Following the NJ USGPs I went straight to Sag Harbor, NY for a week of recovery at the house of the best pairing of people since peanut butter and chocolate. Sinead and Dennis took me under their wing for the week and weekend of the final stop of the NACT series in Southampton, NY. Last year Anna Milkowski set this host housing up for us, as Anna and Sinead had raced together in prior years. I will admit, last year I was a bit nervous to come to the Hamptons, because of the ‘rich and famous’ association. But as we were testing Anna’s Outback to the limits as we were bouncing all over the trenched, narrow, dirt roads to find our house which was entirely off the gps of our phones, my perception changed. And the training/recovery week I spent there only reinforced my appreciation of the Hamptons, of my incredible hosts, and of the loving-life community who put these races on.
After one of the most relaxing weeks I’ve had in a looong time, I was stoked for the rush of another race weekend. Joe at Primus Mootry had set me up with ‘handlers’ for the weekend – a mechanic and someone to schlep my arse around. Jeff and Stan picked me up on Friday to go recon the course. Although it was the same course as last year, it’s always good to hit the refresh button. It’s a course that gives you a taste of everything. There are some challenging and punchy climbs, some looser sandy sections, tacky singletrack through the woods, power sections on the road and grass where you are victim to ocean winds. The course makes great use of the terrain at the Southampton Youth Services campus, and it creates a fantastic spectators course as all this terrain is contained within a fairly small radius.
Saturday blasted off with Mary M taking the hole shot, followed by Mo, LVG, and myself. This held for about a lap until I attacked on one of the flat grass power sections leading into a climb. I had a gap for a lap or so, before Kelli E began shutting it down. Going onto our 3rd lap she had made the bridge, and as we passed the start/finish, our pace shut down a bit, and then Kelli made an attack. I was able to make it back to her wheel and sat and recovered a bit, following her lines through the woods. Again on the flat stretch leading to that climb, I made my attack, getting a gap by the top of the climb and into the woods. By the end of the lap Kelli was closing in. Soon she was back on my wheel. I used the same section again to make another surge, again establishing a gap at the top of climb. The rest of the lap entailed some twisty-turny track which Kelli seemed to be riding smoother than I was, and where she was consistently shutting gaps down. So I knew I had to give er’ up, over the climb and through the techy stuff, and that’s what I did to hold on for the win.
Many ‘cross races turn into somewhat of a time trial effort, as groups or pelotons are less likely to form through the various power and technical sections. Saturday’s race was exciting because Kelli and I seemed to be evenly matched – though she may have been riding some technical aspects stronger, whereas I was relying more on the climbs or power sections. Racing is all the more fun when not only fitness, but smart tactics come into play.