by Kari Studley
I love summer cross!  It’s like Christmas in July, but better.  I love how summer cross is usually more technical with the dry, often extremely bumpy and rocky conditions.  I also like how the summer timing makes you enjoy the race for the experience in itself, as no one is (or should be) in ‘race shape’ or trained for it.  It’s just a perfect excuse to go play on your cross bike with your favorite race friends and further fuel your inspiration for training for the upcoming cross season.  Plus, I was excited to help unveil and show off the new Redline logo.
The new “problem” this season is deciding which Redline Carbon Conquest Team Cross bike to race – Disc or Cantilever.  I LOVE the braking power of the disc and the ultra-lightweight aspect of the FSA K-Force cantilever equipped bike.   As I was flying solo this time, the decision to ride the cantilever Redline Conquest was made based on being able to bring spare wheels and run my favorite Challenge tubular tires which I hoped would minimize my risk of flats. 
I knew this race would be fast and hot with the start list including Duke and Mani.  Both are fierce contenders for the hole shot during the regular season.  With me focusing on Masters Worlds this season (which means not racing UCI Elite), this would also be my only chance this year to race with them.  From the gun, Duke was off and I was ready and immediately on her wheel through the hole shot.  Going into the first barrier, I realized too late that Duke’s pace had slowed, which meant I was now fighting traffic and my position going over the barrier.  Kathy Sherwin came around me at that moment.  As there was only one line on the stretch of loose rocks and bone jarring bumpy terrain, I watched as Kathy allowed Duke to open a gap before the second set of barriers. 
I charged over the second set of barriers to pass Kathy and chase Duke.  Kathy & I leapfrogged a few more times over the first half-lap, but after the run up I was solidly in second with Kathy, Mani and Gaertner chasing.  As I went into time trial mode, the thought amused me that a week ago at Cascade Classic Stage Race I visualized my time trial as a 40-minute cross effort and now I was visualizing my cross effort as a dirt time trial.  Luckily, my legs felt good and I was even making up time on Duke on the run-up.   It seemed that Duke and I were perfectly matched, always evening out each other’s gains on the technical and flat/run up sections.  In retrospect, it would have been fun to race neck-in-neck with Duke rather than each of us riding solo time trials.
With half a lap to go, my gap over Mani was unchanged while I remounted after the run up.  Going into the last grass straightaway in the final quarter lap, Mani had reduced that gap by half!  All I knew is that I wanted second place and that it would not be in my interest to have it come down to a sprint.  Rather than continue to look back, I dug deep and rode as if she was next to me, only looking forward until I had sprinted across the finish line to take second. 
Overall, it was a great event, race and way to celebrate Christmas in July cyclocross style!  I can only hope the tradition of midsummer cross racing continues.