Practice, man. I need practice. Had I not done the Raw Cross weekend, I'm pretty confident that I would have been last in both races I did at Tacchino yesterday. My bike handling was abhorrent. Fortunately the motor's pretty good, so I was able to avoid getting last.
The first race, Masters B, I got a good start and around and around and around we went. James started off psychotic fast and then flatted and blew his motor. John stayed cool in the beginning and then took off like a rocket to win pretty easily. Jeff and I rode together for a while but then I made a bad decision and he made me pay. If it appears odd that everyone in the frame so far has a name that starts with the letter "J," I am noticing the same thing.
I'm happy to have gotten on the box with third (never quite made it onto that stupid thing last year), but this field certainly hasn't gotten slower since last year. The guys who were near the head of the class but not yet obvious sandbaggers have gotten better, I'd have called myself a half or so step behind some of those guys last year, and while I need to get reacquainted with not sucking on a cross bike my fitness is better than it was a year ago. The big problem is that there's a stack of guys who've come in strong or gotten way better from last year. Bike Doctor has grown a new bumper crop of fast guys, Gus got way better, some of the AFC guys look fast, etc. By the time everyone's got a few start line points, the spots in the top 10 are going to be a pretty good fight.
The second race, Masters A, was pretty much a catastrophe from the start. The whistle blew, and my legs hit the snooze bar. Even when my starts haven't been good, I've generally been good at picking my way through the scrum to get in front of the bell curve. This time, yeah, umm, well... you see the thing is I was fine at getting through the wormholes, I just didn't have the juice to make the pass and jump to the next group. Early on, the guy in front of me swept right as the guy behind me swept left, I swept the ground and found myself dirty and in last. Pretty far in last by the time I got going. I think that was an entirely new experience for me. So I passed a lot of people but was never anything but toilet paper on the heel of that race. All in the name of practice and getting stronger. I'm pretty sure I could go ahead and not completely blow in that race without a previous race in my legs.
With road season done, the training will shift a bit more to cross demands and I will get some more practice in, and just racing more has got to improve things. In the meantime, my legs hurt like a bastard.