I had no idea what to expect going into my first UCI mountain bike race this weekend.. I had planned to come alone but was fortunate enough to have a good friend make the 20+ hour drive down to Austin. Coming down here I was flooded with a range of emotions and wondered if it was really a good idea. Even a year ago I would have never imagined that I’d ever line up to race with not only the best women in the country, but the WORLD…at Lance Armstrong’s ranch, nonetheless.
As soon as we arrived in Texas, I knew the biggest challenge would be dealing with the heat. It’s been close to 100 degrees and very humid the whole time! I have never been a fan of hot races..I’ll take cyclocross weather any day! As it’s been an early spring in Wisconsin, we did get snow three weeks ago and my early morning rides have started at around 30 degrees. yikes.
In Austin my friend Kelly and I met up with two more friends from college! They went to the pool and I traveled by myself to register, pre-ride and go to the manager’s meeting on Friday. The ranch is in an obscure location; no listed address and marked only by a yellow boulder, but it’s pretty close to where I spent a few spring breaks so I was familiar with the general area…Hill Country is beautiful!
Anyway the course was nothing like I’ve seen before and to my dismay 95% of it was in the SUN. However, it was well designed, challenging and a lot of fun, which was way more important. There wasn’t a lot of climbing, but nearly all 6+ miles were technical, very rocky singletrack that featured some big drops and descents with berms, as well as rock ledges to power over. Of course the pre-ride was open in the hottest hours of the day, so I limited myself to one loop. Nuun was there and really saved the day with their tent set-up! I got a chance to meet my teammate Danae, her sister and mother.
The women’s race was pretty small with only 20 people and they cut us down from five loops to three. I arrived at the venue alone and set up my little shade tent and trainer. My friends would come later to watch, but I was completely self supported for this one…I didn’t have all of the tools I needed and the guys from Mellow Johnny’s were SUPER helpful and nice! Thank you Mellow Johnny’s!
At 9am I was already drenched in sweat and wanted to stay out of the energy-sucking sun as much as possible! Getting ready for the race I was incredibly calm and everything leading up to the actual start felt pretty surreal. I was the second to last call-up and had no illusions; I knew finishing the race would be an accomplishment. We started off impossibly fast and I was thankful to have had some practice with my starts in WORS. It was really hard to move up in the blinding dust but I did manage to pass a few people on the lead out.
The heat hit immediately and I wasn’t riding that well at first. As the race got spread out I calmed down and tried to get myself into a good pace. I started seeing spots and getting chills halfway through the first lap and probably rode a bit too conservatively. All I could focus on was drinking water, not passing out and crashing on the sharp rocks. Thanks to Deuter I had a great hydration pack and put it to use…that really saved me. Somehow I started to come around on the third lap and really started enjoying the ride. I felt better, picked up the pace and managed to finish 15th without getting pulled or having any catastrophes! My performance was not anything special, but the experience was. After the race I was sitting with some other ladies in a cooling tent and a somehow a little girl actually asked for my autograph!!
This was one of the hardest races I’ve entered, but it was also one of the most enjoyable. I am starting to learn what it’s all about and it is only up from here!
I’ve had a fantastic weekend reuniting with my friends and now it is time to drive another 20 hours back to Madison. Hopefully I will have some pictures to upload when I get there…