First race of the season was at a new venue in North Liberty at Bobber's Bar and Grill put on by the Iowa City Crew, and Race #1 in the Eastern Iowa Cyclocross Experiment (EICE) For the series I did the combined Cat 3/4 lined up on a nice 50 degree day with a mist in the air, not really raining but enough to make it chilly. Lined up front row as the start wasn't very long, and then had a 90 degree left onto the grass, got a good start and was either first or second going onto the grass, lead into the barriers and continued there for a little while. Halfway through the first lap and we had a gap forming and 5 of us were gone. We would battle that out over the next few laps and exchanged places depending on what section of the course we were at. About the halfway point I was still feeling strong, and could tell some of the others were starting to fade, so I put in another good lap and was all alone by the time we came through with 2 to go. This is the point where I don't like being as there are guys in front you can't catch, and the guys behind aren't really gaining on you much, so just have to continue to give it all you got. I go around with one to go, and know I am in a good position, cruise that lap and end up coming across the line in 3rd Place out of 15, good enough to score me some upgrade points.
There was a couple week gap in the schedule till the next EICE race, and I didn't feel like travelling to Des Moines, so I found out about a race in Illinois that was only about a 3 hour drive, and decided we should go out there and see how I do in a larger field. So we head out there and I go to register and after turning around my wife points out that Barry Wicks is standing right behind me, and she gets all giddy like a school girl, Barry is the man. Being as this was part of a series and I didn't pre-register I knew I wouldn't get a good start like at the local races, but didn't realize it would be this bad, I was in the last row of about 70+ starters, oops. Oh another sweet thing is this race had a fly over, which I have always wanted to do a race with one, but nothing was local, was awesome. So back to the start, I was able to get clipped in right away, fast start into a left and then a right, weaved through the pack, was able to get into about mid-pack and was riding well, barriers in the woods, and with this being a Cat 3 race you would think people would know how to dismount and remount, but nope was a traffic jam, I was able to get through and pick up a few spots, but of course by now the leaders were gone. Found myself in a group with about 6-7 other guys and was nice for a change to be with people, I think this was the first race that I was with someone else the whole time. I did have one stupid crash on the first lap on a downhill 180 degree corner, but once I found the line through there I was good. The course wasn't overly technical, so of course the stronger road guys would pull away on the straights, but I would bring them right back in the corners, or the short run up. Going into the last lap I found myself with a small group of 2-3 guys, was able to loose all but 1 going into the last little bit, and found us sprinting for the line which I don't recall ever having to do that. Came across the line in 34th out of 64 finishers, and was pleased with that result, wish I had a better start maybe could have pick up a few more spots.
Back to Iowa for the next race in the EICE, Devil's Cross in the Quad Cities. Always a good venue with a good run-up, some climbing, and technical corners, line up again on the front line, and once we are off I get the holeshot into the first corner, around the tree into the barriers, lead for a little bit longer, then I crashed going into a corner way too hot, and since the ground was dry from the lack of rain this year it was loose, also 2nd place went down on the same corner, was able to get back up quickly and retain my position, got passed on the run-up and was ready to settle in behind those guys. At this point I was sitting in 3rd place going into the 2nd lap. Next few laps were pretty much riding by myself in no mans land again, and then I notice Steve Bullerman coming from behind with Carl on his wheel, did my best to keep them behind me, but after another lap they caught me and were gone. At this point my plan was to hold off any more riders from catching me, going into the last lap I was starting to gain a little ground on the guys in front of me, but just could never catch them, oh well I would settle for a 5th place finish.
Onto the first double weekend for us with Bobber's Cross II on Saturday, and Middle Park Madness on Sunday, I didn't have a great night going into Saturdays race I knew I would not have a great race but still lined up on the front row and got the holeshot, but was quickly passed once we got out in the field, this race was shorter the the other race held here, was slightly more technical with the corners but I still wasn't mentally into it. I tried to do what I could to pull people back that I usually beat, but just didn't have it in me. Spent the rest of the race trying to not lose many more places, and came across the line in 8th place.
