race report: North Carolina Grand Prix 1 and 2

After the NC State Championships I took a week off from racing and instead, enjoyed one of the classic Pisgah rides with Dave: Black Mountain.  We did a larger loop than the link offers: forest road up Club Gap to intersection of Avery Creek, Buckwheat, and the Black Mountain trail, which we took to Rich Mountain>Buckhorn Gap>Clawhammer>Black Mountain>Ranger Station…but that is the jist of it.  The weather was perfect; so warm and sunny that I forgot it was November; and without the leaves we enjoyed some stellar views!  Unfortunately the only camera we had was on a phone, but it works:

at the clawhammer summit...

Though I love cross, it was nice to change things up on my mountain bike!

Last weekend I came into the North Carolina Grand Prix refreshed and optimistic.  Dave and I had a full house hosting our friends Linda, Daniel and Marko and it was great to see everyone.  The women raced pretty early and before I knew it it was time to race!  I had a great warm up on the trainer and the course…it didn’t hurt that it was in the high 60’s and sunny!  Luckily I drew the first number, so I had a decent starting position with the UCI point-holders on the second row.  I had a great start and positioned myself in the top five right away.

After the first lap, I settled into a chase group with the leaders still in sight.  The course conditions were perfect and very fast; it almost seemed like a road race at times.  About halfway through the race my quads started to cramp on the steep hills, but I managed to ride the “wall” every time.

 

photo: Ted Denning

 

My group was fighting for the top ten and the last UCI points.  I had my position wrapped up until the very end of the race when a girl bridged up and blew past.  I did everything I could and then my legs REALLY seized up and it was over…11th place just out of the better money and world rankings.  At first I was happy because it was still my best UCI result ever, but then it sunk in how close I had been, and fallen short.  Ashley and Brian won, which was totally awesome, and everyone else from the upper midwest represented very well.  Dave finally glued up his own tubulars so we didn’t have to share a set, and raced UCI for the first time!

Saturday night was spent in the very fine company of the Bob’s Red Mill Louisville team at one of my favorite Asheville restaurants: Tupelo Honey Cafe.  We enjoyed a lot of fine Southern cooking and a little Cold Mountain Winter Ale.  I typically stick to red wine, but this very limited beer is too good to resist!

I woke up feeling great and ready to go after a hearty bowl of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Oatmeal, a banana and some coffee.  When we arrived at the venue, Phish was playing on the speakers and everyone seemed happy; I knew then that it was going to be a good day.  The course was almost identical to Saturday’s, which was fortunate because it was a lot of fun!  The call-ups were switched up a bit and I was not so lucky, but somehow managed to get the same spot on the grid:

 

photo: Kate Ross

 

I had a decent start, but it was nowhere near as good as Saturday’s.  I stayed calm and worked my way up into the top ten.  I was determined to earn at least one UCI point!  I was working with two other girls for 8-10th positions, but 7th through 11th were very close the entire race.  The pressure was definitely on and though we maintained a gap on everyone behind us, we weren’t quite able to catch the riders ahead.  I was better prepared to deal with the warm weather and raced with a bottle for the second time ever.  It was nice to have it and without any cramping I tried to push the pace up the hills.  The three of us were super close to the end and I sprinted in for 9th place and a couple of international points!

And with that my cyclocross season is over.  I raced as much as I could afford to, but moving and the mountain bike season have spread me pretty thin financially.  It has been difficult to stay focused and adjust to a new life,  but I’m so grateful that Bob’s Red Mill supported me again this year and made my cross season possible.  I learned so much at the Elite level this season and am thrilled that I earned a world ranking in spite of not being able to train properly (I’ve been lucky to ride once or twice a week and have never trained with structure..which will change very soon!).

This entire racing season has been full of lessons and transition, and I hope to step it up to the next tier of professional cycling in 2011.  THANK YOU to everyone who encouraged and supported me this year!  It truly means so much to me.  Stay tuned for my “2010 Year/Gear in Review….”

 

Mitchell, me, Chris and Mike train with grain!

 

 

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