didn't take advantage of his strength, which we talked about later. Also if it had be a bit more of a wide open course where he could apply more power I would never gotten back to him. He could have beat me and definitely was stronger today.
It was a beautiful ride home in the mountains as the sun went down.
Today was Jake's 20th race in a 12 week period. We raced every single weekend starting on September 18th and many times he raced twice in a single day, sometimes doing better in his second race. It was a great season. Jake had some really powerful performances. His win at Charm City was incredible, as was his 3rd in the Cat 4 at Hyattsville and his 23rd in the Cat 3/4 at Schooley Mill and his 2nd in the 15-18 at Rockburn. As of this week, Jake is ranked 12th IN THE COUNTRY among 14 year olds (i.e. "racing age 15") by USA Cycling. He was 11th before but some other boy seems to have moved up. I'm obviously radically proud. Next year we will make a real effort to build and take him to Nationals.
My season was so-so. Traveling nearly all week on 4 of the first 6 weeks really hurt my ability to be strong and consistent. But I had fun and had some good performances over the last few weeks. My thanks to Mike Birner for his coaching.
It was a great year for Squadra Coppi as well. Kimani won 2 races and had many podiums. Brad Evans had a huge year including his 2nd at Hyattsville. Best of all, yesterday, Brad went to New England and finished 3rd in the Ice Weasels Cometh, showing the New England cross scene what a class level of rider we have in the Mid Atlantic. It was great to race with Eric Blomquist who is easily teammate of the year (thanks for taking all our stuff today at the start of the Cat 3 race). Dave was an awesome addition from the west coast. Many others deserve mention. Adam Austin was out there today and finished 17th I think. Great to see him out there every week. Likewise Ryan Newell of The Service Course fame landed some seriously solid results in the 3/4 Masters races, proving that years of "tapering" really is training, and Mark Skubis was also solid in his rookie year in the Masters 3/4. There are too many others to mention and do justice to.
OF COURSE, the greatest thanks must go to Loren who supports me and the boys in these weekly pursuits. Thanks babe.
SO, THE BIG NEWS:
As alluded to previously, there are big changes now coming. Although a difficult decision to make, Jake will ride next year for the HPC-List Elite Junior Team. Much as he loves Squadra Coppi, this is a move that will help him step up to the next level of bike racing.
And in a last minute development, I will be President of Squadra Coppi next year. I'm hoping for a quiet but positive year. Seriously, quiet, do you hear me!
Check back for photos from the race if I can find some (Liam was supposed to come with us and take video but he bagged out this morning; he couldn't race because he had Sunday School at the Temple at the time of the 10-14 race).
The CXHairs video