The following race report comes Dan Schrad, one of the dZi Foundation/ Studio Velo racers whose passion for racing MTB, road and now cross helps us continue to spread our message about racing for good. Dan is a talented racer whose support of the dZi Foundation is making its mark in Colorado.
By Dan Schrad
I started racing cyclocross in September because of the fitness I had from training for France and subsequently winning the Pro-Am Trois Etapes 4-day stage race. It seemed like something that would keep me focused throughout the fall when I typically start to tail off training. All of that is true, but I also found a strain of cycling that is 1) Fun (and hard) as hell 2) Laid back, and 3) Very family friendly. That 3rd item is a big one especially after training hard and spending time away from the family all year. It's a great way to get kids racing at a young age, and even the ones who are too young have an awesome day in the park. That's my pro-cross plug – you guys should try it if you can, especially if you have kids.
This was my 7th race of the season, and the course was probably the hardest of the year. Lots of elevation changes, and 2 serious run-ups meant it would be more of climber's course than typical. To add to the difficulty factor was a steady 20+ mph west wind coming off the mountains. In addition to that, the race was about 10 minutes outside of Boulder, and the closer you get to Boulder, the better the competition. So, it was going to be a hard "hour of power".
So lined up to the start in a field of 55 in the second row. This was the first timeI've started that close to the front, and in cross where the hole shot is everything, starting position matters. The start was a short grass 15 second sprint followed by a sharp left turn with a barrier, mud pit and run-up #1. I knew enough from pre-riding the course that you wanted to be on the left side of the sprint going into the left turn, so I lined up behind a fast starter on the left side. The whistle went, and I had a good start – was right where I wanted to be as I unclipped, jumped the barrier and ran up the hill. At the top, I was about 4th. A guy who I had battled the week before was in first 3 spots ahead of me, and we bunched tightly as we jumped back on and headed to a long downhill/straight away. I passed 2 during the straightaway, and then sat on the guy in first at about a minute into the race. Things were looking good so far.
We hit the second run-up and I sat in second to see how hard the guy was going to go. At the top of the runup we headed west into that wind I mentioned earlier, and we slowed. I shouted "let's get a gap going" and he hit the gas a little and we started to pull away from the field during a twisty section of the course. We turned back east and used the tailwind to drill it and opened the gap even wider. I was feeling good as we hit a long climb and a sand pit near the finish line. All the while, I was riding pretty comfortably in second as we completed the first of five laps.
At the start of Lap 2 I hit him hard up the first run-up and passed him, but he hung on to my wheel to the second run-up. I hit that one hard too and got a 5 second gap going into the wind. I got in the drops, got low and went til I thought I would puke. By the time I turned around to head back with the tailwind, I had 10 seconds. I let the wind carry me for a bit to get my HR back down (I think it hit 194 during that section, and my LT is 177). And settled into a tempo for the rest of the second lap.
For the remaining laps, I just tried to keep the pace high and ride within myself. I could see where everyone else was as the course winds back on itself, and the wind and climbs had broken everything up into single riders or twos and threes. Nobody was working together to pull me back – everything was strung out. I hit the climbs and the windy sections as hard as I could, and rested where I could. I could also hear the race announcer talking about the gap I had every time I went through the finish line – it kept growing.
Second to last lap, I crashed in the sand pit and ripped my Garmin off my bars. It freaked me out, but I didn't see anyone coming. I pocketed it and threw it to my kids as I went by the finish line for the last lap. I had 30 seconds of cushion at this point. I kept on the gas for the last lap, picked my way through lapped riders, and rolled across alone 35 seconds over second (the guy I had been racing with on the first lap), and almost a minute and half over third. I barely raised my arms at the finish I was so gassed.
So that's it – kids finally got see a win. My middle son, who was disappointed that I just got a jersey and not a medal in France, took my medal before it even was handed to me and wore it the rest of the day.