Sunday, February 23, 2014

Southern Cross

The first race in the Ultra Cross series, Southern Cross was my first goal event of the season.  It was my 3rd attempt.  I finished 6th on a 29'er MTB 2 years ago.  Last year I raced a CX bike, missed a turn on the final long descent and added some extra mileage.  This year I was back again on a CX bike.  The competition has ratcheted up a couple of notches over the last couple of years, so my optimistic goal was a top 5 in 40+ but realistically I was just looking at seeing where my early season form was and just pushing as hard as I could.

The weather turned out to be pretty good.  A little chilly at the start, but nothing like last years freeze.  I got a reasonably good starting position (for me).  The tall grass and soft ground on the winery grounds at the start made for some difficult going early on.  I lost a few spots by those more ambitious on the first big run-up than me.  By the time we got to the road my legs were already burning, but it's crucial to be in a good drafting pack early and then sort it out on the climb.

I had been riding the .GPX course file of the course on my CompuTrainer, so I knew when and how long the first climb would be.  I think I paced myself pretty well because of those that passed me early in the climb, I was able to reel them all in and a grab a few more spots before the 1st aid station at the top at mile 12.5.

A few more short, steep climbs and descents followed before a long descent leading onto a road section.  Somehow I managed to hit the road solo, so I had to do all the work myself instead of sharing the work with drafting partners.

There are a few more short steep climbs before we turn onto a road that follows a creek on a steady incline that suits my climbing style perfectly.  It's a joy to be outside with great weather, great terrain, pedaling up a mountain.  Other riders are few and far between, but I do manage to pick a few spots before the aid station at mile 32.

Next up:  Super fast, rough road descending.  It's a bit technical, but most of all, it is a bit of crap shoot wondering how fast I can rocket down the mountain bouncing off of rocks without flatting.  I played it reasonably conservative, losing a little ground to some MTB's, but pleased that I got to the bottom with no flats, no issues.

I pop out onto the road, solo again, for the 5 or so miles back to the winery.  We enter the winery on a narrow, paved undulating road, but the real difficult section starts with a giant run-up and doesn't end until the finish line.  Two miles of suffering through soft ground, tall grass, off-camber sections, more run-ups, a log crossing, 2 creek crossings and the accumulation of 49 previous miles of fatigue.  But it does finally end.  The extra struggling at the end adds to the satisfaction of mission accomplishment.  I crossed the line in about 3:20.  Good for 7th in 40+ and 25 minutes faster than I was last year.

A good start to the season.

See you on the trails!

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