We arrived at the site to find a rain drenched race course so I quickly got my bike together and registered so I could get out for a warm-up lap to see what we were in. It was fairly wet and more than a bit muddy on the course, but it was similar to previous races (what CCCX course isn’t?) so I was comfortable with the layout.
I got back in time to put out a feed bottle and then quickly to lineup in the field. Marshall was there, but apparently Brian had declined to show for the race, so I knew that was one more place I could have. I didn’t want to race too hard as I was going to race Big Sandy the following day, so I was thinking that I just wanted to stay comfortable. At the whistle, the Pro/Expert field started down the road and I was surprised by the speed of the leaders. I was fifth or sixth wheel going into the single track. I was tacked on the back of the lead group when we hit the first hill, I pushed up to 2nd place behind a rider in blue. The Blue Rider pushed the pace with three of us tacked onto him. Eventually the pace gapped Marshall and the other rider and the Blue Rider and I pushed ahead. I was comfortably on his wheel on the second lap when on a twisty section he started losing traction, low-sided himself, and crashed in the mud. “You okay?” I asked as I avoided him… I wasn’t really going to stop unless he was crying in pain, so when he gave me the affirmative, I pushed on alone at the head of the field.
It’s a strange feeling leading the field overall. I’ve led the expert field, but never the overall race, so with everyone behind me, I kept pushing the pace to make good my escape. A few laps in, I began to allow thoughts of an overall victory creep into my head and I pushed on, glancing over my shoulder on long straights to ensure that no one was catching me. I began riding through a lot of traffic as I began picking up the sport categories who were suffering through the mud. Thankfully the difference in speed was great enough that passing was a fraction of a second and no one was too concerned about letting me through.
With about a lap and a half left, I began to be comfortable with my lead and I figured I should start shutting it down a bit so I could have a little energy left for the Big Sandy the following day. Although I started pulling back, I kept in the back of my head that it would be supremely embarrassing to get beaten at this point having led most of the race, so I kept up some race effort, but not full out. I was focusing on not making any silly mistakes in the mud, keeping the rubber side down on the bike, and maintaining efficient riding.
Eventually, I put the last little climb behind me and at the top, I glanced behind me to make sure I couldn’t see anyone making a last push to overtake me. Not seeing anyone, I put m focus on making it down the last twisty muddy sections without any silly mistakes. I made it out into the field without any issues and spun it through the finish line to take the overall victory. It was a great feeling and I hadn’t expended too much energy so I was happy that I might have some jump left for the Big Sandy.