race report: USGP Planet Bike Cup

Whoa, I have been getting behind with reports because a few days after Chequamegon I finally found a job (and a wonderful one at that!) and life has been BUSY but good…

Right after Chequamegon, Dave and I drove back to Chicago,with a brief stop in Madison to watch the Packers game.  Dave had work obligations and returned to Asheville alone while I borrowed a car and headed BACK to Madison early in the week.  whew!

I was fortunate enough to receive a travel grant from the race promoters, and it is truly what made it possible for me to compete in my first UCI cyclocross race, as I was still unemployed at the time.  Thank you SO much to everyone that contributed to the fund and Renee Callaway for initiating this opportunity for women, as well as advocating for equal payouts!

I am very happy to continue racing cyclocross for Bob’s Red Mill this season!  I have been a long-time fan of the steel-cut oats, hot cereals, flour, flax, everything!  This year I have had a lot of stomach issues and have found relief in limiting gluten from my diet.  I am thrilled that Bob’s Red Mill has a plethora of Gluten-Free options and am honored to continue representing such a great company.

All of the travel was exhausting and it took longer than I expected to recover from Chequamegon.  I was really grateful to have a week to relax, see my family and stay with some friends.  It was nice to be in Madison again and sharpen my cross skills at a few of the weekly practices (yes, there are several in Madison!).  Since my schedule was wide open, I spent a lot of time pounding stakes and running tape for the USGP course throughout the week.  I knew cross courses were a lot of work, but I was amazed at what a world class event like the Planet Bike Cup demands!  John and Renee did a fantastic job with the course design and organization and I am very thankful for their hard work.

Somehow I was more nervous for my first UCI attempt at cyclocross than I was for mountain bike.  The move to North Carolina has been great, but it’s been challenging to balance so many life changes with bike racing, to say the least.  The Planet Bike Cup was also my first cx race of the year, so I really wasn’t sure where I stood.  I reminded myself that I had ridden with most of these women before and knew this weekend would be a good learning experience…

On Saturday, I had a decent start from the last row.  The start was as fast as I expected it to be, but everyone slowed down a ton in the first technical section.  I was feeling great technically speaking, but got stuck behind the wrong people and in an instant the front of the race was gone.  Everyone was super aggressive which momentarily caught me off-guard, but I was determined to stay with my group.  The course was very technical and I loved it!

Near the end of the race I had major breathing issues and struggled to finish in 19th place…about where I started.  I had exercise-induced asthma when I was a competitive runner, but this was the first time I had similar trouble in cycling.  After the race I was pretty discouraged since everything but my lungs had been working.  However my family came to watch and it was so nice to have their support!

Cyclingdirt had streamed the race online, which was awesome, and Dave gave me some great advice after watching it.  I saw the coverage later that evening and it was a huge revelation on what my strengths and weaknesses (that I could control) were.

I had renewed motivation and felt way more at ease for Day 2.  I even brought my own bowl for the Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal stand:

The course for Sunday was faster and more flowy; my start was not quite as good but I managed to stick with a chase group and keep my cadence higher.  This time I anticipated the aggressive riding; though there was a bit of dirty riding and a LOT of bumping (something I’ve never experienced before), I stayed upright, calm and made some smart passes in the twisty sections.  My remounts were better than ever, a nose strip helped me breathe better and I was able to make a move stick….

until I took a corner too fast and crashed really hard with two laps to go.  My poor bike flew in the air and it was quite a spectacle.  The girl behind me yelled, “Are you okay?’ and then proceeded to run OVER MY BIKE.  Someone yelled, “Pretend it didn’t happen!” and I did my best..fortunately my bike seemed to work fine and I was beginning to make up time, but it was too late to regain my place.  Crash and all, I had fun and was happy to finally start the new season.  Everyone was riding well and I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me.  I boxed and shipped my bike, drove back to Chicago and flew back to Asheville first thing Monday morning to begin work on Tuesday.

When I arrived in North Carolina, I was surprised to find that for the first time, my new home began to feel like home

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