A strange thing has happened to my body since the crash: I used to be a good climber and hills made me happy.
Since the crash, though, I struggle up hills. I don't have as much power. I can't snap up hills like I used to.
So despite my initial glee about the course conditions at No Good Double Cross in Eagle: lots of mud, repeated climbing of the steep, reasonably long hill drained me. I still did alright overall in the 45 plus, yet I felt slow and sluggish.
One positive was the bike driving. The mud tires gave me a sense of confidence to carve through a lot of corners without brakes.
The course was okay. I missed stretches of length, where we could get into a rhythm and go. It felt a little choppy, and the "orchard" was pretty rough with rocks. The venue owner told me the whole orchard pathway had been opened up by the tornado that swept through Eagle last year.
The venue, though, is unique and fun. If the promoters could find a way to lengthen it, that would be better.
Last year Jackson Park was my first post-crash race. I finished somewhere in the 30s or lower, but I finished and wasn't lapped. I was thrilled.
Today, there were 100 40 plus riders who lined up! With some heavy hitters. A definitely stacked field. I forgot how much of an argy-bargy a cross start could be when my foot got knocked off my pedal as I was clipping in. I lost 10 spots right away from a second row start!
I drilled it then steady and strong. I felt tired, but still passed a lot of people. Many riders in Chicago use their brakes WAY TOO MUCH. Once I cleared through riders, and had a clean line, I barely touched the brakes except in the off-camber stuff on the hill.
I was able to jump and power through a lot of the course. My legs felt dead from yesterday's race and all the training, but I was still able to hammer along.
One of the best parts of the day was that I passed several riders or caught up to several riders while I ran the barriers! Last year, it was all I could do to walk over them!
I was also thrilled with Mike Heenan's gluing and bike build up job. Riders all over the course were rolling tires (lots of off-camber stuff) and I just dug in with no brakes and flew.
I finished 20th despite the poor start and tired legs. I was very pleased to see that result, given the long year of training, rehab, and continued therapy. And while the drive was long, the wake-up call damn early, the competition was fierce down there. I'll definitely go back.
Jackson Park was a great course, although I don't understand why XXX Racing didn't tape off the whole course. The little red flags became seriously hard to see as the race wore on and I was seeing double.
I'm beat now after driving home and showering. An excellent way to start the year.
Next weekend, all the big dogs show up to Sun Prairie for the USGP. A while back, I had dreams of making a run at the 45 plus USGP overall, but those hopes have been derailed. Still, now that I have the kinks worked out, it's time to be aggressive and ride hard.
I can't wait!