Montrose, the final race in the Chicago Cross Cup and my last race of the season. Technical cross courses do not favor my particular skill set (whatever that might be), and this was a technical course. Innumerable sharp turns, four inches of snow, loose sand, mud, and some icy pavement awaited our category three field of over eighty riders. I was certain that I would crash, most likely more than once. But I figure that most of the other riders will suffer the same fate; maybe I can get a great start and crash less than the competition.
As we are waiting for call-ups I notice that all of the riders are wearing long cycling tights or at least leg warmers. This is not entirely unreasonable given that the temperature is in the mid twenties. But I remembered recently seeing a photo of Lou Kuhn at Montrose a couple of years back—bare and bloody legs with snow on the ground (probably on the way to a win). My legs would surely be bleeding by the end of the race too; I might as well entertain the crowd a little (people love to see blood at cross races, or so I am told). And I did see fearless teammate Steve riding bare legged in the 30+ race earlier in the day (to be fair the hair on Steve’s legs is sufficiently dense to provide a degree of warmth comparable to that afforded by leg warmers). One final consideration was that this act of manliness would send the message to my top rivals that I am all business today. The leg warmers come off.
My “all business” message is somewhat muddled by the fact (now brought to my attention) that I have pinned my number on upside down. I am also dismayed to see that I am wearing some seriously ugly brown socks (how did those get there?). Everybody knows that anybody who is any good at cross would never be caught with socks that do not match their uniform. I have a hard time focusing on my fashion faux pas, however, as my legs are telling me that it is getting really, really, cold. Drawing inspiration from Jens Voigt I yell (silently) “shut up legs.” For some reason I still can’t get this trick to work (how does he do that?).
The whistle blows and we’re off. I completely miss my clip-in and fall all the way back to somewhere around fifteenth wheel. It’s my worst start of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time. I’m stuck riding at a snail’s pace around the first few turns while I watch the leaders riding away into the distance. Gaps are opening up everywhere and there’s nothing I can do about it because there are very few places where one can safely pass on this course. I stay calm and start picking off the riders in front of me one by one. After what seems like an eternity of passing riders and bridging gaps I sneak around Ted and Luke to move into fourth place. Only Seguin, Wat, and Kurtz are still ahead of me. It is fitting that the championship come down to one final showdown between the four of us; we have been battling each other race after race in the cat 3 series this year, with each of us coming out on top at least once. I slowly start chipping away at the still significant gap between the lead riders and me. I catch Seguin, who is obviously hurting, but still keeping a good pace and closing in on Wat and Kurtz. I stay on his wheel and wait for the next straightaway where I will make a move. A sensible plan, but I crash before I can execute it. Unfortunately for me, crashing in cyclocross is like eating Lay’s potato chips—you can’t have just one. I’m riding fast and feeling good but I can’t keep my bike upright. I crash four more times and drop my chain once (it’s at times like these that I’m glad to be racing on a Scattante). Amidst the carnage I manage to slip by Wat to land a place on the podium. I cross the finish line bare-legged, slightly bloody, and covered with enough mud to ensure that my aforementioned fashion faux pas had been corrected. I’m also a little tired.
Congrats to Seguin for another gutsy win—that guy knows how to dig deep and push himself to the limit. Congrats to Kurtz for winning the overall title. Congrats to Wat for another strong race and a great season (thanks also for the post-race refreshment). Thanks to Turin for putting on a great race. Thanks to all of my teammates and friends from other teams for the cheers and heckles throughout the race. Thanks to J for his support and advice throughout the season. Thanks to Jason Knauff and everyone else who has helped to make the Chicago Cross Cup an amazing series. Most of all I’d like to thank Marilyn and our nine-week old daughter Monet for braving the extreme weather to support me. Yes, Monet does have a custom TATI stroller, but that doesn’t make it easy. The best thing about racing cross this year has been spending my Sunday’s with you.