I had some bad luck in the form of a flat tire as I took some warmup laps on the course. Since it was a tubular, there wasn't anything I could do to fix it there. I had to take a wheel off of my spare bike and do the race without a bike in the pit. It's a blow to the psyche having to race on a tire that you've hardly used all season and without being able to take some laps to see how the different tread handles in the mud. It's a tire combination I've been wanting to try this year though (Schwalbe Racing Ralph up front, Tufo Flexus Primus on the back).
The race starts on a long leg burning climb before getting into muddy twists and turns. Unlike a lot of courses we race on, this course was wide enough in most spots that there was room to get around people. I took every opportunity I could to pass people early and not get stuck behind any crashes or bad riding.
I rode as hard as I could - pushing hard on each climb, recovering on descents, and carefully on the technical stuff. With the sun setting as we raced, the course was changing every lap. Extra care was needed as some of the mud firmed up, some off camber corners got more slippery, and sometimes you just couldn't see anything in front of you due to the sun being in your eyes. (Dan Farrell called one of those blind spots "Ray Charles hill". Always good for a laugh.)
The officials really wanted us to get our money's worth I guess because we ended up racing for 60 minutes. That's easily 10 minutes longer than any other race I did this year and I was paying for it late in the race. I had pulled back a few people, but I just didn't have the gas to stay with them at the end. They'd pull away from me in the technical stuff as I was in the red and struggling to keep my bike going in a straight line.
I crossed the line in 9th place, satisfied with a good end to the season. A fun ride, and a good result.
This is the first year where I've skipped the road season and focused solely on cyclocross. It was an up and down season, but I'm happy with the progress I made. From a pair of podiums at the USGP and upgrade in racing category to some frustrating performances as I struggled to keep up with faster guys, it's been a physically and mentally demanding season. I'm ready for a break from the daily training, but at the same time I'm anxious for next season. It's sick, I know. Thanks to everyone who cheered, provided support, and motivated me to ride faster. I'll see you next season.