Upon returning from Chicago and Wisconsin I had three days to spend at home before hitting the road again. My team made it possible for me to compete in Fort Collins at the second round of USGPs and I was thrilled for the opportunity.
Equally exciting as the racing was a chance to catch up with some close friends. Laura and I have been friends since high school; she and her husband, Mark, live in Fort Collins and graciously hosted me from Thursday-Monday. They even let me borrow a car and cooked me some amazing meals!
I expected the Front Range to be dry and dusty; sure enough, my pre-ride on Friday met my expectations with a completely exposed, bumpy, bone-dry and rock-hard course. It was a fairly technical course with the most climbing I’d encountered this season. I really enjoyed the layout and knew it would be a tough race…not to mention that a lot of pros come out of the woodwork at any event in Colorado! The super-stacked women’s field had about 50 women.
I had to rush straight from the course to a video shoot for Bob’s Red Mill. My teammate Joe and I did a short cooking segment that aired during the live race coverage ONLINE. We had a lot of fun and made delicious bran flax muffins:
Check out the Bob’s Red Mill recipe finder HERE for some great ideas!
Somehow the weather changed from warm, dry and sunny to nearly freezing, windy and pouring rain with threats of snow literally overnight! I usually overpack for any race I enter, but it was a last-minute trip, still pretty early in the season and I didn’t see that coming. Fortunately I was able to pick up a pair on the way to the race!
My light packing also extended to my equipment; it was enough to drag a boxed bike around the airport (physically and financially)…I don’t know how racers travel with pit bikes and several sets of wheels, but I guess they’re probably not traveling alone! Truthfully it was nice to deal with less gear in the cold rain anyway…
The venue provided a familiar sight on Saturday: mud fest! However, this mud was more soupy and slick than the previous race in Wisconsin. I didn’t even bother to pre-ride the course in those conditions and focused on staying warm. It was around 40 degrees but the harsh wind and moisture made it feel much colder. Luckily Fuji/KCCX/Challenge helped me out big time with a trainer and tent to use and my teammate lent me a set of Limus-mounted wheels to gain traction in the mud.
Even though I moved to the southeast, I actually prefer cold weather to race in. I had a good warm-up and was feeling great until the race started..suddenly I was SO cold. My legs didn’t want to move and I felt like I was in slow motion on the first lap (in reality my lap times improved as the race went on, but only marginally).
I thought warm thoughts and tricked myself into believing them. Soon enough, I came around and started picking off people. My drivetrain got muddy and I rode through puddles to clean it off. Probably not the best idea but it worked! I got some praise from a spectator, “way to ride that puddle!” haha…
My wheel suddenly caught a rut and jammed into a stake lining the course. My bike stopped but I kept going, right into the steerer tube in a very bad way. It hurt SO much; I kind of just fell off the bike into the mud, stunned. The people I had worked so hard to pass passed me back and I had to shake it off and get back into the race. I made up time, but not quite enough.
I didn’t need much of a cool-down as I was soaking wet and chilled to the bone. I changed as quickly as possible and we headed to a hot tub to relax and recover. Little did I know during the race that I had sliced open my skinsuit and exposed myself to the world!
Panache makes the best custom clothing I’ve ever seen and I was bummed to ruin my skinsuit (fortunately I had another one!). Sunday was a very different day and the rain was gone. It was incredibly windy and the course was tacky and really fast.
The race was super fast, indeed, and it felt great to be able to put the power down. I found myself in one of the chase groups.
Velo Vivid takes amazingly beautiful photos; check out his photo below and his gallery HERE.
There was a point where I slammed my handlebar into my mouth on a run-up and thought I knocked all out my teeth (my front teeth are half-fake from an incident in 1st grade..not something I want to repeat!). I was a bit dazed but pretended it didn’t happen. I managed to keep my focus and get ahead of my entire group by the finish.
I didn’t have an extraordinary placing but it was still a strong race for me. I learned a lot about patience, focus and racing with a group. Surprisingly the altitude didn’t affect me at all! I actually forgot we were near 5000′ until people kept complaining about it. Asheville is in a valley but a lot of my rides go above four or five thousand feet so I guess that’s all one needs to acclimate!
My trip was great and I really value the experience to race around the country. When I returned home I had a new job to start and some surprises waiting:
It’s pure coincidence that everything matches! The Stevens Prestige would be my first new cross bike in three years and like all of my bikes (by chance) it is red!
Thanks so much to Laura and Mark for being the best hosts ever, Pro Bikes for lending me the bike box, Speed Cycling, Omnium Bodyworks, Bob’s Red Mill, Stevens, Panache, Carroll Composites, Mad Alchemy, Shimano, Challenge and Uvex for making it all possible!