After Fort Collins, I basically had enough time to stitch up my torn skinsuit before it was time to hit the road again! This time, Dave and I headed east to the DuPont Estate in Delaware for Granogue Cross, my first experience with the MAC Series.
I was anxious to try out my new Stevens Prestige frame; I assumed that we’d take down the Redline to build it up (it’s been a struggle just getting to the races–buying new components was completely out of the question), but Dave insisted on stripping down his Litespeed so that I could have a pit bike for the first time. This was a huge deal since Dave LOVES cyclocross and this was his favorite bike. After swapping the parts and pillaging a few more parts from my road and mountain bikes I was set!
Due to work obligations the earliest we could leave for the 10-hour drive was Friday evening. We drove until midnight and stayed over in Charlottesville, VA with Sarah, my friend and former college roommate. Little did I know that it was homecoming weekend at Virginia and we were in the heart of campus, surrounded by beer pong and crowds of drunk freshmen! It didn’t matter though; I was grateful to see Sarah and have a place to sleep soundly.
Fortunately the rest of the drive went very smoothly and we made it to Delaware for the first time:
We arrived at the venue with plenty of time to preview the course. It definitely exceeded my expectations and was a truly classic cross course with a bit of everything (except room to rest!).
We had a larger field with over 30 women…I was the first one called up to the second row and the race was off on a very long pavement section. The course dumped into a twisty, technical mountain bike-like descent and climb with lots of roots and rocks. As expected, it got a little crazy and I wasn’t quite where I hoped to be. I stayed patient and was able to get around a bunch of people on an awkward off-camber turn.
By the end of the first lap I could see the leaders just ahead and I was with a really strong lady who was bunny-hopping the railroad ties and riding the long run-up. Funny enough I was able to ride the shorter run-up that she had to run. We stuck together for a large portion of the race, until she bobbled on the bunny hop and I was able to run past her and get a small gap.
She was joined by a few riders and I was never safe until the end; especially riding by myself. The course was technical enough that I think I actually had an advantage over the group as I could choose my own lines and take those sections a bit faster. I really learned for the first time how much seconds matter in cyclocross. Every lap I could pick up a second or two and extend my gap a bit further. My legs felt amazing; surprising after sitting in the car for so long. I held my position in for sixth place, under a minute from the winner and around 20 seconds off the podium. I was totally spent; I had fought harder than ever for that place! I surprised myself by riding with and ahead of some women who just crushed me last year. It was like everything clicked and I finally understood how to dig deep and race.
We were lucky to find a reasonably priced, nice hotel in Pennsylvania; they weren’t shy about poaching internet or towels from the hotel next door (perhaps why they were so affordable?). Our room overlooked an outdoor bar and wedding reception, but we were so tired the noise didn’t faze us…in bed by 8pm! In the morning I couldn’t resist eating at this place:
- I was motivated to crack the top-5 on Sunday and had a front-row starting position. The course changes made for a faster race and no room for error. After the pavement start I found myself alongside the leaders and solidly in the lead group. The race was very hard from the start and it split up pretty quickly. I was riding with another strong rider for a while, got gapped but maintained my position over sixth place.
The long run-up now had a tight 180 degree turn at the top and more than once I found myself descending the steep hill without my feet in the pedals! On the final lap I passed a rider and thought I had a good chance of holding her off if I entered the run-up/descent first. My effort paid off and I held off the charging riders behind me for fourth!
The new bike provided confidence and felt amazing from the start; the brake cable guides prevented any brake chatter and the internal cables in the flattened top tube were a really nice feature when lifting the bike. Though the geometry is less aggressive than Stevens’ carbon models, it is much more aggressive than what I had before and handles extremely well. At 5’1″ I have a hard time finding bikes that fit and was pleased that the 49 fit well (I came from a 44)…it took no time to adjust to the geometry. Best of all, I no longer have issues with toe overlap with the front wheel and the top tube’s position and shape provide ease of shouldering.
We quickly reorganized/repacked the car and hit the road..only to unload everything and sleep in the trunk somewhere along the way in Tennessee, as the drive was a lot more taxing the second time. I guess I can sleep well anywhere!
I have never really had team or sponsor support like I have in my second Elite season and it’s definitely encouraged me to step it up a lot from last year. I cracked the top 20 in USA Cycling’s rankings and it’s largely due to: Dave, Speed Cycling, Omnium Bodyworks, Bob’s Red Mill, Stevens, Carroll Composites, Mad Alchemy, Challenge, Uvex, Shimano, Princeton Tech and Feedback Sports, my friends and family. Thanks for believing in me!