I've never seen so many turns crammed into such a small space in my life. It must have taken a drunken sailor with a degree in geometry to lay this course out. But don't misunderstand what I'm saying; it was an absolute blast!
My race started with 38 other racers (all with gears) gunning for position into the first bottleneck turn and up a flight of steep, soul-crushing stairs. I decided to hang at the back of the pack since I wasn't sure how things would go for me as this was my first cyclocross race on a singlespeed. That turned out to be good call. I passed at least 5 crashed racers in the first 3 minutes of our 40 minute torture test.
The course was good for my style of riding. Lots of technical off-camber turns, steep grunts and straight aways that required good speed and power. I quickly realized that the 36x18 gearing I was running was just about perfect for this course. I was catching people on the climbs and keeping a good pace on the flat sections.
If I've learned only one thing this season, it's how to suffer. I don't mean "ouch, this hurts" kind of suffering, I mean drool and inhumane self-inflicted punishment to the point of not being able to form complete sentences type of suffering. I mean 40 minutes of carrying a car on your back type of suffering. The switch in my brain can turn it off - well, sort of. I know I'm suffering when I'm out there. I know that I shouldn't be going this hard. I know my legs are being ripped from my torso. It's almost too much to bear. But I flip that switch and I keep pushing harder and harder...past the point that I think I can go. It's impossible to explain, unless you've been there. What I'm trying to say is that I can do more than I thought I could.
Remember the scene in The Matrix where Neo witnesses Morphious jump hundreds of feet from one building to the next? I have been watching other racers like Yenski go faster than should be humanly possible. I didn't think anyone could push themselves that hard, but now I'm starting to believe. But most of all, I'm starting to believe that I can too. Now it's just a matter of doing more of it along with building a better base next year and I will pass the next plateau.
So back to the race...I let everyone go so I wouldn't crash early. My strategy worked and I was able to work my way into the top 20. I made some serious deposits in the pain bank and passed several more, catching up to a group of three on the last lap. The four of us were separated by less than 30 feet going into the final quarter mile when the guy right in front of me bobbled slightly. Neither of us crashed, but I had to brake hard to avoid a collision. The two other riders opened about 100 foot gap to the guy in front of me, and I was about 20 feet off his wheel. I sprinted to the point of making some seriously disturbing noises to catch him right at the line, but he beat me by less than 6 inches. The 11th and 12th place finishers were less than 15 feet from us at the end. So, I missed a top ten by about 15 seconds after starting dead last. Yea, I'm very happy with that.