When the opportunity came up to volunteer at the final cyclocross race of the series I couldn't say no. The people behind the scenes for Cross on the Rock put in so much hard work and do an incredible job with every event. Handwritten statistics converted to digital results get online within a few hours of the last cyclist crossing the line, set-up and take down seems to be the work of CX wizards, as there's never any sign of course work being done the day of, and most importantly these superstars all find the energy to race, too. With all of that in mind, it was a no-brainer to get my hands dirty. One advantage we had over the other venues was the ability to set-up the day before rather than the morning of. Getting to see a concept turn into a physical course was a much more creative process than I had imagined as stakes were hammered, pulled back out, re-imagined, and hammered once again. One valuable lesson I walked away with is how weak my arms actually are after spending close to half an hour pounding metal rebar into the firm parking lot ground to create a start chute. Note to self: Improve Arm Watts.
We received the aforementioned rain over night, but the skies were clear by sunrise and the course conditions were pretty ideal. Deep sticky mud, hard packed trails, rutted firm grass, loose gravel, sand that would have built the best castle, and warm enough weather for short sleeves. Factor in the soul-sucking straights that connected all of these sections and we were in for a true test.
The parking lot filled up a little more slowly than usual, which is why I was surprised to find out we surpassed the previous years attendance by close to one hundred entrants. Hearing a statistic like that made any work I put in feel worth it and gave me a little insight as to why the series' organizers might be willing to do what they do year in and year out. If it's not clear yet, I'm trying to say thank you to everyone who puts on these awesome events as they've been the highlight of this years race calender.
Podium positions for the overall standings were still mostly undecided in the categories which really ramped up the excitement of watching each bout before we took to the course. Doughnut hand-ups accompanied me to the venue and, making them a higher priority than my own nutrition, I regrettably forgot to bring my bag of food. Racers too fixated on their own result blew passed the delicious pastries without even a glance leaving much of what I arrived with intact. What a unique opportunity I suddenly had before me, can mini-crullers power a cyclist to a personal best placing? With my race soon approaching, I "fueled" up.
Earlier in the week my chain broke during an interval session and it continued to do so in the days following. Six times over four rides as I waited for Broad Street Cycles to arrive on race day with a new chain for my Romax. Cutting it close, and I somewhat paid for it as the chain skipped from cog to cog throughout the holeshot leaving me hesitant to put the power down. Despite this I found a good position and rhythm once the race settled in pitting me against a similar group to the Shawnigan Lake race.
The four of us traded positions constantly throughout each lap as it seemed we all had different strengths on such a course. Racing with competitors so closely really animated the race for me as we all reacted to any slight mistake the leader at the time would make. I saw an opportunity with three laps remaining and tried to open a gap as we hit the muddy section but the added speed led to a mistake on my part opening the door for two of them to ride away.
At this point it was down to Trevor MacKenzie and myself as we kept our heads down and hoped to catch back up to our earlier compatriots. We pushed hard but once I knew the race was between the two of us with one lap remaining I admittedly got a little intimidated. If you know him then you're well aware of his daunting stature that just kind of screams "power". The last thing I wanted was for it to come down to a close race since Trevor looks like he could outsprint a horse. Once again it was the mud where I bobbled, and a quick dismount had me off and running. The light was low at this point in the afternoon and I could see my mistake had forced him off his bike too as his long shadow ran behind mine. Slowly the figure started to fade out of my peripheral and I knew I could hang on until the end.
Until next year.