They say that if you don’t get out of your head, you can attack yourself right out of the race before it even starts. The “who’s registered” tab on BikeReg and the race predictor on Cross results are the most dangerous tabs on the internet for confidence (Shoutout Colin Reuter). Bear Brook Classic was the first Kenda Cup of the year that I had planned to go to and I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me. I looked at the race predictor and started to doubt everything that I have done all winter to prepare for this race. I was doubting my ability to even make it into the top 5. It took a lot of convincing myself to be ok with using this race to see where I was at but I eventually accepted that. No pressure. Just ride fast and be aggressive. Don’t be afraid to mix things up.
It was the last day of classes and I was so pumped to get out of my global studies class and go race some bikes. 3:30 finally came around, we loaded up the truck and high tailed it down to Manchester, NH. Tunes include but were not limited to Chris Blevins, G-EAZY and the sound of a phone call from a friend back at campus telling us that the race had been postponed from Saturday to Sunday. We were more than halfway so we decided to continue onward and just spend an additional night in Manchester. We got in and went right to bed.
The next morning was spend pre-riding a rad course in some slippery conditions. I have known Bear Brook to dry out pretty quickly but the course was pretty flooded when we rode. The course was flowy, had some cool descents, plenty of room to pass and a sick drop with a landing so smooth you would’ve thought it was made of butter.
We got back to the house, got bikes clean, and I was off to take a nap. When I woke up I was greeted with the amazing smell of some vegetarian empanadas by our wonderful host. They were finger licking good. As I was enjoying my pre-race dinner, I decided it would be fun to try and get my buddies hooked on the sport of Supercross and I will be the first to say that even I didn’t expect to get the reaction out of Sammy that it did. 9pm rolled around and it was time for bed.
Sunday morning rolled around and it was go time. Race day morning was a drill that I have gotten down to a science. Wake up. Get dressed. Have a snack. Change tires in a parking lot. Look for a stick in the woods because that was the only way I would beat anyone. Pretty standard really. After talking to a few of some of our amazing sponsors, I began my warm up. I was clicking through the gears and I would be lying if I said that my legs felt average. The felt incredible. I was able to recover quickly and throw down a mean sprint. Legs were primed for battle and it was go time.
Since I was unable to get to the first Kenda Cup and did not score any points, I was not on the call up sheet so I had to participate in the race to the race for a third row out of 4 start spot. I’ve never been a hard starter but based on the field I would have to plow my way to the front quickly if I wanted to be anywhere near the front. The gun went off and I did just that. I wasn’t the quickest off the line but I made moves very quickly. Going into the first main section of single track, I was sitting 3rd and was very pleased considering the two riders in front of me were Hamlin and Hyde……maybe you’ve heard of them. It was not long before Kilburn caught up to us which I was not surprised about as he is an up and coming superstar. After several attacks made by all of us, our group of four separated from the main pack. At the second lap I decided I wanted to take a risk. I wanted to see what I was dealing with so I got on the front, put my head down and dug. Like a lumberjack taking swings at the tree, Hyde and I got a gap. The pace was high and we were both riding at an extremely high level.
I was having so much fun on this race course and so excited to be racing with the elite cyclo-cross national champion that I made the fatal mistake of forgetting to eat anything. He had been behind me sucking down energy gels like it was his job and I did not have my first until the start of the last lap. We came through and he pulled through. I held onto his wheel and felt like all of a sudden I was not riding so wheel. We came through the river section for the last time and I slipped in a rocky turn. Hyde got a gap. I tried to close it back up and mentally I could not get myself back together. I had detonated. I was strong and not really losing time on the less technical sections but as cracked as I was, I was seriously screwing up sections that I had been nailing all year. The gap got larger and larger. It was not long before Hyde was out of sight and I was focused on not getting caught by Hamlin or Kilburn.
I focused on riding the rest of the lap as smoothly as possible and with about 1 mile to go I was able to see them out the corner of my eye. I knew I had to give it everything I had on the fire road to maximize my gap. I pedaled so hard that I could not see straight and I was so cooked that at that effort level I was only keeping the gap where it was. Heading into the last the single track there was a quagmire and a drop in between me and being able to spray champagne on the podium. I somehow managed to get through the mud hole clean and I did not crash on the drop. I brought it home for a hard fought second place.
Considering the winner was a contracted rider, I would say the Bear Brook weekend was a success. However, costly mistakes in pacing, nutrition, and hydration lead to even bigger mistakes in my riding. I have come out of Bear Brook with a good idea of where I am at and how I can improve. I am making adjustments heading into Weeping Willow and I will make sure I am a contender. There are good things to take away from it and powerful lessons learned.
Get Ready. Get Set. Lets Go!