After my whirlwind start to the cross season I had a few days before the first round of USGPs to unpack, clean everything, repack the car, look for jobs and mountain bike sponsorship, attempt to pay bills, finish moving in..oh, and train!
This season I’ve been lucky enough to have the support of Omnium Bodyworks; never before have I had a cycling-specific massage or regular massage for that matter. All too often recovery is overlooked when it is just as important as training! Tavis undid all the damage training, racing and stress had done to my body and I was ready to take on Sun Prairie…
Dave and I are always excited to return to Wisconsin as it still feels like home; Asheville is amazing but it’s so nice to visit our friends and families! We stopped in Kentucky on Thursday night and drove 10 hours straight to the course just in time to pre-ride and pick up our numbers on Friday. Our friends and former co-workers were nice enough to let us stay with them for the weekend!
Last year this was my first cross race (and first at the UCI level) and basically, I survived; this season I was much better prepared and hoping for a good result on the “home” course. I put more pressure on myself to do well when it’s in front of everyone I know and since moving, I’ve only had lackluster results when back in Wisconsin.
Though there are a lot of unknowns at the first USGP of the season, this time I didn’t feel so nervous. While waiting for my new frame I had the same no-frills but solid bike set-up that I had since I started riding three years ago…but this time I got to race on carbon wheels for the first time (for cross)! My Challenge Grifos mounted up super easily to the wide profile on NC-based Carroll Composite’s cyclocross-specific G:38x wheels.
It began to spit rain while I lined up on the second row:
We were off and I had a decent start:
We were in a long line and it was difficult to pass at first but eventually things opened up on the fast course. I found myself moving up in a couple different groups. My legs felt great and thanks to Gordy’s coaching I was able to stay with the moves. Last year I would have been dropped for sure.
Mountain biking seems to be a time trial more often than not and my experience riding with others was very limited. However, I stayed calm, focused and patient as we worked together through the field. I saw that Mo and Kathy were not too far ahead and thought maybe they were within reach.
While at the front I went to make my move and promptly slid out in the slick grass, nearly taking out the group behind me on the last lap. This was the worst time to make an error but I managed to tack back onto the group, make a pass on the run up and sprint in for 15th and the last UCI point! Exergy Development Group came on as a late sponsor of the USGP and offered EQUAL prize money for the women, which is huge. The women’s fields are growing tremendously in size and depth and the payout absolutely encourages more participation.
The competition stepped up a lot this year and I was very happy with 15th at a C1 event. I finally put on a decent race for my parents, coach and friends.
The rain did not stop and we had a total mudfest on Sunday. My teammate lent me a set of mud wheels mounted with Challenge Limus tires (amazing traction, by the way) and a friend let me borrow his teenage daughter’s pit bike. I had never had a pit bike (or used the pit before) so it was really nice to have the option.
I had a mediocre start but moved up quickly into the top ten. The mud was crazy but I was handling it pretty well, despite my lack of mud experience (threats of mud always canceled local races in the past). I was on track to have a really great race but felt my bike quickly packing up with mud, gumming up the gears and picking up a lot of weight. I decided to go for the pit halfway through the race.
Within a minute I knew something was wrong and realized on the first turn that the rear wheel was coming out of the frame. I got off the bike to put it back in but the skewer was faulty and it wouldn’t stay tight. I tried to coast down the descents and run on the other sections but the wheel would lock up in the frame…I was reduced to running almost a full lap since I had just left the pit.
Off the back I just kept running and got a lot of encouragement from the spectators. I scored a few dollars on the run-up; a small consolation…
My legs were pretty shot by the time I finally reached the pit and finished my last lap, but I kept my head up and finished…that is just how racing goes sometimes. If I hadn’t pitted I certainly would have slowed down even more with the mud build-up and the derailleur could have broken off; who knows.
This was the first time in racing that I realized how much money can play a role at this level in the sport and it was a bit discouraging (one basic bike and wheelset never failed me in the past)…investing in equipment is out of the question right now. Fortunately I DO have more support than I’ve ever been offered before and that is what’s keeping me going!
Still, I was able to take a lot of positivity from the race and I learned so much. I am incredibly thankful that I was able to borrow equipment and give it my best. Big thanks to Bob’s Red Mill, our team sponsors, Speed Cycling, Omnium Bodyworks, Dave, our friends and families for making it all possible!
Dave drove home the next morning for work and I spent the week in Madison and Chicago, taking advantage of my unemployment (the only upside is free time): catching up with friends, family, going to cross practice and seeing my favorite yoga instructor, finishing up the weekend at a best friend’s wedding…the things that money can’t buy!