The first edition of the tenth season of Cross on the Rock brought riders up to Cumberland. The promise of a new venue had me anxious all week, as I'd always enjoyed the old Cumberland course with it's long, roadie friendly pedaling sections. Anxieties came on full bore when we arrived at the course to discover the long, leg-sapping running sections adjacent either side of the start/finish area. All in all, however, it was a pretty spectacular course - plenty of flow corners, a lot of elevation change, a long sand section, and no grass.
The start of the elite men's race was fast and furious. Not unexpectedly I had thrown away the advantage of a front row call up by the first corner, rounding it in around 12th spot. By the end of the first lap, I'd managed to work my way back into the top ten and by lap three, Parker Bloom and myself found ourselves riding solo at the front. My decision to ride a higher pressure to reduce the chance of flatting saw me loosing ground on the steep uphill gravel climbs as my tires struggled for grip, but I used my gears to reel him back in the sections that allowed for pedaling. Parker and I were joined a lap or so later by Drew MacKenzie, and the three of us managed to stick it out on the front of the race for the remainder of proceedings.
Parker was doing his best Pre impersonation over the running sections, putting Drew and I deep into the pain cave, lap after lap. In hindsight, my tactic of sitting at the back, saving it for a single big move was ultimately my undoing as on the last lap my planned move was pre-empted by Drew, who attacked up the first of the steep gravel hills. Parker quickly followed, but I was immediately distanced and forced to use my move-reserved match to catch back on. Parker went into the sandy section the led into the finish line in first, and held on for the win with Drew second and myself third. A bittersweet podium spot for yours truly, as I feel that I played the race all wrong. Lesson learned.
Big congrats are due to Parker Bloom for his maiden COTR win, and his fantastic riding.
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