Cross Vegas 2014

Found an unpublished post.

I’m sure any keen Cyclocross fan has seen or heard of cross Vegas and I was very excited when I heard that I had been invited to race the 2014 edition. I set of on Monday morning ahead of the race on the Wednesday night travelling with my mum as I am not old enough to hire a car or pretty much do anything where a leave of trust is needed to hire something but that’s okay .After a turbulent flight over and everyone’s dinner being thrown around the cabin we were off to a great start!!

We arrived at the accommodation midafternoon after going for a drive out around the course to estimate the travel time prior to race day. We proceeded to check into our pyramid called Luxor (the one with the big light that shines into the sky at night) and start unpacking before heading for an early dinner.

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The next morning I managed to get in contact with fellow team mates Jade and Tom and organized an easy ride to loosen the legs in the morning before heading to the venue in the afternoon. Out at the course for the first time we completed a few laps as the sun started to set and the temperature finally dropped. It was a relatively easy course to remember just with some obstacles still to be built and tested on race day.

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Wednesday (Race Day) was pretty much a day ofwaiting around trying to save energy and not go outside in the 40+ heat. Eventually it was time to leave so we loaded up the car with spares and then the tree of us rode out to the event site while mum drove. On our way to the race site we stopped at a set of lights a few blocks back from the strip and some guy in a big black pickup truck said ‘’ you be safe in this hood yeh’’ to which we realized we probably should not ride around this area anymore. We straight lined it to the race site making it safely and having no trouble.

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We signed on and received our race numbers and un lucky for Tom and Myself we had no UCI elite points because U23 points don’t carry across to elite so we got to start at the back row which was not ideal.

After a few practice laps and a good warm up I found myself riding around the start loop with the rest of the riders waiting to be called up. I remember saying to team mate Jade “These are the guys I look up to and I see them onInternet coverage and in magazines and now I have to race against them”.

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It was quite a good feeling getting to line up in the same race as people that you have looked up too for a long time. Soon enough I was being called up to the start grid and had my tire width checked by the commissar. I was pretty much the back row with no one behind me.

The countdown was on and they used a race carlight system instead or a gun or a whistle which I was not use too but that didn’t matter because I was at cross Vegas!!

We were off and almost immediately there was a crash in front of me, I moved around to the right and continued on only losing a few spots but it got the heart rate going straight away. I tried to move up on the 1km start loop but we were doing 48km already and even doing that on the road was hard let alone doing that on soft grass with 25psi in your tires. I was sitting at the second half of the pack and just sitting in not wasting any energy as I would need it later. It started to string out as we reached the first few corners  coming throught the end of the start loop and onto the main course again the bunch negotiated the first hair pin courners fine until coming out of the Raleigh ramp two people in front just ran into each other so I slammed on the breaks and I don’t even know how but I hopped my way around them staying up and only letting three people past.

I chased just to even make up the small gap that had occurred and I was not in a good place at all I was towards the back due to a few misfortunes but I had to stay calm and try and pass as many people on the second lap as possible before the group would be out of reach due to the pace.

The second lap came round fast and I was getting intoa good strong rhythm. Every chance I got I was passing the next person ahead. I gapped the small group I was in and chased the 5 riders ahead and when I was about half way in-between them I slipped out on a simple off camber corner and had to get off and run up the next hill and set of stars costing myself a lot of valuable time and energy. My heart rate was so high and my legs now felt like lead from the 8o meter run I had to do opposed to the 15meter run I would normally do on the stairs.

The next few laps I had to find my rhythm andno spend too much energy otherwise I would blow up and have no chance at finishing. With five laps to go I thought that I was going to get lapped but my lap times got faster and faster as the race went on. I started to get a clear track and could do my own thing. The laps ticked by and when I felt good I went as hard as I could until I caught the rider in front.

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Soon enough with three laps to go Isaw the skinny figure of fellow Aussie Garry Milburn and started to catch him as he had spent too much energy early. It was starting to get to the point where we were right on the edge of getting pulled out of the race. We both worked hard doing turns on the front while the other rested just trying to both make it onto the finish line. With 2 laps to go on the board Sven had attacked his race leaders and started hunting us down we were on the limit but still enjoying the atmosphere and crowd so every time we would go over one of the fly overs I would do a little whip to give the crowd something to cheer us about. Sven was almost on our wheel and we got pulled about 100meters before our one lap to go. Sven passed us a mere 10 seconds later and continued up the finishing straight totake the win.

I was a bit disappointing to be 100 meters away from crossingthe line and being able to finish on the lead lap but I had learnt so much and see that this is their job. The race has given me a lot of experience and motivation to become faster and race harder.

Here is a video shot from my handle bars before the race.

Thanks to the Focus Bikes CX Team and staff at Derby Cycle for supporting me, Mereck at Two Wheel Industries for the AGU body care products keeping me warmed up- clean and recovered, Shannon Lister for getting me in contact with the event organizers and Mum and Dad for always getting me to these races.

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Cheers Chris Aitken

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