Most of the CXers in the country are taking an off weekend to rest up for the upcoming USGP races in NJ. We also decided to not race in the US, and so we left the country and went to Toronto instead! The races featured the first Cat. 1 double weekend in North America, meaning tons of points and money on offer. It's a hard opportunity to pass up.
Some other racers had the same notion as us, and JoJo actually faced a pretty tough field: Natasha Elliott, Rebecca Wellons, Anna Milkowski, and Dawn Anderson all showed up and made it a great race. JoJo ended up 4th the first day and 5th the second day, which was killer! Double podium in our only international race of the season is always good.
I had to face the likes of Tim Johnson, Jeremy Powers, Dan Timmerman, Matt White, and Matt Shriver. We battled it out on some tough courses, including our first mudbath of the year. Saturday, JoJo's race was super fast and clean: she never needed a bike during her race. In contrast, the skies opened up while we were on the start line, and it all turned to soup. I was swapping bikes every lap, and even twice a lap at the end. The course was mostly flat, with lots of off-camber features and tricky run/rides to break things up. The mud got VERY heavy towards the end, and we'd pack on several pounds of mud onto the bikes within three straightaways after taking a clean bike. I had a disastrous start, where the guy next to me basically swerved into me as the gun fired, and I ran staright into the staring arch. As I finally got going, the fourth row was screaming by me. I hit the trottle and was tearing down the first straight, and my brakes didn't do anything coming into the first corner. I almost hit the barriers instead of turning left! There was a lot of mayhem with crashes and I couldn't keep track of it all, it was pure war. I do remember Timmerman doing this long slow slide while going 30+mph in the mud, and he hit the ground hard and kept sliding for a whole straightaway. Gnarly.
Once everything sorted out, Timmy and Jeremy checked out, and I was battling Shriver for 4th place. Matt's got a lot of punch, and his accelerations were pretty wicked. On my side, I had tires that actually let me turn in the mud, so I wasn't CONSTANTLY in the dirt. I was there a lot, but a little less than others, so I ended up getting a gap on Matt and holding it to the line. In 3rd was Nick Weighall, an U23 kid from Seattle. I guess the mud was right up his alley, and he was riding STRONG. He's never podiumed at any UCI race, and so he kills a Cat 1! An awesome ride, and good indications for the future from this strong kid. I'm proud of him for breaking through, wicked!
Sunday, the race was on SKI HILL that used to be a garbage dump. The course basically went up one ski run, and back down another. I've never climbed that much in a 'cross race! It felt much more like a MTB race, except that nobody had a granny gear! And we needed them...
So my start was much better, and I was in front of the first split. I knew that the race would be to nail the hill time and again, and so I chilled a lot during the rest of the lap and saved it to attack the hell out of the climb. This tactic worked, because I was riding in 2nd for much of the race. Late in the race, JPow was whittling away at my lead, and eventually rode me back. On the last lap, I attacked the hill again but it wasn't enough to shake him loose. He raged on the descent, got a tiny gap, and the race was over for me. 2nd would have been nice, but I'm happy to get 3rd at a Cat 1 race and claim a huge chunk of points.
I just finished a rest week leading up to these races, and I'm back to square one on base fitness and form. It's a relief that my slowest race is worth podium spots at some big races, so I'm lookign forward to the ramp up to Nationals. I'm going to be going faster and faster over the next couple of weekends, and I'm looking forward to flying on the race course!
Also, JoJo and I have a huge thanks to give to John and Erika David, our host family in Toronto. They gave us an ideal home base to rest, relax, eat, and enjoy company. It turned "just another race" into a memorable and special weekend. Thanks to them and their family for making us a part of the household.