Cross Vegas

I hadn’t been to Interbike in years (my last experience had left a lot to be desired) but had planned on making the trip for work and giving it another shot.  I was excited to finally have the chance to race Cross Vegas and visit my good friend, Kim, who studies at UNLV.

However, things don’t always go as planned and my job ended that week.  It would be for the best, but I suddenly found myself in the increasingly familiar and stressful position of unemployment, without options, benefits or a backup plan.  Not exactly how I wanted to start the cyclocross season!

I was beyond anxious and stressed, but since I had already paid for the flight I was set on making the trip work.  Tiny bikes from Stevens were temporarily unavailable and I couldn’t afford to fly with my bike.  Dave works for a Fuji dealer and Fuji was nice enough to make last-minute arrangements for me to borrow their top-end cross bike for the race.  In a matter of hours everything came together!

I think I had a few hours of sleep between arriving home from Apple Cross, figuring out where in Kentucky Dave lost his phone (big thanks to the employees at Starbucks off exit 110 on I-75 who came to the rescue!), unpacking, cleaning my race gear, repacking and driving our car to Atlanta in time for my flight to Vegas…yes, it was a crazy time (hence the delay in blogging)…

Kim picked me up at the airport and I was so thankful to be able to avoid the smoke, lights, casinos, etc. and crash in a normal place.  We grew up together but hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years; it was great to catch up!

The time change (3 hour difference!) really threw me off.  I was up bright and early; luckily so was my teammate Mitchell and his dad.  We met up to explore Dirt Demo as it opened.  I was expecting unbearably hot, dry dusty conditions but to my delight and surprise it was raining and in the 60’s.  The rain subsided enough for us to check out and test ride some fancy new bikes.

While I was drooling over the new Fizik saddles, they hooked me up with some awesome custom insoles:

this is all I have to show from Dirt Demo..

I appreciated the chance to spin some of the travel out of my legs and that evening we met up with a teammate, Ryan, to pre-ride the Cross Vegas course.  It was pretty much how I remembered it from watching the first year: a super fast, non-technical soccer field dirt crit.  Nothing about it really suited my strengths or was very typical of cyclocross courses:

yes, this is Vegas!! photo: SmartStop/ Mock Orange Bikes CX Team

However, for Las Vegas and a soccer field, the course really was very well-designed and extremely spectator-friendly…good thing since they claimed 10,000 people would be watching!  I knew the course would be hard, but I was surprised at how power-sucking the spongy grass was from the rain, even at a slow pace…still, I was looking forward to the Biggest Cyclocross Race in America (and praying for even more rain)!

On Wednesday more teammates arrived (Marne and Andy) and we had a chance to check out Interbike and visit with our incredible sponsors.  There was a silver lining to not working at Interbike and for at least a day, all I had to worry about was racing my bike (ah the life of a pro!).

It was difficult to plan for such a late race (11:30pm eastern time) on a bike I had never ridden before, but everyone was in the same boat.  Plus, no one really knows what to expect at the first big race of the season.  It stopped raining and Stevens hooked it up with a tent to use front and center!

best seats in the house! next to Sierra Nevada and Qdoba..oh, and the start/finish!

The fields were pretty large (50 women registered) and insanely deep.  I was used to starting at the back last season and was surprised to find that I just missed the second row for call-ups as #18.  Marne was also on the third row:

photo: SmartStop/ Mock Orange Bikes p/b Ridley CX Team

I had a great start but so did a lot of people behind me.  My legs felt great during my warm-up, but they quickly turned to lead on the furiously fast first lap.  I managed to stick with a chase group, but not the one I was hoping for.  We managed to pick off a few riders ahead of us.

the NC girls find each other! photo: SmartStop/Mock Orange Bikes p/b Ridley

After a few laps my legs really came around and I felt stronger.  It was painful for sure but I really started to enjoy the race, spectators and atmosphere.  We shared the workload but I don’t think we were really making up much time on the riders ahead of us and those behind us were dangerously close.

photo: 20PoundSkull

I tried to attack and followed moves that were made but everything was always brought back.  Mountain biking does not exactly lend itself to tactical experience but I tried to ride smart–I worked, but did not tow everyone around–as I was surrounded by roadies.  I knew it was going to come down to a sprint (for 25th, if that means anything) and watched for the move that was sure to come.

The finishing straight was never ending and slightly uphill.  I was in a good position but jumped a few seconds too late to take the sprint.  I finished up 27th.  We were right behind Marne, who was 24th.

I was pretty neutral on my result; not thrilled but not terribly disappointed.  I could tell that I had improved a lot over last season and everyone really stepped it up and was starting the season super strong.  I learned a lot and had a chance to work on my weaknesses.  Cross Vegas was such a bizarre race experience but it was a blast and in Vegas, I would expect nothing less!

Reality came back all too quickly; instead of attending the famous Sinclair party, I had a very painful 6am flight the next morning to Atlanta, where I was due for a final work meeting…

Thanks to the Cross Vegas promoters for doing an excellent job, Kim for being such a great friend, host, and race supporter, my coach Gordy, Bob’s Red Mill Cyclocross team, our sponsors for making it all possible, and Fuji for helping out in a pinch!

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