The cyclocross scene in Montana is very cool and what it lacks in numbers it more than makes up for with its cross-stoke level and talent. Montana has a passionate group of cross-addicts who travel around the state to support each race and battle each other every weekend throughout the season. The fastest of their elite can compete with most anyone as we saw first-hand at Moose Cross this year where the MT crew won the Men’s 1-2-3, Women’s, and Master’s races handily. After receiving the support of the MT cross crew at Moose Cross I really wanted to show my appreciation by traveling to at least one race in MT this season and the Helena, MT double-cross weekend fit into the schedule.
Saturday was the Great Divide CX held at Centennial Park near downtown Helena, MT. Thursday’s storm coated the course with 1-3” of snow and the cold temps kept it crisp and white for Saturday’s race. Temps were 22F when we rolled into the parking lot to register and after one warm-up lap my hands and feet were frozen. Note to self: Pin your number on before your hands go numb. I thought about embrocating my hands and feet but ultimately decided against it.
With a short warm-up, I decided ease into this one and not explode myself in one lap so I was riding well back in the pack as we headed up the first hill and into the off-camber chicanes. Some first-lap carnage allowed me to move up a couple of spots and the “race within the race” began. While my teammate Mike was off the front leading the race, I was riding mid-pack and setting my sights on the next guy. Mr. Yellow Jersey was just in front of me and I was calculating how to pass him. Being similarly matched, I chased him for half a lap and had closed the gap down to a couple of feet when he made his crucial mistake. With me hot on his wheel, Mr. Yellow Jersey overcooked a corner, rode into the barrier tape, and I passed him on the inside and stepped on it while he untangled himself and got back on course. To his credit, he never quit chasing me for the remainder of the race but I held him off and finished somewhere in the middle of the pack. Unfortunately, once I gapped Mr. Yellow Jersey I was riding alone in the all-too-familiar no-man’s land until the end.
At one point during the race I could not feel my hands or feet at all and shifting, braking, and re-clipping in were like taking a multiple choice when you haven’t studied…just take a wild-ass guess. The course was one of the better ones I have raced and the cold temps and snow made it epic...well, as epic as a 45 minute race can be. Ha!
Day 2 report and pics to follow...