The following day was Middle Park Madness, held in the Quad Cities, I love this race, always a fast start, and a perfectly made, natural jump over a drainage pipe, got a much better night of sleep, felt refreshed, and was back on my game. The start line is about halfway through the lap as to sort us out some before hitting the run-up, so we start, around the pond to the barriers, I am leading at this point, through the tight turns in the field, hit the run-up, get back on as soon as it flattens out some, still in the lead on the upper field section, down to the jump, get a decent amount of air, was a little farther down the hill then I though and the landing was a little sketchy, but all good. I knew I wouldn't be able to hold the lead for much longer, got passed in the barriers and made a wrong turn and almost through the caution tape I went. Regrouped, figured out I needed to just calm down a little and race, next couple laps more of the same, not really losing to many spots until I crashed, not once but twice on the same lap. Once again due to how dry it has been the grass was a little tricky in some of the 180 degree corners, and I went down, the second time I had ripped the scab off from the crash at Devils Cross, and was bleeding again, doh. I yelled to the wife I had crashed, and of course being supportive as always she cheered me on and said I was doing great and to keep at it. Well with 2 laps to go I find myself in 4th place, and 5th was closing in on my slightly, he was on a SS so I would have the advantage in some sections, and others he would catch back up, going by my wife this time she yelled out that if I get top 5 I can get new tires, as the ones I am on this was their 3rd season, and that was the motivation I needed to just keep hammering away. 5th place never did catch me as the run into the last bit was downhill from the jump, then around the pond and the small field section, I was gone, bug ring the whole way just cranking on it, came across the line in 4th place, and decided we were heading to Geoff's Bike and Ski on the way home to get some new tires, picked up a sweet set of Challenge Grifo's :)
The next week I went on-call for work, had it all worked out for a guy to cover my weekend so I could race both days of Cedar Valley X, but that fell through and was only able to find someone to cover Sunday, oh well one day is better then none. So we get up to Cedar Falls, and the course is huge, 2 miles long with a giant whirl, it took almost a minute to get through it. The start was a decent length climb that switchbacked up to the finish line, then down hill, a couple corners to the run-up, over to the long paved section, about 1/2 mile, and then barriers, the whirl, and then repeat. Get to the starting line and Carson is there along with a few other fast road guys, and with this being a pretty much all out power course with little technical section, I knew I was screwed, so in my typical fashion I got to the front of the line and when the whistle blew I was off, didn't realize how big of a gap I had till after the race and looked at some pictures. I lead the entire first lap, and bobbled the run-up as I had wasted most of my energy already, and just couldn't get back onto the leader group. I did bridge up to another guy on the paved section and was able to sit on his wheel into the headwind, and we caught the leaders, seemed as if they were trying to use some road tactics, and of course it worked because shortly after we got on they went again, I did all I could to try and keep up, but just wasn't happening. I would ride the next few laps solo, which wasn't too bad, but the paved section sucked into the headwind, so when I thought I would get a little break on that section I ended up working harder then I wanted. Once again I didn't have the legs I wanted, so I would just settle for a 7th Place finish, and be happy I was racing my bike and not working.
Then my season went really bad, got sick on Halloween, was in bed for 2 days, got over that and still didn't feel right, ended up I had Bronchitis and it took just over 3 weeks to get better from that.
But in that time of being sick I had one more race in the EICE, Psyclofest in the Quad Cities, another all out power course with one killer run-up, I decided I would show up, do the race for points in the series, and if I didn't do well I had a pretty good excuse. I lined up with everyone else, didn't go all out at the start, wasn't leading, but once we got to the backside of the course and started climbing I knew it was over, I basically had no power in my legs, couldn't breath, and just realized I shouldn't be out there. I did the best I could to keep moving forward, which at some points wasn't easy. Phil's Hill was killer, was really hating that thing after about 2 laps, and at that point I was so far off the back it didn't matter. Halfway through the race I was feeling worse, so I made the decision I would finish, but I did sit up and made it a point to get lapped. It took a while for that to happen as it was a long course, but eventually it did and I was relieved. Came across the line in last place, and just rolled over to the car, loaded the bike and sat down for about 30 minutes before moving.
That race was the final race in the EICE series, so we waited around watching the mens open race, and ate some pizza and drank some Gatorade that was provided by DICE/Healthy Habits. Once the results were all final and the series standing were posted I ended up in 2nd Overall in the Cat 3/4 for the series.
There is one thing I have learned from doing both the IMBCS Series the past 3 years, and this Series this year, is you don't have to be the fastest to do well, all you have to do is be consistent to do well.
I will do a separate write-up in Jingle Cross later as that needs it's own post, and this should be more then enough reading for now.