My first race of the year was supposed to be Warrior Creek in April, but something about Southern Cross caught my attention. I am not a huge fan of gravel grinds and have never raced cross, but a quick weekend trip to Dahlonega, GA and the Montaluce Winery sounded too good to pass up. The race would be a great opportunity to test out the legs as well as my nutrition.
I woke up early on race morning with a purpose. Instead of throwing down whatever food I happened to be around moments before the start of the race, I decided to eat some pumpkin pancakes with applesauce, egg salad, and a banana a few hours before go time.
Vanessa and I arrived at the winery plenty early and had time to catch up with a few friends and second guess strategy for the race. After seeing that it appeared my competition would be utilizing the two aid stations out on the course, I caught myself wondering if I should also drop a little weight and plan on hitting up an aid station. I decided to stick with my gut and stayed with my original plan of 2 bottles on the bike and one in the jersey. Before I knew it, we were lining up and I settled in towards the front of the pack.
The start of the race lead us through the winery grounds with some off-camber riding and one decent run up which eventually spit us out on the road. On the road I found myself being passed by lots of riders on cross bikes and eventually by fellow singlespeeder John Karrasch. I knew that John was one to keep an eye on so I tried to not let him out of my sight. Once we hit the gravel and the first nine mile climb, I could tell that John was riding strong and decided to hang back. Toward the top of the climb, the road got steep and loose. I noticed that everyone was walking this section including John. I decided that I might be able to gain back some time by riding it but by the time I got to the top, John was once again out of sight.
I kept telling myself that this was just a test of my legs and there was no pressure. Because of this, I was just cruising at a comfortable pace and felt that I was sitting outside of the top ten. At around mile 25, I came up on a rider who told me that I was the 3rd singlespeed rider. I didn't really believe him but I did know that Rich Dillon and John Karrash were both in front of me. I decided that if there was a chance that I was in third then I would start chasing and see what happened. I also wanted to see what my legs had in them.
I picked up the pace and much to my surprise ended up catching Dicky and then John leaving the 30 mile aid station. Before the race I noticed that they were not carrying enough fuel for the entire race, so I figured that I would carry all three of my bottles to eliminate the need to stop. That ended up being a great call because now I was right back on their wheel.
We hit some climbs in which John and I pushed each other and ended up putting a little gap on Rich. As we hit a huge decent, we took the wheel of a geared CX bike. As the speeds increased, John mentioned that he wasn't geared for spinning at these speeds. Upon hearing this I decided that I should make my move. I worked so hard to keep the wheel of the rider in front of me, that I started getting twinges in my hamstrings. It didn't take long before John dropped off of the back and was nowhere to be seen.
At this point, I thought that we were closing in on the end of the race but what I didn't know at the time was that we had about 15 miles to go. I railed the gravel decent and was working so hard on the decent that my inner hamstrings on both legs started cramping with about 8 miles to go and the cramps ran up the groin and into my hips. I was able to use some techniques on the bike to try to lessen the cramping while still keeping pace.
Once I reached the CX course once again I was hoping that I would not totally seize up on some of the insane run ups and short rideable steeps. My legs held out on me and I rolled in with a time of 3:36 which happened to be first in the singlespeed division.
Eddie and Namrita of 55Nine Performance did an excellent job of putting on this race. The venue was unique, the course was challenging and the competition included some great guys. I couldn't have asked for a better weekend!