Race Report - Carl Buchanan's win at Cross Out Crohn's

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The weather was looking great for Sunday's Cross Out Crohn's CX race at Maytag Park in Newton, IA. We arrived at the venue about 90 minutes before the beginning of the Cat. 4 race so I was able to mingle with a few friends and get signed in well before I needed to get warmed up. Went out for a couple of warmup/sighting laps to get a feel for the course. This park has been good to me in the past as I was hoping for a little bit of that yesterday. Overall the course was fairly open with two sets of barriers, one runup, and numerous off-camber turns. The first set of barriers was on a flat section so it would be a fast set of barriers requiring very smooth dismounts. This was followed by a brief downhill with a tight right-hander at the bottom and then right back up. A couple more fast turns, a quick downhill and then a sweet power climb to really get the legs going. There was a short flat section at the top to get your breath back before going back down a hill with a sharp left-hander into a nice little rise on the other side with the second set of barriers about half-way up the hill. These barriers were a little bit slower but with the hill continuing up on the other side it was important to get through smoothly and get to the top quickly. Once to the top there was a short section of pavement with a 180 degree turn and then back to the grass and some more off-camber turns, some shallow ups and downs, and then back to the finish line. Total length on the course was right around one mile if I heard correctly.

I was finishing up my second warm-up lap and approaching the start/finish line when I noticed that the other Cat. 4 racers were already lining up. I made my way to the group and got into the third row and waited for go time. While sitting there I took a look around to see who was there and try to figure out a bit of a game plan. I already had an idea of what I needed to do to stay towards the front but, plans can change. Starting from the third row meant that I just needed to get a few spots off the start and make a clean turn into the sharp left-hander that was only 50 meters from the start line.

As soon as the Referee said 'GO' the 21 rider field was cleanly away and I was able to move up to sixth position heading into the first turn. The front of the field was being paced pretty fast and was stringing out so I hopped around one rider into fifth spot right away and into fourth through the first set of barriers. We then went through a handful of turns with each one getting faster than the previous and then sped through a fast off-camber left-hander make some good speed to the first climb on the course. I wanted to make sure that I stayed with the front group especially through this climb so I made my way around third as a small gap developed between the first two riders and the rest of us. I was quickly on the rear wheel of the second place rider and basically just sitting in to see how things develop. Down the next hill and through the 90 degree left into the second set of barriers seemed to give the three of us a small gap on the field. The three of us were quickly back into a single file line after the barriers and heading into another set of tight turns. As we came around the last turn of the first lap, the first two riders went into the inside of the turn and I took the outside line to maintain my momentum and was able to get around them both and led through the start/finish area for the first lap.

Being on front starts a few new challenges, at least for me. In the past I have gone out too hard and blow myself up in the closing laps. I was able to get myself to relax a bit and see how the next few laps play out. First order was to get through the barriers as smooth and quickly as possible every time I arrived at each set of them. Secondly, I planned to maintain tempo on all of the flats and attack each of the uphill areas trying to spread the group out as much as possible. Basically, make sure to leave it all on the course. Thirdly, and most importantly, pacing myself. There were a couple of spots where it was pretty easy to gauge the gaps between riders and I made sure to take a quick look on each lap to see where everyone was sitting.

The second and third laps were both almost identical as I stayed on front with a rider from bike to you who was right on my wheel. The two of us had a gap over third and I did what I could to increase that gap as much as possible. Laps three and four stayed pretty smooth for me with one small hiccup going through the second set of barriers. The speeds were pretty low here compared to the rest of the course since the barriers were in the middle of an uphill section. My dismount was pretty bad and I almost tripped over the first barrier but, I was able to stay upright with just a little wobble. I quickly ran to the top, remounted, and started shifting gears figuring that second place would be coming around me any second. I was quite surprised to see that I had actually built a gap on the next couple of riders. That helped to motivate me a little bit and I picked it up just a touch more as I made my way to the end of lap four. Amy gave me a time check as I went past and grabbed a bottle of water to cool off. 12 seconds. 12 seconds is good but, with my string of mechanicals last weekend I wasn't going to chance anything and just maintained pace. As each lapped ticked by I could see that my gap kept getting bigger and bigger until I eventually could not see the second place rider at my "checkpoint". With three laps to go I started thinking that I may actually be able to pull this off but, I didn't want to get too comfortable and kept pushing those thoughts out of my head and replaced them with staying focused on the task at hand. Once the final lap started however, the thoughts of taking my first win went back into my head and I felt like the final lap was almost a blur. Each dismount/remount was perfect, I still attacked each climb and again after each turn (using that interval practice), and kept my pace all the way to the finish for the 'W'.

Eight seasons of racing (64 total races) with cross-country mountain bikes, endurance mountain bikes, time-trialing, road racing, criteriums, and now cyclocross before scoring a victory. You could say that I was pretty happy about it all.

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