Michigan State Champs CX
by Michael Green • November 30, 2022
I’ve been focusing on longer gravel and MTB this year and with Iceman Cometh coming soon I knew I needed some more intensity. Michigan Cycling had decided to hold the state CX champs in late October with the hope to attract more attendees. It had certainly worked with the biggest turn out I’d seen in years, and with six days before Iceman, I thought it’d be a perfect final intensity.
I haven’t raced any CX this year and was really doubting my placement in the grid, but fortunately last years late races were still in the USAC “bank” for a second row call up - I felt like I was winning already! At the whistle we were off, I had a great start using my elbows for space and placed myself second at the first corner on the defending champs wheel.
This years course was in Ann Arbor at Veteran's Park, known for its hilly terrain and off camber courses. My tire pressure was low and with rain over night I was hooking up nicely. As the biggest guy at the front the constant climbs did not play to my favor and I needed to ride intelligently. My original game plan was to watch the others, let them make mistakes and, as I said, ride intelligently. About half way on the first lap, we’d climbed the only paved climb and turned left onto an off camber section before a swooping down hill. This is where my game plan changed!
I was feeling good, way within myself. On the pre-ride I’d noted the best line was a wide turn at the top of the climb and take the low line on the off camber. I should have saved this until I needed it but instead, I used it early and found myself on the front. I let it go on the downhill, up the next climb - I had a gap.
It never fails, and I’m not sure if everyone feels this, yet at the front of the race all I can think of is that I’m going to get caught. My heart is pounding in my chest, I taste blood and I’m thinking the worst. I knew I had to have a clean race, pick my lines, make no mistakes. It was hard.
My first, and thankfully only error on the day was at the barriers on the second lap when, while running the planks I asked the family, who were shouted and cheering so loudly, for time check - I can’t do two things at once and my front wheel hit the barrier and bounced up viciously. Not a major error but it certainly caught me by surprise and kicked my heart rate up just a little more.
Soon I was getting regular time checks as they ran the course. I was picking up valuable seconds at every check which allowed me to relax just a bit, but this was my first CX event of the season and the guys behind had been traveling to Waterloo, Rochester and Cinci so they had a little more experience and knew how their body would hold up. Meanwhile, while I tried to relax just a little, I was still in a panic mode: I have no idea how I’ll hold up!!
I did. I held up pretty well. I finished the day as State Champ for the first time in a while and was pretty happy with how the day went. The hills really sucked by the end and my legs felt the out of the saddle efforts. While this was my goal for the day, the field was really stacked in the Masters Elite 55+ and you never know who is absolutely flying. Top step Team Bikeman - a good day.