If there's one recurring lesson this season, it's definitely the education of perseverance. That constant drive to continue moving forward despite the immediate setbacks you've faced. This season has already had its fair share of small obstacles while settling for results both up and down. Persevering through a multitude of things and applying that lesson to everything from individual laps, to entire race series, has become my theme in the Elite field. It's aided me beyond my original season goals of first a top ten and then a top five finish. With those checked off the list I still wasn't quite focused on riding for a win just yet but when I found myself in good position at Bear Mountain last weekend I acted accordingly. But first we'll quickly touch on some fantastic events put on by great people.
Over in Vancouver I've managed to attend three more races since I last wrote a race report and each one has felt better than the one proceeding it. After my mechanicals in Cumberland, and running more than my body is accustomed to, I should have taken some serious time to rest. Instead, my training continued as it always does and my legs suffered for a few weeks after that. Burnaby was first up in Vancouver and, despite getting a fantastic start, there just didn't seem to be anything in me to give. Flat legs, sore back, and a surprising lack of confidence. Just finishing Foreshore was a struggle as I walked away with 9th.
Tugboat Cross in Ladysmith was up next and with COTR having skipped the venue last year I think most of us were excited for a return to the beach. A huge turn out on a very sunny day made for some great racing and spectating on a grueling course. Lots of technical turns in the woods were followed by sand, gravel, and finally a long uphill drag. Each lap you'd have to convince yourself to keep pushing until the very top of the climb knowing that you'd finally get some reprieve through the downhill cornering. Third row call up wasn't ideal, but I managed to find some openings and move through the field quickly in the first lap. 8th is where I finished and it wound up being an incredibly fun race as I battled it out against Sam and Scott.
Lots of grass welcomed us the following weekend back in Vancouver with two races slated to take place in the VCXC series. First was Cloverdale Rodeo CX and it was like no other cross race I've done. Incredibly fast, lots of straights, and almost zero elevation gain. Even with a misty, wet morning the grass dried up quickly and left the corners very tacky as it only became quicker throughout the day. 10th place was waiting for me after having my face collide with my own handlebars and worrying that I'd broken my nose.
Vanier Park is one of those races that carries a lot of weight behind it. Of all the races I've done, this is the mainland event I've heard the most about without ever actually partaking in it. Usually a stand alone competition, it was finally included in the Vancouver series for the first time while still being organized by the crew over at Red Truck. More grass, more straights, and more racers. It was obvious that a large group of people had decided to save themselves for only Sunday instead of racing a double header. This left me a little worried about how fresh I was going to feel in comparison, but as the gun went off and we settled into the race it was obvious that I actually felt better than the previous day. Familiar faces surrounded me as I fought it out for 11th.
Cross on the Rock gave us our first taste of real mud with the long awaited return to Topaz Park in Victoria. Lots of people spoke highly of this location and being the closest race to downtown made for a really great atmosphere. One of those events that passersby could stumble into and hang around at after, becoming intrigued by this strange form of cycling. With the land use restrictions given I think Trek Pro City really made the best with what they were permitted and gave us a seriously fun course. Surprisingly, I was handling the slick surfaces much better than I expected to and nabbing a 10th place finish after two bike changes and a weird pit wheel felt like a success.
Mahon Park is another annual location for VCXC and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to speed around this venue as it sounds like some park upgrades might be the end of its future CX use. It was an interesting race for me because my legs finally felt great, but I could not for the life of me figure out how to corner quickly on the gravely sand that made up a majority of the course. My road speed was evident on each straight, but whenever we'd reach that sand I'd watch my competitors distance me ahead and accordion back to me from behind. Being held up by a few early crashes was the biggest of my frustrations as I watched the usual riders I contend with open a gap on the group I was in and I had to settle for 17th.
Last, but definitely not least, on this accidentally long list is Bear Crossing. I geared up to race my SSCXWC Romax for the first time on a fast, punchy course through the driving range on Bear Mountain. By no means did I have an accident free race as I flew over the bars exiting the sand, almost lost my bike over the barriers, and let myself get gapped by the leaders while following slower wheels. As I did when I used to play hockey, I brushed myself off and got back in the play each time before our front group remained intact for the last few laps.
Having never spent any time that close to the front of a COTR race I really had to convince myself not to attack early despite feeling strong and able. Smart had to be the key factor in my riding and after testing out a good passing point earlier in the race my body jumped at the opportunity as Drew opted for the same last lap move. He took the outside of Raph, I shot straight through the inside and narrowly beat them both to the climb. I overshot the first corner after the crest, but hoped that if I kept the power down I could leave them behind me. Most of the remaining turns were a little bit of a blur, but thankfully my continued effort managed to hold my charging competitors at bay until I could finally see the line. I fist pumped, screamed a bit, and honestly couldn't believe the company in which I had just raced. Experienced competitors whom I've looked up to since starting with Cross on the Rock. I always wondered if I could arrive at their level someday.