NOLA to Nats: Part 3

With one day of racing in the books, we had to a chance to get out and explore a bit of Boulder by bike. Since my race season had officially ended, I was going to attempt to stick to base miles, but when you come from Swampy-Flatsville and there is a chance to go climb Really Big Hills, you break the rules. We ground our way up Sunshine Canyon on cold legs for two miles, gaining about 700ft. We were tired, our hearts were racing and it was cold in the shade, so we cut the climb a bit early and pointed it downhill, making our way west. It was a beautiful ride with views of rolling farm land and snow covered fields.

Saturday was the big day, as Rob would be representing the Roulandrian Nation. We’ll let him tell us how it all went down:

“Let me be clear: I went to Nats to get my ass kicked in the Masters 30-34 race, and I had no designs on much of anything except to put it all out there. I’d just qualified to race at Nats by catting up to 3 in December. In fact, I had catted up JUST to race Nats. I probably had no business out there to begin with, but the thing I learned from this, my first ‘cross season, was that I can’t get enough of it and I want to be good at it. There’s no better way to get good at something than by taking lessons from your betters in the form of a humiliating defeat. 

So, after watching days of incredible racing on a crazy course that transformed from an icy hell in the morning to tacky mud by the end of the day, my turn came on Saturday. I self-consciously donned my DSGP 2013 series champion jersey and waited for call-ups with the rest of my age cohort. Having just catted up I was maybe 5th from the last call-up. The race started and my initial reaction was, “Oh, shit, I can’t breathe!”. My diaphragm was pumping my lungs in and out but I felt almost no relief. I told myself it was just the nerves I always get on the first lap of any race, and thus convinced myself to try and stay on the wheel of my new buddy, Ben Cross, a fellow masochist and a fine mechanic at Mellow Johnny’s in Austin, TX.  A cat 2 rider, even he seemed apprehensive at the start, although he managed to hang with the main field longer than I did. I fell back with five or six other riders and resigned myself to beating them. Did I mention that my lungs were cooked and my legs were noodles before even finishing the first lap?! If you’ve ever raced at all, you know the feeling I’m about to describe. It’s that feeling you get about three quarters of the way through the race, where you wonder how much longer you have to hate life before you get to drink water (beer) without it interfering with your “performance”. That happened far too soon in this race. Every step of the 5280′ run-up felt like climbing a mountain, and the half of the course that was off-camber (or so it seemed) gleefully mocked my roadie hubris. But I was going to run myself ragged before I stopped or was made to stop racing. I went toe-to-toe with a couple of other racers who might have had no business there either and I managed to not finish last. In fact, I even did as well as the USA Cycling website thought I might. I got the tar kicked out of me and was pulled far sooner than I would have liked, but I didn’t fare as bad as some. All in all, after stumbling off course at lap 3, I’d earned a big muddy hug and kiss from Sara, the biggest pull of bourbon I’ve ever kept down, and a three-day cough. I couldn’t have asked for more. See y’all in Austin for Nats 2015!”

Sunday felt like big sigh of relief. After the past week of racing, long days of travel, stressing about equipment and course conditions, it was finally time to stomp around the Valmont Bike Park in good cheer with nothing to worry about except watching the Elites race their bikes. I donned a “media” vest and pretended to know what I was doing. Wes masqueraded as Le Coq and went about spreading the cheer of the Roulandrian Nation. Rob and Sara sipped on good bourbon, heckled the pros and snapped photos too. The one thing that I kept thinking to myself as I watched the races from various locations was just how damn fast the Elite Men and Women were. Like, next level fast. It was so cool to see it in person and actually quite exhilarating as they screamed by, inches from my camera lens.

I want to take a moment here and give a big thanks to Wes. Not only was he running around wearing a rubber chicken mask and waving a flag in the gale force winds gusting down the Rockies, bringing much party to Nationals, he was also acting as Rouler Racing’s Director Sportif, Soigneur, Mechanic, Driver, Teammate and All-Around Pal. And he did it with a giant smile on his face. Thanks for inspiring us to make this trip Wes, it truly was incredible.

Keep spinnin’

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