Before we took off for the East Coast, JoJo and I went to Seattle and Las Vegas for our season openers: Star-Crossed, GP Rad Racing, and Cross Vegas. That's TWO night-time cross races in half a week!
Star-Crossed is easily the best race in the country, given the crowds, course, the quality of the field, and the amount of FUN that everyone has. Two years ago I won the race, and last year I was on the podium in my first comeback race of the year. This race has treated me well over the years, I was stoked to get back up to Marymoor. This year was not so lucky, though, since I broke my chain before the first corner. I had to run to the first pit, and started riding my bike about 3 minutes off the back. I started riding steady, just hoping for a workout, and ended up passing about 85 guys. I finished 13th at the end of the night, and I'll be reaping the benefits from the workout I got in a couple weeks.
JoJo had a killer race, starting really well and staying out of trouble. She was riding in 3rd for a while, grouped up with a couple others, and scorched them to finish 5th. She's a rock star, and claimed our team's first UCI podium of the season.
The conditions were pretty intimidating for the first big race of the year, since it was raining for a couple days ahead of time. It was a little slimy, and I figured the start was going to be total mayhem, which it was. Knowing that going into the race creates a little apprehension, but we dealt with it, rode it out (literally), and got past it fine.
The next day was GP Rad Racing, which benefits the top junior development program in the country. Jim Brown and his crew have their hands full, but they do a great job bringing more and more kids into the race scene each year. They have one of the best venues around, with THE BIGGEST RUNUP that we'll see all season. It's an awesome race!
I really like to run, so I was not so intimidated by the course. Everyone else was, waiting and riding relatively easy so that they wouldn't blow up at the top of the course. I rode easy in the draft and then relaxed on the run while everyone else stressed out. Eventually, I made some mistakes in the corners and started cramping in the straights, so I let them go and went on to fight another day. My muscles were in bad shape from the efforts of the night before, so I lost the sprint for 4th and ended up 5th on the day. Still, my first (of many, hopefully) UCI podiums of the year.
JoJo's race wasn't a good as last night, and she ended up 10th. The hill took it out of her, and the high speeds on the flats were a little too much. Plus, she claims she's getting old.
We made it to Vegas just fine, and hung out for a couple days to recover from the races. On Wednesday, the rest of the Cal Giant team came into town, and we went racing again. The Cross Vegas course was similar to last year, in that is was really hard to go fast: the grass was so thick and heavy that you felt like you were climbing a steep hill the whole time. I rarely used my brakes, since all you had to do to slow down was to stop pedaling your ass off.
Oh yeah, and the field was STACKED. MTB World Champ, Lance Armstrong, and every domestic crosser was there. This field was harder than Nationals! I got tailed off of the giant lead group, and was the first guy to come in after. I still had to battle, since my little group of four consisted of the Danish national champ, two current US National Champs (me and JDriscoll), and Barry Wicks. I ended up turning the screws on them and rode two off the wheel, and then sprinted Parbo for 14th place. A little redemption, since he beat me the previous Sunday in a two-up sprint.
JoJo just wanted the workout for the night, and she ended up 3 spots better than last year. No complaints, plus she made some money grabbing dollars off the ground.
After the race, all I wanted was my prize money, a beer, and a steak. I spent much of the night getting my share of beer, but I didn't get my steak until we got back to the hotel at 5:30am the next morning.