Coming off the previous week’s 1st place finish I had a bit too much confidence leading up to the Bubba Cross #7 race in Chesterfield. It didn’t take long for circumstances to put me back in my place. The instant I arrived at the race venue in what must be the bumpiest field in the midwest, I knew it was going to be rough. Along with wind, excessive bumps put me at a particular disadvantage to the guys I would normally race head to head against, many of whom happen to weigh 30-40 lbs more than me. I spent a lot of time airborne, and I had a very hard time getting any sort of rhythm going during the race.
The temperature was below freezing, which was something I’ve never experienced during a bike race before. I overdressed and shed clothes like crazy between my warmup and the race. Aside from some glazed eyes during the first few minutes, the cold temperature wasn’t really an issue.
I started near the front and hit the first turn in 4th place. The two leaders opened a large gap and after half a lap I passed a guy to move up to 3rd. Then reality set in. I couldn’t power through the straightaways like I normally do. I couldn’t ride in a straight line. I got passed and dropped back to 3rd. Then 4th. Then 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th. Things were going poorly and showing no signs of improving. Furthermore, I simply wasn’t having fun. Something had to change.
About half way through the race I just grabbed the tops of my handlebars near the stem (to limit the excessive vibrations), shifted to a bigger gear, and just tried to power my way down the bumpy straightaway like I’ve seen Spartacus and Boonen do so many times on the cobblestones. The lack of power in my skinny legs is my achilles heal in cycling, but the straightaways weren’t that long. As the race went on I did better and better by cornering without using my brakes. Other guys were starting to get tired and I was just getting started so I was able make up some big deficits to move up a few places.
I finished the race in 6th place. If it had been 100 meters longer I probably would have made it up to 4th. But I didn’t, and that’s okay. I managed to salvage a race that was going poorly and was unenjoyable for me in the beginning. The next time I face a course this bumpy I’m going to ride my mountain bike.