There was a distinct camp of 'cross racers present itching to roll out the 'cx rigs for an early season test. I was no different and planned on racing the Tricross for the 7-lap short track race. The Elites and Experts all started together, and there were more than a few mishaps on the 0.8 mile course. I drilled it as hard as I could for the 21-minute race, just missing the selection at the back of the elite group. I rolled into the finishing loop in first place, taking back about 15 seconds on my deficit for the series total.
Today the weather was once again great and I was prepared to take to the Murray Lake trail for the longer XC race. Kristie joined me which was awesome. I ended up taking one bottle hand up today from her, which was pretty key. The Experts were slated for four laps, and they would all prove to be difficult. Going into the race I figured I needed about 25 seconds on first place in order to take the overall stage race title. I knew this would be difficult after leading the first lap, unable to shake the top five in the "GC". Going into lap two I was unable to follow an attack from the race leader, and a fresh pair of legs took the opportunity to join him off the front.
Laps two and three were about equally difficult, knowing the race was leaving in front of me and I needed to defend second place at that point. But towards the end of lap three I started to notice a few chinks in the armor of my pursuers, which I planned on exploiting in the last lap.
I dug hard on a slightly downhill, fast section of trail. I knew it would be a great place for me to put in some time, as it was the same spot that I gapped my pursuers on lap 3. I had a pretty good gap going when, with 1.5 miles to go, my legs started cramping. I did my best to ride through it but my right hamstring was consistently contracting hard every pedal stroke. I relaxed a bit, stretched, and spun a slightly easier gear, fearing I'd have four guys breathing down my neck in no time. This race couldn't end fast enough!
I saw the gravel road and rode as hard as I could over the chatter bumps. Just before rolling up into the park, I glanced over my shoulder and saw the group leaving the woods behind me. I crossed the line in 2nd, absolutely gassed, but hoping I took enough time to gain the series lead.