HPCX and West Chester Cross saw the #5thnyc run its deepest field yet in Cyclocross.

Saturday at HPCX there were 5 of there with 3 racing. Marks enthusiasm and new found love for Cyclocross would see him  ‘do the double’ in the 4/5 and then 3/4 race on Saturday, Rich continues to astound modern medicine by strapping a downhill pad (the very discipline that caused the injury) over his recently broken arm. Chris opted out of racing Saturday after the change of seasons has brought a sickness that’s infiltrated the ranks while Johnny would be documenting the antics.

Beyond The 5th, our sisters over at This Team Saves Lives were also out in force, after a slew of results Natalie was set to take the MAC series leaders jersey and with it a one way ticket to the UCI elites for the remainder of the season.

The HPCX is course I’ve come to love over the last few years, incredibly flowy with good elevation change both up and down, rideable stairs and fast single-track style corners. Its also relatively difficult to pass unless on the tarmac which makes defending lines relatively easy and fun.

Call it placebo effect, call it a switch being flicked in attitude, but I entered the weekend with a new found determination: The good people of Specialized had set me up on the Crux Pro Race for the remainder of the season. This hulk green Hydro disc’d, thru axle monster crushed the mechanical and psychological gremlins that I’d been offering a home to for too long. I even shaved my legs properly in celebration.

Which also brings me on to the ‘kit bag’. In all other elements of my life minimalism creates calm, things must be efficient, pull double duty, pack small. A 3 week work trip requires only a backpack.On the contrary my cross bag is now a Mary Poppins esque bag of magical medicines to help the race go down, each item a ‘what if’ and a comfort blanket in its own rite.

A 17th place was arguably my best finish this season and possibly even in relation to last season too. I had held Ryan’s wheel for the first part of the race after I bettered him at the start/sprint, I faded as he progressed to finish 11th. I was both pleased and disappointed, disappointing that potentially just potentially the bike had been a factor; the leniency the disc brakes and compliant yet stiff frame afforded me allowed a huge degree of ‘rider error’, regardless this was a huge affront to my ethos that the bike doth not maketh the man.

We headed ‘home’ to Chris’s town of West Chester, the drop in temps to just above freezing coupled with the incredible family meal and open fire made us feel like thanksgiving had come early.

Chris had finished 3rd at West Chester two years in a row and was eager to show us why he counted it amongst his pick of races – aside from it being his home one. We pitched up in a school carpark that months earlier had been the scene of our Twilight Criterium qualifying. This time our tires were thicker and so were our layers as we once again practiced the art of changing outside quickly.

The start grid was relatively uncoordinated and as such myself, Ryan and Chris all landed somewhere on the front row. As anticipated Chris hit the hole-shot followed closely by Myself, Ryan and Andrew Miller – a real antagonist in the races we’ve attended this year and fantastic competitor.
Momentarily as we managed to pull off the front over the course of a lap and a half I convinced myself that this was an unprecedented podium sweep. Among those convictions/delusions was that a rhythm would soon come and that we would casually rotate showcasing the art of cross team work.

The illusions were not long lasting in their reality or ability to provide comfort and motivation, as slowly my body gave up on my minds aspirations. Toward the end of the second lap I was surged on a power climb and watched my teammates push forward to live the dream for me.

As the sleet came down on day of all weathers, Ryan took the top step of the podium with Chris in his perennial third. I followed in 14th, 12 places from fulfilling the all green podium. Now that we understand why Pino loves the race so much we’ll try again next year.